The Good Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).
Last week I spent a couple of days in Shropshire with my family and we visited a place called the Long Mynd. This was always one of my childhood favourite places to visit; I remember driving up onto the top of the mountains, seeing the breath-taking views, the smell of heather, and spending the day walking, picnicking and playing games. One thing which always fascinated my brother were the sheep – sheep which roamed freely – so it was always sad when he spotted one dead half way up, or at the bottom, of the mountain.
I was reminded of this as I thought about today’s ‘I am’ saying of Jesus. ‘I am the good shepherd’.
I wonder what it means to be a ‘good’ shepherd? Are there any bad ones? Well clearly there are, or sheep wouldn’t die like those poor ones we quite often saw on that mountain. In Jesus’ time shepherding was very different. Shepherds guarded their sheep, going after those who went astray and leading them back into the pen, they even slept at the gate of the sheep pen protecting them from wolves who might come and devour them, or predators who might come and steal them in the night. But it was still a paid job and the shepherd would not have given his own life in trying to protect the sheep, unlike Christ.
The sheep are symbolic of us as people. We are free to roam the earth (though perhaps not so free at this present moment in time, with the pandemic) but we make choices about where we go and who we go with, sometimes making wrong choices along the way and being led astray by the wrong people (the bad shepherds), yet Christ comes looking for us, sets us on the right path and leads us back to Him.
Jesus refers to himself here as “the good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep”. In fact, the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. In His using of the term “shepherd”, Jesus is speaking of His position. He is the shepherd of the sheep – He is the one who protects, leads, guides and nourishes us. In turn, the sheep are utterly defensive and totally dependent upon the Shepherd. Therefore, the Shepherd (Jesus) now reveals that He is also the sacrificial “lamb of God” (1:29, 35), who willingly lays down His life for the sheep (v.15, 17, 18).
It was not just for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” that He was to lay down His life, but also for the “sheep of another pen” (10:16), the Gentiles. Thereby, making one flock, resided over by one Shepherd (v.16).
How can the death of one man avail the redemption of so many? Because God came to live amongst us, experienced our pain, saw how utterly defenceless we are without Him and sacrificed His life in the person of Jesus Christ to lead us back to Him. This ‘I am’ saying screams out the divinity of Jesus our Saviour. Let’s thank God today for coming amongst us.