The Lord Jesus announced Himself to be the "good Shepherd." "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). Goodness involves character as well as achievement; motives as well as results. The Shepherd Himself is "good," that is why He is a "good Shepherd." His character, not His leading, is what makes Him "good." With men, character is developed, or shaped, by thought and conduct. The "good Shepherd," however, is a blend of the Divine as well as the human. The Divine aspect of our Shepherd was not developed; the human side was. That Divine side possesses the goodness that sustains us and directs us. Theologically, the human side of Christ allows Him to empathize with our lowly condition. But it is the Divine side that enables us, and to which we are being conformed.

He Gave Himself for the Sheep

"The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." He permitted the adversary to devour Him, rather thansubjecting the sheep to his unbridled malice. This is not to be viewed in a melancholy way, but in a perceptive one. Jesus "gave" His "back to the smiters, and the cheeks to them that plucked out the hair." He did not hide His face "from shame and spitting" (Isa 50:5-6). He did not die by coercion, but by preference: i.e., He chose to die. As he said, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father" (John 10:17-18). The irony of this situation is that the Shepherd, in Himself, was stronger than the adversary. But this was not a contest between Jesus and the devil -- that would be no contest at all. The sheep were the point! They were weak and astray, under fierce assault by the evil one. However, God was not justified in protecting them simply because they were His offspring. The Lord does "pity" the people, remembering they are but dust (Psa 103:13,14). However, that "pity" or compassion was not sufficient to rescue the people from their dilemma. A life had to be given -- an innocent life. It was none other than the "good Shepherd" Who laid down--voluntarily laid down--His life for the sheep. How wonderful the language of the Spirit concerning this sacrifice. "Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings You were not pleased. Then I said, Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God. First He said, Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire, nor were You pleased with them (although the law required them to be made). Then He said, Here I am, I have come to do Your will. He sets aside the first [covenant] to establish the second [covenant]. And by that will [new covenant], we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 5:5-10, NIV). God was never satisfied with the sacrifices He Himself ordained. He did not ordain them for Divine satisfaction, but as a prelude to the supreme sacrifice. They conveyed to men a concept they could not of themselves conceive--the penalty being paid by the offended One, instead of the offender! In the context of Divine dissatisfaction, the Savior steps forward, as it were. He acknowledges that the Scriptural affirmations of submission and willingness spoke more of Him than of others. A "body" was prepared for Him through which Divine gratification would be realized. The "good Shepherd," by laying down His life for the sheep, would bring an end to the tyranny of Law, and induct the era of grace. The "sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" freed the sheep from the condemnation of the Law. It also gave the sheep a new covenant, or "that will," which makes them "holy." When Jesus gave Himself for the sheep, He submitted to be ravaged by Satan. As the powers of darkness converged upon Him, time was allotted them to do their worst. The night our Lord was betrayed, He said to his captors, "But this is your hour--when darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53, NIV). Evil appeared to be unrestrained in the execution of Satan's diabolical will. But this was not the case at all. Peter proclaimed, "this Jesus, was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (Acts 2:23, NIV). If Jesus had not GIVEN His life for the sheep, this statement could never have been made. The apparent invincibility of the devil was due to the willingness of Christ Jesus to lay down His life for the sheep. If it were not for the sheep, He would not have laid down His life! He is a "good Shepherd." When Jesus gave His life for the sheep, He submitted to be rejected by men. When He came into the world, it "knew Him not" (John 1:10). As if that were not enough, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:11). But when He died, there was a universal rejection of Him. Religion and government joined together in a wicked alliance to rid themselves of His influence. Jews and Gentiles clasped hands in agreement to put an end to His life. Leaders and those that were led agreed that He was unworthy to live. It is one thing for us to state this as a fundamental belief, it is quite another to see it from Christ's perspective. When He gave His life for the sheep, He willingly submitted to this disheartening rejection. In His submission, He sheathed the sword of Divine justice, being "crucified through weakness" (2 Cor 13:4). The most profound aspect of Christ's death is that He was forsaken by God. It was not simply oratory when Jesus cried, "My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt 27:46). That was a lament that transcends our abilities of comprehension. When the iniquities of the world were laid upon our Savior, the Father turned His face from Him! There, upon the cross, Jesus became sin incarnate; iniquity enfleshed (2 Cor 5:21). The sight was obnoxious to the Father, and thus He turned His face from the Son. Truly, Jesus "tread the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with" Him (Isa 63:3). In that forsaking by His Father, a price was paid sufficient to cover our sins. The way to God was opened to us when it was closed to Jesus. The glory of this is that Jesus could recover from the curse. We could not! Thus it is written, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE" (Gal 3:13, NASB). All of this is involved in Jesus giving His life for the sheep. He truly is "the good Shepherd."