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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

I AM the Good Shepherd

Please read John 10:11-18 in your Bible. I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

SERIES INTRO - “I AM” is the name God gave to Himself. At times Jesus used the expression to show He was God and to teach us truths about God’s character and nature of God. During Lenten we are examining t seven “I AM” statements of Jesus in John.

In the first three centuries of Christianity, Christian artists never depicted Jesus. All kinds of artwork were produced, but for various reasons, the artists did not try to show us what Jesus looked like. Instead, they used symbols for Jesus, like a fish or an anchor. The most common symbol for Jesus in early Christian art was the image of a shepherd. There wasn’t anything to distinguish that shepherd from any other shepherd, but followers knew who THAT shepherd was; He was the Good Shepherd.

First John 3:16 explains, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (NIV). This is the Good Shepherd’s kind of love. Love is not something you do to make you feel good. Real love is making a genuine personal sacrifice for the benefit of someone else. To follow the example of the Good Shepherd, we must love in the same way.

CONTEXT - This chapter is part of a serious conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Our passage this morning is part of Jesus’ explanation o/t ILLUSTRATION He gave in vs. 1-5. The Hebrew word is mashal, it is a teaching method where the meaning becomes apparent on further reflection.

1. The Good Shepherd defends His sheep with his life.

Jesus declared self-sacrifice to be the chief characteristic of the Good Shepherd. (11) In 1 Samuel 17:34-37 David spoke of the dangers he faced while out in the field with his sheep. Being a shepherd was a dangerous and difficult life.

It was the shepherd’s job to defend the sheep; there would be some reasonable risks involved. But no shepherd could be expected to sacrifice himself even for a whole flock of sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He went far beyond what was expected.

The Father loves the Son because He makes this sacrifice. (17) All of this is founded on the Father’s LOVE. Because He loves so perfectly and so powerfully, Jesus is able to make the sacrifice needed to accomplish the Father’s plan.

The obedience of the Son is part of what fuels the love of the Father. The Son’s sacrifice and the Father’s love are inseparable; that’s why these verses look at both as cause and effect.

The Son has the AUTHORITY to make this sacrifice because it is the Father’s command. (18) Jesus told us twice in these verses that He sacrificed His life and He took it up again. There are some important points of theology to be observed here.

One, Jesus’ sacrifice was the will of the Father, but He offered Himself of His own free will; He did it VOLUNTARILY.

Two, no one killed Jesus. He sacrificed Himself. Yes, there were soldiers who pounded the nails and there were conspirators who brought it about, but Jesus is not a powerless victim.

Three, the death and resurrection of Jesus are really one event. You can’t have one without the other.

Four, Jesus sacrificed Himself and resurrected Himself on His own AUTHORITY.

All of this happened in obedience to the Father’s command; it was His plan all along. God saved His people through this unique act of self-sacrifice which had been predicted virtually from the moment salvation first became a necessity because of the sin of Adam and Eve.

What should impress us is Jesus’ absolute AUTHORITY being used to complete His perfect obedience to the Father’s COMMANDS. It’s not hard to imagine such AUTHORITY in any other hands being used to benefit self.

2. The HIRED HAND cares more for his own life than the sheep’s.

When he sees trouble coming, he will ABANDON the sheep to save himself. (12) The HIRED HAND did not have the burden of ownership; he did not place any great value on the sheep or loyalty to the owner. When threatened (even when the threat was only one WOLF), he could be counted on to act in his own best interests instead of the best interests of the flock.

Jewish interpretations of the Law required a shepherd to stand his ground and defend the flock if a single wolf attacked. If two or more appeared, he was free to run away. The HIRED HAND in Jesus’ illustration was guilty of breaking the law as well as showing cowardice. This passage echoes Ezekiel 34:8, “AS SURELY AS I LIVE,” SAYS THE SOVEREIGN LORD, “YOU ABANDONED MY FLOCK AND LEFT THEM TO BE ATTACKED BY EVERY WILD ANIMAL. AND THOUGH YOU WERE MY SHEPHERDS, YOU DIDN’T SEARCH FOR MY SHEEP WHEN THEY WERE LOST. YOU TOOK CARE OF YOURSELVES AND LEFT THE SHEEP TO STARVE.”

The HIRED HAND will do this because he doesn’t love the sheep. (13) The hired hand’s motive is money, not love for the flock. Even if they didn’t take His meaning right away, these words were directed at the Pharisees; they were the “hired hand.” We see this in the inflammatory effect Jesus’ words had on the people: they were divided. Some thought He was demon-possessed but others saw Him as a miracle-worker. (19-21) This is what happens when you tell the truth. People will be of divided opinion about you.

This will result in the sheep being scattered. (12) Left on their own, a scattered flock was easy prey for predators. The owner of the flock would suffer great loss. It’s hard to say how this applies to people. Maybe Jesus is summarizing the history of Israel, saying that God’s people had bad leaders, did bad things, and consequently, were scattered all over the ancient world.

3. The sheep follow the Good Shepherd, not the hired hand.

Everyone in this SHEEPFOLD knows one another. (14-15) The word KNOW is used four times in these two verses. Consider what a high standard for relationships this sets! Believers can KNOW Jesus in the way Jesus and God the Father KNOW one another. Jesus’ willingness to SACRIFICE His life was based on His relationship with God the Father.

Jesus is such a Good Shepherd; He has sheep in another FLOCK too. (16) The SHEEPFOLD referred to here is Judaism. The other flock is the Gentiles. As we see in the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah, God intended to draw all people to Himself. In the Old Covenant, He wanted to use Israel to reach the Gentiles. In the New Covenant, He wants to use the Church to reach the unsaved.


The Good Shepherd is the opposite of the hired hand in another important way: where the inaction of the HIRED HAND results in the flock being scattered, the action of the Good Shepherd results in the scattered sheep becoming ONE FLOCK (the Church) under Jesus, the ONE SHEPHERD. The book of Acts is the record of the beginning of the Church and the developing mission of bringing Gentiles into fellowship with God. Having this purpose showed the goodness of the Good Shepherd and the powerful effect His sacrifice achieved.

Jesus is the “Good Shepherd;” He gave His life to stop our death.

The Bible used shepherds as a symbol of leadership. Political and religious leaders alike were said to be “shepherds” of God’s people. Some of them were good, others were bad. God Himself is identified as a Shepherd in Psalm 23; 78:52; Isaiah 40:11.

SO - this is a noble calling. There is no more noble aspiration than to live like the Good Shepherd. Ezekiel 34 tells us about bad shepherds as a metaphor to critique kings. He faulted them for the good things they left undone:

  • You have not strengthened the weak.

  • You have not healed the sick.

  • You have not bound up the injured.

  • You have not brought back the strays.

  • You have not sought the lost.

Throughout His ministry, by means of His teaching and His actions, Jesus made it His mission to do all these things. He is the Good Shepherd because of His voluntary sacrifice, but also because of His lifelong acts of sacrifice of service. As His followers, we must choose to live in the way He lived: the daily sacrifices that are part of our spiritual maturity and demonstrate our love are the way we do it.


Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 13, The Gospel of John, Grant R. Osborne Retrieved on 11march22.

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