A Shepherd and His Sheep

Check out John 10:1-21!

A Shepherd

The future is so often shrouded in uncertainty. At any one time, there is such a vast range of paths ahead of us and it is rare that any one of them is ever the obvious one to choose. Throughout life, we have so many decisions to make and so many hurdles to overcome when making them. How helpful it would be to have a map; a guide showing us the path to happiness and satisfaction.

Common to all people are the desires for acceptance and security. We all want to belong somewhere, to be cared for, to feel safe. We try to make decisions that will give us these things. But if only we had something to follow. If only there was someone who we could always rely on to give us security and a place to belong—someone who could show us the way to go; to guide us as a shepherd guides his sheep.

Farming sheep in modern-day Ireland is hardly comparable to the occupation of a shepherd in first century Israel. Although the main duties of such a person have not changed much—to lead the sheep, feed them, protect them from danger, care for them when they are weak, and seek them out when they are lost—the methods employed to carry out such tasks are quite different.

In Bible times, being a shepherd was both riskier and more demanding; requiring the shepherds to watch over their flocks both day and night. Whether lions, wolves, or rustlers were coming to steal or destroy, the shepherd had a choice to make; to deliver the flock from the danger or to run away and preserve his own life. The sheep depended on the shepherd. Without him, they would be scattered, lost, attacked, or killed.

The Bible records one instance where Jesus, travelling by boat, landed on the shore where He was met by a large crowd waiting for Him. As Jesus looked upon all the people, His heart went out to them.

He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:34

When He was on this earth, Jesus referred to Himself in many ways—adopting many different titles. In the gospel of John, chapter 10, He is recorded as saying “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In history, there have no doubt been many good shepherds, even many excellent shepherds. But here, Jesus claims to be “the” Good Shepherd. Jesus looks out on humanity, sees wandering flocks of helpless sheep who have so many unmet needs, and uses this illustration of Himself as a shepherd to teach us about His deep care for those who are of His sheepfold; those who choose to follow Him.

What particular qualifications make Him superior to other shepherds? What makes Him particularly suitable for such a role?

The Bible teaches that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but God Himself, and, as the eternal creator of the universe—sovereign over all things and perfect in power, in love, in majesty, and in mercy—Jesus knows everything about you. He knows your needs. He knows your past, your desires, your secrets, your mistakes, faults, failings, hopes, and dreams. He knows the deep-seated fears of your heart, your disappointments, insecurities, frustrations, struggles, sorrows, and joys. He knows everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve ever thought, and said. What other shepherd could know His sheep so well?

As the Good Shepherd, He promises that He will never abandon His sheep in the way that a hired hand—one who does not own the sheep—might when trouble comes. He promises that those in His flock can be assured of security, blessing, and life. So, He says “come”. He invites you to come into His sheepfold—to join His flock—to be led, guarded, comforted, and protected by Him.

A Sheepfold

But there is only one door into His sheepfold. We encounter many doors in life and find ourselves standing on many doorsteps. They often have different signs; such as “Private”, “No Entry”, or “Closed.” The door on Jesus’ sheepfold says “Come in” to all who find it. How do we enter through this door?

Jesus doesn’t say that the door is the good things we do. Nor does He say that it is who or what we are, or how successful we have been. No, Jesus says, “I am the door; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

What does Jesus mean when He calls Himself “the door”?  How will those who go through that door be “saved”? Saved from what?

The Bible teaches that God is perfect and holy; that His standard is perfection and nothing less than that can come into His presence. It teaches that “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).

Every person that has ever lived has done wrong things, big and small. None of us can live in a way that pleases God; not you, not I, not anyone. None of us can attain the required perfection and so, we all deserve to be judged according to these wrong actions—eternally separated from God. None of us deserve to be in God’s sheepfold.

If this is true, then what hope can the Good Shepherd offer? Why invite us to the door if we cannot enter?

A Sacrifice

An average shepherd might risk his life for his sheep in a way that a hired hand who does not own the sheep would likely not. A good shepherd might risk his life to the extent that it results in his accidental death. If so, he would likely be remembered as noble and brave – but left unprotected, the sheep would be scattered and destroyed. But Jesus, being “the” Good Shepherd, “lays down his life for the sheep.”

He lays it down as an intentional and voluntary act in order to save the life of His sheep. He dies in their placeinstead of them.

This is what Jesus did on the cross when He died. Willingly, out of His love and mercy, He gave His life for undeserving people like you and I, taking the punishment that they are due and accounting His own perfection to them. The verse above—“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way”—concludes with the assurance, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6).

But the good news doesn’t end there.

Jesus says, “I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18). Three days after His death, Jesus came back to life, completing the task for which He had been sent into this world.

Since Jesus had lived a perfect life he did not deserve to die. By Jesus dying in the place of His sheep, God made a way for them to be forgiven. In this way, Jesus is the door into the sheepfold; the door of salvation to new life, full life, and eternal life for all who come to Him and trust in what he has done.

A Summons

We all have plans and aspirations for the future. Whether that lucrative career, that perfect family, that thrilling adventure, or that intimate relationship, we all desire to obtain or achieve something. As students we are generally quite hopeful and optimistic about life.

But what if life doesn’t work out as you envision it? What if expectations fail and dreams crumble? What will you do when you are dragged through the thorn bushes of heartbreak or fall into the trench of loss and despair? Who will pull you out? Who will care for you when the storms of sorrow whip around you or a drought dries up your resources? Where will you turn when relationships break down, friends desert you, finances fail, or health declines; when life leaves you empty, lonely, and discouraged?

In such times there is no shortage of shepherds to choose from; each offering their own unique solution, oft-times conflicting with the others. How can you know which way to turn?

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

His voice is a sure, clear voice; a voice that you can always trust. The door to the sheepfold has two sides—the inside and the outside. It is not enough to stand on the doorstep and peek in. He is calling sheep to join His fold; to be led, guarded, comforted, and protected by Him. It is a life-changing call.

Each one of us has so many concerns, uncertainties, insecurities, and fears in our lives, but Jesus promises that those who come to Him, cast their hope on Him, and trust in what He has done on the cross will “have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Jesus doesn’t promise that the Christian life will be one without troubles or sadness but promises to be right by His sheep’s sides in all such trials, comforting them and giving them strength. He doesn’t promise wealth or material abundance but promises that He will provide enough for each day and promises the joy, peace, and satisfaction of being one of His own. He doesn’t promise that His sheep will never find themselves in difficulties but promises that He is sovereign over all such difficulties and that such exist for their good. He doesn’t promise that His sheep will never face harm but promises the sure hope and security of life after death.

Jesus loves His sheep with an everlasting love. It is for His sheep that He left heaven’s glory. It is for His sheep that He lived on this earth in human form. And it is for His sheep that he died and rose again—to bring them to God.

When they go astray, He brings them back. When they are too weak to walk, He carries them. He never neglects, never forgets, and never loses his sheep.

Nothing compares to having Jesus, the Good Shepherd—the Best Shepherd.

No shepherd ever gave Himself to his calling as Christ did. But you can only know Him as this good shepherd if you enter through the only door into His fold – the door that is not our good deeds, or our praying, or obeying, or anything we can do or be—the door that is only entered by believing and depending on what Jesus has done in His death and resurrection.

Jesus promises, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
John 6:37

Listen to the voice of the gentle shepherd. Come to Him. Belong to Christ. He is the only One who can save, satisfy, and keep you.

A Psalm

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Psalm 23

Written by Samuel, Senior Sophister Law