Sermon by Pastor Tom Brown · Mar 27, 2022 · One Series


“It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways. Our mob instincts, our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance. Yet despite these adverse characteristics Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own and delights in caring for us.” -W. Phillip Keller

In John chapter 10, Jesus is contrasting himself with the Pharisees.

The imagery of the shepherd calls to mind a prophetic message in Ezekiel 34, in which God calls out the leaders of Israel as bad shepherds who have exploited the sheep for their own gain. In contrast to that, God is a good shepherd who will come and gather his scattered flock and lead them to good pasture.

The events of chapter 9 are a living illustration of that message.

The leaders could not help a man who was blind, they could only enforce their traditions. They could only protect their power.

Jesus is not like them.

He is the good shepherd.

The worst of them are thieves and robbers. The best of them are hired hands.

They will stay with the sheep as long as the pay is good and their livelihood is not at risk. The moment a threat arises they will flee, abandon the sheep and leave them to their own devices.

Jesus is not like that.

He is the good shepherd.

What makes him the good shepherd?

1. First of all – the Jesus is the good shepherd because of the strength of his commitment. 

Jesus is committed to the sheep. (Verse 11)

How committed is he?

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Notice he does not say that the good shepherd risks his life for the sheep.

He goes further.

The good shepherd lays his life down for his sheep.

In a historical survey of Israel called The Land of the Book, the writer describes his interactions with local shepherds:

“I have listened with intense interest to their graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with savage beasts. And when the thief and the robber come, the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend his flock. I have known more than one case where he had literally to lay it down in the contest. . . A poor fellow last spring, between Tiberius and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending.”

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

What’s the difference? Where does this commitment come from?


They belong to him.

A hired hand is not willing to risk his life for sheep who belong to someone else. (Verse 12-13)

The hired hand does not care because they aren’t his.

I love all of the children of the world.

But I don’t feed all of the children of the world. I don’t pray for all of the children in the world.

I don’t parent all of the children of the world. Why? Because they aren’t mine.

There are 4 children in the world who are mine and I lay my life down for them because they are mine.

Jesus is the good shepherd because every one who comes to him and enters through his door to join his fold belongs to him.

Jesus is the good shepherd who says to his own with all of the force of settled conviction – “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Why is Jesus the good shepherd?

2. Jesus is the Good shepherd because of the intimacy of his knowledge. (Verse 14) 

I know my sheep and they know me.

He calls the sheep by name and leads them out. (10:3)

This speaks of individual knowledge. Individual care. Individual attention and planning.

Listen to the description of a shepherd describing this individual care:

“In caring for his sheep, the good shepherd, the careful manager, will from time to time make a careful examination of each individual sheep. As each animal comes out of the corral and through the gate, it is stopped by the shepherd’s outstretched rod. He opens the fleece with the rod; he runs his skillful hands over the body; he feels for any sign of trouble; he examines the sheep with care to see if all is well. This is a most searching process entailing every intimate detail. It is, too, a comfort to the sheep for only in this way can its hidden problems be laid bare before the shepherd.”-Keller

Jesus is the good shepherd because he intimately knows each individual sheep.

He is the good shepherd because he knows the needs of each individual sheep and can supply a perfect plan of provision and care for each one.

He is the good shepherd because he will leave the 99 to go after the one sheep.

He is the good shepherd because no individual is lost in the crowd.

Why does Jesus bring the Father into the picture in verse 15?

Because the loving, intimate knowledge of Jesus for each individual is the overflow of the loving, intimate knowledge of the Father and the Son. Jesus will never run out of care, because he does not need anything from his sheep, his care is the overflow of the bottomless well of eternal love.

Why is Jesus the good shepherd?

3. Jesus is the good shepherd because of the capacity of his care. (Verse 16) 

He came to shepherd the people of Israel with commitment and intimate knowledge, but his heart flowed over beyond the walls of his pens.

His eyes fell on the poor, neglected sheep on the other side of the fence.

His heart was moved by their condition and moved him to cross boundaries and extend his care to other folds.

Under his care every individual from every condition and every background is welcome.

In his care the world is invited to join one great flock under one great shepherd.

In him There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor male and female. (Gal. 3:28) Only sheep who are welcome in his fold.

Why is Jesus the good shepherd?

4. Jesus is the good shepherd because of the exercise of his authority. (Verse 18) 

Why does Jesus lay down his life? Why was he crucified on the cross? Was he overpowered? Was he the victim of sociological currents and political forces beyond his control?

“No one takes it from me” “I lay it down of my own accord”

Jesus was crucified because he chose on his own accord to lay down his life.

Notice the extent of his authority.

He had the authority to lay down his life, and he had authority to do something much greater than that – to take it up again.

Death could not hold Jesus. The authority of Jesus outranks the authority of the grave.

He has a power to bring all things under his control. (Philippians 3:21)

When the father granted authority to Jesus, He left nothing outside of Jesus control. (1 Corinthians 15:27)

There is no circumstance, there is no future event, there is no thief, robber or wolf that acts outside of the authority of Jesus.

He is the good shepherd.

He is not like us.

The best of us falter in our commitment.

The best of us are deficient in our knowledge.

The best of us are restricted in our care.

The best of us are inadequate in our authority.

But not Jesus.

There is a great deal of the imagery of this picture that is lost on those who aren’t well acquainted with the agricultural scene of the shepherd.

I want to read an extended passage from a wonderful little book to you.

The book is written by a South African man name Phillip Keller who spend a decade caring for sheep, he wrote A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 to help city folk gain a sense of the meaning of the imagery of sheep.

I looked for application in this passage.

There are two verbs which apply to the sheep. Do you see them?

  1. My sheep know me.
  2. They listen to my voice.

The first application is to know Jesus – that means we should know what he is like: he is the good shepherd – his commitment is strong, his knowledge is intimate, his care is broad and his authority is supreme.

But it’s more than that isn’t it. The knowledge Jesus describes is not conceptual knowledge – it is experiential, relational knowledge. It’s the knowledge of a lamb contentedly resting in the arms of its shepherd who it knows and trusts.

Do you know Jesus like that?

How do you get that kind of knowledge?

By listening to his voice and following his lead.


  1. Whose voice are you following?
  2. Whose care and leadership are you placing your trust in?

Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown