Jesus Christ declares in John 10:11: ‘I am the good shepherd.’ Throughout this tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ expounds upon his relationship with those persons whom he identifies as ‘my sheep’. Sheep and goats are the two categories into which God divides all mankind (e.g. Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus Christ identifies the goats as all those persons who will not trust in him for salvation. He says to them, ‘But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep’(John 10:26).
The sheep are all believers in Jesus Christ. Accordingly, he here in John 10 identifies ‘my sheep’ as all those persons who have been given to him by his Father (v.29); and who will follow him upon hearing his voice calling them through the gospel; and who will not desert him in order to follow a heretic (vv. 3-5).
The qualifications of Jesus Christ as the ‘Good Shepherd’ of God’s sheep are set forth throughout John 10.
1. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd because he is approved by God (vv. 1-3): ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens.’ God will not permit his sheep to be led by anyone but Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd because he has given his own life for the sheep (v.11): ‘The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.’ Thieves and robbers are concerned only for their own welfare and advancement, and will pursue it at the expense of the lives of their followers. Jesus Christ is concerned for the welfare and advancement of his sheep, and has sacrificed his own life for their salvation and safety. (Here is also set forth the doctrine of particular redemption or limited atonement, as Christ did not die for the sins of goats.)
3. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd because he knows each of his sheep (v.14): ‘I know my sheep.’ Jesus Christ knows each of his sheep by name (v.3) and has a personal relationship with each of them, even though they are so many as to be ‘a great multitude which no one could number’ (Revelation 7:9). None but the omniscient Son of God could be such a good shepherd.
4. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd because he will bring all his sheep into his fold (v.16): ‘And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.’ These ‘other sheep’ are God’s elect who had not yet been coverted when Jesus Christ uttered these words. Every one of God’s elect will be added to the fold of Jesus Christ when they believe the gospel. And the fact that they will comprise ‘one flock’ with ‘one shepherd’ means that each will be known and loved in the same manner by Christ as are all the rest. None of the Good Shepherd’s sheep are shown any less favour than any other (see Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).
5. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd because he will lose not even one of his sheep (v.28): ‘And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.’ Some professing Christians speak of being ‘saved today but lost tomorrow’. They evidently do not know this Good Shepherd. They evidently have instead believed ‘another gospel’ and are following ‘another Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 11:4). He who believes in Jesus Christ will never lose his salvation.
6. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd because he is divine (v.30): ‘I and my Father are one.’ Jesus Christ and his Father are two distinct persons of one divine essence, each being worthy of the same honour (John 5:23). God’s sheep therefore praise Jesus Christ in the words of Psalm 23: ‘Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want…’ He is their ‘good [or ideal] Shepherd’, their ‘great Shepherd’ (Hebrews 13:20), their ‘Chief Shepherd’ (1 Peter 5-4), and ‘the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (1 Peter 2:25).
Is the Good Shepherd your Shepherd?