GET ACQUAINTED: Kids: do you have a favorite pet? How does it respond when it hears your voice? Adults: As a child, what was your favorite pet? How did this pet respond when it heard your voice?
OBSERVATION: “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 ) is the fourth of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s gospel. These “I am” proclamations point to His unique, divine identity and purpose. Immediately after declaring that He is “the door” in (John 10:7 ), Jesus declares here, “I am the good shepherd ...” He describes Himself as not only “the shepherd,” but the “good shepherd.”
GET IT: What does this all this mean? What does a Shepherd do?
We need to understand that Jesus is “the” good shepherd, not simply “a” good shepherd, as others may be, but He is unique in character “The Lord is my shepherd …” (Psalm 23:1 a); “‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.’” (Zechariah 13:7 ) “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant.” (Hebrews 13:20 ); “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25 ); “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4 ). The Greek word kalos (translated “good”) describes that which is noble, wholesome, good, and beautiful, in contrast with that which is wicked, mean, foul, and unlovely. It signifies not only that which is good inwardly—character—but also that which is attractive outwardly. It is an innate (inborn) goodness. Therefore, in using the phrase “the good shepherd,” Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness, His righteousness, and His beauty. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock.
As He did in declaring that He is “the door of the sheep” in John 10:7 , Jesus is making a contrast between Himself and the religious leaders, the Pharisees “12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:12-13 ) He compares them to as a “hireling” a “hired hand” who doesn’t really care about the sheep. In John 10:9 , “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture,” Jesus speaks of thieves and robbers who sought to enter the sheepfold stealthily. In that passage, the Jewish leaders (Pharisees) were contrasted with Christ who is the Door.
John 10:12 says, “12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” The hireling is contrasted with the true or faithful shepherd who willingly gives up his life for the sheep. He who is a “hireling” works for wages, which are his main consideration. His concern is not for the sheep but for himself. Interestingly enough, the shepherds of ancient times were not usually the owners of the flock. Nevertheless, they were expected to exercise the same care and concern the owners would. This was characteristic of a true shepherd. However, some of the hirelings thought only of themselves. As a result, when a wolf appeared—the most common threat to sheep in that day—the hireling abandoned the flock and fled, leaving the sheep to be scattered or killed “12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:12-13 )
First, to better understand the purpose of a shepherd during the ancient times of Jesus, it is helpful to realize that sheep are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon the shepherd. Sheep are always subject to danger and must always be under the watchful eye of the shepherd as they graze. Rushing walls of water down the valleys from sudden heavy rainfalls may sweep them away, robbers may steal them, and wolves may attack the flock. David tells how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy, “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them.” (1 Samuel 17:36 ). Driving snow in the winter, blinding dust and burning sands in summer, long lonely hours each day; through all these, the shepherd patiently endures for the welfare of the flock. In fact, shepherds were frequently subjected to grave danger, sometimes even giving their lives to protect their sheep.
Likewise, Jesus gave His life on the cross as “The Good Shepherd” for his own. He who would save others, though He had the power, did not choose to save Himself. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 ). Through His willing sacrifice, the Lord made salvation possible for all who come to Him in faith. In proclaiming that He is the good shepherd, Jesus speaks of “laying down” His life for His sheep
(John 10:15 , 17-18).
Jesus’ death was divinely appointed. It is only through Him that we receive salvation. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10:14 ). Furthermore, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t just for the Jews that he laid down His life, but also for the “other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16 ). The “other sheep” clearly refers to the Gentiles. As a result, Jesus is the Good Shepherd over all, both Jew and Gentile, who come to believe upon Him “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 )
Adapted from gotquestions.org
GET IT: How do the sheep respond to the shepherd? How does this relate to the Pharisees’ difficulty in understanding Jesus?
DIG DEEPER: What does Jesus mean by likening himself to a gate for the sheepfold? Who are those “thieves and robbers” mentioned in (v. 10)?
APPLY/PRAYER: For the person who recognizes the claim of Christ on their life and gives loyalty to His absolute ownership, there comes the question of bearing His “mark”. The mark of the cross is what should identify us with Christ. The question is - does it? If not, what adjustments do you need to make in your life so it does?