Jesus the Good Shepherd

A brief personal perspective on the Book of John Chapter 10

There are many references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible. Perhaps the most well known appears in Psalm 23 but there are others, in both the old and New Testaments, for example Is 40.11, Ezek 34.11, Zech 13.7 (quoted in Matthew 26.31), Hebrews 13.20, 1 Peter 2.25 and Rev 7.17.

When we think of "The Good Shepherd" we perhaps tend to conjure up pleasant imagery, such as tranquil pastures and a benevolent old shepherd mildly watching over his flock but John 10 goes much deeper that this imagery. What does the text actually say? It contains five key aspects, as follows.

1. The way into the sheepfold

We have a clear distinction on the one hand between the thief who climbs over the fence who has come to steal, kill and destroy and, on the other hand, the shepherd who enters through the gate. Jesus says he is this gate, this way1 and whoever comes in by him will be saved2. Which way do we try and enter?

2. Leading, following and trusting

The text says that the good shepherd will lead his sheep and they follow him because they know his voice3 and will run away from someone else because they do not know his voice4. Do we let Jesus lead us in all things? Do we really listen to Jesus - do we know his voice? Do we always run away at the sound of other voices by remaining loyal to Jesus or are we half tempted to follow? Do we fully trust Jesus to show us the way?

3. Knowing and caring for his sheep

Another distinction appears in this passage5, that between the hired hand and the true shepherd. The hired man leaves the sheep and allows a wolf to scatter them. By contrast, as the Father knows Jesus so, in turn, Jesus knows his sheep and will not abandon them to the wolf. Do we allow that Father/Son relationship of knowledge and love to be replicated in our relationship with God - through Jesus - and with others?

4. Other sheep

It is important to be mindful of other sheep which are not in the sheepfold and must be brought in6. They need to hear and recognise the voice of the shepherd. How much do we help gather these other sheep for our Lord and help them to hear and to know his voice?

5. The ultimate sacrifice

In two verses7, Jesus says he is willing to die for the sheep; to give up his life in order to receive it back again. "The Good Shepherd" is an equally good term to to remind us of Jesus as a sacrificial lamb. We need constantly to remember that Jesus did give up his life for his sheep, for us - then and for all time - and did receive it back again so that we may have a clear pathway to God.

Summary

"The Good Shepherd" means so much more than Jesus simply caring for his people. It means Him really knowing and leading us and, in response, us being expected to know Jesus and to allow ourselves to be led by Him. Jesus himself is the true path to follow and we must keep to this path, not bypassing or short-cutting the route. Jesus expects our trust, so he may shepherd us how and where he will. He remains steadfast to us, thereby demanding our loyalty to him, even (or perhaps especially) in the face of adversity. Jesus poured out his love for us on the cross, so we must do likewise - we must love others. Jesus also has a wider flock to gather, requiring our help in bringing others into the sheepfold too.

In conclusion, John 10 gives a concise reminder where we should place Jesus in our lives, what he does for us and what we are expected to do for Him.

1 John 10.7

2 John 10.9

3 John 10.4

4 John 10.5

5 John 10.12-15

6 John 10.16

7 John 10.11 and 10.17

Richard Farquharson, Maulden, Bedfordshire April 2016