I’m preaching on a passage of Scripture tomorrow morning that I’m still trying to wrap my mind around. Writing usually helps.
Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd” in John 10. It seems simple enough right? He’s not a hired hand, He’s not a mean shepherd, He’s didn’t come to steal or destroy, He is the good one.
What marks this “good shepherd?” As He’s explaining Himself, He says it 4 times: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” What sets Him apart as the good shepherd is that He came to lay down His life for the sheep. From what I read, it wasn’t all that common for a shepherd to die for sheep. They would protect their sheep, but the concept of dying on behalf of one’s sheep wasn’t some sort of shepherd honor-code. So that’s a pretty significant distinction Jesus made about Himself–the one who would lay down His life for His sheep.
But there’s more.
Jesus wasn’t just the one who would lay down His life for His sheep, dying for His sheep was actually His mission in life. He came to die. It’s not a hypothetical statement, it’s not
an ideal, nor is it some doomsday prediction about the death He would one day face. Dying was His reason for living. He came to earth in order to die for His sheep.
This is all very romantic and fuzzy if you’re one of His sheep. But the reality that we need to get in our brains is that His death was not just “for” His sheep, but “on behalf of” His sheep. He died in the place of His sheep. He died the death His sheep were supposed to die, i.e. He died as a substitute for His sheep. He stepped in front of the firing squad that was about to blow holes in His sheep and He took the holes Himself.
There is something incredibly important about this whole thing. We must realize that as Jesus fulfilled His mission–to die for His sheep–He was accomplishing something for
the sheep that was impossible without His substitutionary death. His statement about being the good shepherd and laying down His life for the sheep tells us some things:
1) His sheep needed someone to die for them.
2) Meaning: His sheep were sentenced to die themselves.
3) The death sentence of the sheep is due to their sin.
4) There is real and eternal punishment for their sin.
5) This punishment is so real and eternal that God sent Jesus on a mission to die on behalf of His sheep.
6) His death was a substitute for His sheep.
7) His death applied means life for His sheep.
8 ) His resurrection completed the job, paving the way for the resurrection of His sheep.
What is the significance of this? Well, take out “sheep” and enter your name, my name, and the name of anyone else who calls on the name of the Lord and is saved. Then realize that when Jesus makes the claim that He is the “good shepherd” who came to “lay down His life for the sheep,” He is telling us the gospel.
Your sin + Jesus’ death/resurrection = Salvation. That’s good news.
Please don’t forget this good news. There’s a line from a song that we need to remember when it comes to the gospel: “It was my sin that nailed Him there.” We focus so much attention on the benefits, but we often forget the reason for it all and the price that was paid. The reason it was necessary was your sin. The reason it happened was God’s grace. The means was Jesus’ death. The end was your salvation. Glory to God!