Have you ever considered the significance of the different titles for Jesus? There are many names by which Jesus is identified. He is called King and Priest, Lion and Lamb, Lord and Servant to name a few. Many of these titles even seem to conflict with each other. How can a powerful, majestic lion also be a meek and vulnerable lamb? How can a sovereign king also be a suffering servant? These titles do not contradict each other, but rather give us a complete picture of who Jesus was and is. In the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies himself with seven different “I am” statements, with each one providing a different truth about who Jesus is to us and what he does for us (6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). In this passage we find two of these “I am” statements. Jesus tells us that he is the door and he is the good shepherd. These two titles give us a complete view of our Shepherd’s care for us.
Jesus says that he is “the door of the sheep.” Contrasted with the “thieves and robbers” who desire to kill the sheep (vs. 10), Jesus offers abundant life to them. This abundant life is identified by three specific blessings in verse nine. The first blessing provided by the door is entrance into the fold. The only way to be in the fold, is to enter by Jesus, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The second blessing of the door is security. The sheep that enters by the door “will be saved.” Our salvation is not dependent on our performance, but on His protection. The third blessing provided by the door is provision. The sheep “will go in and out and find pasture.” Not only are the sheep safe and secure, but the sheep are satisfied. Jesus is our provider as well as our protector.
Jesus also says that he is “the good shepherd.” Notice Jesus is not an ordinary shepherd; he is the “good” shepherd. As the good shepherd, Jesus shows his personal care for us. We see this first in the sacrifice of the shepherd. Jesus is the only shepherd who gives his life for the sheep (Heb. 13:20). Unlike the hireling who abandons the sheep at the first sign of danger (vs. 12), Jesus died for us that we might have the abundant life mentioned in verse eleven. Also we see the personal care of Jesus in the fellowship of the shepherd. Jesus said “I know my sheep, and am known by My own.” We have a personal relationship with our Shepherd that is unique and intimate (1 John 1:3). Finally, we see the personal care of Jesus in the leadership of the shepherd. Jesus said he would bring other sheep into this fold and all would be under the leadership of one shepherd (vs. 16). This refers to the salvation of the Gentiles and their inclusion in the Kingdom (Ephesians 2:11-22). The good shepherd leads his sheep with his voice and his example (vs. 3-5).
The “thieves and robbers” Jesus mentioned did not care for the well-being of the sheep, but rather had selfish motives and desired to steal and slaughter the sheep. The “hireling” cared for the sheep as long as it was in his best interests to do so, but when the wolves appeared he disappeared because he had no personal connection with the sheep. Jesus used these titles to describe the false teachers and religious leaders of his day. Jesus stands in bright contrast to them. He gave his very life for our salvation. He is our Sovereign, our Savior, and our Shepherd.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, December 24, 2012.