Text: John 10:11-21
Today we consider the fourth of Jesus’ “I Am” sayings. In each of them Jesus uses the words ego eimi which unmistakably is meant to remind us of the Lord’s unique self-disclosure in Exodus 3:14. In the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint) these words ego eimi (I am, I am) are found in Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4, 43:10, 46:4, 48:12, 17, 51:12 and 52:6. In John 10 Jesus has just said “I am the Gate”, thereby stating that he is the only way to God. That leads quite naturally to Jesus’ fourth saying “I am the Good Shepherd.” In Psalm 23:4 David spoke of the comfort of being cared for by the rod and staff of his heavenly shepherd. The staff of course referred to the hooked end which the shepherd would use to rescue a sheep from a dangerous situation. The rod referred to the stick which was used by shepherds to drive off wild animals.
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD
The Old Testament background to this fourth saying is passages like Ezekiel 34 which is one long indictment of the worthless shepherds of Israel (her kings and prophets). For instance, in Ezekiel 34:4, 5 we read the Lord’s accusation against these false shepherds, you have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. All of this prepares the way for the Lord’s promise of his Messiah in vrs 23, I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as that shepherd. Jesus highlights several precious truths in this discourse.
- In vrs 11, 15, 17, 18 Jesus refers to the voluntary sacrifice of the “good shepherd”, The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. In vrs 12 Jesus says that the hired hand has no vested interest in the sheep and no ultimate concern for their welfare. When trouble arose, they would run to save themselves. A shepherd who owned sheep was committed to their welfare. In protecting them from wild animals they may die even though they did not intend to. Jesus, however, says that he would quite deliberately lay down his life for his sheep. He was helping the disciples to process his impending death. Furthermore, in vrs 17, 18 Jesus speaks about his authority not only to lay down his life but also to take it up again. It is doubtful that the disciples saw any hint of the resurrection in these words when Jesus first spoke them. However, in the days following Christ’s resurrection they would have found encouragement as they recalled these words.
- In vrs 16 Jesus goes on to say, I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. When Jesus speaks about those outside of the sheep pen of Israel, he clearly means Gentiles and Samaritans. God’s sheep were not limited to Israel (Isaiah 49:6, 56:8). They needed to be brought within the one flock of God (Ephesians 2:11-22). The founder of AIM was a man called Peter Cameron Scott. His efforts to take the gospel to Africa were tragic. His brother, John, joined him in the mission but within months died of fever. Scott buried him in the jungle and committed himself again to preach the gospel. His health broke down and utterly discouraged Scott returned to England. In London, Scott found fresh inspiration at the tomb of David Livingstone. For the text inscribed on his tomb was taken from John 10:16; “other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring.” He found fresh courage to return to Africa.
As we reflect on this fourth “I Am” saying of Jesus are we surprised that In Hebrews 13:20, 21 our shepherd is not just spoken of as “good” but “great.” May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.