In John chapter 10, we find Jesus telling a story about shepherds and sheep. A person who is hired to protect the sheep will run away when his own life is in danger (like when a wolf comes), and abandons the sheep. The true shepherd will put his life in harm’s way to defend his sheep. Then we find this gem in verses 14 through 18:
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 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.”
I see a couple of things in these verses that I’d like to comment on.
We all know that we are his sheep, and that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep. We may be less focused on Jesus’ comment that he has other sheep not of this sheep pen that will listen to his voice and be part of the same flock. In Jesus’ day, he was talking with the Jews, who thought they were the exclusive people who could have a relationship with God. Jesus was pointing out that non-Jews would also come to God through Jesus.
Then we see this phrase in verse 17 that says God loves Jesus because Jesus is going to lay down his life. I believe Jesus was saying that it was his decision whether or not to completely obey God. He had the authority to obey, and lose his life. He also had the authority to disobey, and retain his life. My interpretation for all of this is: Jesus had complete free will to do whatever he chose to do, just like we have free will. It’s just that Jesus always chose to do God’s will. This is exemplified in Jesus’ willingness to follow God’s will, no matter what, even to the point of suffering and dying. And God loves that fact about Jesus. (As an aside, this attribute of Jesus is undoubtedly why God said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”)
You might be thinking, “This is a nice story, but how does it apply to me?”
I’m glad you asked.
First, I want God to be pleased with me. And I project from this story that if I am obedient to God like Jesus was obedient to God, I will please God. So, I’d like to challenge you to be completely obedient to God as well.
Second, I might tend to think, like the Jews, that I, or my church, or my denomination have an exclusive relationship with God. I need to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not me, and he (not me) gets to decide who are and who are not his sheep.
Finally, we see from this passage that Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. Wolves are prowling around outside the sheep pen. If you’re not in the protection of the pen, being protected by the Shepherd, you’re going to be mutton. So if you don’t know Jesus, there’s no time like today.