John 10:11-15 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
In John 10:11, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the good shepherd,” but what exactly did He mean by this?
Today and tomorrow, we will explore in greater depth this well-known statement, but first, context!
In John 9, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind… on the Sabbath. When the blind man was brought to the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day, they were far less concerned with his healing and far more concerned with Jesus’ ‘not keeping the Sabbath.
As they continued to interrogate the healed man, their spiritual blindness became more and more apparent. They did not believe him, for they were blinded by their belief that Jesus was a sinner. And they could not rejoice with the healed man, for they were imprisoned in their religious mindsets.
Immediately after this, Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd.” In this one statement, Jesus did two things. Firstly, He showed us what it means to truly be a shepherd of people. He did this by making a stark contrast between Himself and the religious leaders, who, in this passage, He calls the ‘hired hand’. And secondly, He rebuked the Pharisees. He rebuked them for their poor care of His people.
So, dear friend, what exactly made Jesus a true and good shepherd as opposed to the hired hand? As we explore these three contrasts today and tomorrow, may we not only come to see Jesus as the Good Shepherd of His people but may we also consider how we, too, can be good shepherds to those He has placed in our care.
The Good Shepherd Says, “I AM the Good Shepherd”
The Hired Hand is “Not a Shepherd”
The first contrast we see in today’s passage revolves around the topic of identity. See what Jesus says in verse 12?
“He who is a hired hand and is not a shepherd.” This is a very interesting statement…
Dear friend, I want you to imagine jumping back in time to the time of Jesus, and you yourself are a shepherd. For whatever reason, you can’t look after your sheep for a while. And so, you hire someone to do it while you are away from them. You tell them all they need to know – where to take them to graze and to drink, how many sheep there are, and to be on the lookout for danger.
Now, you expect them to look after your sheep because this is what they have been hired to do. It’s the same job on the outside, right? It’s the same responsibilities, the same roles, the same concerns, and the same procedures. The hired hand is still shepherding the sheep.
But here, Jesus says that the hired hand “is not a shepherd.” There’s something different about him… What is it?
I believe that it ultimately comes down to whether shepherding is merely a role and a list of responsibilities or whether it is an identity. Why do I say this?
Because Jesus Himself said, “I AM the good shepherd.” Emphasis on the ‘am.’
He didn’t say, “I work as a shepherd,” denoting that it is merely a job. He said, “I AM.” Identity.
What I believe that Jesus has done here is that He has tied His nature and His identity with His role and responsibility.
What does this look like for Him?
His life is sold out for the cause. He’s put His whole heart and soul into being a shepherd. He has committed His whole being into this, dear friend.
There’s a seriousness, a passion, an intensity, a joy, a full immersion into this role!
This completely opposes the hired hand. Jesus is saying that those who are temporary workers, temporary shepherds, are completely unlike Him. They’re just dipping their toes in. They’re not all in. Their lives are not sold out for their sheep.
So, dear friend, when it comes to shepherding – to looking after the people in our care, whether it be in a ministry setting or just those around us – are we like the hired hand, dipping our toes in? Or are we like our Good Shepherd? Are we all in? Have we given all of ourselves, all that we are, into this beautiful kingdom work?
Let us humbly and honestly reflect on this today.
Am I all in?
- No. Lord, please show me what that looks like.
- No. Lord, please give me courage.
- Yes. Lord, please help me to continue in this way.
Good Shepherd, You showed us what it looks like to be a true shepherd of people. You gave Your whole self to looking after us and caring for us. You did not withhold Yourself from us, but rather You gave Your all to us. Thank You, Lord Jesus. How can we thank You enough for being our Good Shepherd?
Lord, I pray, please help me to be all in. I acknowledge that I feel so afraid, so weak, so unsure, and so unable. I don’t know how to be all in like You were. I pray, please show me what that looks like. Show me how to love and to care for those around me. Please help me to be a good shepherd to all that You have placed in my care.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
Pray for your church leaders today. Pray that God would continue to help and strengthen them as they shepherd those under their care.