John 10:1-18

Read John 10:1-18

Not only does Jesus describe himself as the “sheep door”, he also says that he is the “Good Shepherd” too. Jesus contrasts a shepherd with a hired hand in this text in that a hired hand does not care for the sheep, and at the first sign of dangers runs away. Jesus is like the shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep. In New Testament times, the shepherds were the ones who spent every waking hour of the day with sheep. They practically lived with the animals in stables and out in the open. They would watch the sheep during the day and at night, when it was hot and dry and when it was rainy and cold. The shepherd had a vested interest in every sheep’s wellbeing. A hired hand, however, was not like this. When the season was right for sheering or taking the animals to market, the owner of the sheep would hire hands to assist in this process because it was more labor intensive than watching the sheep alone. The shepherd still guarded the sheep while this was happening, but this was not the responsibility of the hired hand. Jesus is like the shepherd because he is with the sheep all the time in every way. They know him, and he knows them.

The motif of a shepherd is used often times in scripture because of the commonness of sheep in the ancient Israel. It is a term applied to kings (2 Samuel 2:52,  2 Samuel 7:7, Psalm 80:1) and a term applied to God (Psalm 23, Jeremiah 31:10, Isaiah 40:10-11, Ezekiel 34:11-2). In most every case, the scripture talks about the shepherd doing one of two things. First, the shepherd cares for the sheep so they will have what they need to live. He provides water, pastures for eating, safety from predators, among other things. Second the shepherd gathers the flock together that has been scattered. The shepherd goes looking for any sheep that might be missing and brings them back. In John, Jesus describes himself as doing both these things. As the shepherd/sheep door Jesus provides things for life and he does so abundantly. Jesus also talks about going out and gather the sheep back into the fold (John 10:16) although there are some already there.

Jesus came to earth to accomplish the task of dying on the cross for the sins of the world and rising again from the dead. This was his mission appointed by God (John 10:18). Through this task, Jesus would draw all men to himself (John 12:32).  Jesus’ understanding of his task was to put the sheep (that is the people of the world) before himself, lay down his life for the sheep, and then rise from the dead. Christians today have the same task appointed of shepherding people in the manner that Jesus does. Some are appointed as “shepherds” of a church (Ephesians 4:11,  1 Peter 5:2) and Jesus is called the “chief shepherd” and “great shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4, Hebrews 13:20). As Christ shepherds everyone person, believers are to shepherd other believers, not only helping them remain in Christ so they may have abundant life, but also going out and drawing more sheep into the fold so there can be one flock.

Lord, you are the Good and Great Shepherd! Help me to be in your fold and do the work of a shepherd!