I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
“Great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus feet, and He healed them all” (Matthew 15:30). Often God decides to make us suffer from some ailment to help us realize our need of Him and to turn to Him. It is like the shepherds’ dog that barks the straying sheep back into the fold. God does discipline only those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6) and we should thank Him for this for otherwise if we remain healthy and prosperous always, we would be lost in hellfire for eternity. We are like sheep, always in need of guidance and a leader. The Good Shepherd whistles, speaks to and in this manner leads his sheep to ‘green pastures and still waters’ for he loves them and risks his own life for them. But hired hands do not value the sheep’s life more than their own and abandon them to face danger. The sheep also listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd for He loves them, and follow Him.
Abraham offering his son Isaac was a precursor to the provisioning made by God to redeem His people and Abraham on Mount Morea called Him “Yehovah Yireh” which has been distorted as Jehovah Jirej. “YHWH”, the name attributed to God has been rendered as Yehovah and ‘Yireh’ is translated as to see, perceive or look. This is derived from the two words Yehovah and ‘raah’ where it means to see. Abraham assigned this name to Mount Moriah, where God perceived his need for a sacrificial lamb and provided the ‘ram caught in a thicket with its horns’.Abraham did not name the place for God’s provision but for His Divine vision and Scripture reads, “To this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided” (Genesis 22:13-14). Before the sacrifice is offered God must perceive the need and only then will He provide and it is this act of “seeing the need of mankind by God” that reveals the redemptive sacrifice.
The Hebrew word ‘raah’ means to see and is in the verb form but the same word is also used for ‘appearance of God’ – “God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 12:7 & 17:1). Before the son was even born God had seen the need for mankind and appeared to Abraham to make the promise and thus provisioning of God follows His appearances to mankind as acts of Divine intimate love and care. God in His Divine foreknowledge was well aware that mankind, as sheep, need a leader to guide them on the path of righteousness and without that they will go astray. It was because of this ‘deliberate plan and foreknowledge of God’ that Lord Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb to take away our sins (Acts 2:23). Isaac was spared death and through the “seeing and visiting of the Son of God” we are also saved and He became our Good Shepherd ‘who laid down His life for us’.
Why does God desire us to be like sheep? – During the process of creation, God inspected everything to His entire satisfaction “That it was good” and only then proceeded to the next step. It does not mean that God could make mistakes but since everything reveals His Divine glory and is created for His glory, it must be good (Isaiah 43:6-7). Mankind is created to be dependent on God, the Creator, for He loves and provides for every need of His creation, even before anything came into being. We are called sheep by the Lord Jesus for five reasons –
One, sheep are not created to carry any burdens like other animals and are totally dependent on the care and protection of the shepherd. We are to “cast all our cares upon God, for He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7) and the Good Shepherd carried all burdens of our sinful lives on His shoulders on the cross.
Two, sheep require a protector – Sheep when they sense any danger do not unite to protect themselves but run in all directions. Mankind also cannot defend itself from the designs of the evil one and the forces of darkness and need a hiding place. LORD God is the only capable refuge that can provide shelter and protection (Psalm 32:7).
Three, once lost sheep are unable to reach ‘home’ – Birds fly thousands of miles to reach their destination and every other animal instinctively manages to find his way back, but not sheep. Mankind is born sinner and finds it impossible to overcome this to become righteous. Lord’s Prayer exhorts us to seek Divine help always to escape temptation (Matthew 6:13). Our enemy prowls like a roaring lion, O LORD, make Your way straight before my face to lead me into Yiour righteousness (Psalm 5:8).
Four, sheep have no ambition – God created us for His glory but sheep remain content with wherever they are, even when abundance is close by. They, like mankind require direction for their lives that is available only through the Good Shepherd for only He ‘has a plan of abundance and future for us’ (Jeremiah 29:11) He provides direction and guidance to our lives.
Five, sheep need a full time overseer – Mankind is likely to tumble into sin for we are born with a sinful nature and need a permanent guide and supervisor to save us from falling. Sheep need a shepherd whose sole aim is to tend to his sheep. Lord Jesus first sought confirmation from Apostle Peter about his love for Him and then assigned him the duty of feeding the lambs, caring for and feeding the sheep (John 21:15-17). The Good Shepherd then provided the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead us, His sheep, into His fold.
Lord Jesus repeatedly emphasized that He only does the will of God and not His own to ascribe all glory to Him alone. This was in conformity with the Scripture – heavens and earth and all of creation declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and the deeds of the Great Shepherd, the glory, esteem, amazing and wonderful works are all for the Father and the Son’s glory. His coming glorifies the Holy Trinity while we received His personal care and abundant life through Him.
Why does Lord Jesus claim to be the “Good Shepherd”? – Apostle Peter is asked three times by Lord Jesus about his love towards Him and after each confirmation he is assigned a task. The central theme of the task remains unchanged, which ranges from feeding His lambs, to caring for His sheep and finally culminates in “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17). And finally the same call is given to him “Follow Me” that was made at the start of His Divine Ministry by the Lord (Matthew 4:19). Apostle Peter had then left everything worldly and followed while before the second call Lord Jesus had revealed to him “by what death he would glorify God” (John 21:19), yet now a humbled but confident Peter completely surrendered to the call. The Savior had appointed various ‘shepherds’ in the past but many had failed by becoming harsh rulers of the sheep ‘without strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, bringing back those straying or seeking the lost’ (Ezekiel 34:4-5). Apostle Peter was given a tough assignment but as later events proved, he never faltered – for he had probably read the pain in the Lord’s eyes after “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61).
Adam was given ‘dominion over every animal, bird or sea creature’ to tend to them, Noah enjoyed the same over animals and members of his family while Abraham received the blessing to be ‘Father of many nations’. God has always desired shepherds for his people and when all failed, He finally sent His Son to set an example for others to follow – an example of a serving shepherd full of love and tender care for His sheep – even to die for them (1 John 3:16). God had declared this to nurture a hope in the hearts of His people through His prophets much before the arrival of the Messiah. Not only was the place, Bethlehem Ephrata identified but also the details of His ministry were provided, “He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:2-4).
What was proclaimed through prophets Isaiah (40:11) and Ezekiel (34:23-24) was fulfilled by the Messiah and continues to be so through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God who guides the God’s elect Apostles, Evangelists and Pastors to lead His flock in present times (Ephesians 4:11). Lord Jesus declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd who lays down the specific guidelines for others “I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd” (John 10:14-16). The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep to assure them of His eternal commitment to care for them and God the Father stamped His approval on this new covenant by bringing Him up from the dead (Hebrews 13:20-21).
How can He shepherd me, a sinner, today? – The Pharisees and Jewish leaders questioned Lord Jesus’ association with the sinners, tax collectors and others. His answer amazed them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17). He came for sinners like me to be His sheep to be saved from wolves of this world that lead us astray. He has also declared that other sheep that are not presently in, even they also will be brought in to make the total into one flock where He will be there only Shepherd. While praying to the Father Lord Jesus even prayed for “those who will believe in Me through their word: that they all may be one” (John 17:20-21). The Great Commission is to “go to all the nations” none excluded for He desires to save whole of mankind, not some specific group only.
The second aspect of the time of His coming and today after two thousand years, how can He be effective? First, His resurrection from the dead in fulfillment of prophesy of Psalm 16:10, is a proof of His being available today as He was then. Second, His ascension into heaven, witnessed by a large number of people illustrates His presence before God the Father in heaven to intercede for us. Third, His claim to ‘lay down His life and take it up again’ being proved confirms the truth of His statements. Finally, fulfillment of various prophesies about His birth, suffering and ascension assures us that He has authority and power over all creation and we can trust His words today as well.
What benefits accrue to me, the sheep, from the Good Shepherd? – Various blessings are assured to the sheep once they are taken into the fold, “the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out” (John 10:3). First, there is an intimate relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd – He knows each one’s name and they recognize His voice to follow Him only and none else. Second, He leads them out to provide them ‘abundant life’ in Him. The sheep listen, accept and obey His commands to follow Him wherever He leads – and “He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). This leading is to a place of rest and refreshment where all needs are met and there is no disturbance or distraction to take us away from this Sabbath rest of God.
Furthermore, “God of peace….equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:20-21). God the Father operates in us through the Good Shepherd, Lord Jesus, to do two things. First, He empowers us through the Holy Spirit to do His Divine will – to know and to do His will. Second, He provides us with those traits that are pleasing to Him – transforming us into the image of the Shepherd Himself through continuous sanctification process that we remain and not go astray. He not only provides but also ensures its proper usage by us according to His good purpose for us.
The Shepherd comes looking for His sheep if anyone is lost from the flock and on finding the same rejoices, for the Father in heaven does not will that even one should perish (Matthew 18:12-14). God does not will that even one wicked person should die (Ezekiel 18:23) and in fulfillment of this desire the Good Shepherd wishes the other sheep that are not of His flock must also be brought in (John 10:16). Prophet Ezekiel was commanded by God to declare this to His people “I shall seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they are scattered” (Ezekiel 34:12) and Lord Jesus leads all into one flock under His personal protection.
The Good Shepherd laid down His life for us to conquer death and enter His Divine glory that He always had with God the Father from eternity. His victory opens the door of heaven for us to the life of abundance in the very presence of God – both while being on earth and after death. He leads us into a life free from turbulent storms to “still waters and green pastures” to meet all our needs. He could challenge the Pharisees, Sadducees and Jewish leaders to ‘show any sin in Him’ for He is the Truth and the only way and in Him alone is life. But this is available only to those who accept Him as their Shepherd – are you ready for His call!!