11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Whenever Jesus Christ refers to Himself as the Shepherd of His people, He takes ownership of them and undertakes to see to their care Himself. He is not like the hireling, who does not feel responsibility for the sheep and whom Jesus contemptuously spoke of in John 10:12, “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.”
The life of a shepherd was a very difficult one. He had to endure the heat of the day and the cold of the night. There were many dangers too. In Bible times, lions, wolves, jackals, panthers, leopards, hyenas and bears were common in the countryside. We read in 1 Samuel 17:34-37 of how David fought with a lion and a bear while tending his sheep. Furthermore, we also read of how Jacob experienced much labour and toil as a shepherd, according to Genesis 31:38-40.
Admittedly, some shepherds were very careless in the discharge of their duty. Because of their neglect, the flock was greatly ruined. In Zechariah 11:15 and 17, they were referred to as “foolish” shepherds and “idol” (i.e. idle) shepherds. But the Lord Jesus is not like any other shepherd of the people. He is “the good shepherd”. As the Good Shepherd, He tends to His people with love, mercy, concern and faithfulness. Above all, the reason why He is “the good shepherd” is that He “giveth his life for the sheep”.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to this world to seek His lost sheep, He foresaw that He would die for the sheep. Jesus spoke those words prior to His death on the cross. His death to be the Saviour of His sheep was neither accidental nor unforeseen. The Lord Jesus could have saved Himself, but He entertained no thought of and made no attempt at escape. He asked for no legion of angels to rescue Him. Instead, He gave Himself willingly to die for the sheep. He died in the stead of the sheep.
So Christ died a vicarious death, the just for the unjust, which saved the sinner from the doom he deserved. It was not for His own but for our advantage that He died. By His sacrifice, He not only redeemed us from the curse of the law and the power of sin, He also secured for us eternal life. Thus, He is “the good shepherd”, and there is none like Him.