Hundreds of years before His birth and during His life, Jesus was identified in many ways. The very statement “I AM” that Jesus uses to describe himself comes from Exodus 3:14, a promise from God and a prophecy which foreshadows the coming of Christ.

Who did Jesus say He was? In the Gospel of John, Jesus Himself speaks about who He is and why He came. In this series of four devotions, we will explore Jesus’ words about His identity and what it means for our lives.

Jesus: The Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“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 command I received from my Father.” (John 10:11-18)

I did a children’s message once where I asked the question, “What is a shepherd?” One answer I received was, “Well, it’s a dog!” I could not deny this fact as the congregation and I laughed in reply. It’s not the answer I expected, but it was still a great one! I did finally receive an answer based on what we know from history and Scripture about shepherds.

It was a lowly and lonely job to watch sheep all day. The men who held this job did not do it for show, but because they cared for their sheep.

One of the most well-known Biblical narratives that talks about shepherds is also one of the most important to our Christian faith: the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. When this babe was born, it was not in grandeur and it took some time for the news to spread. But God sent His angels to share the news, and one of the first groups to hear were the shepherds, who were watching their flocks late into the night. Shepherding was not a 9-5 job, but a round-the-clock responsibility.

In this passage from John, Jesus calls Himself, “the Good Shepherd”. Jesus, who His followers believed was the coming Messiah, just associated Himself with a lowly, average position. But Jesus didn’t come into the world with a grand entrance; His birth and life were humble and ordinary. Jesus came as one of us and lived among us to connect God’s love to our world. He didn’t want to be higher than us; He wanted to explain the truth of God’s love on our level.

As “the Good Shepherd”, not only was Jesus taking a lowly position, but He was also willing to sacrifice His life for His followers, just like a shepherd risked his life to keep his sheep alive. Jesus willingly laid His life down for us because of the love of our Father!

Dear Father, thank you for sending Jesus as the Good Shepherd, to lay down His life for us on the cross. Your sacrifice for us is something we could never repay you for, but thank you for everyday! Amen.

First published on youthESource on May 28, 2012.