The Good Shepherd
Yesterday we learned that Jesus is the door to the sheepfold, the only way into the fold. All others claimed to be the way in, but they were pretenders. And if anyone tries to go in by a different way (that is, other than by faith in Jesus Christ), he is a thief and a robber who foolishly thinks he can enjoy the privileges of being in the fold without being one of the Shepherd’s sheep. But he will soon be found out, for when the Shepherd calls, he will not recognize his voice so to answer.
Today, Jesus turns from the analogy of the door and emphasizes instead that he is the Good Shepherd. And what distinguishes the Good Shepherd from all other shepherds (the hired hands) is that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand won’t do this. He sees the wolf coming and flees. But not the Good Shepherd. Pastors are to give everything for the sheep, for they are in the service of the Good Shepherd. And the sheep must also learn to lay down their lives for the Good Shepherd. After all, he laid down his life for theirs, so they must learn to take up their cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). This way, you can tell the Good Shepherd and his sheep.
Another mark of the Good Shepherd and his sheep is that they know only his voice; they do not know the voice of others. It’s not only that they will not listen; they don’t even recognize their voice. We must know our Master’s voice so well, we must be so knowledgeable of his will and ways, that we instantly know when a hired hand calls out to us to deceive us. And Jesus adds that he and the sheep know one another, just as he and the Father know one another. To know our Shepherd is to know his Father, who so very much loves his Son, and who so very much loves us as well. And the Good Shepherd has other sheep that are of his fold – gentiles as well as Jews, sheep of today, yesterday, and tomorrow – they are all one to the Shepherd, for he gives his life for them all, that they might all be of one fold.
One final note about the majesty and authority of this meek Shepherd – no one can take his life from him; he gives his life willingly. It is a rather stupid notion that men could kill the Son of God, that they could forcibly place him on a cross to die. No. The Son came of his own will and the Father’s will, for He sent him. And so he dies of his own will and of the Father’s will – which is why it is all of grace. No one forces God’s hand; no one makes the Shepherd do anything. He shepherds the sheep out of sheer love.