I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11–15 ESV)
This picture of Jesus as a good shepherd who comes to lay down his life for the sheep is not a random image presented in the Gospel of John. In our lesson last week we talked about how we make lousy shepherds for our own lives. When we follow ourselves and our idols that in our lives, we are left wandering aimlessly in life and afflicted because we lack a shepherd for our lives (cf. Zechariah 10:2). Zechariah 11 continues this picture about how we are lost and how we need a shepherd to direct our lives so that we are not wandering and afflicted.
The Shepherd’s Call (11:4-6)
Listen to the description of our shepherd in Zechariah 11:4. The Lord said, “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.” We do not want to think of ourselves in these terms. What do you mean that we are doomed to slaughter? Why are we doomed to the slaughter? This is God’s message to the world. Our sins have put us in this situation. God’s judgment is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. The prophet Isaiah declares that all of us have gone astray like sheep. The problem is not with God. The problem is with us. We want to go our own way. We want to listen to ourselves. We do not want to listen to God. Verses 5-6 show that people are taking advantage of each other, harming one another, and selfishly ignore the concerns and needs of others. Worldly shepherds are taking advantage of people, leading them away from God, rather than to him. This is the whole point of one of the most famous sentences in the scriptures.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)
Jesus pictures himself as coming to shepherd the doomed. Jesus came so that people would not have to perish but have eternal life.
The Shepherd’s Work (11:7-14)
In verse 7 we see that he comes to be the shepherd for the flock that is doomed for the slaughter. The implication is that this shepherd has come to rescue them from the slaughter. He is pictured as having two staffs. One staff is called Favor and one staff is called Union. With these two staffs he tended the flock. Think about the significance of these names because they show the purpose of our good shepherd. He came to show us favor and bring peace to us, unifying God’s people, as well as bringing peace between God and ourselves. Jesus came to bring us favor and unity. In verse 8 we see the shepherd immediately doing his work, removing three shepherds who were false, harming the flock and leading them astray. The shepherd is doing the work. But notice the rest of verse 8. The flock detested the shepherd and the shepherd grew impatient with them. The flock is unhappy with the work of the shepherd and the shepherd is unhappy with the response of the flock. Isn’t it amazing that the good shepherd comes and is doing his work to save, and the people do not like it. We want to complain about how we are being rescued. We do not like the work of Jesus. We do not like his saving and judging. We proclaim that we do not want to be rescued or we do not want to be rescued the way he is doing it. Israel did the same thing coming out of Egypt. They complained about how they were being rescued. They turned from the Lord because their rescue was not how they wanted it to go. Now listen to what the shepherd says in verse 9.
“I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” (Zechariah 11:9 ESV)
In verse 10 the shepherd breaks his staff called Favor, annulling the covenant made with the people. Please think about what God is trying to teach his people. This is an important truth God is communicating to the world. If you do not want Christ to be your shepherd, then he will not make you. He will not shepherd you if you do not want him to. If you do not want him, he will not make you. If you do not desire him, then he will leave you in your condition. You see this in verse 9. If the dying doing not want to be rescued, then let the dying die. God is not going to save people against their will. God is not going to shepherd people against their will. To put this another way, the good shepherd is showing his favor toward you. But if you do not want it, then he will cut the staff called Favor. The breaking of the staff illustrates the breaking of the covenant. Jesus came to save you, strengthen you, and bring you home. But he will not make you go home. He will not make you enjoy his love and favor. He will not work in your life if you do not want him to.
Now look at what we see the shepherd saying to the flock next, which is recorded in verse 12. The shepherd asks for his pay in accord to his work for the flock. The wages that they pay the shepherd are 30 pieces of silver. There are two shocking elements to this price. First, 30 pieces of silver or 30 shekels was the price to be paid for an injured slave according to the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:32). The shepherd who has come to rescue the doomed is determined by the flock to be worth nothing more than a wounded servant. The prophet Isaiah said the same thing about how the people would respond to Jesus’ arrival.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. (Isaiah 53:3 CSB)
So the first picture is that the shepherd is going to come and do his work to rescue people from persisting and bring them home and no one is going to value this work. But there is also a second important meaning to this picture. Perhaps the 30 pieces of silver reminds you of something in the life of Jesus.
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14–16 ESV)
This is the same value that Judas assigned to Jesus and what the Jewish leaders assigned to Jesus. Come back to Zechariah 11:13. The Lord said to throw it into the house of the Lord, to the potter. This is a really strange declaration. But listen to what Matthew records.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. (Matthew 27:3–7 ESV)
Zechariah 11:14 then shows the shepherd breaking the other staff called Union. This ends the bond between Judah and Israel. It is interesting to see that when Jesus comes, the Jewish people are greatly divided into many sects. There are Pharisees, Sadducees, zealots, Essenes, and other groups who are all fighting with each other. Jesus came to unify his people and to show them favor. But because they rejected him, favor and union are broken before their eyes.
Getting What You Want (11:15-17)
Notice in verse 15 God declares that if you do not want his good shepherd who will lead you to life and rescue, then you can have the worthless shepherd you desire. God will give you the desires of your heart. We are the doomed and God sent his shepherd to lead us away from our eternal destruction. But we refuse to do it. So God says you can have what you want. You can have your worthless shepherds. Listen to the picture of foolish shepherds in verses 16-17. These foolish shepherds do not care for you. They do not care about you. They do not sustain the healthy or heal the broken. They do not seek the lost. They desert you when you need them most.
This life is full of foolish shepherds. We give so much of our effort and time to money. But money does not care about you. Money cannot heal you. Money cannot keep you healthy. Money will not look for you when you are lost or empty in life. Money is a lousy shepherd. Yet how often to we make our life decisions based on it? Our possessions are also a terrible shepherd. Cars and clothes do not give back to us. They do not care about you, do not help you, and do not heal your life. Another lousy shepherd is our job. We can end up sacrificing so much in our lives for our work. But your work does not return what we put into it. You can have so many shepherds in your life that you let lead you which do not care about you and give nothing back to you.
We are getting what we want through the shepherd we choose. We can choose these lousy life shepherds. But please think about what you will have at the end of your life if you have spent all your time and energy following these shepherds. Jesus is willing to be the shepherd to the doomed. Jesus is willing to take lost sheep like us and do the work to heal us and help us. The question is if we will receive him or reject him. There is only one shepherd who can give the life you want and the life you need. The false shepherds cannot give you what you want or what you need.
Let me end this lesson by thinking about the value that the prophecy speaks about. What is Jesus worth to you? To the Jewish leaders he was worth very little. He was only worth 30 pieces of silver. Judas had watched Jesus, listened to Jesus, and traveled with Jesus. He knew what Jesus was about. Yet to Judas, Jesus was only worth 30 pieces of silver, the price of a broken servant. They did not value him. What is Jesus worth to you? Think about how easily we will trade Jesus for something else. We will trade Jesus for a couple hours of sleep. We will trade Jesus to work at our jobs. We will trade Jesus to watch television. We will trade Jesus to go spend our time watching entertainment. We will trade Jesus for more money. We so easily trade Jesus for simple and sometimes silly things in life that are not important and really do not matter.
I want us to see that Jesus wants us to desire him. He is not going to make you desire him. He is going to give you what you want. If you want him, he will change your life. He will heal your life. He will carry you through your difficulties. He will be there for you when you need him most. But if you do not want him, then you do not have to have him. You can have your tv shows, sleep, money, careers, and other things which are all lousy shepherds that do not satisfy or give you what you need. You can tell Jesus to leave you alone and remain sheep doomed for destruction. What do you want to have at the end of your life? What do you want to have to show for all your time and all your efforts? Jesus is offering you favor and union. He wants to be your shepherd to lead you in your life away from the pain and sorrows of this world, as well as from the coming judgment. Never forget that we are sheep doomed for destruction. We need a shepherd who can change our condition. Jesus is the only shepherd who can do it.