Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 05 (“I Am the Good Shepherd”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 03 March 2019)


We are reading in the Gospel of John again today and we are looking at the 8 “I Am” statements of John. Seven times, John records Jesus proclaiming Himself with the introductory formula “I am”and once where Jesus did not start with “I am”, but said, “Before Abraham, I am,”meaning that Jesusexisted before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior to Jesus and that Jesus also equated Himself to God, taking the holy name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:14), and which was so holy that the people of Jesus’ day would not even utter it out loud.

  • The first “I am” statement that Jesus made, was… ~ “I am the bread of life.”We said that just as bread sustains our lives physically, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the One who sustains us spiritually and eternally. 
  • We have considered the statement, “I am the light of the world.”This statement gives us a radical claim which calls us to a radical discipleship (anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness)which guarantees for us a radical promise (but will have the light of life). 
  • Last Sunday we considered Jesus’ saying, “I am the door.”We said that this tells us that Jesus is the one and only door that must be entered into salvation, and that the door is open, but He will not force any to enter. 

This brings us to the fifth statement, which is actually a continuation of the illustration on shepherding begun in the previous statement (“I am the door”), namely, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • The Good Shepherd (vss.11,14-18).
  • The Hired Hand (vss.12-13).
  • The Divided Jews (vss.19-21).

John 10:7-21 ~ “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We see in our Scripture passage that Jesus explains the illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals.

  • THE GOOD SHEPHERD (vss.11, 14-18):

First, we see Jesus claims to be the “good” Shepherd and He expands on this statement by sharing with us the characteristics of a “Good Shepherd.”

The word “good” in itself is interesting – it means “good”in the sense of being morally good; but it also means “beautiful,” “winsome,” “lovely,” “attractive,”or even “possessing all and whatever qualities make the object described a good thing or the person a good person.”Moreover, if we compare Christ’s “I am the Good Shepherd”with His parallel claims to be the “the True Bread”or “the True Vine,” we also see that the word means “genuine” or “true,” as opposed to “false” or “artificial.”

When we look at the expression by Jesus, namely, “I am the GOOD Shepherd,”we recognise Jesus as the good, beautiful, winsome, lovely, attractive, true and genuine Shepherd.

Jesus goes on to describe His character by looking at two relationships, namely:

  • His relationship with the sheep(10:7, 9, 10b–11, 14–18):The first relationship that He describes, is His relationship with His sheep. 

Just to recap again – who is His sheep? In Matt.25:32 the word “sheep” is used symbolically to represent God’s people ~ “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”Jesus’ sheep are those people who heard His call and believe in Him ~“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”(John 10:3) and John 10:27-28 ~“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

  • Entrance to man’s salvation:We’ve already seen in 10:7, that Jesus is the entrance to man’s salvation ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”Jesus is clear about the fact that He provides the door by which the sheep may enter into eternal rest.
  • Jesus meets the needs of His flock:Jesus also allows His flock to go in and out, and find green pasture (10:9). Here, Jesus puts the emphasis on His function in the salvation process of His sheep and that He brings His sheep out of the consequences of their sin and into the blessing of God, the blessing is described in terms of green pasture. This sheep that enters the fold through Christ will be able to go in and out and have all its needs met.
  • Jesus gives life:Jesus gives them life in all its fullness (10:10b). In contrast to Jesus, we see in vs.10 that the thief steals sheep out of selfish gratification – he steals and kills the sheep. Christ by contrast came for the benefit of the sheep. He came that they might have Life ~ “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).
  • Jesus lays down His life: He lays down His own life for them (10:11). For a third time in the space of seven verses, Jesus again, in vs.17, mentions the fact that He is laying down His life for His “sheep” (10:11, 15). Jesus wants to stress the fact that His sacrifice is the means of our reconciliation both to God and to one another. John, in 1 Joh.3:16 also refers to this ~ “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Warren Wiersbe explains this as follow –“Under the old dispensation (Old Testament times), the sheep died on the altar for the shepherd as a burnt offering before God; but now the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ) dies for His sheep! Five times in this conversation, Jesus clearly affirmed the sacrificial nature of His death (John 10:11, 15, 17–18). He did not die as a martyr, killed by men; He died as a substitute, willingly laying down His life for us.

The fact that Jesus said that He died‘for the sheep’ must not be isolated from the rest of Biblical teaching about the Cross. He also died for the nation Israel (John 11:50–52)and for the world (John 6:51). While the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the salvation of the world, it is efficient only for those who will believe.”

In vs.18, Jesus clarify two very important aspects of His authority in laying down His life for His “sheep”: 

  • His death was voluntary:The first is that His death was totally voluntary. His power was such that no human hand could have touched Him had He not permitted it. We can see in several versus that Jesus at that stage had already avoided capture or execution (5:18; 7:44-45; 8:20, 59; 10:39; 11:53-54). Only when He declared that “the hour has come”(12:23) was it possible for his enemies to arrest Him.
  • He took up His life again:The second aspect is His authority to lay down His life and take it up again. The death of Jesus was voluntary, and not as it might seem, being killed (a sort of indirect suicide); it was part of a plan to submit to death and then emerge from it victoriously alive. Anyone can lay down his life, but only the Son of God can at will resume His existence. He was acting in accord with a divine plan that involved a supreme sacrifice and a manifestation of divine power. 
  • His motivation – His love for the Father:The entire plan was motivated by His love for the Father and His readiness to carry out His father’s purpose. “Authority” in this instance means that he was not the helpless victim of His enemies’ violence, but that He had both the right and the power to become the instrument of reconciliation between man and God and between Jew and Gentile.
  • He knows His sheep (vs.14).In the Gospel of John, the word “know”means much more than intellectual awareness. It speaks of an intimate relationship between God and His people ~ “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”(John 17:3). 
  • He knows how to minister to His sheep:The shepherd knows his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to minister to them.
  • He knows our names: Jesus not only knows how to minister to us, but He also knows our names ~ “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). 
  • He knows our natures:He also knows our natures. While all sheep are alike in their essential nature, each sheep has its own distinctive characteristics; and the loving shepherd recognises these traits. One sheep may be afraid of high places, another of dark shadows. 
  • He knows our needs:A faithful shepherd will consider these special needs as he tends the flock. Because He knows our natures, He also knows our needs. Often, wedo not even know our own needs! Psalm 23 is a beautiful poetic description of how the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. In the pastures, by the water, and even through the valleys, the sheep need not fear, because the shepherd is caring for them and meeting their needs. Have you ever realised that the first verse and the last verse of Ps.23, is like the two pieces of bread that forms a sandwich? These two verses “sandwiches” the contents of the Psalm ~ “…I shall not want. …forever.”Jesus provides us with everything we need from now into eternity.
  • His relationship with the Father(10:15–17):Jesus says in Matt.11:27 the following about His relationship with God the Father… ~ “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”In similar fashion,…           

–      He seeks the same intimacy between Him and us:Jesus seeks the same intimacy, between Him and His children in vss.15-16. 

              –      He is praying for us:He wants to see the same profound and intimate relationship of love and care, between Him and His followers – that is why He is praying in Joh.17:21 as follows ~“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

I said in the beginning that in our Scripture passage, Jesus explains His illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals. We’ve looked at the characteristics of “the Good Shepherd.”The second individual that we will be looking at, is “the Hired Hand”in vss.12-13.

  • THE HIRED HAND (vss.12-13):

Last Sunday, we looked at the thieves and robbersin vss.8 and 10 and we’ve seen that their purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but here in vss.12-13 Jesus refers to the characteristics of a hired hand.

No one expects sheep to be responsible for themselves. Owners hire shepherds or “hired hands”for that purpose and especially during night times when the sheep were in a sheepfold. A shepherd’s job, or the owner’s job is to accept responsibility for the safety and well-being of his flock and the same disposition or attitude was expected from “hired hands,” but most of them only took that to the point where it would threaten their personal safety, rightly deciding that their life is worth more than that of a sheep. A few would be willing to risk their lives to protect their sheep, but our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knowingly and willingly died to save us, because there was no other way.

Who or what is“a hired hand”? The Greek word that’s been used here, μισθωτός(misthõtos) says exactly what the English says – “a hired hand”or a “wage-worker;” or a “hired servant,”who is hired to perform a job. These “hired hands” in terms of shepherding, were usually people who looked after the sheep during the night, while they were in the sheepfold or pen. Night times were the dangerous times, because that was usually the time that robbers and wolves would come to steal or catch the sheep.  

Jesus contrasted Himself to the hireling who watches over the sheep only because he is paid to do so. But when there is danger, the hireling runs away, while the True Shepherd stays and cares for the flock. The key phrase is the words in vs.12 “…who does not own the sheep.”The Good Shepherd purchases the sheepand they are His because He died for them. They belong to Him, and He cares for them. By nature, sheep are stupid and prone to get into danger; and they need a shepherd to care for them.

  • THE DIVIDED JEWS (vss.19-21):

How did the listeners respond to this message? “There was a division therefore again among the Jews”(10:19). Note that word“again”(John 7:43; 9:16). The old accusation that Jesus was a demoniac was hurled at Him again (John 7:20; 8:48, 52). People will do almost anything to avoid facing the truth!

Since Jesus Christ is “the Door,”we would expect a division, because a door shuts some people in and others out! He is “the Good Shepherd,”and the shepherd must separate the sheep from the goats. It is impossible to be neutral about Jesus Christ; for, what we believe about Him is a matter of life or death(John 8:24).

Jesus’ fourth declaration was the most startling of all ~ “I am the good Shepherd”(10:11). The crowd were upset and divided because of Jesus’ declaration.

  • Some judged Jesus (10:19-20):Many in this hostile crowd judged Him to be demon-possessed and mad (7:20; 8:48, 52). They labelled Jesus as a demoniac. The worst of characters is put upon the best of men. He is a distracted man, he raves and is delirious, and no more to be heard. They also ridiculed the other listeners in the audience, asking them… ~ “…why listen to him?”(10:20).
  • Some defended Jesus (10:21):Other people, though perhaps far in the minority, stood up for Jesus and defended Him. They still had the healing of the blind man in mind and told and asked the others who judged Jesus, with a rhetorical question – in other words, they asked a question to make a point rather than to get an answer… ~ “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”(10:21). These were brave people. The masses were against Jesus, but these handful of people believed in Jesus as the Messiah and they swam against the stream in order to defend Jesus. Matthew Henry says the following about this rhetorical question: “Neither mad men nor bad men can work miracles. Devils are not such lords of the power of nature as to be able to work such miracles; nor are they such friends to mankind as to be willing to work them if they were able. The devil will sooner put out men’s eyes than open them. Therefore, Jesus had not a devil.”

In order for us to sum up what we’ve learned today, hear the following: Because of Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Father and His intimate relationship with His flock..:

  • He meets our needs. When you experience needs – do you really believe this? 
  • He gives us life – How often do you think and pray about this fact?
  • He lays down His life for us – What is your response to this Truth?
  • He is faithful– Do you apply this fact at all times?
  • He knows us– Are you always aware of this?
  • He seeks the same intimate relationship with us, that exists between Him and the Father – What a wonderful reality! – He seeks an intimate relationship with you!
  • He is praying/interceding for us – when we pray, we are not praying alone – we are in the midst of a holy conversation – when we pray, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also praying AND God the Father is listening – what an incredible, holy conversation and moment when we are praying!
  • He reconciled us with the Father– Do you really believe this, or are you always “fishing in the pond of past sins?”

The message of this parable is that Jesus is the true shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd who was willing to die and did die for those who put their faith in Him. Any other person who claims to be the true shepherd is a robber or thief. He or she is a false shepherd. This was a powerful message to the Jewish religious leaders who considered themselves to be the true shepherds of God’s flock. This is a wonderful message for anyone who seeks peace with God and security in eternity. Jesus is the Door to eternal salvation and He is the Good Shepherd who cares, watches, and protects those who believe in Him.

If you have already “entered through the gate,” there are however two warnings that we must take note of:

  • Listening to the wrong voice:The first of these dangers is listening to the wrong voice. In John 10:3 Jesus says that the Shepherd calls His sheep by name and leads them out. Notice that beautiful phrase, “He leads them.” Most modern shepherds drive the sheep. They walk behind the sheep and have “a dog or two”to keep the sheep in line. Not Jesus; He leads the sheep. The way that He leads them is not by the fact that they see Him but rather that they hear Him. The danger then is to follow the wrong voice.

The thieves of our day are the liberals, the Post Modernists, those who teach that there is another way, or many ways to be saved; those who teach that all religions ultimately lead to the same place. That is contrary to God’s Word. Another false voice is that of prosperity preachers who teach that God wants you to be wealthy, healthy and have all of your carnal desires met, and the reason you are sick or weak is your own fault. The first danger is listening to the wrong voice.

  • Seeking to enter through the wrong door:The second danger is seeking to enter by the wrong entrance. Jesus claims to be the exclusive gate. The only other way into the sheep pen is an illegitimate way: the way of thieves and robbers. We have already mentioned false religions and the like under the first danger. Likely the great danger of seeking the wrong entrance is seeking to enter the kingdom of God without the church. This is the notion that someone can be a part of the universal church without being faithfully involved in a local church. This is the teaching that says that you can live a healthy Christian life without the communion of the saints, without accountability, without corporate worship, and most dangerously, without the means of grace – the preaching and sacraments.

Beloved, beware of the dangers.

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