“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, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11–15, ESV)
There is a humorous story about a pig and a chicken who are very appreciative to the farmer for how he has treated them. And in their appreciation they try to put their heads together to come up with something they can do for him. After several minutes the chicken comes up with an idea. She says, “We can make him breakfast. He comes out every morning and feeds us whether it is rain or shine, hot or cold, and even if he feels horrible and would rather stay in bed. He does this for us, and making him breakfast would be a great way to show our appreciation.” As the chicken strutted around cackling over the brilliance of her idea, the pig thought. The pig thought and thought, thinking that there was really something fundamentally wrong with this idea. Suddenly it hit him and he told the chicken, “That’s great for you. Laying an egg and cooking it for him for breakfast is a good idea, but while you are only giving a product of yourself, I’m giving everything I am. You’re only partially invested and I’m all in.”
In these verses Jesus told His audience that He was all in for them. This is what shepherds do. They give themselves fully for their sheep, whereas a hired hand is only willing to go so far. The good shepherd stands firm in the place oncoming wolves in order to defend them. The hired hand stops to weigh his options, consider his risk, and then flees when he realizes that he is not willing to pay the price. The hired hand is not invested in the sheep, but the shepherd knows each and every single one of them and is willing to lay down his life for them. It is not a 9 to 5 if I don’t like it I can go somewhere else job for the shepherd.
Twice in these verses Jesus identified Himself as the good shepherd. Twice He said in very clear terms, “I am the good shepherd.” He is the One that leads His sheep from danger into the safety of the fold. He is even the gate, the way through whom the sheep enter that fold and find eternal rest and pasture. He is the good shepherd, and He does these things because He cares for His sheep. He will never flee from them or abandon them. At the end of the Great Commission He told His disciples, “...I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV) The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:5) speaks to all of us the words which God spoke to Joshua, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5, ESV) And of course, we read in Psalm 23:
“A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23, ESV)
Jesus said that just as He and the Father are known to each other, He knows His sheep, and knowing them He said that He was laying His life down for them. These were not just figurative words, but they were a coming reality perfectly in line with the will of the Father and the reason for which Jesus came.