“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.’”
– John 10:14-15
Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve become an avid jogger, running about three times a week. Several years ago, I was jogging in the open desert when I saw a strange animal a few hundred yards ahead. It was too big to be a coyote, and if it was a stray dog, it was the fattest, most well-fed stray dog I’d ever seen. When I got closer, to my surprise, it turned out to be a sheep, and he had lots and lots of friends with him—including two sheepdogs. These dogs obviously took their job very seriously, because they came charging at me like a bat out of … a cave. Fortunately, before I had time to grab my emergency pepper spray out of my pocket, the dogs were called off by a quick whistle in the distance: the call of their shepherd.
That day I had my first and only encounter with two very well-trained sheepdogs … and an even better shepherd. One short command from him told those dogs not to make mincemeat out of me, and it was pretty amazing. (Not to mention a relief.)
In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd—and not just any good shepherd. The word he uses for “good” is the Greek word “kalos,” which doesn’t just refer to moral goodness. Kalos means moral, beautiful, magnificent and excellent both inside and out—the ideal or model of perfection. So when Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd,” he is claiming to be the ideal shepherd, the very model of perfection. He’s not just the good shepherd—he’s the absolute best. And beginning in John 10:11, he goes on to highlight four important things he does as the model “Good Shepherd.”
1) Jesus dies for his sheep (vs. 11-13). Jesus laid down his life for the sins of the world, for the sins of any man, woman or child who would trust in him as Lord and Savior. And as the Good Shepherd, Jesus doesn’t die as a martyr for a cause that he stands for. He dies as a substitute, willingly laying his life down for his sheep.
2) Jesus knows and loves his sheep. In verses 14 and 15, Jesus says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me … just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Here, the word “know” is a translation of the Greek work “ginosko,” referring to a personal, even intimate knowledge of someone. A good shepherd knows his sheep, and likewise Jesus knows each of his followers backwards and forwards, inside and out. There’s no doubt in my mind that the very best part of heaven won’t be the great food, the streets of gold or the music that’s out of this world. The very best part of heaven will be our love relationship with our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
3) Jesus unites his sheep (verse 16). Jesus came to earth first to be the savior of the Jews and second to be the savior of everyone else. His purpose was always to lead his saved sheep out of their respective pens and unite them into one flock under the care of one Good Shepherd: Jesus himself. We don’t separate Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, just as we don’t separate black Christians and white Christians or male Christians and female Christians. We have one shepherd, and that shepherd has just one flock of sheep.
4) Jesus lives for his sheep (vs. 17-18). Jesus’ voluntary death was followed by his glorious resurrection. Yes, he died for you, but he also conquered death for you. He conquered death so that you could conquer death. He lives so that you can live—not just temporarily here on earth, but forever with him in heaven. The Good Shepherd died for his sheep, but he didn’t stop there. Jesus lives for his sheep. And for that we should be eternally grateful.
You see, Jesus didn’t come to earth and die on the cross and conquer death to gain admirers, or even to be a good teacher or a good role model. He came and died and rose again so that you could come out of the sheep pen of sin and death, walk through his gate of salvation and follow him for the rest of your life. Today is the day to walk through the gate. Today is the day to begin following the Good Shepherd. Today is the day.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.