Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them.
The image of the shepherd brings together several aspects of Jesus' identity. First, leaders were often called shepherds. Good leaders were those who cared for people, in contrast to the negligent leaders or shepherds who did not. Jesus fits the role of a good shepherd by caring for others (see Ezekiel 34:1-2). Second, the good shepherd was an image for the Messiah, who was to rule over the people of God. Here Jesus identifies himself as the one in whom this promise is fulfilled (see Ezekiel 34:23). Third, God was known as the best of shepherds, who gathered and nurtured the flock. As the good shepherd, Jesus is the one in whom God comes to God's people (see Ezekiel 34:11-12). Jesus also says that the principal trait of the good shepherd is laying down his life for the sheep. This occurs when Jesus lays down his life in crucifixion. By dying, Jesus reveals the lengths to which he will go to provide life for others. This is one of the seven "I am" sayings in John's Gospel. Since the expression "I am" recalls the name of God, who is the "I Am" (Exodus 3:14), these sayings emphasize that Jesus is God's Word in the flesh.
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs awayand the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes* it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011