I AM…The Good Shepherd
““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 is not the owner of 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 is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
John 10:11-15 NASB1995
The next “I AM” statement in the Gospel of John is immediately after “I am the door of the sheep”. Jesus is addressing the crowd in the temple, including the blind man he healed. This “I AM” statement, “I Am the Good Shepherd”, resonates with me so much. Steve and I were wandering in the desert of unbelief for quite a few years when we were younger (chased by secular wolves full of lies about God), but the Good Shepherd knew us, came to find us, and now we know Him. He brought us back to safe, beautiful, green pastures and put us in His care and love. He knows His own and He laid down His life for us. When I am praying, all I have to do is picture the Lord as a Shepherd searching and finding His lost lambs and I am immediately full of gratitude and tears for His sacrifice.
Turning to retired Pastor Steve Cole again from the Precept Austin collection of commentaries on John, he talks about Jesus laying down His life (look for the collection of his sermons in the long list of commentaries and click on sermon 56: Why Follow Jesus?):
Jesus’ Death was Selfless: While Jesus set His sights on the joy set before Him as He faced the cross (Heb. 12:2), at the same time His giving Himself for us as sinners was the greatest act of selfless love in the history of the world. As Paul says (Rom. 5:7-8), “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.” Jesus died voluntarily, in obedience to the will of the Father (John 10:18). He wants us to know and to feel His deep, selfless care for us. The word translated “good” has the nuance of excellence or beauty. The beauty of Jesus, the shepherd who gave Himself to rescue us from God’s judgment, should draw our hearts in love to Him.
Jesus’ Death was Sacrificial: He laid down His life “for the sheep.” He died in our place. We should have faced God’s righteous eternal judgment because of all our sins. But Jesus intervened with His own blood to pay the debt on our behalf. Jesus is the only one who has ever lived who did not have any sins of His own to die for. So He alone was qualified to die for us who deserved to die. As Paul wrote (2 Cor. 5:21), “He made Him who knew no sin to besin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God imputed our sins to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us.
Jesus’ Death was Specific: He laid down His life “for the sheep.” Paul expressed this in other terms (Eph. 5:25, emphasis added): “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The sheep are those whom the Father gave to the Son (John 10:29), whose names were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). In John 6:37, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” He added (6:39), “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
In 10:26, He tells the Pharisees, “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” He does not say, “You are not of My sheep because you do not believe,” but rather the reverse: “You do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” The determinative factor is whether they were Jesus’ sheep, whom the Father gave to the Son. It was these that Jesus came to die to redeem. He did not fail in His mission!
This truth is often misunderstood and attacked because it is alleged that if Jesus died only for His sheep, then we can’t offer the gospel to all people. But that is a false allegation. Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 4:42). The almost final verse of the Bible appeals (Rev. 22:17), “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” So this truth in no way limits the invitation to all people to be saved. God pleads with all to be saved.
Rather, this truth looks at the death of Christ from the standpoint of God’s intent or purpose. Jesus died actually to pay for all the sins of His sheep, whom the Father had given Him from all eternity. And He promises that He will not lose even one of them (John 6:39; 10:28). So this truth should assure us: If you believe in Christ, you’re one of His sheep for whom He died. And He promises to keep you unto eternity. His purpose will not fail (Eph. 1:11).
Jesus’ Death was Successful: We just saw this (John 6:39), “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” It’s also in our text (10:17, 18) where Jesus repeats twice that He not only will lay down His life, but also that He will take it up again. Many may claim that they will lay down their lives, but Jesus is the only one who legitimately could claim that He would take it up again. His resurrection verifies that the Father accepted His sacrifice (Rom. 4:25). So as the good shepherd, Jesus lays down His life for the sheep.
How incredibly comforting is it to know that we have a Good Shepherd who died and rose again for our redemption and eternal life in those green pastures!! Picture those green pastures in your mind and gaze upon the Good Shepherd.
Oh, a little bit about Steve Cole, because I found his sermons to be so remarkable. From his biography on Bible.org: Steve served as the pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship from May, 1992 through his retirement in December, 2018. From 1977-1992 he was the pastor of Lake Gregory Community Church in Crestline, California. He graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1976 in Bible exposition) and California State University, Long Beach (B.A., philosophy, 1968). He enjoys writing and has had articles published in many different publications. Since March 23, 1974, he has been a happy man. That’s the day he married Marla. Their oldest daughter, Christa, is married to Shane, who works in computer systems. They live in Chino Valley, Arizona, and have ten children. Christa home schools the children. Yes, she is a busy woman!
Jesus is the Bread of Life, Jesus is the Light of the World, Jesus is the Door of the Sheep, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who Lays Down His Life.
My next devotional will examine the “I AM” statement “I am the resurrection and the life” from John 11:25.
Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash