Originally prepared for Youth For Christ (YFC) at Berkeley High School. ---
Starter Questions Please read all the following questions first, and then write down your answers.
1. Who do you say that Jesus Christ is? Put your honest opinion, not just what you think the 'right answer' is. Be as exhaustive as you can.
2. Would you say that you know about Jesus Christ or would you say that you know Jesus Christ? Why? What's the difference?
3. Do you think that Jesus loves you? If not, why? If so, how does He demonstrate this love to you?
4. If Jesus were on earth right now, what question would you ask Him?
Last week, I said that it is impossible to understand yourself rightly until you understand Jesus Christ rightly. He is the answer to your questions of purpose, the ultimate reason why anything matters, and the only One who will satisfy that aching you cannot quench nor ignore.
So, in pursuit to understanding Jesus Christ rightly, today we're going to study Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. Jesus is called a shepherd multiple times in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews calls Him "the great Shepherd of the sheep" (Hebrews 13:20). Peter calls Him the "Chief Shepherd" (1 Peter 5:4) and the "Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25). Matthew says that He had compassion like a shepherd has upon lost sheep (Mathew 9:36). Jesus Himself said, "I am the good shepherd" (Jn 10:11).
Scripture and Cultural Context
But, why is it so important that Jesus is the shepherd? Today we'll be reading John 10:1-18, and focusing on verses 11-5 to find out. But before we read, we have to be updated with some basic sheep-and-shepherd knowledge.
First, some things about sheep: Sheep are not good fighters and are not strong; rather they are pretty much helpless. Sheep are not good leaders nor do they fend well when all alone; rather sheep are good followers. Also, sheep are not great at providing for their own needs (food, water, shelter); rather they need someone to take care of them.
Now for some things about a shepherd. His entire life revolves around the sheep: he lived with them, traveles to better sources of food and water for them, sleeps next to them, births their young, cares for their sick, searches for their lost. A shepherd can identify each of his sheep by appearance and sometimes has names for each because they are so familiar to him. With his own life, he defends his sheep, often having to fight and ward off their natural predators. Also, a shepherd's sheep recognizes their shepherd's voice, and they follow him wherever he goes.
In ancient Israel, shepherds often built something called a sheepfold. It was an outside enclosure with short walls but no roof, often made of large branches or stones stacked on top of each other. It was designed to keep the sheep in and safe at night, and keep predators like wolves, bears, mountain lions, thieves, and robbers, out. There was only one way in and out — a door. Now, because this was the weak point of the sheepfold, the shepherd would sleep next to it, thus being the first line of defense against anything or anyone who wanted the sheep. Every night he would hold the gate open and count the sheep as they entered the sheepfold, and every morning he would open the gate and let them out to the pasture to graze.
Now that we're educated with some sheep-knowledge, let's read the passage.
There are three characters that Jesus speaks about here: sheep-stealers, the sheep, and Jesus Himself.
Sheep Stealers (Jn 10:1, 5)
Sheep stealers are identified by three things: (1) they don't enter through the door of a sheepfold and instead climb up some other way, (2) the sheep don't like sheep stealers — the sheep will not follow them, will flee from them, and do not know a stranger's voice.
The Shepherd (John 10:2-4)
The shepherd is contrasted to the sheep stealers, and is identified by seven things: (1) he enters by the door of the sheepfold, (2) the doorkeeper opens the door to him, (3) he calls his own sheep by name, (4) the sheep hear his voice, (5) the sheep follow him and go out of the sheepfold before him, (6) he leads the flock of the sheep, (7) the sheep follow him wherever he goes.
Confusion (John 10:6)
Now, the religious people that Jesus was speaking this parable to didn't understand Him at first. So, he explains it.
Jesus is the Door (John 10:7-9)
This metaphor of Jesus as the door is wonderful, but we're going to gloss over it for the sake of time.
Jesus is Better Than Thieves and Hired Hands (John 10:10-14)
Jesus contrasts Himself with a thief and a hired hand, and shows how He as the shepherd is better to the sheep than both of them.
Thieves come only to steal and kill and destroy the sheep. They climb up the wrong way into the sheepfold. But Jesus is not a thief of the sheep. He is the good shepherd. He came to bring life to the sheep, and not just life but abundant life.
Hired hands do not love the sheep like Jesus does. Hired hands are not concerned about the sheep. They see a wolf coming, and flee; they let the wolf come take the sheep, scatter them, and eat them. But Jesus is not a hired hand. He is the good shepherd. He is concerned about the sheep and loves them because He owns His sheep, and knows them.
Jesus Knows His Sheep and Laid Down His Life For Them (John 10:14-15)
Here we get a glimpse of the relationship within the Trinity. The Trinity, or Tri-Unity, Three in One, is a doctrine we'll explore a little later in the semester. But, here is it briefly. There is one God. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are the three distinct Persons of God, each equally God in essence and being, each worthy of glory and worship, and yet different in function and relationship to each other. They are not three gods, but rather together make up One. "Three Who's, One What" is a good summary.
But the aspect that Jesus brings out here is that Jesus knows His sheep as intimately and as fully as He fully knows the Father, and as the omniscient, perfect Father fully knows Him. Because of this intimate knowledge of and love for His sheep, Jesus laid down His life for His sheep.
What's the point of all this? We are sheep. We are not strong. We are helpless. We do not fend well on our own. We need someone to care for us. But, there are two types of sheep: (1) those that are wayward, lost sheep, (2) and those that are part of Jesus the Shepherd's sheepfold.
All of us start as wayward, lost sheep. Isaiah 53:6 says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, / Each of us has turned to his own way." To 'go astray' is a metaphor for sin. Human sin can be briefly summarized as the insistent rebellion to ignore the good Shepherd and to live our life our way. As unrepentant sinners, we do not want to follow God and want to follow ourselves. By doing so, we say that God is not worth listening to. In our wayward sin, we call God untrustworthy, a liar, and not worth following or obeying.
Sheep gone astray, going their own way and not their shepherd's way, are pitiful and lost. Outside of the sheepfold, they are prey to thieves and wolves, the dangers of the world and the painful sting of death and sin. They have no protector nor good shepherd.
Some of you are still like wayward, lost sheep. If you're not a Christian, you are a wayward sheep. You're on your own. God is not on your side. He does not actively protect you nor does He love you and care for you like He does for His sheep. You in your sin have wandered away and have rejected the voice of God, calling Him a liar and unworthy to follow or obey.
One Shepherd, One Flock
The good news is that Jesus the Shepherd is still patiently seeking sheep to be His own. He is still seeking and saving that which is lost (Luke 19:8). In John 10, Jesus says, "I have other sheep, which are not [yet] of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16). If you are an unbeliever, why would you refuse such a shepherd? He is good and He loves like no other. He is not a thief who will harm you. He is not a hired hand who will leave when trials and enemies come. He's infinitely better than those; He is the good shepherd, who laid down His own life for His sheep.
A Wayward Sheep, Saved
You see, as a man sinful, I know what it is like to be a wayward sheep. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. Outside of the sheepfold of Jesus the shepherd, I thought that life would be more exciting, more happy, more fulfilling. I thought that when God was wrong when He said sin was harmful, wrong, destructive, and ultimately an assault on His holiness and goodness. I was wrong. Sin always deceives, always destroys, and always leads to death (Romans 6:23).
But around your age, God saved me. It's not that I 'accepted' Jesus as my Shepherd or that I made myself a better person or that I started going to church and reading my Bible and praying. No, God found me, rescued me, and made me one of His sheep, part of His fold. I do not deserve His love for me; rather, I deserve the inevitable consequence for a wayward sheep: death and destruction. Spiritually, that means I deserve hell. But Jesus' death, my Savior's death, my Shepherd's death, saved from hell and granted me access to the eternal sheepfold — heaven.
The Shepherd Seeks Lost Sheep
Are you one of Jesus' sheep? Here is a good litmus test: do you know Him? And not just know Him casually, but do you know Him as your shepherd? When you read His Word, do you hear His voice? When you hear His voice, do you follow Him? Do you see His protection and grace towards you as you are in His fold?
If you are not His, you are lost and need to be saved. When sheep are lost, they do not find their way back to the fold. They're helpless and dependent and don't fend well for themselves. Rather, the shepherd has to go and find them. Jesus Christ is that shepherd. As Romans 5 says, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [those not like God, holy, perfect, good, righteous, sinless, etc.]. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).
Jesus loves wayward sheep, and seeks them to be part of His fold, to be His sheep. While we were still helpless, wayward sheep, Jesus the Shepherd came and died to rescue His sheep. He died for my sins and bring me back from my sinful ways. He loves you, and came to die for your sins and bring you into His fold.
If you profess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, your Good Shepherd who died for your sins, you now have an obligation to follow Him as Shepherd. Isaiah 53:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:24-25 are instructive here.
Isaiah 53 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
1 Peter 2 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Christians, before, as sheep gone astray, we lived to sin and were dead to God. Now that the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls has born our sin on the brutal cross, paying the penalty that we justly deserve, how can we continue in that same life (Romans 6:1)? We can't! We must die to sin and live to God and His righteousness. We have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God the Son (1 Corinthians 6:20). We cannot keep loving the same sins that we committed before we were saved. The profession from our lips must be matched by profession with our hands, thoughts, deeds, time, money, attitudes. If you are a Christian, Jesus bought all of you, not merely part, when He paid on the cross. We're commanded to live like it.
John 10 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
In closing, let's read Psalm 23.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I 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 have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.