I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
~ John 10:11
The sheep have known no better time than when the Good Shepherd was revealed. For years God’s people had been led astray. Their religious leaders were nothing more than hirelings. They cared not for the sheep. They did not do the things they did out of a motive of love and compassion. They loved the applause of men and sought it at every turn. “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts” (Lu 20:46). They held to the traditions of men and “made the commandment of God of none effect.” Their teaching was not for the glory of God and the edification of the people. They rather hoped to bring men into compliance with their own whims and narrow standards.
They were also hypocrites. Jesus spoke of them plainly saying, “They say and do not.” They claimed to be the interpreters of the Law of God, but were themselves not subject to the Law. The sheep were not in real safety under the leadership of the hirelings. They would flee at the first sign of trouble. They certainly were not willing to “spend and be spent” in service. But, all hope is not lost. The Good Shepherd has come. Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd.” The Good Shepherd tends, leads, feeds, and cares for the sheep. He is moved with love and compassion and is tender toward them. He will not flee. He will never forsake. In fact, He gave His life for the sheep.
More than once in John chapter 10, Christ states that He lays His life down. In verses 17 and 18 He says, “I lay down my life…. no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” He was certainly no hired shepherd. He did it all willingly and lovingly. He was not coerced. He obligated Himself. So, He willingly laid His life down. Let us consider how that Jesus laid down His life in two ways.
Firstly, He laid down His life in a selfless act of service. Paul states of Christ, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Ph 2:7). He laid down His life in self-denial. He did not have His own agenda. He was not seeking the praise of men. He did not go about trying to make Himself more comfortable, rich, powerful, honored, or famous. We read in Matthew 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” And again in Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” He made it clear that He did not come to earth to do His own will. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” He humbled Himself and became a servant. He laid down His life. He laid it aside and did not serve Himself.
Secondly, He laid down His life as a sacrifice. His obedience had no bounds. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He gave it all. He kept nothing back. The hymn writer wrote,
I gave my life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be, And quickened from the dead;
I suffered much for thee, More than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, To rescue thee from hell;
He was slain, but it was from the foundation of the world. He was not overtaken and forced. He willingly laid down His life. He made no objection while He was lifted up from the earth. Praise God, what a Shepherd! This story is amazing and it makes us wonder,
Love sent my Savior to die in my stead,
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led,
Nails pierced His hands and His feet for my sin,
He suffered sore my salvation to win,
O how He agonized there in my place,
Nothing withholding my sin to efface,
Why should He love me so? (Adapted JFS)
He died in order to pay for the sins of the sheep and gain for them eternal life. What wondrous love is this? Praise God for the Good Shepherd that loves the sheep and was willing to suffer for them.