The Good Shepherd


Lord, I know that without You, I would be utterly lost. I have wandered away from You, repeatedly, like a dumb animal. And yet, You laid down Your life for me. You protect me from the wolves and You protect me from myself. You keep on seeking me and calling me back to follow You. “Savior, like a shepherd lead us; much we need Thy tender care” (Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1836).


Who do you know who is “harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36)? Pray earnestly for them and keep telling them about Jesus, the Good Shepherd.


“’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…’”


How are we similar to sheep? Why do we need a Good Shepherd?

One of the most well-known and beloved Psalms is Psalm 23. In it, David wrote: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2). It is calming and comforting to picture Jesus gently leading us beside a peaceful stream in a beautiful green pasture. But if you didn’t grow up tending sheep, some of the richness of this metaphor may be lost on you. You may be picturing yourself as a fluffy little lamb, sweet and innocent, frolicking after Jesus.

But it’s important for you to understand that sheep are…well…a bit dumb. They aren’t very intelligent compared to other animals. They get lost extremely easily. They tend to keep their heads down, focused on grazing. When they look up, who knows where they will have wandered off to! They also love to play Follow the Leader. The problem is, sometimes they choose their leader very poorly. If one sheep wanders from the fold, many others are likely to follow. They have even been known to follow another sheep right off a cliff!

Now, if it offends you that Jesus compared mankind to such unintelligent animals, just consider the trouble that we are capable of getting ourselves into. Tragically, many people throughout history have followed the wrong leader right off a cliff and to their deaths. The reality is, Jesus didn’t call us His sheep because we are cute and fluffy and sweet. He called us sheep because we are helpless without Him. We depend on Him completely, even if we are sometimes completely oblivious to that fact. He knows that without His guidance, we will lead each other right off a spiritual cliff. And without His protection, we are vulnerable to spiritual predators like false teachers also known as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).

Thankfully, we have no reason to fear the wolves or any other kind of danger because our Good Shepherd laid down His life for us. He isn’t merely a hired hand who is willing to watch us in order to make a buck but jets once trouble comes. No, we belong to Him. We are His sheep so He cares about what happens to us. By dying on the cross for us, He proved that He is willing to protect us and provide for us even if it comes at great personal cost for Him. He doesn’t abandon us when the wolves come lurking and He never steers us wrong.

If we truly are His sheep, we know His voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). In that time and place, sheep weren’t herded from behind by ranch hands on horses or ATVs. Instead, the shepherd would go on ahead and call for them. As I said, sheep like to play Follow the Leader, so sheep follow the voice they recognize—the voice of their shepherd. If we know and follow His voice (His Word), our Good Shepherd will lead us and we have no reason to fear being led astray.

The prophet Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). We are like sheep because we so easily stay away from the Lord to our own peril. But praise God for sending us His Son, the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us. The Good Shepherd became the sacrificial Lamb of God who died in our place but rose again. He is the One who provides for us, protects us, and guides us to still waters in peaceful pastures.