We have been in a series at Oak City Church where we have been studying the great “I Am” statements made in the book of John. This past week I had the honor of teaching on a passage in John 10 where Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. For starters, know this – when Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd, He is also saying that we are sheep. The question is, “What does Jesus mean when He says that we are sheep?” Its not a compliment 🙂
All the research I have done says that sheep are incredibly dumb animals who need a shepherd to do basically everything for them. Shepherds lead sheep to green grass to eat and lead them to clean, still water to drink because sheep can’t find either of these on their own. Shepherds have to walk in front of the sheep clear the path for where the sheep are going. And they have to go to the places that they will lead the sheep before the sheep even get there to make sure that those places are good and safe. All the while the shepherd has to be on the lookout for predators like wolves or cougars. Since sheep have absolutely no natural defense mechanisms the shepherds is their only protection. There is no such thing as a wild sheep because wild sheep will soon die. Accordingly, sheep HAVE to follow the shepherd if they want to have a chance of survival. However, the good shepherd’s end goal is not just that the sheep would survive. Everything he does is designed so that the sheep will thrive and live full, productive lives. Good shepherds are contrasted with bad shepherds who do none of these things. While the good shepherd’s sheep are protected, fat and happy the bad shepherds sheep are sickly and pathetic. The quality of the shepherd is seen in the wellbeing of the sheep.
When thinking about sheep in this way it could be a little bit hard to think about ourselves as being as helpless and clueless as sheep. However, I would humbly suggest that we are. In the same way that sheep don’t realize these things about themselves, neither do we. Left on our own, we will never find the things that truly fulfill and bring peace. We have no ability to get to the place we want to go in life and aren’t even sure where that place is. Whenever we look back at our past selves we realize how little we knew “back then” and think we have it figured out now when the truth is we will never have it figured out. Thankfully we have a Good Shepherd who knows and provides all things for us. Our mission is simply to hear his voice and to follow him.
Finally, in John 10 Jesus mentions the greatest thing that the good shepherd does – he lays down his life for the sheep. When the flock is in danger the good shepherd is ready and willing to sacrifice himself to save the sheep. The fact is that the Bible says that we are all in danger. Isaiah 53 tells us that we have all gone astray like sheep and are in need of rescue. We have all rebelled against our good shepherd and “gone wild” and, as wild sheep do, we will soon die. Isaiah 53 also tells us that Jesus died in order to save us; that Jesus became like a sheep himself and took the punishment for our since in our place.
Nowhere else are two more seemingly contrasting statements made right next to each other. Jesus says, “You are a sheep and are completely helpless and clueless.” And then he immediately says, “But you are worth so much to me. I value you so much you are worth my life.”
He is truly your Good Shepherd. Everything he does is for your good; not just to keep you alive but that so you will thrive. Seek to hear his voice and to follow him. If the Lord is your shepherd what else could you want?