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The Good Shepherd

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The Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18)

Jesus serves as the Gate to the fold and as the Shepherd of the flock. The favorite Old Testament image of God is that of Shepherd: "Hear us, Ï Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim" (Ps. 80:1). The mighty God of the universe, enthroned above, is also the Shepherd of His flock.

The dark backdrop of John 10 are the false shepherds of John 9. The religious establishment of Jesus' day did not care for the sheep. Jesus acts as the Good Shepherd for the flock.

Jesus Serves Exclusively as Good Shepherd

Twice in the Greek He emphatically stated, "I, and I alone, am the Good Shepherd." The language emphatically indicates that He is in a class by Himself as Good Shepherd. The word "good" here carries several emphases. He is "good" in contrast to every foul, mean, or wicked shepherd. He is "good" in the sense of competent, fit, and a model shepherd. Finally, His goodness does not consist of an austerity that repels, but an attractiveness that draws the sheep to Him.

There are two contrasts intended between the Good Shepherd and others. First, none of His under-shepherd ministers/pastors are as good as He is. Every other shepherd is derivative and dependent on Him. He calls, endows, and governs His pastors. Also, He is the Good Shepherd in contrast with all false religious leaders. Ezekiel roared against the false pastors of His day. They took care of themselves, they lived off the flock, and they ignored the hurting members of the flock. God promised to replace them and shepherd His people Himself. That was fulfilled in Christ (Ezek. 34).

True undershepherds are contrasted with hirelings (vv. 12-13). There were three levels of shepherds. The proprietor owned the flock. The shepherds kept the flock and received shares of the milk, wool, and mutton. The hireling worked for wages and received nothing from the flock. Because of that, the hireling had no personal interest in the flock. Both Jesus and Paul (Acts 20:28-29) predicted that wolflike enemies would threaten God's flock. Two things make a good shepherd: Jesus places him over the sheep and he has a concern about the sheep.

Jesus Serves Sacrificially as Good Shepherd

Usually, the sheep served as a blood sacrifice for the shepherd. Uniquely, Jesus served as a blood sacrifice for the sheep. He emphasizes the voluntary nature of His sacrifice. Four times He stated that He would "lay down" His life (vv. 11, 15, 17-18). Neither circumstance, friend, nor foe, took His life (13:4). When Pilate claimed to have authority of life and death over Jesus, our Lord rebuked the Roman (19:10-11). It was an accident if a Palestinian shepherd died for his sheep. Not so Jesus.

Jesus emphasized the substitutionary nature of His death for the sheep. He died "for the sheep." This is the most important preposition in history! His death was instead of the death of the sheep. A blow is about to fall on the sheep, but One interposes His body and takes the blow.

Jesus emphasized the ultimate purpose in His death. He laid down His life "[in order] to take it up again." The resurrection was not a chance circumstance, but the ultimate purpose of His death. The death of a Palestinian shepherd was a disaster for his sheep. Not so the death of the Good Shepherd. He comes back to the sheep! He ascends to the Father and sends the Spirit.

Jesus Serves Knowledgeably as the Good Shepherd

Four times in two verses Jesus used the word "know." The word suggests affectionate knowledge that comes from experience and appreciation. He dares to say that the mutual knowledge of shepherd and sheep reflects the knowledge of Father and Son. Looking beyond those Jewish sheep immediately in front of Him, Jesus sees and knows "other sheep" (v. 16). He knew that His death for the sheep and His knowledge of the flock would extend around the world and down the ages. That is where we come into the picture. He knows us and we can sing, "Savior, like a shepherd lead us, Much we need thy tender care."

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