11.02.28 Jn. 10:11-18
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”
The imagery of a shepherd in the Hebrew Bible is significant, far more than a lonely individual in the countryside tending a herd of sheep. Parables are short stories that include a key figure, such as a king, farmer, or a shepherd, who is representative of God. However, shepherds are also described as the religious leaders of the Jewish people. Several examples of a shepherd image either as God or as a leader are,
- The Lord is my shepherd (Ps. 23:1)
- The leader of Israel is a shepherd (Ps. 80:1)
- Cyrus, king of Persia is called a shepherd (Isa. 44:28)
- “Bad shepherds” who failed to be righteous will be slaughtered (Jer. 25:34-36)
- God is the shepherd who judges between the sheep (Ezek. 34:17)
When Jesus said that He was the Good Shepherd, He was essentially stating that He was far superior to any other shepherd; associating Himself with God. That was a profound statement to make to those who had experienced a number of evil monarchs since the Antiochus V Epiphanes and the Maccabean Revolt of the second century B.C. There are numerous writings in ancient Jewish books that pertain to a good shepherd. Not the following:
When a sheep strays from the pasture, who seeks [for] whom? Does the sheep seek the shepherd, or [does] the shepherd seek the sheep? Obviously, the shepherd seeks the sheep. In the same way, the Holy One, blessed be He, looks for the lost.
Midrash Psalms 119:3
Whether this comment in the Midrash was part of the oral tradition before or after the time of Jesus is not all that important, because there are many such narratives from both eras of history. Again, Jewish writings affirm the fact that orthodox rabbis and Jesus both firmly established their teachings upon the Hebrew Bible.
“I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is the good shepherd, but not an ordinary good shepherd. The Greek term for good is agathos, which simply describes a good moral quality. However, Jesus did not use that term, He used kalos, which is good moral quality coupled to sympathy and kindness.  His passion for being a superior shepherd arises out of His love, knowing that His followers are challenged by two dangers.
- Dangers from the outside include persecutions and related dangers.
- Dangers from within the church include false shepherds who have their own agendas.
Again Jesus spoke of the false shepherd as “the hired man” who is more concerned about his own safety while attending sheep in the presence of wild animals, as compared to the good shepherd who would be willing to die for his sheep. Since the synagogue leaders were known as shepherds, His accusers immediately recognized that He was speaking of them in the most negative manner. To add insult to injury, this discussion was held in a public forum where the common people could see Jesus express these ideas and sentiments.
Then Jesus startled everyone by saying, “I have other sheep.” He had always referred to the Jewish believers as His “sheep,” but, the phrase “other sheep” is a clear reference to the Gentiles who would become His disciples in the future as part of a single worldwide body of believers. This is a clear indication that some day He will unite Jews and Gentiles into one flock with one shepherd.
Previously, his critics were shocked when He healed the Roman officer’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13) and the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:22-28) along with other Gentiles. They were among His “other sheep.” He does not see denominations such as conservative Baptists or Pentecostals; or Messianic Jews or Palestinian Christians, or as Paul would later say, neither “Neither Greek nor Jew.” Jesus looked beyond our day and saw a single body of faithful, loyal, and holy people. The Jewish Bible often stated that salvation was to be offered to the Gentiles. However, by this time many Jewish leaders assumed that God had no future plans for the Gentiles, but would destroy them instead.
. Cited by Young, The Parables of Jesus,192.
. Barclay, “John.” 2:62.
. This is a partial listing: Gen. 12:3; 18:14; 22:18; 26:4; Isa. 11:10; 19:6; 54:1-3; 60:1-3; Hosea 1:10.