I AM – Understanding Who Jesus Is #3: “I am the Good Shepherd” ~ Jesus is the caretaker of our life” – John 10:11-15; 17-20

Click on audio player to download mp3 or to change listening speed

I AM, Part 3

The Good Shepherd

John 10:11-15, 27-30

Bruce A. Hess

Please take out the word of God and turn in it to the gospel of John and chapter number 10. The gospel of John is a very distinctive gospel. It is distinctive from the three synoptics, which is the name we give to Matthew, Mark and Luke. John stands out as very distinctive from those. When you look in the gospel of John there is nothing in the gospel of John about the birth of Jesus, about the manger, about the shepherds, about the Magi. There is nothing in the gospel of John about the baptism of Jesus by John. There is nothing about Jesus’ temptation by Satan.

There are no parables of the kingdom taught in the gospel of John. You do not have any rendition of the Olivet discourse, the long teaching that Jesus gave about His second coming. There is nothing in the gospel of John about Him agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a unique gospel. In fact, I don’t know if you knew this or not, but 92% of the gospel of John is unique material. So, it is a very distinctive gospel.

In some ways, it is the most profound theologically of the four gospels. Its focus is on the deity of Jesus. Keep your finger in chapter 10, turn over a couple of pages to chapter number 8. I want to remind you, again, of how much the gospel focuses on the deity of Christ. Look at chapter 8, verse 56. Jesus is interacting with the Jews here.

He says, in verse 56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,”— you always know something important is coming when Jesus says that— “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Ego eimi, the very clear statement claiming to be deity. He is claiming to be the I AM of the Old Testament, the I AM of the book of Exodus, chapter 3, the sovereign creator God, Yahweh, Jehovah God. You know that is what He was communicating or else we would not have their reaction in verse 59, because He said, ‘Ego eimi, I AM,’ they picked up stones to throw at Him.

It is always fascinating to me that people like to come along and they say regarding Jesus:  you know, I don’t think He was God, but He was a good guy. He was certainly a good teacher; He was a very good moral person. Listen, if Jesus was not deity, He was an impotent blasphemer because He clearly claimed to be the I AM, ego eimi, of the Old Testament.

By the way last week Hal Folmar [Wildwood church member] came to me after the services and he asked me a question. You could tell he’s thinking…I like people who are thinking. He said, ‘If Jesus was going to say a phrase like, ‘I am thirsty’, or ‘I am hungry’, would He use the terms ego eimi, I AM phraseology?’ What Hal was getting at is:  if that is the way you would say things like, ‘I am hungry’ and ‘I am thirsty’, then it would make that statement, ego eimi, a very common one, which then would not necessarily stand out because you might use it in a lot of different instances.

My answer to Hal was, let me reflect on that for just a moment. So, I want to share with him, and with you, some of my reflections on that. A lot of it has to do with language perspective. Excuse me for just a little side bar here, but in Greek and in many other languages, unlike English, you do not have to use the pronoun as the subject—actually have it present when you say a short sentence. In other words, in English if you are going to say, ‘I am hungry’, we have to have that pronoun, ‘I,’ there. But you don’t have to do that in most languages. You just use the first person singular verb and you don’t actually have to have that pronoun present there. That was true in Jesus’ day:  you didn’t have to use the pronoun at all.

The other thing that is kind of interesting about the Greek language of the New Testament is the normal word order in a sentence is different than English. We know English and we think, ‘This is the standard of the world.’ It is not the most common thing because in English what you have normally is the subject and then the verb. In Greek you have the reverse. You have the verb and then you have the subject, normally.

So, if you were going to say, in Greek, ‘I am hungry,’ you wouldn’t have to use the ‘I,’ but if you were ever going to use an ‘I am’ phrase, the verb would come first, the pronoun would come second. In other words, you would say, ‘eimi ego.’ You would reverse the two around. That is exactly what Jesus does in John 14, when He says, I am going to go prepare a place for you that where I am, you may be also.” When He makes that statement there, it’s not ego eimi, I AM, as we would see it in His deity statements. Rather it is eimi ego, because that was the normal word order in Greek. I say all that to say that when Jesus makes the statement, ‘I AM, ego eimi,’ it is an allusion to the Old Testament and a very clear claim to deity reference—otherwise you would not see emotional reactions like we see at the end of chapter number 8.

We are involved in a series of messages around this phrase, ‘Ego, eimi, I AM,’ where we are unpacking who Jesus really is by looking at some of His ‘I AM’ statements. We’ve already looked at the statement where He says, ‘I AM the Bread of life, I am the satisfier of your soul.’ Last time we looked at the phrase, ‘I AM the Light of the world, I am the illuminator of your heart.’ Today, we are going to look at the phrase, ‘I AM the Good Shepherd, I am the caretaker of your life.’ We want to read two different sections out of chapter 10. I want to read verses 11-15 and then I want to read verses 27-30. So, I just invite you to follow along as I read.

John 10, verse 11, Jesus speaking, He says, “I am (ego eimi) the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Verse 27 of chapter 10, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 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. I and the Father are one.”

Now, our plan today, as we begin to unpack this phrase that, ‘I AM the Good Shepherd,’ is we are going to take three steps in that. Number one, we are going to look at some background regarding sheep and shepherds. Most of us have not been raised around sheep, we don’t really have an everyday feel for what it means to be a shepherd, so we want to talk a little bit about that.

Then, secondly, we are going to take a look at this phrase, ‘I AM the Good Shepherd.’

Then, thirdly, we are going to talk about some life response that you can have, that I can have, to what we are examining in the word of God today.

So, let’s begin by looking at just some background regarding sheep and shepherds. You know, sheep are very interesting animals. They really are. They are defenseless. Sheep have no claws; they have no keen hearing—Oh, a predator is coming and we are going to run now. Actually, they have no ability to run. They have no venom; they have no noxious odor that they can emit that might repel a predator. They are defenseless…a very unique animal. Sheep also have poor eyesight, and because they have poor eyesight, they tend to follow other sheep without really thinking.

By the way, as we are going through this, just remember the Bible says that we are like sheep; so keep that in mind. They have this poor eyesight; they just tend to follow other sheep, which means they can be easily lost or they can even wander off a cliff—that’s what sheep will do. Sheep need to be led to a pasture—they need to be led to drink. They are very indiscriminate; they will consume something that is harmful to them; they will drink something that is harmful to them. They need to be led.

Sheep are dense. Why do I say that? Because sheep don’t learn from their mistakes. Any of this sound familiar to anybody? Sheep also can’t clean themselves. See, they have this wool and dirt and debris tends to get stuck in it and they need help cleaning themselves. We can’t clean ourselves. We need help to deal with the dirt and debris in our life. It is a very fitting analogy, that of sheep.

That is just a little bit about sheep. I want to talk a little bit about shepherds. Remember that shepherds and sheep were very common in Palestine. When the Bible talks about shepherds and sheep, they would all go, ‘Yeah, yeah, we got it, we got it, we readily understand exactly what that means.’ But it is different for us. Shepherds, this idea of shepherds and sheep is a very common imagery in the Bible for God and His people. Greg was singing from Psalm 23. Psalm 23:1 says, “The LORD is my shepherd.” The Lord, Yahweh, the one who is Jehovah, the one who is the I AM, is my shepherd.

Psalm 100, verse 3 says, “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” He is our Shepherd.

So, you have this analogy of us being the sheep and God being the Shepherd, but you also have imagery of shepherds that relate to the leaders of Israel. I’m going to look at three verses from Ezekiel 34. You can turn there, but I am going to put them up on the screen. Here, the leaders of Israel are called shepherds. In verse 2 it says, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds.” Who are we talking about? The leaders of Israel. ‘Give them this message from the sovereign Lord: destruction is certain for you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks.’ They were looking out for themselves. We see that a little bit of that in our country’s leaders, right? Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? Shouldn’t they be more concerned about the people than they are about themselves?

Verse 4, regarding the leaders of Israel, those shepherds, ‘You have not taken care of the weak,’ that’s what a shepherd should do. ‘You have not tended the sick,’ that’s what a shepherd should do. ‘You have not bound up the broken bones,’ all this imagery He is using here. ‘You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty.’

Verse 8, He goes on to describe these shepherds, the leaders of Israel, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you have abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. Though you were My shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost.’ Boy, doesn’t this sound contemporary? ‘You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve.’

So, just by way of a little bit of background, we get a little feel for the sheep, we get a little feel for the idea of being a shepherd. That leaves us to the second thing we want to look at and that is the good shepherd, Himself, as He speaks again in chapter 10. I want to re-read verses 11-15, Jesus says, “I am (ego eimi), the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Now, he who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Let’s just zoom in a little bit on that simple statement, “I am the good shepherd.” It begins with that little phrase, ‘I am, ego eimi,’ pointing again to His deity, and He says, “I am THE good shepherd,” not A good shepherd, I am THE good shepherd.

I am the GOOD shepherd. The idea of this word means, I am the ideal shepherd, I am the shepherd without defects. He makes His point in some emphasis by repeating it, verse 11, “I am the good shepherd.” Verse 14, “I am the good shepherd.” I am the real, genuine article, I am the true shepherd. He is basically saying this: ‘I will never exploit you. I will never leave you. I, personally, will care for you. I am the good shepherd who loves His flock.’

I want to zoom in a little further and look at three things that we learn from these verses about the good shepherd. Number one, He owns His sheep. He is the owner of the sheep. Notice again, in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own.”

In verse 29, “My Father has given them to Me.” I own them. He basically purchased them and we see that woven throughout these verses.

Look back at verse 11. He says, “I am the good shepherd; (the good shepherd does what?) Lays down His life for the sheep.” Of course, this is anticipating the event that would soon be coming.

Verse 15, at the end, “I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Verse 17, “For this reason the Father loves Me (why?) because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away From Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” He purchased them.

These are interesting verses, verses 17 and 18, because it gives us some real insight into how He died. Think about how He died. I mean, think about how it happened. If you were there at that time and He is arrested without cause. He undergoes a kangaroo [sham legal proceeding with the verdict decided in advance], illegal trial. He ends up being beaten: beaten with a whip that was designed to just tear His flesh wide open. He was mocked; he was spat upon; he had a crown of thorns jammed down onto His head. Then, worst of all, he was nailed to a Roman cross. Now, if you were watching that happen, you would be thinking, ‘What a victim. What a victim of men.’ He is no victim.

Do you remember what John the Baptizer said when he first saw Jesus in John 1:29, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, that (what does it say from there? A little louder, I didn’t hear you. One more time, please.) “That takes away the sin of the world!” It was the plan all along.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners (what happened?) Christ died for us.” He purchased us. That’s why Paul says, ‘You were bought with a price.’

Look again at verses 17 and 18 of John 10, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” You have an illusion there to the resurrection that was coming. All this was done as part of God’s plan. The good shepherd, He owns His sheep.

Number two, He knows His sheep. This one is pretty exciting. Up in verse 3 it says, “He calls His own sheep by name.”

Look again at verse 14, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own…even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” He’s not just saying:  ‘I’m aware of them.’ There is this deep, intimate understanding just as there is a deep, intimate understanding between Jesus and the Father. He knows His sheep. If He is your shepherd, that means He knows you, He knows our nature, He knows our needs.

Do we really believe that? I mean, maybe intellectually, but do we really believe that; that He knows us and He knows our needs? He knows us! And He knows we’re not all alike. Some of us as sheep are prone to wander. We’re prone to lag behind the shepherd. Some of us as sheep are stubborn, we’re just slow to eat what God really wants us to eat. Some of us are distracted sheep, and we might be prone to miss the shepherd’s directive because of that.

He knows His sheep. Think about it, think about it for a moment. Think about the twelve apostles. Were they all clones of one another? No! They were very different. Peter was impulsive. Jesus knew that. Thomas was hesitant. Jesus knew that. Andrew, he was an off the charts people person. Jesus knew that. He knows His sheep.

There is just almost a little throw away comment made in Matthew, chapter 10, in verse 30, that, to me is so astonishing. He said, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” I know for some of us that would relatively easy because there’s not a lot present there. But you need to think about that. I mean, every morning, I’m combing my hair and of course there is some hair falling out. I’m not going to tell you how many, but there are some hairs that show up in the sink. And He knows how many of them are on my head? He is that intimately involved that when one drops off, He remembers exactly how many are there. That is astonishing stuff!

He knows His sheep. He knows our past, He knows our present. He knows our future. He knows our weakness; He knows our failures. He knows our fears! I don’t know about you, but that’s just nothing short of startling to me that Jesus knows everything about me and, yet, He still loves me. If you want something to reflect on this week, how about that one? He knows everything about you and He still loves you.

Tim Morrow tells the story, it comes from South Georgia, of a very poor family who lived down there. They lived as sharecroppers, meaning they really didn’t have their own land, they just rented some land to raise some crops. This was a family that was poor on poor on poor. They did not have the ability to really buy much of anything outside of what they needed to have as shelter and food and some basic clothing. Every year was like that. One year was different though. That year, they planted the crops at the very best time of the year and not only that, but the rains came in a very generous quantity and the markets that year were bringing the highest available prices.

So, for the first time they had a little bit of money. Most of us don’t live at this level, but they were excited they actually had some extra money. So, the father gathered the family together and said, ‘You know what? We can buy something as a family.’ They got out the Sears catalog. Today, we would say they went on to Amazon. They were working their way through, ‘What can we get as a family? What can we get, what can we get?’ They finally just decided, ‘You know what? Let’s order,’—it’s kind of hard to believe they didn’t have this—‘a mirror. Let’s order a mirror. We don’t have a mirror. Everybody could use that.’

So, the day came when that package arrived at the roadside mailbox. They brought it into the house and opened it up and the father first said to mom, ‘Come over here and look in the mirror. Take the first look in the mirror.’ She looked in there and she kind of straightened her hair a little bit, you know. Then, he also looked into the mirror. Then, one by one, he had the kids come by to take their very first look at a mirror. The last one in line was little Willy. Now, little Willy had never seen a reflection of his badly scarred face. You see, when he was a very little youngster he had been kicked in the face by a horse and it had sort of torn his face apart. As much as they could afford, they tried to get it to where it healed the best it could, but there was a very, very distinctive scar. So, finally, little Willy comes in front of the mirror and he looks into the mirror and he goes, ‘Mom, did you know I looked like this all the time?’ She said, ‘Yes, Willy.’ And, he said, ‘And, you loved me anyway?’ She said, ‘Yes, Willy, I love you because you are mine.’

He knows everything about us and yet He still loves us.

The good shepherd. He owns His sheep. He knows His sheep. Number three, He cares for His sheep. I want you to go with me to the middle of your Bible to Psalm 23, the psalm that Greg sang about. The shepherd’s Psalm of the Old Testament, Psalm number 23. A very, very incredible passage. We don’t have time to develop it much. I just want to skip through it very quickly. Remember, this psalm has been revered for three thousand years. Only one hundred and forty-one words in English, fifty-four words in Hebrew. We have some great insight into God as our shepherd. Remember, there is a shepherd writing this psalm, because that is what David was. He says, in verse 1,

“The LORD (Yahweh, I AM) is my shepherd.” Now, that word, ‘my’ is emphatic. The LORD is my shepherd, is MY shepherd.

“I shall not want,” even when I face fear and insecurity and anxiety and discouragement, He possesses all the resources that I need.

Look at verse 2 and the first part of verse 3, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” He is a shepherd who satisfies. He will bring me rest and refreshment. When is the last time you just allowed Him to do that in your life? You know, we just scurry everywhere…allow Him to bring some rest and refreshment to you.

The end of verse 3, “He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” He is a shepherd who guides. Literally, it says in the original, He guides me in the right tracks. See, in those days there were many trails out there, just as there are many trails in our culture. He will guide you into the right tracks. That is what He does as shepherd.

Verse 4, look at that, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” He is a good shepherd who protects. That phrase, ‘the valley of the shadow of death,’ is only one word in Hebrew. It means the darkest valley. Some of us are in a dark valley right now. Some of you will be in it maybe in a day or two. And some of you were maybe a couple of weeks ago. But whatever we face when we go through the darkest valley, His promise is: He is close beside me.

Look at verse 5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.” He is a good shepherd who provides. He provides our daily needs. He provides for our life needs. He does this giving in a very generous way to us. He is generous with His spiritual abundance. He is generous with His hope for us. Remember what Jesus said in Luke, chapter 22, to the disciples? He said, ‘Don’t worry about your life. I provide for the ravens.’ Then, He adds this key phrase: ‘And you are much more valuable than birds.’ That’s another thing you need to reflect on…we need to reflect on.

Look at verse 6, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” He is a shepherd who promises, who promises blessing and security. “Surely”…we could translate it: ‘without any doubt, goodness and lovingkindness, goodness and the loyal love of God will be there, even in our best days and our worst days. All the days of our life and on into eternity.’

Go back with me to John, chapter 10, real quickly. John, chapter 10. Those verses we read earlier, 27-29. It says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never (this is constructed in a way we could translate it, they will never, absolutely ever) perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 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.” We are held firmly in His hand. This is security. This is assurance of our relationship with the good shepherd. It starts now, it projects out into eternity.

Two times Jesus says it, “I AM the good shepherd.”

So, what life response can we have? What kind of response does He want for us? Well, the first one I suggest is this:  embrace the good shepherd by faith. Again, I don’t know where everybody is coming from. Maybe you are here today and you actually feel lost in your life, you feel discouraged, you feel without direction. Maybe you feel weighed down by sin. Maybe you feel like you have an uncertain future now, and, maybe, even in eternity. We want you to know that He is eager and ready to be your good shepherd. After all, He laid down His life for you! We talk about embracing the good shepherd by faith. We mean, this is the way that works:  you come to Jesus and say, ‘I need You, Jesus. I want You to be my rescuer from sin and judgment. I want You to be my good shepherd.’ You can just do that where you sit, in your heart, embrace the good shepherd by faith.

The second life response, for those of us who already have embraced the shepherd by faith, follow the good shepherd closely. Let me ask you, and you don’t say anything out loud but answer honestly, whose voice have you been listening to recently? Has it been your own? Has it been your peers, the people you hang around with? Has it been the culture? The culture makes a lot of strong statements. Whose voice are you listening to? Again, I don’t know where people are coming from, maybe you have strayed from the Good Shepherd, even though you know Him. I want you to know, if you have, His arms are wide open. He is always ready to refresh and restore you. Just come to Him and say, ‘Good shepherd, will You lead me today?—and I will follow.’

Jesus said, “I AM the good shepherd.”

Let’s bow together. Father, we thank You for Jesus, who He is. What an amazing set of truths we are examining. We are so thankful that we have a shepherd who’s not just A shepherd, He is THE Good Shepherd. Now, Father, we pray:  May the God of peace, who brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Questions for Reflection

I AM The Good Shepherd

John 10:11-15,27-30

1. Why do we as humans even need a shepherd?

2. Sheep are needy animals.  They are defenseless, have poor eyesight and can easily drift or become lost, need to be led both to a pasture and drink, are dense and don’t learn from mistakes, and, finally, they can’t clean themselves.  In the spiritual realm, what are some ways where you can identify with those traits?

3. What responsibility belongs to the sheep in John 10:27?

4. What are some ways we can show our gratitude to Jesus for laying down His life for us?

5. We read from Ezekiel 34:2, 4, 8 about the poor leader-shepherds of Israel.  Reexamine those verses.  How might we see some similar practices by our political and spiritual leaders today?

6.First Corinthians 6:20 begins by saying, “You have been bought with a price.”  How does the verse finish?  How might that be expressed in your everyday life right this week?

7. The story was told of young Willie from the very poor family of Georgia who got his first look in the mirror and wondered why his mother loved him anyway.  Just like him, Jesus knows everything about you, yet He still loves you.  Ponder and celebrate that.

8. Re-read Psalm 23 and note how The Shepherd satisfies (2-3a), guides (3b), protects (4), provides (5), and promises (6).  Ask him to refresh your soul this next week with those truths.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *