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The Names of Jesus
“The Good Shepherd”
Several weeks’ back we looked at Jesus as the Lamb of God, but He is not only the Lamb of God, He is also our Good Shepherd. This is another one of Jesus’ more descriptive names, one He uses of Himself, and with this name He attaches the Holy Name of God, “I AM.”
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 NKJV)
Jesus often would connect those who heard His words to something they knew well, but also they may have literally been looking at shepherds tending their flocks.
This is probably the case here in our passage as He goes into great depth and detail as to what it means to be our good shepherd, and we also see this title used for God in the Old Testament. This is seen in one of the most recognizable and iconic Psalms that King David wrote, Psalm 23.
Therefore, by using this name, Jesus is making Himself equal with God, which is something He made sure they knew saying, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30 NKJV)
Jesus said in John 10:27-29 that His sheep hear His voice and that these sheep have been given to Him by no one less than the Father, the Great Shepherd of Psalm 23. But even more, all those who hear His voice enters through Him, that He is the door to God’s sheepfold, and anyone who enters through Him will be saved, John 10:7, 9.
In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
And so Jesus is the good and great Shepherd because He fulfilled God’s plan of redemption when He offered Himself as that sacrificial lamb upon the cross, and then taking His blood into the heavenly tabernacle to have our sins forever forgiven.
He made the ultimate sacrifice so that His sheep, that is, all those who believe in Him as their Savior and Lord, would find true peace and participate in the fullness of His grace and mercy.
Referring to Jesus as our shepherd, I used both titles of good and great, and this isn’t just semantics. Jesus called Himself good, as we saw in John 10:11, but the writer of Hebrews uses the title “great.”
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” (Hebrews 13:20 NKJV)
Jesus then makes a contrast between Himself as the good shepherd with those who are not. These are shepherds that really don’t care for the welfare of the sheep, only what they can get out of them. Jesus calls them hirelings, that is, they are in it for the wages, not because they love or care for the sheep.
“But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.” (John 10:12-13 NKJV)
These hirelings don’t own the sheep, so they don’t really care for the sheep and are harsh and rough towards them. Literally they make sheep’s life miserable, because they are more interested in themselves and their comforts than they are in sheep in which they’ve been given charge.
This hireling is also seen in the Old Testament through the prophet Zechariah.
“I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock!” (Zechariah 11:16-17a NKJV)
These shepherds are worthless, and you wonder why they even got hired in the first place. These false shepherds are also known as false prophets, who outwardly look like sheep, but inwardly are ravenous wolves, Matthew 7:15.
But there is another worthless shepherd, and this is the one who slips in when no one is looking. He is called a thief, because he not only steals, but also kills and destroys. You could say that He is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. And I am talking about Satan.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
Satan is a ravenous wolf, one who isn’t out for the good of anybody, but rather He wants to steal, kill, and destroy the human soul and spirit. But Jesus, the good shepherd, wants to give us life, but not just life, but abundant life, both now and for all eternity.
Now, to look at what the Lord provides as our good shepherd, it’s probably best to go to the Psalm King David wrote, Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23 NKJV)
Before we move forward please note the personal relationship that the Lord, the Great Shepherd, has with his sheep, that is, with those who are His.
David, who himself was a shepherd in his youth, sees this relationship through not only the eyes of a shepherd, but also through the eyes of the sheep, he being one of them.
David begins his shepherd’s Psalm saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.” These words reveal a close and personal relationship we have as sheep with the Lord, our good shepherd. Nothing else compares to these tremendous words, that the Lord through His Son, has such care and concern for us is mind-boggling.
Why, because we are the sheep, and as sheep we’re prone to go wandering off to our own detriment.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV)
And so Jesus came as that good shepherd to give His life so that we could be saved.
Now, the idea that we are sheep can be quite insulting. Sheep aren’t really the brightest animals in the world. They wander off, get lost, and are in constant need of care, and if left alone would probably die.
Sheep are also basically stupid, and mount little if any defense. Therefore sheep are completely dependent upon the shepherds to care for them. Someone once described sheep as animal school dropouts. They never learn. They’d fall in the same ditch, or get tangled in the same bush or fence every day. They follow the same trail until it becomes a rut, eat from the same feeding grounds until eventually there’s nothing left.
Further, having poor eyesight they never really know which way to go, but at the same time are prone to wander away from the flock.
And so when the prophet Isaiah said that all we like sheep have gone astray, he wasn’t off on his assessment.
Yet, Jesus as our good shepherd goes out of His way, even going to the cross, to find and bring us back into that right relationship.
Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” (Matthew 18:12 NIV)
From Psalm 23, what we see is that there are several things our good shepherd, Jesus, gives.
“I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1b NKJV)
There is a certainty in these words that His ownership will bring nothing but complete satisfaction knowing that there is absolutely no deficiently in His care, and therefore there is nothing that we can ever desire that He cannot provide.
What this also means is that any relationship outside Jesus Christ, any relationship without Him being our good shepherd means a sad and joyless life.
So no matter what condition we are in, or circumstances we may face, we can be completely satisfied. The Apostle Paul explains such satisfaction and contentment.
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)
The sense we have here is that the Lord is watching over us, and is beside us providing for our needs. And from the rest of the Psalm 23 we see is His provision of peace, rest, guidance, protection, restoration, righteousness, and a forever home.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” (Psalm 23:2a NKJV)
For a sheep to lie down peacefully there are four basic components needed: no fear, no friction, no flies, and being well fed. Only when these conditions are met will rest comes.
God wants us to exchange the pressures of life for His peace. God is our loving Shepherd, but if we are obstinate in this area, then He will find a way to set us down so that we will take time with Him.
Look again this verse and pay particular attention to the second word.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” (Psalm 23:2a NKJV)
If we don’t slow down and smell the roses, then God will “make” us lie down and smell the roses in the flowers sent to our hospital room.
We need the Lord to be our pacemaker; kind of like the pacemaker a doctor sets inside a patient to regulate their heart. You see, the Lord is the one who formed us, therefore He is the only one that knows what pace we should live our lives.
And so, our good shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters, because He knows when we need to rest and re-create.
The fact that He leads us besides the still waters leads me to the next thing Jesus provides as our good shepherd.
“He leads me beside still waters.” (Psalm 23:2b NKJV)
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, at the time when the priest would pour out water from the Pool of Siloam to the sound of joyful singing from the congregation, Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b NKJV)
We need to come to Jesus and drink from His fountain of eternal life. Our problem is that as sheep we’ll drink from almost anything to satisfy our thirst for fulfillment, even from the toilet bowl of this world’s philosophy.
We think, “What harm can it do?” Well, like dirty water, it is filled with parasites, that is, demons that want to suck any and all spiritual nutrients right out of our bodies, and bring disease, despair, and death.
So we need guidance from our good shepherd.
Admitting we need guidance is tough, because we don’t like to admit we need help. Therefore, we stumble along the way being more confused than ever.
By their nature sheep tend to wander off. That’s why sheep need a shepherd, and because we are a lot like sheep, we need our heavenly Shepherd to keep us on the straight and narrow.
This is the real problem as to why we have such a hard time knowing God’s will. We wander off the path, wanting to go our own way rather than the Lord’s.
Sheep also have poor eyesight? They don’t see too well in the distance, so they don’t see what lies ahead. That’s why they’re so dependent upon the shepherd to lead them.
We’re just as near sighted when it comes to the path we are supposed to take through life. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and while we make our plans, things change. So, we need God as our Shepherd to guide us so we don’t end up on the wrong path or a dead end. Solomon describes it this way.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
While there is a way that seems right to us, in the end it leads only to death. We all make decisions that at the time seem right, but later on they turn out disastrous, because we’re not getting our guidance from God or His word. We see this in broken lives, broken marriages, broken homes, and broken hearts.
That is why we need to admit our need for God’s guidance. We need God to lead us the right way, or the way of rightness, so we can lie down in peace and partake of His water of life.
This is what David goes on to say in our good shepherd’s guidance.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3 NKJV)
We can tell when we’re on that right path when selfishness is replaced by selflessness and self-sacrifice, where self-will is replaced by God’s will, where self-righteousness is replaced by Christ’s righteousness, where self-importance is replaced by obedience, and where pleasing self is replaced by pleasing God.
This is only possible when we follow our good shepherd’s instructions. He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
To take up one’s cross means certain death, but because the Lord Himself as our good shepherd is leading and guiding us, His presence is what sees us through, which is brought out in what David goes on to say.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 NKJV)
God’s presence is always guiding, even through the dark and difficult circumstances of life. We are able to walk through these dark valleys of life because of God’s presence, and because of God’s presence we have nothing to fear.
It was through these valleys that the shepherd had to lead his sheep to gain the higher pastures. Therefore these valleys are not disasters; rather they are the roads we need to take to higher ground. And it is in these valleys that God supernaturally supplies water and provision. It is these valleys where we find our refreshment in the Lord.
David then said that it was God’s rod and staff gave Him comfort. While the rod was used mainly for protection, the staff was used to guide the sheep on whichever path the shepherd wanted them to take.
Seeing that the rod is an instrument of protection, this leads us to the next thing Jesus provides as our good shepherd.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4a NKJV)
David was able to walk through these dark valleys of life, these valleys of the shadow of death, and not fear, because he knew that God was with Him.
God not only promises us His power in the valleys but His presence as well. Therefore, when we know Jesus as our good shepherd, we’ll never walk alone through the valleys of life. He’ll be with us all the way.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2 NKJV)
No matter what problems we may face, God will be with us every step of the way. Therefore we have nothing to fear because God is near.
There’s something else we need to notice. There’s a change of language. Verses two and three David speaks in the third person when referencing God.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness.” (Psalm 23:2-3)
But in verses four and five when David gets to the dark valleys of life, the valley of the shadow of death, David changes his speech when referencing God to the second person.
“You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil.” (Psalm 23:4-5)
What does this mean?
It’s in the valleys of life we come face to face with God. In the valleys we don’t want to talk about God, we want to talk to God. This is where religion changes into relationship. It’s when we’re in the valleys that God becomes real and says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5a NKJV)
The shepherd would make sure that wherever he led the sheep, it was safe from predators, pests, and disease.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)
We live in a world that out to eat our lunch, but the Lord is faithful and will bring peace in the midst of strife.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27 NKJV)
Even in the most stressful of times, even in times of difficulty and despair, God sits us down at His table to partake of His blessings, the blessings that are in Jesus Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NKJV)
It is in Christ, our good shepherd, that we have been given every spiritual blessing, not some, but every blessing is ours no matter what we may be experiencing. Enemies may surround us on every side, but God sits us down in peace to partake of the fullness of His grace and mercy.
“You anoint my head with oil.” (Psalm 23:5b NKJV)
Sheep always get bugged by a bevy of various insects and flies, especially around the head, and so the shepherd applies oil over the sheep’s head, often times mixed with other compounds, and he does so liberally and continuously to counter these pests, because if not, serious damage can be done.
It is the same with our good shepherd. To help us from getting bugged, and to help remove the threat of Satan’s pests, He liberally, graciously, and continually applies the oil of the Holy Spirit to our lives.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
It is through the application of the Holy Spirit that our minds our protected from Satan’s attacks. Remember that greater is He, the Holy Spirit, that is in us, than he, Satan and all his forces, that are in the world, 1 John 4:4.
The last thing I want to explore that is provided by our good shepherd is restoration.
“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3a NKJV)
Our souls are in constant need of restoration because of the circumstances of life. This is something David reveals here in our Psalm, but in Psalm 42 he also reveals how restoration comes through God’s presence.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (Psalm 42:5 NKJV)
As a shepherd David knew what it meant to be “cast down.” It is a term used by shepherds when sheep fall and are unable to recover. It is when sheep find themselves lying on their backs. In this position they are helpless and begin to kick and flail, bleating and crying out because they can’t get up.
This is a very dangerous position for sheep to be in, not only because they’re completely vulnerable to predators, but also it will eventually cut off their air passage and suffocate. They need a shepherd to come and deliver and restore them.
When a shepherd restores a cast sheep, the restoration process doesn’t happen immediately. It takes time to restore them.
• The shepherd begins by massaging the sheep’s legs to get the circulation back.
• During this time he talks to the sheep in a reassuring tone to allay any fear, and
• He gently turns the sheep over and keeps his hands underneath until the sheep can stand on its own,
What a beautiful picture of our good shepherd, Jesus Christ, and what He does for us when our emotions are damaged and our souls are cast down. He loving comes to us, speaking reassuring words of His love, and with tender hands He picks us up and sets us back on our feet and carries us until we get stability back in our lives.
The prophet Isaiah gives us this wonderful description of our good shepherd.
“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NKJV)
Jesus wants to restore our souls, and if we have been cast down, He’s the only one who can help get us back up on our feet. Therefore, let’s let Jesus be the shepherd of our lives, and the restorer of our souls.
Because Jesus is our good shepherd this is what we can look forward to.
“My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:5b-6 NKJV)
Jesus is our good shepherd that provides, guides, and protects, along with giving us peace in the midst of troubling circumstances and restores our souls when we’ve been beat down by life.
I would like to leave you with this final exhortation and benediction given by the writer of Hebrews.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study