“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
In context, Jesus adds to His imagery of being the Door to the sheepfold. He is not only the Door, He is the Good Shepherd. The goodness of the Lord as Shepherd is reflected in the fact that He will give His life for the sheep.
In biblically terms, sheep speak of the elect of God. They have been chosen by the Father in eternity past, and given to the Son. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
There are many things which the Father has given to the Son.
Great works to perform. “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (John 5:36).
A cup of wrath. “Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).
Sheep. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27).
All power. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).
All nations on earth. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalms 2:8).
The goodness of Christ as the Shepherd is contrasted with that of the hireling who does not really care for the sheep. The hireling will leave the sheep to wolves, and will flee because he does not own them. The Good Shepherd does own 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. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:12-13).
Christ owns His sheep by right of redemption. He has purchased them with His own blood. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
In Psalm 23, David likens God to the Good Shepherd. The rod and staff God wielded comforted David. The rod was a defensive club. It was used to protect the sheep from wolves, or thieves. The staff was an offense resource. It delivered the sheep from dangerous situations they fell into. The Lord’s strength was there to protect David. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4).
David recalled his own days as a shepherd. He too was willing to give his life for his sheep. When a bear came to devour the flock, David fought for the sheep. When a lion tried to carry a sheep off, David slew the lion. He was a good shepherd. “And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (1 Sam. 17:34).
Later, David viewed all of Israel as the sheep of God. He was willing to fight a giant for them. He was worthy to be a Shepherd-King. “David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee” (1 Sam. 17:37). David was a type of Christ. He foreshadowed the Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus loves His sheep. He has their best interest in His heart. He defends His sheep unto death. When the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep, He makes it clear that no one is taking His life from Him. His sacrificial act is one of selflessness. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18).
Jesus knew He had legions of angels at His disposal to protect Him.“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
“He could have called ten thousand angels,
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone for you and me.”
Jesus told His captors they had not power over Him except what was given them. “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (John 19:11).
The death of Christ was a voluntary death. He laid down His life, not for His own benefit, but for His sheep. Jesus did not want them to suffer the cup of the wrath of God. He drank that Himself. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).
The sheep for whom Christ died are the ones whom the Father has given to Him. He knows them by name. “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:3). As Jesus knows His own, His sheep know Jesus.
They know His voice. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
They know His look. “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Luke 22:61).
They know His nail scared hands. “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:27).
They know His true identity. “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15).
They know His doctrine. “And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11).
They know His love. “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).
The sheep, whom Jesus loves, follow Him.
In contrast, the hireling, possibly a reference to the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders, will flee, and leave the flock in time of trouble. “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. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:12-13).
The sheep which follow Christ consists of a large flock of Jews, and Gentiles. As Peter was to minister to the circumcised, to Jews, Paul was to minister to the Gentiles. “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, 16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:15-16).
The ingathering of the Gentiles began in earnest with the giving of the Great Commission. The gospel is to go into all nations, even to the uttermost parts of the earth. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20).
As the sheep know Christ, and as Christ knows His sheep, so the Father knows Jesus. There is an intimacy that is stressed. “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
The sheep of Christ, consisting of Jew and Gentiles, form one fold, with one shepherd, Jesus Christ. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
The Good Shepherd is also the Great Shepherd, for He has omnipotent power. He has the power to dismiss His spirit by laying down His life, and the power to take it again. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).
The Good Shepherd, who is the Great Shepherd, is the Guiding Shepherd for He has received a commandment from the Father to be the Bishop and Shepherd of the souls of the flock of God. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
The Good Shepherd, who is the Great Shepherd, who is the Guiding Shepherd, is the Providing Shepherd, for He feeds His sheep, and tells others to do the same. Those who love Christ will feed His sheep. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
The result of the revelation about Jesus was a division among the Jews. “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings” (John 10:19). Many people thought Jesus had a demon, was mentally insane, and should not be listened to. “And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?” (John 10:20). Others wisely discerned that Jesus could not possibly be demon possessed, because a demon cannot perform a miracle. A demon cannot make the blind to see. “Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:21).
Christ makes the blind to see, physically and spiritually, for He is the Good Shepherd.