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Jesus is The Good Shepherd

A figured of Jesus with a shepherd's staff, carrying a sheep with grazing sheep behind Him.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."

(John 10:11 NIV)

Jesus calls Himself our Good Shepherd. It's not very flattering to us, really, because sheep are not the brightest animals on the farm. Sheep become easily lost if they wander from the flock. Sheep are easy targets for predators if a shepherd is not guarding them. Sheep need to be led to water and pasture. Sheep are pretty much entirely dependent on their shepherd. It's a good, good thing that Jesus is our Shepherd.

He owns His sheep. We are His, and He claims us as His own. His attitude toward the flock is very different from that of a hired hand who does not own the sheep. He loves His sheep. He is willing to put His life on the line to protect us from the attacks of the enemy of our soul. The good shepherd lays down His wife for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:14-15 NIV)

This claim of Jesus is both mind-blowing and revolutionary. Think of it. We can know the Fatherthe Living Godjust the same as Jesus knows Him. With the same intimacy. With the same kind of relationship. In the same unity. How can this be when too often we experience God as distant and silent? And why don't we know God as intimately as Jesus knows Him? That one is easy. The Bible shows us that sin separates us from God and leads to death.

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 NIV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NIV)

When we accept Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, invite Him into our lives and begin to follow Him as Lord, He takes up residency in our hearts. Jesus lives in us. Intimacy with the Father is as close as Jesus living in my heart. The heartbeat of Jesus' love is the intimacy of the Father's love.

The sad thing to me is how easy it is for me to settle for religion. To settle for making my faith about what I do to try to please God or get Him to love me, when in fact He already does. He wants relationship. I am prone to settle for holding the Father off at arm's length while I work hard to be faithful. Worship and prayer and studying Scripture and service and tithing are not meant to be ways I work my way into God's good graces. They are meant to flow out of the grateful heart of a person who knows the Good Shepherd intimately and loves Him fully.

There is so much more in John, chapter 10. One more insight before I end this.

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life —only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18 NIV)

The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Life was not taken from Jesus on that Roman cross. Pilate did not take Jesus' life. The Sanhedrin did not take His life. The crowd crying "crucify Him" did not take His life. Jesus laid His life down for us. And that is why we can trust Him as our Good Shepherd. Whatever happens, He will tend us, feed us, protect us. How do we know that? He has already given His life for us.

When I feel lost or lonely, discouraged or broken, the surest way to get past it is to run to my Good Shepherd. It is to fly to Jesus. And to trust Him in everything that happens with everything I am. Christian discipleship is a simple thing. It is growing in knowing Jesus, and then living full-out for Him. Wherever you are on the journey of faith today, just run to the Good Shepherd. Move forward in your faith. And trust the One who laid down His life for you. I promise, it will be enough.


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