Wanted: A Shepherd
The old “Candid Camera” television program was not always funny, but sometimes it was quite educational. I recall one situation they set up in an exclusive high school in New York. They gave all the students vocational aptitude tests and then called them into the office one by one. A fine looking fellow came in and sat down at the counselor’s desk to get the report on his test. Of course, he was sure he would be chosen to be president of a corporation or a banker or a broker. But the counselor said, “Son, your test shows that you are best suited to be—a shepherd!”
A shepherd! I can still see the shock that registered on that boy’s face! A shepherd! His only reply was, “You’ve got to be joking!”
To our space-age generation, a shepherd is a lowly person from ancient history, somebody who never quite made it. But this idea is dead wrong. Some of the greatest people in Bible history were shepherds—Abel, Joseph, Moses, David, to name a few. And Jesus Christ, who was a carpenter by trade, dared to compare Himself to a shepherd: “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). He is contrasting Himself, of course, to the wicked shepherds, the religious leaders, who were wasting the people and fleecing the flock. He called them “thieves and robbers.” Unfortunately, we still have their kind with us today, people who use religion to get a profit for themselves regardless of how they hurt others.
Now, if Jesus is the Shepherd, then His people—those who have trusted Him as their Savior—His people are the sheep. Perhaps this fact humbles us a bit! Imagine, Jesus calls us sheep! But that is exactly what we are: prone to wander, unable to defend ourselves, helpless without a shepherd. And yet Jesus is our Shepherd, and as such, He has a threefold relationship to us, His sheep.
1. A Loving Relationship: He died for the sheep
“The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). In the Old Testament, the sheep died for the shepherd; but now the Shepherd dies for the sheep. Because the sheep are in danger, the Shepherd must lay down His life to save them. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
You see, the sheep are in great danger because there is a wolf out to get them. In verse 12, Jesus talks about the hireling who flees when he sees the wolf coming. Jesus is no hireling! He loves the sheep, and willingly gives His life to defeat Satan and rescue the sheep from his power. Satan is the wolf, and Satan is the thief: “The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (vs. 10). Isn’t that what Satan is doing to lives and homes today, stealing and killing and destroying? If lost sinners only knew the danger they are in, the judgment that hangs over their heads!
But the Shepherd gave His life for the sheep. He did this voluntarily, quite unlike the sacrifices in the Old Testament. Can you imagine a sheep willingly giving its life for the shepherd? And yet there is a perfect Shepherd who willingly gives His life for worthless sheep! What grace! His sacrifice does not have to be repeated, unlike the sacrifices at the tabernacle. Once and for all, Jesus Christ settled the sin problem and redeemed His sheep from destruction.
The Shepherd not only gave His life for us, but He also gives His life to us. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (vs. 10). This is eternal life—the very Life of God! This is abundant life, there and now, the very life of heaven lived on Earth! What a loving relationship Jesus Christ has to us: He died for us.
“Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
2. A Living Relationship: He lives for the sheep
Keep in mind that the Jewish flocks were not kept for slaughter; they were kept for wool and milk. Consequently, the shepherd really knew his sheep and became attached to them. The sheep were like a family to him! So it is with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. He not only died for us, but He lives for us. He knows us!
He knows our names. “He calleth His own sheep by name (vs. 3). Have you ever noticed that Jesus often called people by name? “Zacchaeus, come down!” “Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things…” “Thou art Simon…” And perhaps that tenderest word of all when He spoke in the garden that Easter morning, and simply said, “Mary!” Yes, Jesus the Shepherd knows your name. You are not a stranger to Him if He is not a stranger to you.”
He knows our natures. “He knoweth our frame” wrote the psalmist, and how true this is. He knows that we are sheep! What are sheep like? Well, they are weak creatures, hardly able to defend themselves. They are basically ignorant and easily lost.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love…”
Jeremiah the prophet put it beautifully when he wrote, “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (10:23). And yet, with all their faults, sheep are lovable and useful; and the Good Shepherd loves us and cares for us. Nothing is hidden from His eyes; He knows all about us.
He knows our needs. The death of the Shepherd is pictured in Psalm 22, but the life of the Shepherd is in Psalm 23. Too often we use Psalm 23 at funerals, yet it is not limited to the time of sorrow and death. Look at the last verse: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” This precious psalm is describing the living relationship between Christ and His sheep. He guides us; He protects us; He encourages us; He takes us safely through the difficulties of life. Read Psalm 23 with this thought in mind and it will become a new chapter to you.
My friend, if Christ is your Savior, then you have a Good Shepherd who lives for you and who cares for you. Never give up!
3. A Lasting Relationship: He keeps the sheep
It is unthinkable that any one of His sheep, purchased by His blood, should ever be lost. It is possible for the dog to return to his vomit, and the “sow that was washed” to her mire (2 Peter 2:20-22); but it is not possible for a sheep to turn into an unclean animal. He may wander away, but he is still a sheep. The Good Shepherd not only dies for the sheep, and cares for the sheep; but He also protects the sheep and sees to it that not a one of them ever is lost.
Jesus gives His sheep several assurances that their relationship to Him is a lasting one.
What we have—“eternal life” (vs. 28). Not a temporary life or probationary life, but eternal life. This is the very life of God! By definition, salvation is eternal because we have eternal life.
How we got it—“I give unto them eternal life…” (vs. 28). This salvation we have is a gift, and “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). If we were not saved by merit, we cannot be lost by demerit. Salvation is a free gift of God, and no conditions are made for us to keep it.
Where we are—We are in Christ’s hand and in the Father’s hand (vss. 28-29). We are doubly safe! Jesus does not say that we are holding on to His hand, but that He is holding on to us!
What He promised—“They shall never perish!” Now, this does not mean that the sheep, knowing they are safe, deliberately disobey the Shepherd. Of course not! The fact that He has saved us eternally so fills our hearts with love and joy that we want to obey Him.
Yes, there are enemies—the wolf and the thieves—and there are dangers; but we are safe in the Shepherd’s hands. Not one of His precious sheep will ever be lost. In fact, one day He will gather together all of His sheep and “There shall be one flock and one shepherd” (vs. 16). Not “one fold” but “one flock”—the whole Church of Jesus Christ gathered together in glory! There were two “folds” in Jesus’ day, the Jewish fold and the Gentile fold. He promised that He would also call sheep out of the Gentile fold, and this He did. Today, believing Jews and Gentiles make up the great spiritual flock, the Church that Jesus purchased with His blood.
What a wonderful thing it is to have a shepherd! And when Jesus Christ is your Shepherd, you share in a relationship that is loving, living, and lasting. In fact it is a relationship that will continue for all eternity. “For the Lamb…shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters…” (Revelation 7:17). If you have never trusted the Shepherd, then do so today. If you do know the Shepherd, then follow Him and love Him; and your life will be abundant and exciting.