I take care of our chickens. My 6-year-old daughter loves them. I make sure they have food. She makes sure that they know they are a part of our family. I give them food and water so that they give me eggs. She saves her food for them so that they know she was thinking about them.
According to Jesus Christ, the distinguishing mark of a “good shepherd” is their love for their sheep. He said this in John 10:11 when He said that a “good shepherd” is one who is willing to die to protect the sheep from harm. It defines the love that the shepherd has for the sheep. I must confess, there is not a chance that I would die to protect my chickens. Die for my kids? Of course! My chickens? Not a chance!
Now, in saying that, I am actually more like (in regards to chickens) what Jesus refers to as “a hireling.” He says that a “hireling” (someone who is hired to take care of sheep) is not willing to die for the sheep, but rather, “Sees the wolf coming and (in order to protect himself) leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them” (John 10:12 NKJV). So in striking contrast, He says that the defining mark of a “bad” shepherd (if you will) is that he “flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:13 NKJV). In other words, they are self-centered, self-concerned, self-seeking, and do not truly care about the flock. Their interest is primarily concerned with money, not with the health and safety of the sheep. Oh, how many modern-day “pastors” fall into this “hireling” camp? Unfortunately, many are self-seeking, self-centered people whose primary concern is a name and a paycheck!
Then, Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd” (verse 11 NKJV).
In that, He is telling us chiefly, that He loves us. In fact, He is saying that He loves us so much, that He is willing to lay down His life for us. Of course, this was not hypothetical. He would do what He says a “good” shepherd must do. Our Lord Jesus would see the wolves of sin, death, the devil, and hell coming for us. Vicious and hungry in their approach, He would not leave us alone. He would not flee. He would not let the cup pass from Him. Rather, He walked knowingly towards those “wolves” and in love for you and me, He allowed them to tear Him and kill Him. This made it that we might be free. Jesus said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18 NKJV).
Pause for a moment to thank this “Good Shepherd” Who defeated the wolves that would have savagely torn us apart. Stop to honor Him. Take a moment to sing His praises, to lift Him up, and to lift your voice in praise of His great work and name. He is so good.