In John 10, Jesus is continuing to explain who he is and what he is doing. Jesus is gathering his sheep and he is gathering his sheep so that they would have abundant life. Now Jesus makes clear who he is and it is a staggering declaration. “I am the good shepherd.” We read a statement like this and probably not make too much of it. But for Jesus to call himself “the good shepherd” truly explains who he is. In this lesson we will explore who Jesus is and how he is gathering his sheep, because this is where he is going in this “good shepherd” section of teaching.
I Am The Good Shepherd (10:10-11)
Consider the most obvious implication of this declaration that Jesus is the good shepherd. Who is the shepherd in the scriptures? Think about one of the most favorite and well-known psalms. Psalm 23 begins, “The Lord is my shepherd.” The scripture repeatedly describe the Lord to be the shepherd. Listen to Psalm 80:1. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.” (Psalm 80:1 ESV) God is the shepherd of Israel. God is the great shepherd, ruler, and king. Jesus takes deity upon himself when he calls himself “the shepherd.” Now listen to the prophecy of Isaiah of what was going to happen to comfort the people.
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV)
God is going to come with strength and might and a reward. He is going to tend his flock and gather his sheep. Jesus is taking deity upon himself. But there is more to the picture. Notice further that Jesus is not simply “the shepherd” but he is “the good shepherd.” He is not going to be like the past shepherds. The shepherds of Israel previously were robbers and thieves. They scattered and harmed the sheep (Ezekiel 34; Isaiah 56:9-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 25:32-38). Listen to what the good shepherd would do. Notice what makes him the good shepherd. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Friends, shepherds did not do this. Shepherds lead and protect the sheep. But there is no shepherd that died for one sheep. This is out of the ordinary and not the norm for eastern shepherding. This shepherd will do what no shepherd will do. He will lay down his life for the sheep.
Please also notice that Jesus does not say that the shepherd would be killed. Jesus will lay down his life. What makes him the good shepherd is that he sacrifices himself. He gives his life. He volunteered his life for the sheep. Now, let’s state something obvious. You are the sheep. Jesus is the shepherd. Who is in charge? You and I are not in charge. Only Jesus is in charge. We are to follow him. We do not get to listen to ourselves. His sheep listen to his voice and they follow him (10:3-4).
The Insufficiency of Others (10:12-15)
Verses 12-13 show that all others are insufficient for the task. Jesus is the good shepherd. He is the only one who can do what needs to be done for his sheep. The hired hand does not care for the sheep like the shepherd. Jesus is the good shepherd. He acts differently. Jesus has come to deal with the wolves and will not run away when the wolves comes against us. Jesus does not run from our problems. Jesus cares for his sheep, more than anyone else. Notice that point in verse 13. Others care nothing for the sheep. Jesus cares for the sheep. Jesus cares for you more than any person you know. Jesus is committed to you more than any person you know.
Jesus then establishes the point he was making with his first illustration in verses 1-10. “I know my own and my own know me.” Jesus knows who are his. His sheep know his voice, listen to his voice, and follow his leading. Jesus knows who belong to him. Notice how well Jesus knows this relationship with us. Just as the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father, so Jesus knows us and we know him. This is a huge statement. There is a picture of a depth of knowledge and intimacy in this relationship. Being his sheep is much more than knowing a bunch of facts about Jesus. We are supposed to have a relationship with Jesus like Father God has with the Son of God. Does this sound like something we offer for a few minutes or hours? Does this sound like going to church? Does this sound like Sunday morning only? Jesus is laying his life down for the sheep. But are we one of the sheep? Or do we claim to be a sheep but do not have this devoted love relationship to Jesus to show that we are truly sheep? There is to be an intensity to this relationship, not a hobby or casual relationship. “I know my own and my own know me.”
How The Shepherd Is Gathering His Sheep (10:16-21)
Jesus continues that there are other sheep that he must bring in. There are more sheep to call. Right now, Jesus is calling his sheep from Israel. But the calling of the sheep must go out to the Gentiles. There are going to be sheep that are outside of the Jews that belong to him also. Jesus must call them as well for they will listen to his voice. Isaiah prophesied that this would be the case in Isaiah 56:8.
The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8 ESV)
There is a glorious result that will occur from what Jesus is doing. “So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Jesus shepherds beyond the limits of physical Israel. This audience, the Jewish religious leaders, are not his sheep because they do not listen to his voice. They have shown that they do not belong to him. Jesus is calling his sheep so that they will no longer be scattered, causing one flock with one shepherd. This comes from a beautiful prophecy given by Ezekiel.
21 Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them.” (Ezekiel 37:21-26 ESV)
The new David was going to come, which is a messianic reference. The Christ, the Savior, would come and rule over them as their shepherd and save them from their sins. Jesus has come to create one flock which consists of sheep from all over the world, disregarding race, culture, gender, and background. Jesus has come to fulfill the task the Father has given him. The Son enjoys the approval of the Father because of his unqualified obedience to the will of the Father (10:17). Now listen to what Jesus says because it is the most shocking statement yet in this shepherd discourse.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” This is the third time in this lesson that Jesus says that he is laying down his life (10:11, 15, 17). But that is not the shocking part. The shocking part is how he ends that statement. He is laying down his life that he can take it up again. You can lay down your life. You can sacrifice yourself for another person. You can give your life to protect your family. But you cannot take it back up again. No one can take their life back again after giving it over to death. Jesus’ death always has resurrection in view.
Not only this but listen to the rest. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it own on my own accord.” No one can take my life from me. Is that true for you? Of course not! No one could harm Jesus unless he allowed it to happen. Now take your mind back to the cross. No one could put their hands on him to arrest him unless he allowed it to happen. No one could take the scourge and brutally whip him unless he allowed it to happen. No one could put nails through his hands and feet unless he allowed it. No one could kill him on the cross unless he allowed it. “No one takes it from me.” This is what makes Jesus the good shepherd. He had the authority to lay his life down and the authority to take his life up. Jesus carried his authority throughout everything that happened at the end of his life. Jesus was not a helpless victim of his enemies’ hatred and violence. This is not an accident. The Lord’s Supper memorial is not a memorial like an accident happened and a tragedy took place. This was the plan of God. Jesus gave his life. He laid it down for the sheep. No one took his life from his. Jesus is in complete control and has full authority for every moment that happens in his betrayal, arrest, beating, and death.
Why did Jesus do this? This was the only way to gather the lost sheep. This is the only way for forgiveness of sins to come to the sheep. Jesus has come to call and gather his sheep. The means of gathering them into one flock with the one good shepherd to lead them was to give his life. With his great authority he would not only lay down his life but he would also take his life back up for his sheep. Jesus cares so much for his sheep that he dies for his sheep. No one took his life. Jesus gave his life for you and for me.
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)
Have you returned to your shepherd? We all strayed like sheep. But Jesus died to gather you to him, to save your eternal hell, to forgive you of your sins, and to gather you into his fold. Jesus knows his own and his own know him. Learn his voice and obey his leading.