One of the most frequent topics of early Christian art was undoubtedly that of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Maybe Psalm 23 was as dear to the heart of the early church as it qis now. For whatever reason, it is an amazing and comforting truth.
It seems this identity of Jesus (and certainly Jesus is more than Shepherd) is a very humble title for the Son of God. Yet, David writes that same thing when he says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1.
That’s not the only humble image we have in John 10. Jesus is also called the door or gate. We know that a door or gate is the entrance point of a walled city. We might think of a pasture that has a fence around it and the gate would be the place to enter.
You might already know but our English word for pastor comes from shepherd. The shepherd or pastor would take the livestock out to pasture. Of course, there were no fences. That’s why we no longer have shepherds in America. The fence keeps the animals in and hopefully keeps the predators out.
The shepherd/pastor was responsible for leading the sheep to food and water. He was also responsible to protect them. The sheep were absolutely defenseless against bears or lions. There were no fences to keep them out.
Now having said that, do you not ask questions when the text says this: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – John 10:11. Does he mean to say that the Good Shepherd would lay down his life to protect the sheep? Is that what he means? Certainly that is true but is that what he means?
In other words, if the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep who then will protect the sheep? Do you see? That’s why I think this means more than Jesus’s willingness to lay his life down. One answer or way he can continue to protect the sheep is this: For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. – John 10:17
So, even though the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep he will also take it up again. In other words, he will rise from the dead. You might have another question. Why did the shepherd have to lay down his life for the sheep and if he has the power to raise himself from the dead why didn’t he just protect the sheep with that power?
Let’s hear these amazing truths and then answer that question.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one.” – John 10:27-30
You only read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the first time only once. And even then, many of us heard about the cross before we read the Gospel Story. So, the Gospels intend for you to read them with the cross of Christ in mind.
Therefore, when you hear Jesus, the Good Shepherd, say things like laying down his life for the sheep you know he has the cross in mind. And when he says take his life up again you know he means the resurrection.
So, these glorious truths of the Good Shepherd calling his sheep by name and they hear his voice is a clear picture of when we hear the gospel and the Spirit opens our eyes to hear and believe.
That which we believe is in part that Jesus laid down his life for my protection from not just wolves but from God. My greatest enemy is my sin. Sin destroyed the relationship mankind had with the Creator in the beginning because God is holy and just.
And for God the remain just He must punish all sin. That’s bad news for sinners and all of us are sinners. However, God is not only just. He is also merciful. Mercy is not getting what I deserve. But how can God forgive sinners and remain just? Someone must pay for the penalty and guilt of our sin.
Sin brings death. Therefore Jesus, the Good Shepherd, took our death for us…in our place so that we could be forgiven and have a right legal relationship with God.
If you will repent and believe in Jesus you will have eternal life and you are forever protected by the Good Shepherd!