I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 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. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10:11–14)
There are several titles that are ascribed to Jesus Christ. Jesus has been called “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), He has been called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), He has been called the “Light of the world” (John 8:12), Isaiah 53 depicts Jesus as the “suffering Savior”, and the list goes on as the Bible is filled with illustrations of our Lord. One of my favorite titles given to Jesus is one that can be found in John 10:11-14, as Jesus states He is the “Good Shepherd.” In this passage Jesus discusses the importance of the Shepherd and warns of the dangers of those contrary to the Shepherd. Jesus speaks of the care the His sheep receive because of the Shepherd, and as Jesus gives this illustration it is made clear, those that have obeyed the commands of the Good Shepherd and are following His voice are His sheep.
This wonderful illustration, given by Jesus, begins with an explanation of the sheep. If there is a Shepherd, by implication, there are sheep, but who are the sheep of the Good Shepherd? The mission of Jesus is seen throughout Scripture. When sin entered the world, God speaks of one that would come to “bruise thy head” (Gen. 3:15), and Jesus would be the One sent to deliver the fatal blow to Satan, defeating sin and death and offering remission of sin through the shedding of His blood (Matt. 26:28; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus was sent to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus left heaven, was made in the likeness of man, and was obedient unto death on the cross (Phil. 2:5ff.). Jesus came to purchase His church, His bride, His body and did so by offering Himself on behalf of His church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23). But the question remains, who are the sheep of the Good Shepherd? The sheep are those that have entered the sheepfold properly. The sheep enter the fold of the Shepherd through the door (John 10:7-10). Jesus is the door and the only way to enter the sheepfold is through Him. Those that try to enter the sheepfold any way other than the door is a thief and a robber. This is a beautiful depiction of the care provided by Jesus as sheep cannot care for themselves and need nearly round the clock protection from predators. Since the sheep enter the sheepfold properly, they no longer have to worry about these predators overtaking them. The sheep also hear the voice of the Shepherd (John 10:3). Sheep are said to have poor eyesight but have excellent hearing. The sheep do not depend upon their eyesight to follow the shepherd, but they rely upon their hearing. The Christian must be like the sheep in this aspect also as we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), faith which comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). The sheep follow the shepherd because they know His voice and because they know the voice of the shepherd, they will not follow the voice of a stranger (John 10:4-5). There are present dangers for the sheep (John 10:10), just as Satan and false teachers are a present danger for the Christian, but Jesus provides abundantly for His sheep (John 10:10).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). One of the reasons Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” is the fact that He lays down His life for His sheep. Any dedicated shepherd would go to great lengths to protect his fold. We are familiar with the shepherd that left the ninety-nine to search for the one that was lost (Luke 15:4ff.) and Jesus was willing to leave heaven to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus would make the ultimate sacrifice for His sheep and lay down His life for them. Jesus was slain for the “sin of the world” (John 1:29), and because He is our propitiation (1 John 2:2) we can become His sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and cannot be compared to a hireling, which will flee when danger is present (John 10:12-13). Jesus is the Good Shepherd and knows His sheep and is known of them (John 10:14). The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd and follow his commands and will not listen to an imposter. Those that hear the commands of Jesus and obey His commands can be His sheep (John 14:15). Those that are willing to believe Jesus is the Shepherd (John 8:24), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3,5), confess Jesus is the Christ (Matt. 10:32), and be baptized into Christ (Mark 16:16) and be a part of His fold and receive the care of the Good Shepherd.
Without Jesus, we are nothing more than lost sheep in danger of the thieves and robbers that want to destroy and in need of the care and protection of the Shepherd. With Jesus, we are sheep that belong to the Good Shepherd that has laid down His life for His sheep. Jesus provides for His fold! He came that His sheep may have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10), but most of all that we may have eternal life with Him.