This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series.
“ ‘Shepherd’ was the name he [God] gave then to those to whom he had entrusted the political, moral, and spiritual leadership of his people. In Ezekiel 34, God rejects the shepherds who had failed and he himself promised to come to be the good shepherd of Israel. Jesus takes up that theme and applies it to himself.” – Ronald S. Wallace
David knew God as “my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).” David himself was a shepherd boy before he became king and therefore knew the special personal relationship a shepherd had with his sheep.
“The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for in addition, he had to guard the flock against wild animals, especially against wolves, and there were always thieves and robbers ready to steal the sheep. Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.”– William Barclay.
Therefore the people of Palestine always applied the name of shepherd to their king; and Jesus took the shepherd’s image as the type of self-sacrifice.
The Voice of the Shepherd
The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd. The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. In Palestine, the sheep was with the shepherd often for years and had descriptive names like “Brown-leg” and “Black-ear” that the shepherd called them. Are you able to hear the voice of Jesus your good shepherd? Is God intimate with you so much as to call you by names that describe you through the eyes of his love and care for you?
The shepherd led the sheep out as he went on ahead of them. The purpose was to ensure the path ahead was safe. Often the sheep had to be encouraged to follow as well.
A traveller tells how he saw a shepherd leading his flock come to a ford to cross a stream. The sheep was unwilling to cross. The shepherd finally solved the problem by carrying one of the lambs across. When its mother saw her lamb on the other side she crossed too, and soon all the rest of the flock had followed her.
When Jesus talked about himself as the good shepherd he is also revealing his heart which is always ready to encourage you.
Willingness to Give Up His Life
The true shepherd is recognised by his willingness to give up his life to protect and preserve the life of his sheep. Jesus is not a helpless victim whose life is taken from him. He was given authority to willingly lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:17, 18). No other person in human history can make this claim. He not only spoke like that but also showed that on Calvary.
“Jesus’ point is that the man who works only for reward chiefly thinks of the money; the man who works for love thinks chiefly of the people he is trying to serve. Jesus was the good shepherd who so loved his sheep that for their safety he would risk, and one day give, his life.”– William Barclay.