It should be understood that Jesus is “the” good shepherd, not simply “a” good shepherd, as others may be, but He is unique in character. Jesus lays down His life for me.
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” | John 10:11
Now that is stunning.
- Who would do that?
- Why would He do that?
The Greek word kalos, translated “good,” describes that which is noble, wholesome, good, and beautiful, in contrast to that which is wicked, mean, foul, and unlovely. It signifies not only that which is good inwardly — character — but also that which is attractive outwardly.
It is an innate goodness. Therefore, in using the phrase “the good shepherd,” Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness, His righteousness, and His beauty. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock.
- John 10:11 — “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
- Matthew 26:31 — Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’
- Zechariah 13:7 — “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the Master of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones.
To better understand the purpose of a shepherd during the times of Jesus, it is helpful to realize that sheep are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon the shepherd. Sheep are always subject to danger and must always be under the watchful eye of the shepherd as they graze. Rushing walls of water down the valleys from sudden, heavy rainfalls may sweep them away, robbers may steal them, and wolves may attack the flock.
David tells how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy. Driving snow in winter, blinding dust and burning sands in summer, long, lonely hours each day—all these the shepherd patiently endures for the welfare of the flock. In fact, shepherds were frequently subjected to grave danger, sometimes even giving their lives to protect their sheep.
This is all true of our Master Jesus. Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is noble, wholesome, good, and beautiful.