The Shepherd of Life

KEY VERSE: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” — John 10:11


HOW illuminating is each of the illustrations which the Master gave to help us grasp all that he should mean to us at this time, and later to the whole world of mankind. In today’s lesson we see him as the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.

A sheepfold in ancient times was considered a place of rest and safety for the sheep, particularly during the night; so in the parable Jesus speaks of himself as being the door into rest and safety for all who hear his voice and become his humble and obedient followers. In the outside darkness of the world we are surrounded with various dangers but entering into the fold through him who is the way, the truth, and the life, we find rest and protection.

Our own sins would slay us if we did not have the protection of Christ’s redeeming merit. But being in Christ there is no condemnation. Paul reassuringly inquires, “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again” for our justification. (Rom. 8:33,34) Even our great adversary the Devil is powerless to inflict injuries upon us as long as we are in the fold of the good shepherd’s care.—I Pet. 5:8

Christ is also the door into the fold. This double illustration in one parable indicates that we should not attempt to understand any of the parables too literally. Actually, one could not be a door and a shepherd at the same time, but Jesus is the way into divine favor, protection, and life, and he is also the good shepherd who leads us through this door into the fold of divine grace.

And he is both the door and the shepherd because he laid down his life for the sheep. This is the proof of his genuine interest in and love for all those who hear his voice and follow him. It is more than this, for his sacrifice provided release from Adamic condemnation, and thus opened the way for our return to the fold of God’s love and care.

Jesus explained that his sheep know his voice. The voice of the good shepherd is the voice of truth. Only those in this age whom the Lord blesses with ears to hear are able to discern the voice of truth, and only these are disposed to respond to that voice and follow the good shepherd. And there is not a large number of these. In Luke 12:32, the Lord’s sheep are referred to by Jesus as a “little flock” to whom it is the “Father’s good pleasure” to give the kingdom.

But this is the picture as it relates to the Gospel Age. In verse sixteen, Jesus explains that there are “other sheep” whom he will later bring into the fold of divine favor. This is an assurance that, in the Lord’s plan, blessings have been provided for others than those who become the footstep followers of Jesus during the Gospel Age, that the members of the church—those now called out from the world—are not the only ones to be saved.

That there are two classes to be saved is clearly shown by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:10, where we are told that in the “dispensation of the fullness of times” Christ will gather together “in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.” Here, then, are the two flocks: first, those who become the Lord’s sheep during the present age, and are made “partakers of the heavenly calling,” and later, those who are restored to life on the earth.—Heb. 3:1

The other sheep referred to by Jesus are also identified by him in his parable of the sheep and the goats. This parable applies during the time of his kingdom reign—“when the Son of man shall come in his glory. … And before him shall be gathered all nations and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd. … And he shall set the sheep on his right hand.” His sheep of this age will then be with him, and are described by Jesus as his “holy angels,” or messengers. The parable shows that then all nations will be gathered, and separated, the sheep from the goats. Those represented by the sheep will be invited to “inherit the kingdom prepared” for them “from the foundation of the world”—the kingdom, or dominion, over the earth which was given to Adam, but forfeited by sin.—Matt. 25:31-46

Dawn Bible Students Association
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