The eternal God of the universe relates to us in amazing ways. The Bible uses descriptions that we can understand to describe this relationship. God is our Father, King, Helper, Comforter, Healer, Savior, Encourager and much, much more. Jesus is God’s Son, literally God-in-the-flesh. Jesus is the great “I AM.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” (John 10:11-18)
A good shepherd is one who is noble, right, beautiful, and virtuous. He always does what is good for his flock of sheep. Here are four ways that Jesus shows himself to be the good shepherd.
1. A good shepherd rescues his sheep.
The relationship between a shepherd and his sheep begins here. If the shepherd doesn’t have an internal desire to rescue the sheep, then the sheep are always in danger. The sheep trust the shepherd because they know he will always rescue them. Sheep don’t have natural defense systems to protect them from predators. They depend on the shepherd to rescue them when they are in danger. Sometimes they get into dangerous situations because they wander away. Sometimes the predators attack them. In either case, they need to be rescued. They need the shepherd to rescue them.
Jesus rescued us from our sins when we trusted him as Lord and Savior, and he continues to rescue us when we are tempted to sin and when we are in danger. He rescues us like a shepherd rescues a sheep. Notice how a shepherd named David describes the way he would rescue his sheep.
David answered Saul: “Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it.” (1 Samuel 17:34-35)
A shepherd is fearless. He risks his own safety to rescue his sheep. David would literally stick his arm in the jaws of a lion or a bear to save his sheep. Jesus gave his life to rescue you. And he continues to rescue you.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” (John 10:11, 17-18)
2. A good shepherd cares for his sheep.
A good shepherd will care for his sheep by making sure their needs are met. He will make sure they get the rest that they need. When they wander away, he will go and find them. When they get injured, he will bandage their wounds. He really cares for them.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. (Psalm 23:1-2)
Contrast that with people who are just hired to take care of sheep. Those people do not care about them in the same way.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. (John 10:12-13)
3. A good shepherd communicates with his sheep.
The shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him. The shepherd’s voice is recognized immediately by the sheep. They know his voice. He speaks to them, gives them clear commands, and they follow his instructions.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16)
Here in John chapter 10, Jesus tells those that are listening that he did not come only to be the shepherd over the Jewish nation. He came to be the shepherd of people from all nations who would trust in him. The “other sheep that are not of this fold” are those from other nations that will trust in him as Lord & Savior. Jesus communicates with all of his sheep!
Jesus speaks by the Holy Spirit through prayer, the Bible, circumstances, and people to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways. A daily time of prayer and reading the Bible is essential for us to know what Jesus is saying to us. Regularly attending Bible studies and worship services allow us to hear from him through our pastor, Bible study teachers and other believers. And keeping a watchful eye on circumstances around us to see how those circumstances line up with God’s Word helps us to hear what the Lord is saying.
4. A good shepherd leads his sheep.
The shepherd knows where the sheep need to go. He doesn’t just send them alone; he goes with them. He doesn’t drive them like a cattle rancher; he leads them and they follow him. Notice that a good shepherd always leads his sheep on the right paths, never on the wrong paths.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff — they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. (Psalm 23:1-6)
David learned how to lead sheep and then God used those skills as he led people:
He chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; He brought him from tending ewes to be shepherd over His people Jacob — over Israel, His inheritance. He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with his skillful hands. (Psalm 78:70-72)
If you are in a position of spiritual leadership – as a pastor, parent, teacher, friend – then you are accountable to the Lord to lead people in a way that is Christlike and shepherd-like:
Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Jesus is the good shepherd. He is noble, right, beautiful and virtuous. He rescues us, cares for us, communicates with us, and leads us. He shows us the way to lead others. Let us daily follow him on the right paths, trusting that he is with us every step of the way!