One of the titles of Jesus Christ that many people are familiar with is “the Good Shepherd”. There have been countless sermons preached around this title of Jesus, usually in connection with the parable of the lost sheep. And though we assume that everyone understands the meaning of the title “Good Shepherd”, it is striking how many people make assumptions about His character and behavior, that even by lower, worldly standards, would not be good at all.
What I mean, is that there are a lot of people who hold a view of God’s nature and character that are actually less than good – maybe because those are the things they have heard preached all of their lives, and so they just believe it without question; or for another reason all together – but I have heard it many times where people have told me that they have a view not of a good shepherd who loves and cares for his sheep, but instead they expect a shepherd who beats his sheep, abuses them, harms them, or refuses to feed and care for them.
But my friend, this could not be further from the truth of your real Good Shepherd.
So today, I want to encourage you with this study about how your good shepherd is really good.
The first scripture which we should read today is John 10:10-11, because while it may seem simple, it carries with it a very important truth about the difference between the enemy, and Jesus Himself.
“The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”
Take a moment and just meditate on what these verses are saying. There is one who comes to steal, and kill and destroy, but it is not God. God is not the one who takes away your treasure, God is not the one who kills, God is not the one who destroys that which you hold dear – no – that characteristic belongs to the thief, that is the enemy.
In a strange way, many people attribute these attributes to God; they claim that He is the one taking good things away from them, or in some instances even killing their loved ones or destroying things, lands or people. And that’s why these two verses are so important; because they tell us the real truth, the real character of God, and the real source of stealing, killing and destroying – not God, but the enemy.
In contrast, look and the true character of God here. Jesus says that He has come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly! (the “they” here are His sheep, the ones who receive salvation). Jesus came to give live, not take it away. And not only has He come to give life, but to give it abundantly! That is an overflow of rich and wonderful life – not a barely scrape by, meager life of less than His best; but He wants you to have every promise, every blessing and absolutely everything which He has paid for you to have. And He wants you to have so very much of it, that there is plenty left-over to spare and to share! This is the God of overabundance, the ultimate provider, and creator of the entire universe that we are talking about here! Let these verses speak to you about His goodness, His provision and His amazing generosity here.
And all of that was verse 10. Verse 11 gives you the foundation, the reason why verse 10 is true, and why you can trust it completely: Jesus says, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
You see, in contrast to the thief which kills and destroys life, the good shepherd actually gives His own life so that the sheep will be spared. Has that happened? Well, look a few verses down to verse 15:
“As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
and also verses 17 and 18:
“Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man takes it 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 have I received of my Father.”
Jesus’ entire purpose for coming down to this earth as a man, was to give His very life for ours, that we would be spared – completely loosed from the bondage of the enemy, and the thieving and the killing and the destroying which he does.
Furthermore we can see that He did this willingly. No-one ever had the power to take Jesus’ life from Him… instead He willingly laid down His life of His own accord; a divine act of pure love and goodness and care for us. And it doesn’t even stop there!
In verse 18, we see that Jesus received this divine directive from the Father! Why is this important? Because it tells us that all of the love, and goodness and care that Jesus displayed by giving His very life for us, is actually shared by the Father in Heaven as well.
Some people have the idea that Jesus is nice and gentle, and the Father is mean and vicious… but these verses destroy that false idea. And as Hebrews 10:6-10 makes clear, it was the very will of the Father that Jesus should fulfill and remove the Old Covenant, and usher us into the New Covenant of His Grace, all based on love.
Now, in light of this, I want to pose a question that all of us should consider… since Jesus paid such a very high price to totally redeem us, to move us into a totally new covenant, to restore our created value and make us completely new creations in Him (2nd Corinthians 5:17); and also to give us His abundant life, and remove the bondage and the effects of the thief as we read here in these verses, then why is it that so many people still assume that God Himself treats them as the enemy would? And furthermore, why is it that so many attribute the effects of the enemy in their life to God’s will?
I can’t even convey to you how many conversations I’ve had with people who just casually tell me that God is the one taking provisions away from them, or that God “took” their loved-ones from them, or even destroyed this or that… or that it is God’s will for them to suffer.
Why do people think that way? Why do they refuse to believe the truth about the character of God? The truth of His goodness, the truth of His care, provision and mercy? 2nd Corinthians 2:4, tells us that it is the god of this age (that is, Satan – and notice that he is confined to one age) who has blinded the eyes of people, so that they might not see the glorious Gospel of Christ Jesus. And as we have studied before, he uses his one and only weapon to do it… lies.
Satan must attempt to blind the eyes of people, because if they truly see how great the Gospel really is, it’s already too late for him!
So he lies to people. He tells them that God really isn’t nice… that God really isn’t good, or that God really doesn’t heal, or provide or bless. He tells them that God is a judgmental, stingy, with-holder – even though the reality is that God gave everything, even the life of Jesus so that we would be spared.
The enemy will literally say anything to keep people blind, to keep them “in the dark” regarding who God really is – because he knows that the moment anyone honestly approaches God, it is over.
And as we close today, I want to address one of the biggest lies, specifically about the good shepherd, that is often told about the parable of the lost sheep found in Luke 15:3-6:
“And he spoke this parable to them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Now, I have heard many times, one particular lie which is very widespread, and many accept to be true simply because it is repeated so often; that the shepherd would break the leg of a stray sheep to keep it from wandering anymore after he finds it.
This lie has seemingly captivated the minds and thoughts of many, and caused them to see their Good Shepherd as someone who will break their legs if they happen to take the wrong path, or make the wrong choice.
I have seen people going through terrible pain, and not accepting the deliverance offered by Jesus because they are so deceived that they believe that He is actually the one inflicting it!
Well, allow me to expose the lie today with the truth of Jesus Christ because not only would a Hebrew shepherd (especially one under the Law of Moses) never break the legs of a sheep, but it doesn’t even fit with the parable being told here by Jesus. Let’s consider this together with a fresh perspective in the light of Christ…
The shepherd does not break the sheep’s legs – we don’t see it in the parable at all.
First what we do see, is that the shepherd carries it on His shoulders rejoicing, which would be demented if he had just purposefully injured it. Can you even imagine the picture if He did break it?
Imagine the shepherd finding his lost sheep, which is already scared from being lost. It sees the shepherd coming toward it, the sheep is happy to see its shepherd coming near, and then when the shepherd lays his hands on the sheep, he snaps the sheep’s legs, and it cries out in pain and agony, while the shepherd picks it up and rejoices.
It’s a sick and twisted picture of cruelty and abuse – not a picture of a loving good shepherd.
Thankfully we don’t see any leg breaking in the actual words of Jesus – only care and joyful rejoicing about recovering a beloved lost sheep.
Secondly it is very important to understand this story from a Jewish perspective. A Jewish shepherd would never break a sheep’s leg or harm it in any way, because as we know from the Law, the moment a sheep becomes blemished, it becomes useless. Not only would a shepherd never harm a sheep, but there were many ways to keep a sheep near the flock without physically causing it pain—they might tie the sheep to other sheep or to themselves—they might assign a dog to watch a particular sheep—they might even tie a weight to the sheep’s leg. But never would a good shepherd break the leg of a sheep.
So my dear friend, let the lie of Jesus breaking sheep’s legs, pass from your mind… for it is not true. Instead, hear the parable of Jesus as He actually told it, because it is all about actually rejoicing of finding a lost sheep. He’s not carrying it because it has broken legs – He’s carrying it to show that He’s the one bringing it back, the burden is on His shoulders, not the sheep! The sheep consents to be carried, by the loving Good Shepherd – and it is a time of rejoicing, not pain!
I encourage you today, the Good Shepherd is Really Good.