John 10:11-18 (ANIV)
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
TIME OF DAY:
Defused sunlight is coming from the left, casting slight shadows below the figure, tree & animals.
Jesus, holding a goat kid.
This is quite a literal interpretation of Jesus’ statement “I am the good shepherd.” We see him sitting in the shade of an olive tree, holding a little kid (young goat ). I have included a long eared sheep looking curiously over his shoulder at the goat too.
This is the fourth of 7 famous statements that Jesus made, starting with “I am…”.
01. The Bread Of Life
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
02. The Light Of The World
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
03. The Gate
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)
04. The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
05. The Resurrection And The Life
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
06. The Way, The Truth, And The Life
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
07. The Vine
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
What might Jesus have meant by referring to himself as the good shepherd?
The fourth of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus (only found in John’s Gospel) is where Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd, coming almost immediately after his previous statement “I am the gate”. Both of these statements use sheep & shepherding metaphors, but all 7 “I am” proclamations point to Jesus’ divine identity and purpose.
Point 01. It should be recognized that Jesus is “THE good shepherd, not simply “A good shepherd” The Greek word for “good” is kalos, which describes something noble, wholesome, beautiful, worthy. It refers to both inward 7 outward attractive quality.
Point 02. As THE shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is responsible for gathering, guiding, protecting & nurturing His “flock” of Christian believers. Jesus contrasts his own caring nature with the uncaring character of the religious leaders & Pharisees who surrounded him as he spoke. He compares them to a “hireling” or “hired hand” who doesn’t really care about the sheep, after all, a “hireling” works for wages, which are his main concern. In John 10:9 Jesus refers to thieves & robbers who seek to enter the sheepfold stealthily.
Point 02. The shepherds of biblical times were not usually the owners of the flock, but they were still expected to care for them, as the owner would himself. However, some of the hirelings thought only of themselves, & if a wolf came along (one of the most common threats to sheep at that time) the hireling might abandoned the flock and flee to same himself, leaving the sheep to be scattered or more likely killed (see John 10:12–13). David tells king Saul how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy (see 1 Samuel 17:36).
Point 03. Really good shepherds stood constant guard over their defenceless sheep. Apart from predators, the weather was also a threat to the sheep which the shepherd had to be aware of. Sudden, heavy rainfall could easily wash sheep away & drown them; blinding dust & burning sands in summer, & driving snow in winter, all represented significant threats to the shepherds charges. Shepherds were frequently subjected to grave danger, & even sometimes gave away their lives to protect their sheep.
Point 04. In the same fashion, Jesus gave His life on the cross as “the Good Shepherd” for Christian believers. Though He had the power, yet Jesus did not choose to save Himself, instead he offered himself as a living sacrifice, to atone for the whole worlds sinful ways. In proclaiming that He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus spoke of “laying down” His life for His “sheep” (see John 10:15, 17–18). As Matthew 20:28 reminds us, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”.