The Good Shepherd
Read John 10:12-15 (ESV)
“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.”
Why does Jesus, the Good Shepherd, care so much about His sheep?
Many business owners express concern that it is difficult to find quality help these days. They feel like they have to be at their business every single day because their employees don’t seem to care as much about the success of their business as they do. To provide a sense of ownership some companies offer their employees stock in the company. This incentivizes them to do their best work every single day. When the company does well, they do well. But employees who don’t have skin in the game are much more likely to do the bare minimum required of them. They simply put in their time, earn their paycheck, and go home.
Based on today’s passage, this is nothing new. Many shepherds in Jesus’ day would hire help to watch their sheep, especially at night. The problem with this was when trouble came, like a wolf. I imagine the thinking of the hired man goes something like this, “This job isn’t worth it. If it’s my life or the life of this dumb animal, I’m outta here!” Contrast that with a good shepherd who cares about his flock because they are valuable to him. He knows which sheep belong to him and he doesn’t want any of them snatched from his flock. He’s willing to put his life on the line to save his precious sheep.
Here in John 10, Jesus used shepherding illustrations to explain that He is the promised Messiah. The people should have understood what Jesus was saying when He called Himself the “good shepherd” and warned them of false shepherds and wolves among them because they knew Old Testament Scripture. The prophet Micah had predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that He would shepherd His people.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days… And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:2, 4). It’s not a coincidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David, another shepherd king of Israel. King David famously wrote: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). But despite all this, the people didn’t understand what Jesus was saying to them (John 10:6).
Jesus was telling them who He was and what His mission was. He said that He is the promised Good Shepherd and that He would die for His sheep. Don’t miss that significance! The Jews were used to sacrificing some of their precious, unblemished lambs to make atonement for their sins. The sacrificial lambs died in their place. But Jesus said that He, the Good Shepherd, was going to lay down His life to save His sheep instead of the other way around. Why? Because He cares for them. He created them and knows them intimately. He knows who belongs to Him.
When it comes to His people, Jesus doesn’t just have “skin in the game.” He bought those who belong to Him with His own blood. In Acts 20:28, the apostle Paul said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Jesus purchased His church, His flock, with His blood. He knows who belongs to Him and He loves them so much He laid down His life in order to save them. Instead of the sheep being a sacrificial substitute for the people, the Good Shepherd stood in our place and was a perfect sacrifice! Why was He willing to do that? Because He loves His sheep.
Lord, what a Good Shepherd You are! Thank You for loving me so much that You were willing to die in my place as a perfect sacrifice for my sins. What a comfort it is to know that I belong to You. Amen.
Reveal: Today, find a way to remind someone you know that God loves them so much that He was willing to die for them.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford