Jun 21, 2024

How Is Jesus the Good Shepherd?

3 Min Read

The answer to this great question is simply this: Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He said He was. In John’s gospel, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). We could leave the matter there and be content with Jesus’ claim—the claim of the One who could say to His accusers, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46). Not only did Jesus speak the truth, He said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). However, Jesus never made claims about Himself that were not backed up by evidence. Anyone can make claims about themselves, even extravagant claims. But claims need to be tested to show whether they are true or merely self-delusions.

When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” His following words both clarify what He meant and give substance to His claim: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

The pastoral imagery of shepherd and sheep was well known to Jesus’ hearers. They lived in a land where shepherds and sheep were everywhere. But more than that, they knew from the Scriptures that God likened Himself to a shepherd who cared deeply for His sheep—His believing people. Perhaps Psalm 23 most vividly and memorably depicts the shepherd-like care the Lord God exercises on behalf of His precious sheep:

The Lord
is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will 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 anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Ps. 23:1–6)

I have read this psalm hundreds of times and recited it at over seven hundred funerals throughout my forty years of ministry. These words beautifully capture the care, kindness, provision, protection, and sheer love of the heavenly Shepherd for His precious sheep. They highlight just why the Lord is the Good Shepherd.

When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” He was making a stunning claim. He was claiming that He is the incarnate Lord who loves, cares for, provides for, and protects His sheep. But Jesus’ words exemplify in the most remarkable of ways how He truly is this Good Shepherd: “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

In love, this heaven-sent Shepherd sacrificed Himself so that lost, judgment-deserving sheep might be spared God’s just wrath, be restored to His friendship and fellowship, and one day be found in His nearer presence.

Nowhere was Jesus’ claim to be the Good Shepherd more wonderfully and astonishingly shown than in Him laying down His life to secure the eternal good of His sheep.

Martin Luther once wrote, “Crux probat omnia,” or, “The cross is the test of everything.” What he meant was that Jesus’ sin-bearing, sin-atoning death on Calvary’s cross is the fullest revelation of God’s love for sinners. Our sin and fallenness in Adam, our first head, separated us from God and brought us under His righteous and just judgment. We were powerless to do anything to make things right between us and God. But what we were powerless to do, God did in giving His own Son to live and die in our place, bearing the judgment our sin deserved, rising in triumph on the third day, and so reconciling us to God.

So, how is Jesus the Good Shepherd? In love, this heaven-sent Shepherd sacrificed Himself so that lost, judgment-deserving sheep might be spared God’s just wrath, be restored to His friendship and fellowship, and one day be found in His nearer presence.

This leaves me to ask, Have you come in repentance and faith to this Good Shepherd, thanking God the Father for not sparing His own Son, but giving Him up to the death of the cross to die in your place and for your sake? Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27–30)

Have you heard His voice in the gospel? Do you follow Jesus, not only confessing Him with your lips but obeying Him in your life? If so, rejoice as one of His blood-redeemed sheep, to whom He has given eternal life.