Shepherd and Sheep

A Brief Reflection on John 10 and Psalm 23
by JMT

In John 10, Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd who risked everything to lay down his life for his sheep. This stands in sharp contrast to all bad shepherds who risk nothing for the sheep, but act like hired hands and abandon the sheep in the face of troubles and dangers.

Clearly, the words of Ezekiel 34:1-31 loom large in the background of this story. But so do the words of Psalm 23.* In this story we see how the words of the psalmist and the prophet are fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Here is an example of a way to read the Bible forwards and backwards — to read John 10 and Psalm 23 together.

+ The Good Shepherd Pastures his Sheep — John 10:7-9

[7] So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. [9] I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Jesus gives his followers everything they need for life and godliness. He gives them his word and his Holy Spirit. He leads them through life for his glory and their good. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

As the psalmist sang,

The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3)

+ The Good Shepherd Protects his Sheep — John 10:10-13

 [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Spiritually speaking, the world is full of trouble and troublemakers. Sometimes we find ourselves in dark and scary places. Thieves, robbers, and wolves threaten to wreck our lives. They come only to steal and kill and destroy. But Jesus comes that you may have life and have it abundantly. He is the good shepherd who stands between you and the devil. He laid down his life for you at the cross, to protect you from danger and harm. The devil cannot harm you, and death cannot frighten you, for the rod and staff of his cross, they comfort you.

As the psalmist sang,

Even though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

+ The Good Shepherd Provides for His Sheep — John 10:17-18

[17] For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus provides life for his sheep by laying down his life for them, and by giving them his flesh and blood to eat and drink. He lays down his life to forgive you. He gives you bread and wine at his table to nourish you. He pours out his Spirit on you to help you. He lavishes grace on you to sustain you. He lays down his life for you to serve you as a sacrifice; he takes it up again to shepherd over you as Sovereign Lord.

As the psalmist sang,

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)

+ The Good Shepherd Pursues his Sheep — John 10:14-16

[14] I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

The goodness and mercy of the Lord Jesus is active not passive. They don’t just passively trail behind to see where you are going; they actively pursue you and chase after you in order to make sure that you are rescued from dangers and find your way out of trouble. Goodness and mercy make sure that all the sheep make it all the way home.

As the psalmist sang,

Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me
all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6a)

+ The Good Shepherd Preserves his Sheep — John 10:27-30

[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.”

Jesus calls his sheep by name. He knows them and they know him. They hear his voice and trust him; they come to him and he give them eternal life. Once he takes hold of his sheep in his hands, no one can snatch them from his hands — not the devil, nor wolves, nor hired hands, nor other people. Not even your self. Once the Good Shepherd takes you in his hands, you are eternally safe and secure in him and in the Father. The bottom line is this: The Shepherd cannot lose any sheep; the Christ cannot lose any Christians.

As the psalmist sang,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23:6b)

This is the gospel of the Good Shepherd.

—–

* For an illuminating exposition of Psalm 23 see my professor Dr Doug Green’s essay The Lord is Christ’s Shepherd: Psalm 23 as Messianic Prophecy

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