I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep

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When you meet someone at a party what are the first two questions you ask?  Usually it’s: Who are you?  And what do you do?

In John 10:11 Jesus answers both questions.

Who are you?  I am the Good Shepherd.

To the Jews who were listening, this was a very significant title.  The Old Testament would describe wicked rulers as bad shepherds who cared nothing for their flock.  Yet the people awaited good shepherding (Ezekiel 34).  This would come from God Most High and through “David” – the Ideal King, the Divine Messiah.  He and the unseen LORD would be one in caring for the flock.  Just as the Messiah confessed that “The LORD is my shepherd“, so the Messiah would be the Good Shepherd to His people.

Therefore Jesus’ claim to be this long promised Shepherd was nothing less than the claim that He is the Messiah.  Jesus is the Divine King who reveals God’s pastoral heart to earth.  He is the eternal Son, through whom the Father has always ruled and saved.

Now how would anyone go about proving they were God’s eternal King?  How should Jesus justify His claim to divine, messianic status?

We might expect Him to rain down fire from heaven in spectacular fashion.  Or to make a donkey sing light operetta.  Or turn a mountain into a flower-pot.  Jesus doesn’t do anything like that.  This is how Jesus proves He’s the King of the Cosmos:  He says, ‘I am King, because I die for my people.  I am the LORD because I pour out my life unto death.”

“I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  (John 10:11)

It’s very surprising.  Jesus proves His deity by dying!

And this is the shocking answer to our second party question: What do you do?  I give my life for the sheep.

Think about that mental image for a minute.  Picture in your mind a shepherd who cares for his flock so much that he dies for his sheep.  Perhaps a pack of wolves have cornered young, wee Flossie.  He races down the hill and into the fray, putting himself between Flossie and the ravenous wolves.  Flossie gets away, the shepherd is torn apart.

This shepherd would rather die than see harm come to his sheep.  He dies instead of them.  He dies in their place.  He dies so they might live.  That’s the shepherd Jesus asks us to imagine.

Now what would you say to someone with this kind of job commitment?  I would tell them, “Get a life!  Take up squash, get a hobby, have a sense of perspective!’  A good shepherd turns up early and mends the fence.  A shepherd who dies for sheep has ridiculous job loyalty!  How highly does this shepherd value His sheep?!

But think of it.  If the Good Shepherd is the LORD Messiah, and the sheep represent you and I, what is Jesus telling us?

He is saying that He – our Lord and King – has died for us like a rescuing shepherd, dying for sheep.

And that is His proof of divinity!  The proof that He is LORD is that He dies for the weak and unworthy.  Not heavenly special effects, not freak miracles but a bloody crucifixion – that is how the Good Shepherd is identified.  We expect to see true deity on a throne – Jesus reveals it on a cross.

But through it, He wins our hearts.  Every other would-be shepherd of our souls demands “Your life for me!”  Jesus opens His arms and says “My life for you!”

I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  (John 10:11)

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