Day 4: Jesus is the Good Shepherd
Jesus es el Buen Pastor (Spanish)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” -John 10:11-14
“I am the Good Shepherd.” This provoking statement by Jesus is preceded by His healing of the blind man, and by the resistance of the Pharisees to see Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God (John 9:1-41).
In response to the questions of the Pharisees, Jesus shares a parable—using images of the pastoral life so familiar to the Jews—to present himself as the true shepherd, in contrast to thieves and robbers. However, as the Pharisees continue to misunderstand His message, Jesus identifies himself as “The Door” of the sheep, showing the Pharisees that He alone is the gateway to salvation, not keeping the law or wielding religious authority.
Leaving no room for doubts, Jesus expands the parable, now presenting Himself as the Good Shepherd. He, unlike salaried shepherds, does have a genuine interest in the welfare of the sheep. The word “good” (Greek: καλός) describes what is noble, healthy, good, and beautiful, in contrast to what is bad and unpleasant. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He takes good care of His sheep, giving them not only life, but giving His life for them. He lives and dies for the sake of the sheep. As a good shepherd, He knows them very well and they recognise Him. More than just superficial knowledge, this is a mutual, intimate, personal relationship between Christ and His sheep. This knowledge, communion, and intimacy between Jesus and His sheep is part of His unique character.
Jesus’ “I am” in these verses affirms His divinity and His co-equality with the Father by announcing Himself as the fulfilment of God’s promise to shepherd His people (Ezekiel 34:11-16). At the same time, He denounces the Jewish religious leaders, as God did through the prophet Ezekiel in His time (Ezekiel 34:1-10), whom He compares with salaried pastors who do not really care about the lives of the Jews. They think only of their safety and comfort. He, on the other hand, loves His people so much that He is willing to give His life for them and for all humanity.
In Latin America today there are many spiritual leaders who are far from the model of the good shepherd. Like false shepherds, they deceive the sheep with false doctrines and promises. Like wage earners, they do not serve the sheep, but rather steal from them, abusing power and offering them “junk food” and not the green pastures of God’s Word. The great crowds in Latin American cities today are “helpless and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.” They struggle with social injustice, corruption, poverty, idolatry, immorality, and the terrible consequences of Covid-19. They need to know the Good Shepherd and be led by pastors trained and discipled to follow in His ways.
The season of Advent is not only to remember the birth of Jesus but also His life, miracles, teachings, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, all of that as part of God’s saving plan for all humanity. It is also to thank that God that we are “sheep of his pasture,” that we are not in the hands of “wolves, robbers, or salaried shepherds,” because He is our Good Shepherd, who gave His life for us, knows us by name, and continues to shepherd us through His Word and the Holy Spirit.
This should also be the time to remember that all of us who have pastoral roles—such as parents in our homes, pastors in our churches, ministry leaders, business managers, teachers, doctors, and nurses—are The Good Pastor’s helpers. The only Good Shepherd is Jesus.
As the Good Pastor’s helpers, let us seek from our hearts the same qualities of the Good Shepherd. Let us cultivate a sacrificial love for the sheep, the people that God has entrusted in our hands. Let us try to know their needs, and let us know ourselves by them with our strengths and weaknesses. Let us seek for them the abundant life that Christ came to give us. Let us practice a selfless love for them that motivates us to dedicate ourselves to them, even at the cost of our own lives, to guard them from danger from modern wolves like false doctrines and theories, false teachers and prophets.
The Good Shepherd loves us and knows us. May this Advent season be the opportunity to grow in our love and knowledge for Him.
Dionisio Orjuela lives in Ibagué, Colombia, and is the coordinator for Langham Preaching across Central America.