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“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10: 11-14)

Sheep are known to be the dumbest of all creatures. Unable to care for themselves, they are totally dependent on the shepherd for food, shelter, guidance and protection.

The shepherd and his sheep share a very personal and special relationship. He is ever mindful of the needs of each of his sheep. Unlike the hireling – “whose own the sheep are not” (Jn 10: 12) and who fleeth because he “careth not for the sheep (v 13) leaving them to fend for themselves – the true shepherd cares for his sheep and even hazards his life to defend them.

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls Himself the Good Shepherd Who “giveth his life for the sheep” (Jn 10: 11). Commenting on Psalm 23, F B Meyer elaborates: “He has a shepherd’s heart, beating with pure and generous love that counted not His life-blood too dear a price to pay down as our ransom. He has a shepherd’s eye, that takes in the whole flock, and misses not even the poor sheep wandering away on the mountains cold. He has a shepherd’s faithfulness, which will never fail nor forsake, nor leave us comfortless, nor flee when He seeth the wolf coming. He has a shepherd's strength, so that He is well able to deliver us from the jaw of the lion or the paw of the bear. He has a shepherd's tenderness; no lamb so tiny that He will not carry it, no saint so weak that He will not gently lead, no soul so faint that He will not give it rest. He pities as a father. He comforts as a mother. His gentleness makes great.”

In every way, we are much like the poor and helpless sheep who come under the constant, watchful eye of our Good Shepherd. Truly, the shepherd/sheep metaphor is relevant to us. What lessons can we learn from this metaphor?

o “He calleth his own sheep by name” (John 10: 3)

At the end of each day, it was the daily practice of eastern shepherds to bring their flocks into one common sheepfold which was guarded by a “porter” or gatekeeper (Jn 10: 3). To gather the flock early the next morning, a shepherd would call his own sheep with a clear guttural sound. Though there were other flocks in the sheepfold, each flock recognised its own shepherd’s voice. They would follow only their shepherd and no other.

In the same way, Jesus, our Good Shepherd “calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (Jn 10: 3-4). Those who belong to the Lord will respond to His voice when He calls them. This was the case with Jesus’ disciples, the woman of Samaria and Zacchaeus. The Lord went personally to call each of them unto Himself. When they heard His voice, they followed Him.

Enlarging on the shepherd/sheep metaphor, the evangelist John added that “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (Jn 10: 5). Accustomed to the voice and presence of their faithful shepherd, the sheep would not respond to the command of a stranger. Likewise, God’s people have a discerning spirit (I Cor 2: 12-13) and will not follow “strangers” – false teachers who teach devious doctrines to lead the flock astray.

o “I … know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10: 14)

Just like the true shepherds who knew their sheep by name and were familiar with all their idiosyncracies, weaknesses and needs, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows us well: “I … know my sheep” (Jn 10: 14). God sees us as helpless and needy creatures. He knows our heart’s depravity, our frailties and tendency to stray from His side.He sees our foolish and wandering ways, and lovingly keeps us in the path of righteousness. Others may write us off, but God never turns us away: “For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance” (Ps 94: 14). When we sin, He chastises us as a father does his rebellious children, and restores us when we return to Him (Heb 12: 5-11).

Christ, our Good Shepherd is deeply interested in the life of each of His sheep. He knows exactly what we need and how to meet that need. “He knows those that are His, calls them by name, marks them for Himself, leads them out to fat pastures, makes them both feed and rest there, speaks comfortably to them, guards them by His providence, guides them by His Spirit and Word, and goes before them, to set them in the way of His steps” (Matthew Henry).


We thank God for Jesus Christ, “that great shepherd of the sheep” (Heb 13: 20) Who laid down His life for us. He redeemed us with His precious blood (I Pet 1: 18-19). He knew and loved us even before we knew Him (I Jn 4: 19). Tenderly, He has sought and brought us to the fold. Despite our follies, failures and frailties, our gracious Shepherd does not give up on us. He continues to guide, and watch over us. He leads us in the path of righteousness (Ps 23: 3). May we cherish this blessing and privilege of belonging to our Good Shepherd. Let us respond by hearkening to His voice, following His leading (Jn 10: 27) and keeping close to Him. Amen.

– Pastor