“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” (John 10: 11, 14)
The Gospel of John is built around seven miracles or signs that Jesus performed and seven “I am” sayings that he made. If you have never studied these, they are a great way to get some fresh insight into this beautiful book. On almost every occasion where Jesus makes one of these “I am” statements, he says it twice for emphasis.
Here, he tells his followers that he is the good shepherd. Artwork though the centuries has portrayed Jesus carrying the little lamb across his shoulders. What is interesting is the fact that shepherds were not considered the best class of people in the first century. They were considered tough, hard-living men. Their job was to protect their sheep from both four-legged and two-legged predators.
A good parallel for the modern reader would be the cowboys of the old west. They lived rough lives on the range. They weren’t known for their manners and understood their job was to protect their cattle and to get it where it needed to go.
Now, I am not suggesting that Jesus lived the lifestyle of a shepherd or a cowboy. But, isn’t it fascinating that was the group he chose to associate himself with when talking about his relationship with his followers? Jesus identified with groups of people that others might consider outcasts.
I also like the idea of Jesus fighting to protect his followers. Before he fought Goliath, David told King Saul about his life as a shepherd. He told the king that he fought and killed both lions and bears to protect his father’s sheep. This is a powerful image of Jesus fighting on our behalf to protect us from an enemy that wants to kill us.
The Apostle Peter used the shepherd imagery for church leaders. He told those he was writing to, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” As a leaders, we often find ourselves in the role of the shepherd, looking after and serving those that God has entrusted to us. And, yes, there will be times that we will have to fight some battles on their behalf.
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