“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. ~John 10:1-16
Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, but what makes a shepherd good? Very simply, a good shepherd loves his sheep. Jesus describes calling his sheep BY NAME. That means you are not just another nameless member of the flock. You are known intimately and uniquely by the shepherd. You are known and called by name. And when called by name, Jesus simply wants his sheep to come running to him. But it doesn’t stop there.
Then Jesus leads his sheep from the front, which takes a great deal of skill by the shepherd and a great deal of trust on the part of the sheep. Jesus doesn’t force us to go where he wants us to go by pushing from the back, which would agitate and upset. No, he skillfully earns our trust, leading from the front and allowing us to follow willingly.
A good shepherd protects. Jesus calls himself the gate. In ancient times, shepherds would lead their sheep out into the countryside during the day to graze and at night they would lead the flock into communal pens, many of which did not have gates. The shepherd would lay across the entrance to the enclosure, literally becoming the gate, in order to protect the sheep. Jesus protects us to the point of sacrificing his own life.
And a good shepherd provides. Jesus came to “give a rich and satisfying life”. That doesn’t mean he gives us everything we want, but it means he will provide everything we need. So often the things that lie just outside of the boundaries God has given us look so enticing. But we have to trust in the direction and provision of our Good Shepherd.
Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd. And out of his great love for us he calls us specifically by name, leads us, protects us, and provides for us, all at great personal risk and sacrifice. Do you know his voice? And do you trust him enough to willingly follow where he leads?