In this John 10:11 devotional, we’ll learn the meaning of this popular Bible verse and why Jesus is called the Good Shepherd. Plus, how this scripture plays a big part in our modern lives as Christians.
Why did Jesus say He is the Good Shepherd?
Recently, I was asked the question, “Why is Jesus the Good Shepherd?”
Truthfully, I never gave it much thought. I simply accepted what I was taught as a child in Sunday School.
But it’s an intriguing and important question.
So, I did a little research into the book of John 10.
Today I’d like to explore the different aspects of what Jesus was talking about when He called Himself the Good Shepherd.
We’ll break it down into bite-sized chunks. In the end, we’ll fully understand the meaning behind this scripture.
Jesus is the True Shepherd
In John’s gospel, we find the story of the Good Shepherd. It’s one of the parables of Jesus from the New Testament.
In this parable, we learn that Jesus is the Shepherd of the people of God. And we as the body of Christ Jesus are His sheep.
This story begins where John 9 leaves off. Funny how that works, right?
So, let’s recap what was happening.
After Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, He was speaking with the Jewish leaders about faith. And He explained to them that He is the Son of Man.
This term, the Son of Man, comes from the prophet Ezekiel’s revelation of the promised Messiah. In the Old Testament God gave him a vision of the Son of Man and what His coming would mean.
These men were what we would call in today’s world Biblical scholars. And they understood that Jesus was referring to this prophecy.
Jesus’ claim that He is the Son of God did not impress the Pharisees. In fact, it enraged them.
But Jesus had an answer for them…
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
In sharp contrast to the ill-gotten gains of the Pharisees, the True Shepherd comes through the front door and is immediately recognized by His sheep. He has a personal relationship with His sheep and knows them by name.
By calling us sheep Jesus isn’t saying God’s people are wild animals wandering the hillside, or livestock with a tag stuck to our ear.
We are treasured and unique children of God. And we enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.
But there are bad shepherds out here who will try to lead us astray. They will tell us what we want to hear instead of the truth of scripture.
It’s our job to know what the Bible says and to recognize false teachers when we see them.
In this next verse, Jesus shows us how to do it.
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
John 10:4 NKJV
The meaning of the Greek word for the phrase “brings out” is to cast out or to excommunicate. It’s a direct response to the Pharisees casting out a blind man in John 9:34-35.
Essentially, Jesus is calling these men false prophets or false shepherds. The people of the early church did not know the Pharisees’ voice because these men didn’t know God’s voice.
So, how could they possibly follow God’s word and lead the sheep?
Jesus the Good Shepherd
Have you ever wondered, what does the Good Shepherd do for His sheep?
Well, there are several qualities of Jesus as a Good Shepherd.
So, let’s look at each one and discover the different ways Jesus cares for His sheep.
Jesus is the door of the sheep
Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
John 10:7 NKJV
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
John 10:9 NKJV
In ancient times, the shepherd kept the sheep safe at night by laying down to sleep in front of the door of the sheep’s pen. He did this to keep the sheep safely inside of the pen and to keep predators out.
Spiritually speaking, Jesus is the door we must enter through if we want to see God the Father.
Jesus said in John 14:6 “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the door is opened to the Father.
Then Jesus becomes not only “the Good Shepherd” but our shepherd. He keeps us safely in the fold and protects us from the predators of a Christian life.
Jesus is the leader
…and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them: and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
A shepherd doesn’t follow behind his sheep, he leads them. The shepherd would go out in the front of the fold and the sheep would follow behind their shepherd.
Jesus leads the way for us. His life is the example for us to follow. Everything He did and everything He said was to teach us how to live. Our path is to follow the example set by our leader, Jesus.
Jesus is the One We Know
Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
Because sheep are timid and scared animals. They will run and hide from someone they don’t know.
Sheep listen for their shepherd’s voice. When he calls to them, they easily recognize his voice and respond. They know exactly who is talking to them and it is a comfort to their fearful nature.
But just because they’re timid creatures, doesn’t mean they’re not smart enough to tell the difference between a stranger’s voice and the voice of their shepherd.
They can, and they won’t listen to a stranger’s voice, even if he calls them the same manner their shepherd does.
In the same way, we can recognize the voice of our shepherd too.
Because we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, and because we have a personal relationship with Him, we can easily recognize His voice when He calls to us.
There are many competing voices out there in the world. And they all want our attention.
But just like the sheep, we shouldn’t listen to or follow anyone other than our shepherd, Jesus.
The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:12-13 NIV
A shepherd takes care of the sheep and protects them no matter what the cost to him.
If just one sheep goes missing, he will go out to find that missing sheep.
And the shepherd will put his own life at risk to bring it back into the fold.
But a hired hand doesn’t have the same love for the sheep. He’s paid to take care of them. But when push comes to shove, he will leave them to face the wolves all alone and save himself.
Jesus put His life on the line and died to save us. When the wolves came around in the form of the Roman guards, He didn’t run and hide. He faced the cross head-on. And He did it because He loves us.
Jesus is the Savior of the Sheep
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:11 NIV
Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power take it again.
The words of Jesus in the gospel of John couldn’t be clearer.
Jesus came to lay down His life for us, His sheep. He willingly gave up His life as a sacrifice for us. Then He took it back up again three days later. Because He has the power to do so!
How fortunate we are to have a Savior and Shepherd who died for us! And who gives us not only abundant life here on earth, but eternal life in heaven through faith in Him!
How is Jesus a Good Shepherd in your life?
Have you ever thought, why do we need a Good Shepherd, to begin with?
Sheep are prone to wander. For no reason at all, they’ll leave the safety of their little flock and go their own way.
Before long, they’re so lost they can’t find their way back to the fold.
So, the shepherd leaves the flock behind and goes out in search of his lost lamb. Its safety is his utmost concern.
And as God’s sheep, we’re no different.
Sometimes we go astray, get lost, or need a rescue mission to pull us back from the brink of disaster.
Our safety is God’s priority. So, He gave us a Good Shepherd who will head out in search of His lost sheep every time we need Him to. That’s how much God cares for us.
Parable of the Lost Sheep
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells another story. This one is the parable of the lost sheep. It’s about the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to find the one that went astray.
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Matthew 18:12-14 ESV
This story is a great example of God’s love. It’s the reason Jesus was sent to earth to die in our place. And it’s the reason we have a Good Shepherd.
No matter what happens to us in this life, He will leave the ninety-nine to come find us, and bring us back to a place of safety within the fold.
And He’ll continue to do it every time we wander off. Even if it’s a daily habit.
Long before Jesus came to earth, there was another shepherd who wrote what is probably the most comforting Bible verse. It’s for those times when we feel like lost sheep searching for someone to save us.
King David is an earthly ancestor of Jesus. And it isn’t a coincidence that he started out life as a lowly shepherd on a hill.
As a young shepherd, David put in the hard work of caring for his flock through thick and thin. He understood what each little lamb needed to thrive and the effort it took to keep them safe.
I’m sure when he wrote these words, he was thinking of his experiences as the shepherd of his sheep.
But Psalm 23 is a direct reflection of the effort our Good Shepherd puts into each lamb in His flock. And how our Lord Jesus Christ cares for us in both the good and bad times.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, 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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord