I am the Good Shepherd
The claims of Jesus about himself in his “I am” statements in the gospel of John are astounding. Either Jesus was a megalomaniac, or he is who he claims to be – the Messiah. John is careful in his gospel to show that he truly is the Messiah. When we take the miracles recorded in the gospel of John, together with the resurrection, it is clear that Jesus really was who he claimed to be.
In the tenth chapter we discover Jesus contrasting himself as the ‘true shepherd’ over and against the ‘megalomaniac’ leaders and false shepherds. The false shepherds include both the political and religious leaders who used their positions to ‘kill steal and destroy’ (John 10: 10). Little wonder that the Pharisees’ hatred toward Jesus was running white hot as he increasingly and obviously exposed them as frauds and liars. Everything Jesus did and said wiped away layers of credibility from the false shepherds – and they were not happy.
Jesus used a well understood analogy of shepherding to spell out the differences between a good shepherd and a false shepherd. The Good Shepherd proves his genuineness by willingly laying down his life for the sheep. In fact, this is the centrepiece of this entire story in John 10. The revelation of the good shepherd throws into stark relief the false shepherds and opens the eyes of the sheep.
Jesus cares about his sheep individually and knows them by name and ultimately lays down his life for them. But, as Jesus explains, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. No one takes it from me. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10: 18). He was not forced to die rather he gave himself over to death for love – both for us and the Father. Thus, Jesus has authority over life because he has allowed himself to taste death in obedience to the Father. This is the underlying power of the resurrection and salvation.