Dale Offutt

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


Jesus said that he is the good shepherd. Only Jesus could make such a claim and be truthful in doing so. Will you read with us from the gospel of John?  We shall be reading from chapter 10 verses seven through 18. The Lord Jesus in dealing with the parable of the good shepherd he also included the I am the door. So we are going to note both the I am the door and I am the good shepherd.  Share with us John 10 verses seven through 18.

Jesus therefore said unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.  All that came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture.  The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.  He that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth them: he fleeth because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; and I know mine own, and mine own know me, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and they shall become one flock, one shepherd.  Therefore doth the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father.

As the good shepherd Jesus gave his life for the sheep by dying on the cross. He became the door to the fold of God. He is called the great shepherd by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 13.  He rose from the dead to care for his sheep. The apostle Peter makes reference to Jesus as being the chief shepherd in 1 Peter five. He will come again to the sheep.  So, my friends, the shepherd, the good shepherd, our Lord Jesus, has three aspects that we are going to consider today.  Number one, his death for our sins; two, his resurrection and care for us; and, three, his return for the sheep. Yes, my friends, some day Jesus will return for all the true followers of Jesus.

We would do well to remember that Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament shadows or types in the psalms and prophets by referring to himself as the good shepherd. For example, in Psalm 23 we can see that Jesus is surely pictured as being the shepherd of whom the psalmist declares to be my shepherd. The prophet Ezekiel is predicting the coming Messiah and he called him a shepherd in Ezekiel chapter 34. So as the good shepherd he also set himself against that leaders who entered and persecuted the flock. These leaders were evil. They were false teachers. The care by the good shepherd illustrates the knowledge and love between him and his sheep as well as the knowledge and love between him and his Father.
In chapter 10 of the gospel of John Jesus spoke of sheep. People of that day and time were very familiar with the expressions Jesus used about the shepherd and sheep. And let us look again to the gospel of John and this time, if you will, the first six verses of chapter 10.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangersThis parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

The people of Jesus’ day knew that sheep were often gathered into a sheep pen to protect them, of course, from thieves and from the weather or wild animals.  So Jesus, my friends, cares for his sheep today. Yes, Jesus the good shepherd cares for his flock, all those who follow him.

But now going back to the parable let’s just imagine a large flock of sheep gathered together. At the gate of the pen stands a man, the guard, who keeps and prevents unauthorized persons from entering.  The sheep inside this pen come from several different flocks. They are the property, however, of one person. The flock has been organized for a purpose. Each shepherd could not afford to employ or hire a gate keeper just for his own sheep. Imagine then that some shepherd who is responsible for 100 sheep has had them all day long. At the end of the day he brings his sheep to the sheep pen.  The next morning the shepherd returns to take his 100 sheep out for the day to graze. How does he find  his 100 sheep among all the other sheep in this large sheep pen? How does he call them to follow him?   The answer is very simple. He calls his sheep. He knows them and they know him and recognize his voice and he leads them out from the rest of the many sheep in the pen.

My friends, to appreciate the character of our good shepherd, let us note the contrasting character of the hireling. The hireling has not a natural concern for the sheep. Again, let us note verses 12 and verse 13 of chapter 10.   He that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth them: he fleeth because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.  Hirelings were hired people that just simply were there with no special love and attention for those sheep. Hirelings would mind their own things, their own life. They really did not own the sheep for which they might be hired to keep. They were seeking their own gain, not the welfare of the sheep.

Now Jesus was speaking to the leaders of the day when he used this parable about the sheep. And did you note from verse six that the leaders did not understand what he was teaching them?  Yes, there were priests and Levites in his hearing who did not understand. In fact, there were those so-called leaders who surely forgot and ignored what Jesus would teach.  They were not responsible leaders for the most part. The hireling is pictured by Jesus as being one who allows the wolves to destroy the sheep.  Jesus said before to his followers, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.   Yes, the Pharisees, in a spiritual sense, were the wolves or false teachers of the day. They would deceive with their self righteousness. They were, in fact, enemies of the Christ. But let us note the relationship between the good shepherd and his sheep.   I know mine own and mine own know me.
My friends, there is that mutual knowledge. Not only did Jesus know every one of his disciples during his earthly ministry, but his knowledge today, my friends, extends to all who are his. Not one is ever lost in the crowd or overlooked by Jesus our Savior, our Lord.  You see, each one is individually known by Jesus. What comfort this should bring to every child of God. Surely our lives would know more peace and joy if we simply remembered our good shepherd, how he not only knows us but cares for us as individuals.

Someone, as well, left for us a bit of good advice, and we quote. “When at night you cannot sleep, talk to the shepherd and stop counting sheep,” end of quote.  My friends, just stop and think. Throughout the long generations of human history and all the lands where Christian faith has been established, the all knowing Lord, our good shepherd and bishop of our souls has recognized and known his sheep and has cared for his flock without failure.

Of course, there have been some sheep who have chosen not to remain in the flock and this can happen. Unfortunately along the way it has happened and is happening today. But let us understand and appreciate that the knowledge of Jesus that he has about his sheep is more than just mere recognition of each one. Jesus has a friendship. Jesus has an affection for each one and we can rest assured that the heart of Jesus is big enough for every one who is in the flock.

Friends, the apostle Paul declared to Timothy, The Lord knoweth them that are his. Let us rejoice in the fact that the sheep know their good shepherd. Yes, we know him as our personal Savior. We are aware of his presence as he keeps us in his love day by day. We can trust him. We can love him and always offer our praise to him. Of course, we constantly feel the need for him.  The poet expressed himself with thoughts that surely apply to our relationship to Jesus, the good shepherd. And we quote the poet, “I need thee, loving shepherd. I need thy constant care. So guide me on life’s journey. I need thine arms opened around me to hold me fast lest I fall. Oh, more and more, I always claim the good shepherd. I need thee, my only hope, my all,” end of quote.

My friends, aren’t we all very eager to know and to claim Jesus as our loving Savior, Jesus as our loving shepherd? We who are often asked what is this world coming to, my friends, we can give an answer. Because of the good shepherd we can live with peace and always a sense of security. And the answer is simply this. The world is going as Jesus said it would go.  You see, he is still in control of this universe and the sheep of Jesus, his followers, have certain spiritual markings which indicate that they express peace and joy because they belong to the good shepherd. They have his Holy Spirit who indwells every one of  his own. They have the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And when a person who is so blessed to know the good shepherd as Savior, as shepherd and bishop of his soul, he can have that love, joy and peace and long suffering and kindness and goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self control even in this present evil world.
The genuine Christian praises the Lord for the fact that our good shepherd gave his life for us, his sheep. Jesus said, “I give my life for the sheep.” Yes, we know that there would be no life for the sheep, but through the death of Jesus the good shepherd we have received life.

The Gentiles as well as the Jews, my friends, appreciate salvation in a very personal way. Oh, yes, the good shepherd would reach out to the whole world. And we need to share, my friends, the good news that Jesus, the promised Savior would be the good shepherd of the entire world. He is the good shepherd. He is the true gate to salvation. He is the door.  It is so sad that there are many people who reject Jesus as the good shepherd, the Savior for all mankind. Many do not realize that Jesus the good shepherd willingly gave his life for mankind.

Therefore doth the Father love me because I laid down my life that I may take it again No on taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself.  Yes, there is more in the sacrifice of Christ than in the death of a shepherd, my friends, who lets himself be torn in pieces that his flock may escape. You see, Christ’s death was absolutely self determined, voluntary, in accordance with his Father’s will. There was the power to lay down his own life.  And this truth certainly implies that Jesus had the power to keep it. My friends, he could have claimed the aid of more than 12 legions of angels to deliver him from his enemies. There was power to take life again in his resurrection.  Yes, the true sheep, the true followers of Jesus can say that they know the good shepherd. And they also say the longer they know him, the more they love him. 

Are you searching for direction today, someone who is really lost in this big world? Life seems to be passing you by and you are hurting with a sense of helplessness. We ask the question. Why not follow Jesus?

My friends, he would lead all who will follow him. Why not consider him today as your personal Savior. He is the door. He is the gate into heaven, if you will. Allow him to be the good shepherd, the bishop, the one who wants to oversee your life, because he is the gateway or door to real living. His way is not too narrow even if some people claim that the Christian way is too narrow. Receive Jesus Christ as your Savior by repenting. Turn from a sinful way of life. Acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Be baptized, immersed, into Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  Let Jesus be the good shepherd of your life today.



                         Dale Offutt is the retired minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, Indiana