In John 10, the Lord Jesus had a lot to say about His sheep. Shepherds and sheep were a common sight, and He used them to illustrate redemption. Without going into great detail, and in no particular order, there are several things in this chapter which illustrate the care of the Lord for His sheep.
1. The shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.
By the very nature of his job, the shepherd is responsible for the welfare of his flock. It is what he does. He isn’t there for himself, but for them. Further, he is accountable for what he does. We see the Lord’s responsibility in John 10:16 (NKJV), where He said, “…other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring….” Notice the phrase, “I must bring.” He has responsibility for the sheep.
He also has accountability. In John 17:2, the Lord told the Father, “Those whom You gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” The Lord is accountable to the Father for those whom the Father has given Him.
2. The shepherd has authority over the sheep.
Because He is the shepherd, He has the right and the authority to enter the sheepfold, vs. 1,2, and to lead them out to pasture. The doorkeeper, or security guard, to use the modern term, knows Him and will let Him in.
Indeed, our Great Shepherd of the sheep, Hebrews 13:20, has been given authority over all flesh, John 17:2 (emphasis added). Have you ever really thought about that? Does it just mean, as some seem to think, that He is now “ruling” in heaven? I don’t wish to be difficult, but it seems to me from His own words that such a thought has nothing to do with what He actually said. John 17:2 says, “…as You [the Father] have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him“ (emphasis added). A lot of people don’t like to hear that. I do understand.
Our religious culture has been so filled with the idea that God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to us, that any idea that that may not really be true is hard for some to accept. This is not to deny our responsibility to preach the Gospel or to believe it. Preaching is the means God uses to call in the sheep, and faith is the evidence that one is a sheep. And “preaching” doesn’t just mean from a pulpit. It has to do with anything that focuses attention on the Lord Jesus. That might just be how we do our job. A tract, this blog, a word of encouragement, all these may be included in “preaching.”
The shepherd has authority.
3. The shepherd knows the identity of the sheep.
Perhaps there would be several flocks of sheep in a fold, but the shepherd knew which ones were his, vs. 4, 5. And the sheep knew him, Furthermore, he knew them individually. He had named each of them, and called them one by one. Naming animals is nothing new.
We’ve mentioned elsewhere the lovely duet sung in church to the effect that “when He died, He didn’t even know my name”! That is a truly sad view of the death of Christ. He knew His sheep when He hung on the Cross, dying for them. He knew them before Genesis 1:1. Their names were written in His Book of Life before time began, Revelation 13:8; 17:8. And He will know them forever.
He knew everything about us,…and He died for us, anyway. We are His.
4. The shepherd guides the activity of the sheep.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings them out, he goes before them, vs. 3, 4. The Psalmist put it like this: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still water, Psalm 23:2, 3.
5. The shepherd seeks the prosperity of the sheep.
Now this doesn’t mean a fat bank account, a nice house and a Lexus out in the driveway, perfect health and wonderful relationships, as many in the church think, who seem to have no interest in anything beside this world. The shepherd wanted his flock to be fed and watered and protected. Our Lord has that for His own, but He has so much more besides. He said, “I have come that they might have life, and they might have it more abundantly,” v. 10. Once again, the “abundant life” doesn’t refer to material things, though the Lord may give those to us. Nor, as some believe, does it refer to a state of sinless perfection. After all, the life the sheep have is eternal. In the Lord Jesus Christ, the poorest believer has for free what all the wealth in the world for all time could not buy: eternal life. “Abundant life” isn’t the privilege for an elite few among believers. It belongs to all of us because our Shepherd has given it to us.
6. The shepherd provides security for the sheep.
In vs. 11-14, Jesus said, “The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. But he who is an hireling and not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches them and scatters them. I am the good Shepherd, and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
Further, He said in vs. 27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand. My Father and I are one.”
In those four verses is clearly stated the hated (at least by some), the hated doctrine of eternal security, centuries before John Calvin and the generation after him, which actually formulated the so-called “5 Points”. Our Lord said that His sheep would never perish, and no one could take them away from Him or the Father. To the idiotic idea that, well, yes, but they can leave, – that would just show that they weren’t sheep to begin with. Cf. 1 John 2:19.
In v. 27, the tenses are all “present;” the sheep are hearing, the Lord is knowing, and the sheep are following. Salvation isn’t something that just happened years ago with some “decision” or church rite. It’s a “today” thing – which doesn’t mean that we can lose it tomorrow. When tomorrow gets here, then it will be “today,” and the sheep will still be following….
Jesus and the Father are “one” in Their determination to save the sheep. It’s a commentary on the sorry condition of Christianity that the belief that that can be thwarted is so widely held. The sheep are Christ’s. He cannot and will not lose them.
7. The shepherd tends to the productivity of the sheep.
Leaving aside the fact that sheep can be food, they produce two things: wool and more sheep. In John 15:5, 8, the Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing…By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you shall be My disciples.” The goal, and responsibility, of the Christian life is fruitfulness. After listing several things to be developed as corollaries of faith, like virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love, Peter goes on to say, For if these things are yours and abound, you shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 1:5-8. This could really be a post in itself.
The LORD is my Shepherd…. These thought are just a small portion of what Psalm 23:1 means.
(Originally posted on April 12, 2013) edited and new material.