In the gospel of John, Jesus makes seven authoritative “I am” statements. He proclaims he is the good shepherd (10:11), the bread of life (6:48), the light of the world (8:12), the true vine (15:1), the door (10:9), the resurrection and the life (11:25). He says he is the way, the truth, and the life (14:6).
Today I’d like to focus on Jesus as the Good Shepherd, tending to his sheep. I love how apt this analogy is to describe our relationship with Christ. Just as a shepherd is constantly vigilant, looking out for the physical safety of his flock, so does Jesus protect his children from harm. He is faithful to lead, protect, and nourish his flock.
He says that the thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy — but the Good Shepherd has come so that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).
Understanding the nature of sheep makes this depiction of Jesus as our Shepherd that much more powerful. Sheep have poor vision and hearing, which renders them helpless and vulnerable to predators. A flock of sheep is in desperate need of a leader and caretaker. Like sheep, we often wander through life, blind and deaf to the prowling of the enemy.
During Jesus’s time on earth, he ministered to the blind and the deaf; the souls of lost sheep. He had great compassion for those suffering. In the book of Mark, it says that when Jesus saw a large group of people waiting to hear him speak, “his heart broke—like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them” (Mark 6:34, MSG).
Not only does the Good Shepherd take care of those already abiding in his fold, but he pursues and rescues helpless sheep who have lost their way. Over and over, Jesus demonstrated that, no matter how far a person had strayed, he would seek to bring them back into his fold.
He ministered to the outcasts, the lepers, those who existed on the margins of society, like Mary of Magdala. The gospel of Luke recounts that Jesus cast seven demons out Mary Magdalene, and after doing so, Mary became a devout follower of Jesus, present at his death on the cross and his resurrection.
Before encountering the love of Jesus, Mary was a deeply afflicted woman; thus, her heart was profoundly moved. His voice completely unraveled her — and she couldn’t respond in any other way than to leave everything behind and devoutly listen to her Good Shepherd.
I imagine that Jesus’s voice, in comparison to the darkness that formerly ravaged her soul, must have sounded, as the prophet Ezekiel described the voice of God, “like the sound of many waters” (Ezekiel 43:2). Mary loved, trusted, and was led by the voice and teachings of Jesus; she was like the sheep that Jesus described, that “follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4).
After Jesus’s death, the apostle John describes the resurrected Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene. Mary is weeping over the death of her beloved teacher outside the tomb. She tells the angels that she is crying because they have taken “my Lord away.” Although Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus’s newly resurrected body, his voice is unmistakable. It’s the voice that called her out of darkness — the voice that took what was dead in her and brought it back to life. It’s her Messiah, Teacher, Friend, and Beloved Savior — it’s the Good Shepherd.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’” (John 20:16)
There are numerous voices vying for our attention, prompting us to be led astray. But when we enter into relationship with Jesus, we learn to trust him. We become familiar with the sweet voice of Jesus and rely on his guidance.
I pray that when he speaks to us, we would be so familiar — so enraptured — with the sound of his voice that we would jump at his call. I pray that we would be like Mary, who instantly recognized the voice of her Lord. I pray that, even as we walk through valleys of death, that we would fear no evil, because he is with us (Psalm 23:4). I pray that we would follow him because we know, love, and seek to hear His voice.
Most of all, I pray that we would constantly be reminded of the most profound, earth-shattering, undeserved aspect of our Shepherd: that he cares for his sheep so deeply, he was willing to lay his life down (John 10:15).
“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:1-4)