“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 ESV)
Isaiah prophesied, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV) The Lord God came in the form of a man (Jesus Christ) and called himself the good shepherd.
The love and care Jesus had for his “sheep” was the epitome of a good shepherd. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus called his disciples to go to a desolate place by to get some rest. The crowds were so demanding that the disciples did not have time to eat. They got into a boat to go to the desolate place, but the people recognized them and ran ahead of them. When Jesus saw the crowds he was moved with compassion because they were like sheep with no shepherd. So, as a good shepherd he didn’t send them away, but began to teach them many things; and then fed them all (more than 5000) with five loaves and two fish. (Mark 6:30-44 ESV)
One example Jesus gave of a good shepherd was that of sacrifice. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15 ESV)
Shepherds in Jesus’ day carried a rod and staff. The rod was used to protect the sheep from wild animals and the staff was used to handle the sheep and also protection. Most nights the shepherds slept with the sheep to guard them from danger (Luke 2:8). When the sheep were put in sheepfolds the shepherd would sleep in the only doorway into the fold. A real (good) shepherd would not run away when danger was imminent, but would fight to the death for his sheep. Such did Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews referred to Jesus as the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant (Hebrews 13:20). In other words he was the great shepherd on the basis of shedding his blood (giving up his life) for their salvation. Peter said of Jesus, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV)
David, being a shepherd himself, wrote with confidence, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:1-4 ESV)
Jesus also said that a good shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know him. He emphasized the intimacy of the relationship by saying it was in direct correlation with his relationship to the Father (John 10:14-15). He calls his sheep by name and when he calls they hear and know his voice and follow him (John 10:3-4). There is only one flock and only one shepherd (John 10:16).
The Father loves the son because he laid down his life that he might take it up again. No one took Jesus’ life from him, he willing died. (John 10: 17-18). All we like sheep had gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), but he came to seek and save that which was lost (Matthew 15:24, 18:11).
That’s why we praise him!