“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)
While those around Him, mostly Jews, were contemplating these words, Jesus added:
As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:15
WHAT DID DEVOUT JEWS KNOW ABOUT ALMIGHTY GOD AS A SHEPHERD?
Jews were certainly aware of the symbolism of the Shepherd and Israel. We find in 1 Kings 22:14-17 that King Micaiah had compared Israel to sheep without a shepherd when they were going to battle without the LORD in their midst.
The Psalmist David had declared:“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
The Psalmist Asaph referred to the Almighty as the Shepherd who dwells between the Cherubims.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Psalm 80:1
1 Samuel 4:4 identifies the One who dwells between the Cherubims:
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD of Hosts, who sits enthroned between the cherubim…
Jeremiah the prophet refers to the LORD Almighty as the Shepherd:
Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. Jeremiah 31:10
Amos and Zechariah referred to a Shepherd who would come.
Jesus wanted to and wants to save all people. His goal was that all would come to repentance and none would perish or that all would be saved. For this to be accomplished, it is essential that mankind know Christ and His power. We must understand that in Christ alone comes salvation and therefore, in Christ alone are we secure. Just as The LORD (YHWH) illustrated His relationship with Israel as that of sheep and their Shepherd in the OT, Jesus was revealing Himself as that Shepherd who cares for His sheep. As Phillip Keller wrote in his book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, “Our Shepherd…leads us through the valleys with Himself. He knows where we can find strength, and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us.” In Christ we are safe. Away from Christ there is no security. Those living in Israel and the surrounding areas were keenly aware that sheep faced danger every day. They were in danger from their own behaviors and from predators. Jesus wanted them to see themselves in their lost condition just as He wants that for us today.
Jesus knew that when we see ourselves as helpless, just as sheep are helpless, only then will we comprehend our need for the Savior – the Good Shepherd.
DID JESUS INTEND TO REFER TO HIMSELF AS THE LORD ALMIGHTY?
I think the best answer to this question is with another question. Why did Christ use this particular illustration and why did He use the phrase “I Am” and the Greek article Ò, or ho, meaning THE good shepherd? The I Am is the name of the LORD (YHWH) God Almighty and His choice of words indicates that Jesus is pointedly saying that He isn’t just any shepherd, He is THE GOOD Shepherd. Those who read the Old Testament know the LORD (YHWH) Almighty is the Shepherd in Psalm 23.