And what does Jesus call us? Sheep.
Given the nature of sheep, they simply have to have a shepherd. They are not very discriminating and will have any shepherd, good or bad. We are like that too…latching on to anyone.
We are that way about God. Someone said, “When people stop believing in the real God, they don’t then believe in nothing, they believe in anything.” That’s true. Because of our nature, we must have a shepherd and if there isn’t a good one around, we will follow a bad one.
In John 10, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. What does that mean?
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is committed to the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:11, 17-18).
The nature of sheep is such that a shepherd ought not be committed to the sheep, but commitment is how Christ describes his relationship to us. And commitment entails responsibility.
Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). Jesus said, “I have come to minister…not to be ministered to” (Mark 10:45). Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Jesus said, “Peter, Satan has desired to have you…but I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:31-32). You file all of that under commitment.
Jesus was committed enough to choose to lay down his life. Jesus said, “I love you. I am committed to you and that commitment is total. It includes the cross. Don’t forget it.”
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus owns the sheep.
“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees…” (John 10:3,12).
Jesus bought us and now we are his. We are his sheep, his precious possession, and the Good Shepherd—Jesus—is responsible for us. If a flock of sheep doesn’t have enough to eat, whose problem is that? If the sheep are cold, whose problem is that? If the sheep have problems with parasites, whose problem is that? It is all the shepherd’s problem.
That is true of us too. As a Christian father, I am responsible for my children. The law says if they are underage and do something wrong, then I am responsible. The law holds me accountable if they are not fed and clothed. And as a father, I want to be responsible. I might like your children, I might think they are wonderful kids, but they are not my kids. That makes all the difference in the world.
Whatever you’re facing right now, the proper question is not, “What are you going to do about it?” Rather the question is, “To whom do you belong?” If you belong to the Good Shepherd then the problem is his. The Good Shepherd owns the sheep and he takes care of them.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus’ purpose is the sheep’s welfare.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
A lot of shepherds out there are dangerous. They have angles. They want something. Jesus has no angle. He simply wills the best for you. Jesus loves you.
Not too long ago, someone told me, “I’ll learn to trust you slowly because I’ve trusted people before and only gotten hurt.” I understand that. I have had shepherds who saw me as an object to be used only to fulfill the shepherd’s selfish desires…but I have found one who is not like that. The nature of the Shepherd—Jesus—is good. The object of the Shepherd is you. The desire of the Shepherd is abundant life.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the only source of the sheep’s salvation.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
When a shepherd was out in the wilderness with the sheep, he would call them together for the night. The shepherd would place his rod over the doorway of the fold (there was only one entrance in the four-walled structure). The sheep would come under the rod, and then the shepherd himself would lie down in the entrance…thereby becoming the door.
So when Jesus says, “I am the door,” he points to the fact that he is the only one entrance. If you want to get inside, you have to come by Christ. He said that in other ways too: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
There is only one Shepherd who will give you that for which you were created. No other—just Jesus Christ. While that may appear narrow, exclusive and arrogant, truth is sometimes that way.
I remember the time my family went on a camping trip with another family. One day, my friend’s daughter, Holly, broke her wrist…and we had to get to the hospital. (When you’re traveling together in a large camper, when one goes anywhere, everybody goes.) We asked the campground owner if there was a hospital nearby—it was about 20 miles and three towns over. The eight of us took the trip and nobody asked questions. Even if it had been a hundred miles away, we would have all still gone. There was only one hospital.
If Jesus is the only hope you have, not for a broken wrist, but for a broken heart and a broken life, you ought to be willing to go to any lengths, walk any distance and pay any sacrifice to get to him. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He has gone to great lengths, come the distance and made the sacrifice. Only a very foolish sick person ignores that kind of physician.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus calls his sheep.
And when Jesus calls his sheep, they recognize his voice and follow him. “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice…And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:3-4,16).
Sometimes in the Middle East (where sheep are mostly for their wool) the shepherds of the village will put all of their sheep in a single fold for the night. The next morning, each shepherd comes to the fold, stands outside and calls. The sheep that belong to that particular shepherd, in response to his call, prick up their ears and walk out of the fold to follow.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus walks around calling his own. His own hear his voice and they follow him. Jesus says that there are other folds. He goes to those folds and calls. Some of the sheep stay and some of them come.
Jesus didn’t stop doing that in the First Century…he is still doing it. He is calling. If you belong to him, you will respond.
There are different kinds of shepherds—good ones and bad ones. You have a shepherd. But which one? Maybe your shepherd is your work, your time, your friends or your boss. Jesus said that shepherds are all over the place and the shepherd you choose is extremely important.
There are different kinds of shepherds—good ones and bad ones. You have a shepherd. But which one?
The sheep’s nature, quality and demeanor are almost wholly determined by the shepherd. If your nature is fear, the quality is bad, and the demeanor is guilty, empty and meaningless, perhaps you have the wrong shepherd.
So make sure you follow the Good Shepherd…and not a butcher.
Time To Draw Away
Read Psalm 23 & John 10:1-18
Who is your shepherd? Who do you trust and follow? There is only one Good Shepherd. Jesus loves you…deeply, completely and without condition, reservation or end.