Known by Him
I am the good shepherd: I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from the Father John 10:14-18
Contrasting Himself with Jewish leaders who were like hired hands, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd: I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” The Jewish leaders did not ‘know’ the people but Jesus knew them and they knew Him. How Jesus describes this knowledge between Himself and His sheep and His sheep to Himself is quite astounding, “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Jesus is saying we can know Him in the same close, personal and intimate way He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. This is extraordinary.
“I am the good shepherd: I know my sheep and my sheep know me … and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The shepherd in the open country must be willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus’ love for His sheep was so great that He would die for them (c.f. 15:13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends).
In the Old Testament God is depicted as the great shepherd of Israel. Jesus’ own ministry was predominantly to Israel (Matthew 15:24). But here Jesus widens the role of the good shepherd, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.” The word translated ‘sheep pen’ means a courtyard; so the picture is of a shepherd who has called sheep from one courtyard to lead them out to pasture, and then says there are sheep from another courtyard that he also has responsibility for as their shepherd.
The original sheep are the people of Israel. Jesus is calling them, and those from His Jewish contemporaries who are ready for the call are hearing His voice, trusting Him and coming to Him. But as Israel’s prophets had always hinted, the God of Israel was never interested solely in Israel. His call to Israel was for the sake of the whole world. The ‘other sheep’ are the great company, from every nation under heaven that God intends to save, and to save through Jesus. The Jewish Messiah is to be the Lord, the shepherd, of the whole world. “They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Jesus had already said He would lay down His life for His sheep (10:11,15) but the motive there was His love for them. But now another motive is added, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.” Jesus laid down His life in obedience to the Father, an obedience that drew out the Father’s love for His Son. The Father loves the Son, the shepherd, especially because He will express the Father’s own love for the world by giving up His life for it.
In the plan of salvation it was necessary for the Son to lay down His life for His people, but He laid down His life “only to take it up again.” He would rise from the dead.
While Jesus’ life was taken from Him by evil men, it was not outside His control. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from the Father.” John is careful not to portray Jesus as a victim of circumstance in his gospel, but as someone who was in control of His destiny. He gave Himself freely.
Jesus was not forced to die against His will. He willingly embraced the pain of death for you because He loved you so much and He loved His own Father so much. This double-love motive gives you enormous security. You are safe and secure in the arms of Jesus.
To listen to this message, download in MP3 here.