"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.John 10:11(NASB)
On many occasions, the Lord Jesus used the phrase "I Am," as a bold proclamation of His deity and equality with God the Father. The Messiah of Israel was God incarnate, and on this occasion He presented Himself as the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for the sheep.
Referring to Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep was a metaphor that was easy to understand during the time of Christ, for there had been many prophets, priests, and kings in Israel's history who were seen as shepherds to their people. Abraham, the father of faith, was a shepherd, as were Moses the prophet and David the king. But Christ's claims to divinity were unacceptable to the unbelieving, religious leaders of Israel.
Jesus contrasted His own position as Good Shepherd Who kept, protected, and provided for the sheep with the prideful Scribes and Pharisees, whom He identified as false and evil shepherds of Israel, and whose wicked motives were rooted in hypocrisy, pride, unbelief, and selfishness.
Jesus used this analogy of lost, needy sheep and a good, faithful shepherd many times. He called the Jews: "The lost sheep of the house of Israel," and described them as "sheep without a shepherd." He referred to Himself as "the door of the sheepfold," and He gave His disciples the assurance that His "sheep know His voice and that He knows them." He promised that no one will pluck them out of His hand and He also explained that He had other sheep who were outside the sheepfold of Israel, and that He would lead them out of one sheepfold and into another "and there would be one fold and one Shepherd."
But in this verse, we hear an echo of John's prophetic words: "This is the sacrificial lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world." In this passage, we catch a glimpse of the approaching Cross, where the good Shepherd will lay down His life for the sheep - and not only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel but also for His other sheep which are outside the fold. Our Good Shepherd is not only the One Who guards and guides, feeds and protects us, but He is also the sacrificial offering Who laid down His life for the sheep.
Ever since the exodus from Egypt, innocent lambs were sacrificed to make atonement for the sins of man. Man's sins however, were only covered until the promised Messiah would arrive on the scene, and prophets, priests, and kings foretold of the coming Good Shepherd of Israel Who would also become the sacrificial offering for the sin of the whole world.
In the past, it was an innocent little lamb who died as a temporary covering for man's guilty sin, but here we read that it is the innocent Shepherd (God incarnate) Who lay down His sinless life for the lost and guilty sheep of the house of Israel - and not for them only, but for all lost and guilty sinners who will trust in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that He knows those that are the sheep of His pasture. Thank You that in Your grace, Jesus came to lay down His life for me. I pray that I may live my life to His praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.