John 10:1-6 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them."
Over the last couple of posts we have considered the imagery of "shepherd" and how it relates to God. We've witnessed how the Old Testament utilizes the "shepherd" imagery in revealing the character and power of God to His people. We then considered how such Divine connections to Deity inform our understanding of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus' self-pronouncement of Himself as "the Good Shepherd" in John 10:11 assumes the Old Testament backdrop. In today's post we want to explore how Jesus develops His self-understanding as the Divine Shepherd in human flesh and what the New Testament has to teach us about this wonderful title of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Understanding Jesus as a the Good Shepherd in John 10
John's Gospel aims to make know to the reader how one can know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In John 10, John reports Jesus' words concerning His self-identity as "The Good Shepherd". The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes the following on John 10:
"The discourse on the Good Shepherd continues the same setting as in chapter 9. Comparing people to a shepherd and his sheep was common in the Middle East. Kings and priests called themselves shepherds and their subjects sheep. The Bible makes frequent use of this analogy. Many of the great men of the Old Testament were shepherds (e.g., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David). As national leaders, Moses and David were both “shepherds” over Israel. Some of the most famous passages in the Bible employ this motif (cf. Ps. 23; Isa. 53:6; Luke 15:1–7). Jesus developed this analogy in several ways. The connection with the preceding chapter is seen in Jesus’ contrast of the Pharisees with the man born blind. The Pharisees—spiritually blind while claiming insight (John 9:41)—were false shepherds. As the True Shepherd, Jesus came to seek and to heal. His sheep hear and respond to His voice."
In John 10:1-21, we find Jesus first of all starting with a figurative story or what some would refer to as His parable of the shepherd and the sheep in John 10:1-6. Key details of the story include: the shepherd, the doorway into the sheepfold, the sheep, villains such as robbers, hirelings or false shepherds and the manner in which the sheep discern between the true and false shepherds.
John 10:7-21 entails Jesus exposition and revelation of how He is the only shepherd through which to enter (i.e the door), the good shepherd and the true shepherd that leads by His voice for the sheep follow. We can summarize Jesus' exposition as follows:
1. The Only Shepherd. 10:7-10
2. The Good Shepherd. 10:11-15
3. The True Shepherd. 10:16-21
As the Only Shepherd, no other shepherd exists through which believing sinners can enter into God's Kingdom and salvation (see John 14:6; Acts 4:12). As the Good Shepherd, we see the focus upon Christ's character and willingness to lay down His life for the sheep and to rise again of His own accord. Then as the True Shepherd, Jesus is ever associated with His Word, which functions as a true test for those who claim to love Him (see John 14:21).
The New Testament's development of Jesus as the Good Shepherd
From what we see in John 10, Jesus Christ is without a doubt "the Good Shepherd". As one explores the remainder of the New Testament's teaching on Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we discover that this particular title is heightened as one goes further into the remainder of the New Testament. To summarize, we find the following progression, beginning with John 10:11...
1. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."
2. Jesus is the Great Shepherd in Hebrews 13:20-21 "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
3. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd in
1 Peter 5:4 "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."
4. Jesus is the Exalted Shepherd in
Revelation 7:17 "for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Thus Jesus is not just the Good Shepherd, He is the Great, Chief and Exalted Shepherd, worthy of worship. Let us then follow our wonderful shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.