Bible Study

Why did Jesus describe Himself as the Good Shepherd?

In John’s gospel Jesus made a startling statement to His listeners when he said, ‘I am the good shepherd’. He was aware that they would understand the full meaning of what He was saying – He was revealing to them His identity as the Son of God, and His true purpose. Jesus went on to clarify that the Good Shepherd is the one who brings life in all its fullness, and who would be willing to give His life for His sheep.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:10-11

Jesus said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd’

Jesus was speaking to those who understood the culture of the nomadic shepherds who lived with their sheep. They were a familiar sight, in the countryside and on the outskirts of the towns. Whenever they called, the sheep responded by following the sound of the shepherds voice. They walked ahead of the sheep during the day providing all that they needed to thrive. The shepherd would find fresh pasture for the hungry sheep, and lead them to shade in the heat of the day, and to fresh water to drink when they were thirsty. At night, the shepherd watched over their sheep, to protect them from any predator. The health and safety of their flock was paramount, they were valuable, and each one was known and familiar to the good shepherd.

“I am the Good Shepherd” – Meaning

Jesus was directing His teaching to those who were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures and the imagery of God as the Good Shepherd of His people.

You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Ezekiel 34:31

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3

Jesus was challenging the Pharisees, the Priests, and the Teachers of the law as to the true spiritual role of the shepherd. He stated that many of those who had come before Him, who should have been good spiritual shepherds, were in fact thieves and robbers. He was not referring to the Old Testament God appointed prophets, but to the Pharisees and current ‘Teachers of the law’. Jesus’ statement ‘I am the good shepherd’ was indirectly a charge, that they were not!

Their opposition to Jesus’ teaching grew as His ministry developed, they were openly hostile because Jesus revealed their hypocrisy. Instead of leading the people in their relationship with God, their traditions, and extra regulations, imposed such a burden that many people just turned away. They had become so full of self-interest, in their position, influence, and self-righteousness, that they had forgotten that their call was to shepherd, to serve the people.

Picture of a sheep in a field, looking directly at the camera - Why did Jesus say, I am the Good Shepherd.
Why did Jesus say I am the Good Shepherd?

What is the Fullness of Life according to Jesus?

Life is found in Jesus – in and through Him the power of death over our lives is broken with the forgiveness of our sins. The fear of death has been defeated – now it has been made possible for us to receive the gift of eternal life, life in all its glorious fullness, life beyond what we know now!

In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John 1:4

Now the call of the gospel goes out to the whosoever should choose to believe in Jesus as their Saviour. God shows no partiality of nationality, gender, wealth, or status. The gift of salvation is available equally and uniquely to each one of us.

Fullness of Life – Meaning

But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in its fullness until you overflow!

John 10:10 TPT

Jesus is calling us to follow Him as being the way to receive life in all its fullness, with the freedom that comes from being released from fear. The abundant life that Jesus gives is the blessing of a deep and lasting peace that comes from being reconciled to God. Now we are where we were always meant to be – in relationship with our Heavenly Father!

Our freedom in the wide-open space of God’s grace comes from knowing His unfailing love, and our worth to Him. We are precious to God, because we have been redeemed at such a great price. We have the confidence and assurance, that we are not alone, we have an ever-present counselor and guide.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3

Jesus is all that we need, and more than that, as we receive from Him, His desire is that we overflow. From the abundance that we receive, we reach out and bless others. We share the knowledge of God’s love, in real and practical ways, with the lovely and unlovely! We give, not out of self-interest, but with the heart to serve others. As always, Jesus is our guide, He is the One whom we follow.

Related: “I Am the Gate”

Prayer to the Great Shepherd

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Lord Jesus, You are the Great Shepherd, and we are Your sheep. I pray that You will equip me to follow after You, and that I will yield to Your hand at work in my life, for Your praise and glory. Amen.

You may also like to read: “I am the Light of the World” and “I am the Bread of Life.”

2 thoughts on “Why did Jesus describe Himself as the Good Shepherd?”

  1. What wonderful words of truth, friend! I was especially struck by the reminder that our Good Shepherd wants to release us from the bonds of fear! I needed this today!

Leave a Reply