Jesus said, “I Am the Good Shepherd”

I Am the Good Shepherd

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 10:10-16

Introduction:

Last week we discovered how we are to enter into a relationship with God, “through the door of the sheep.” We noted that it was not the same as the door through which Jesus entered as the Shepherd. He entered by “the door into the sheepfold,” which is the door of fulfilled prophecy. We enter through Him by His Grace, and through Faith. He is the Door of the Sheep.

Jesus said, “I AM the Door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” And we found that we are to enter through Him by means of Faith in His shed blood.

But we walk with Him, “going in and out, and finding pasture,” living in the world, and finding our sustenance and protection in Him, by means of Faith and Obedience. We sing the hymn, “Trust and Obey,” and as we study our Bibles, we find that that hymn is true! There truly is “…no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey.” So, Who is it that we are to trust and obey? It is Jesus! He is the Good Shepherd.

The people had difficulty with the idea that Jesus entered by the “Door to the sheepfold.” Now they were struggling to understand the idea that they were to enter in “through Him.”

But the next thing Jesus told them, was that He himself is the Good Shepherd. We need to explore what that means.

John 10:10-16

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

What defines the Good Shepherd?

When asking what defines a good employee, a good job, or a good automobile, we are usually given a fairly vague list of positive characteristics, But, in discussing those ideas, there usually turns out to be a fairly detailed list of things to avoid. There are negative things to look for in a résumé, neagtive things to look for in a company, or in an automobile, all to be avoided if possible.

When we begin to ask, “What makes a good shepherd?” God gives us both the positive list (in detail) and the negative list (also in detail.) We can clearly see not only that He Himself is that Good Shepherd, (the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd,) but also see what constitutes a good human shepherd in the local assemblies. We see bad shepherds in contrast with God, and we see good human shepherds exhorted to “get on with the job” of tending to the flock. And He explains what that means.

Bad Shepherds

Jesus began by listing the motives and behavior of false teachers, false prophets: bad shepherds. He said that the thieves (who did not enter by the “door into the sheepfold,” which is the fulfilled prophecies) came with evil motives: they came to steal, to kill and to destroy. Ironically, they don’t even have to be “bad people,” to have those motives.

Ann and I knew a pastor who outwardly seemed a fine pastor: He was kind, and friendly and hardworking, and very well educated. But it turned out that he did not believe the Bible is the Word of God, and he taught others to doubt it, too. He was stealing the Grace upon which people needed to rest, and killing unbelievers by convincing them there was no real need for a Savior. Finally, he was destroying the faith of weak believers by teaching them that “much of the Bible is simply mythology.” Jesus specifically warned against that kind of man.

The Contrast

He contrasted His own behavior with theirs, saying first that His motive is different: He came “that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” If you want life, Jesus is where to find it.  Then He said, “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He said that the hireling, (someone who sees the ministry as “just a job”) is not committed to the flock. If trouble comes, they will not protect the flock, but rather will protect themselves.

We knew a man like that, as well: He had made a serious error on his taxes prior to our ever having known him. But when he got into financial trouble, because of it, he threatened to “Split the church” if we did not bail him out. He had zero commitment to the flock. But Jesus said that He Himself is the ultimate “Committed Shepherd” who lays down His life for the Sheep.

So, short of actually “dying for the flock,” (which is seldom required of pastors,) what else is the human shepherd supposed to be doing? The responsibilities of the human shepherds are laid out most clearly in Ezekiel 34:1-11, where (just as Jesus did) God first shows the behavior of some “bad shepherds,” and then He contrasts it with His Own behavior.

Ezekiel 34

1And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.

My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; 10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

Seven Responsibilities of The Shepherds

  1. Feed the Flock
  2. Strengthen the diseased
  3. Heal the Sick
  4. Bind up that which is broken
  5. Bring again that which was driven away
  6. Seek the Lost
  7. Protect from predators (implied in verses 5 and 8…but spelled out in Acts 20:27-30)

God goes on, in the rest of Ezekiel 34, to say how He will take over the job of the shepherd and dismiss those shepherds who were failing to attend to the needs of the flock. Notice, too, that the shepherds in question, were the leaders of Israel, but especially the spiritual leaders.

The “healing” involved (v. 4) is not physical healing, as, except the few prophets through whom God chose to show His authority, the civil and religious leaders of Israel never had the authority to heal diseases of any kind. And, the true Shepherd of Israel is God the Son: Jesus, our Great Shepherd.

The Shepherd of Israel

In Psalm 23 we see the LORD described as the Shepherd, and His behavior toward His flock is described: He is said to “lead us by still waters” (safe places to drink water,) and to “make us to lie down in green pastures. (I am told that Sheep usually only lie down after they are done eating.) And; He restores our souls. So, his primary behavior toward the sheep is to see to their sustenance and their safety…and to meet their spiritual need for a Savior and a Shepherd.

Isaiah 40:11 gives a picture of the Shepherd tenderly caring for His Flock. “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead them that are with young.” And Jesus is inviting us to be that flock. We have entered in by faith, but to benefit by the Shepherd, we have to hear Him and follow Him.

What about His Flock?

Looking ahead, in John 10:27, 28, He says, His sheep will be known by Him and will hear His voice and will follow Him. He says, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish!” Thehuman Shepherds should be able to confirm that truth, teaching confidently because of the clear promise of God. If they can’t, then they do not believe His Word.

The more we learn about Jesus and the more we see Jesus in the Old Testament, we begin to see that Jesus was always the “Shepherd of Israel.” (Psalm 80:1) When Isaiah says, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd ….”—it is talking about Jesus! He is the one who cared for them and He is the one who cares for us! In Matthew 23:37-39, we can see that it was always Jesus, down through the ages, sustaining Israel, and grieving over them, as His lost sheep.

So, when Jesus said (John 10:16) 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd…” we can see that He was referring to the Gentiles: this is the beginning of God’s fulfillment of His promises to the Gentiles! This is where we come into the picture! Not that the Gentiles would become Jews, but that both Jewish and Gentile believers would be joined in one new Creation; the Church: the Bride of Christ.

What does a Good Human Shepherd Look like?

A good human Shepherd seeks to feed the flock on God’s Word, as that is what God has defined as good “sheep food.” This is the ground rule: feed the Flock on God’s Word!

  1. He Feeds the Flock on God’s Word (not opinions, politics, or philosophy: the Bible!
  2. He seeks to strengthen the believers who have been weakened, either by neglect or by wrong teaching: how? Again, by the Word of God!
  3. He seeks to correct the spiritual illnesses caused by wrong teaching, wrong thinking, and wrong understanding of the Word of God, through sound teaching.
  4. He helps people overcome the spiritual wounds they have received in life and to grow strong, through faith in God’s promises and His wise counsel.
  5. He understands that wrong social interaction within the flock can drive believers away from a church: so,  he seeks to bring back those who were driven away, and to quench the unrest, unkindness, strife or bitterness that drove them away.
  6. He seeks the lost, and offers them the same things Jesus offered: Eternal life, “freely bestowed on all who believe.” Salvation, by Grace, through Faith. He helps the new believers grow by feeding them wisely, so that they are strengthened against the temptations of the World and against the ravages of Satan’s influence. He teaches the whole counsel of God’s Word.
  7. He seeks to thus defend the flock against predators, the false teachers who have plagued the church since the very beginning of the church age. When false teachers attempt to divide and destroy the flock, he is quick to “confront the Wolf,” so as to safeguard the flock. He does not turn a blind eye to predators.

He is in constant fellowship with The Chief Shepherd (Jesus) and with the other human shepherds in the flock, not seeking preeminence for himself. He seeks to raise up faithful men and women to serve God with their lives and to imitate the Great Shepherd in all things.

How do we find such people?

There is no way we could recognize these traits in any person who we don’t know very well. No letter of recommendation, or well-crafted résumé, could ever hope to replace getting to know a person well enough to see all these things in action, as a living reality. That is why we are told to raise up leaders from within the church, not to call for résumés. (2nd Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:5.)

We see all of these characteristics and behaviors demonstrated flawlessly in Jesus, and the longer each of us knows Him, the more we see the perfection of His character. A human shepherd will never be perfect. Personal humility and a clear recognition of one’s own shortcomings and flaws go a long way toward overcoming those flaws, as the human shepherd, pastor, elder, submits himself to Jesus and allows the Lord to live through him, thus overcoming the natural weaknesses of his own humanity.

How Should We Respond?

On a personal level, as individuals, our primary goal is to develop and maintain a proper relationship with Jesus, the Chief Shepherd. He said, “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me.” That is where we need to start: hear His voice, coming from the written Word of God, and follow Him, in faith and obedience. Then He is free to work in each of our lives, and to build His church as He promised.

Lord Jesus, quicken our hearts to hear Your Voice in the Scriptures, and to Follow the Leading of Your Holy Spirit, so as to learn to walk with You in obedience. Raise each of us up as Your true disciples, and raise up shepherds from within Your flock so that the church will be strong, shining for You in this dark world, offering Life to those who are dying.

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