The Good and Great Shepherd

• The hand that bruised the head of the Devil to save the sheep is the hand that holds them secure for ever.
• The supreme power of Deity was His, and yet He shows Himself to us in absolute submission to His Father's command.
• Each individual sheep in the vast flock of God is attached to the Shepherd by an intimacy known to itself alone.
• Every scattering, and all the sectarianism that has afflicted the flock of God, was conceived in the mind of the Devil, and was engineered by him.
• If when crucified in weakness He annulled the power of the Devil, what will He do in the glorious strength of His resurrection? Shall He not be triumphant over every force of evil, and that for ever?

This chapter (John 10) was not given to assure the sheep of Christ that they are eternally safe. It is often used for that purpose, and no doubt it has yielded comfort in that way to thousands of harassed souls. But that is not its purpose. The sheep of Christ should not need to be assured of their safety. It should be sufficient for them that they are HIS sheep. Can He let them slip? He is THE GOOD SHEPHERD. He laid down His life to deliver them from every foe. He has taken it again to gather them into one flock — the flock of God. Can one amongst these perish? Impossible! His greatness, goodness, love, and power forbid the thought entirely. The hand that bruised the head of the devil to deliver them is the hand that holds them. They are safe. But the precious words of this chapter were not spoken, and preserved, to assure the sheep that they are safe, nor to occupy their thoughts with themselves at all, but with Christ. The chapter is about the Shepherd. It was written that we might see His greatness and hear the melody of His voice, and, as a consequence, know the supreme blessedness of following Him. We must certainly see Him and hear Him if we are to follow Him. The man whose eyes were opened in the ninth chapter was one of His sheep, and when cast out of the synagogue Jesus found Him and asked him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" He answered, "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on Him?" And the Lord made reply, "Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee." And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshipped Him. That is the pattern; you see Him and hear Him, and immediately you become a worshipper and a follower. Now may the chapter show us Himself to this end.

His Life On Earth

"He that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep."

The door is the appointed way of entrance, and by that way He came — by the way that was marked out by the prophecies of old, which spake of Him. Others had come claiming to be Christ, but they had proved themselves to be thieves and robbers, actuated by vain-glory, and making gain of the sheep; they did not come in the appointed way. He came into the fold (Israel), fulfilling the Scriptures. His entrance into the fold is given in the earlier chapters of Matthew, in which Gospel He is presented as the Messiah of Israel, and these chapters are significant with the phrase "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet." And at His exit out of it given in the closing chapters of John, we are told often that things were done to Him "that the Scripture should be fulfilled."

There are prophecies which tell of His glory; how, as the Sun of Righteousness, He shall arise with healing in His wings, and fill the earth with the knowledge of God — for that time we wait; but there are others which tell us that "He was despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." These prophecies mark out a path of humiliation and suffering for Him; they show Him trodden under foot by the proud of the earth: "His visage so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hairs; He hid not His face from shame and spitting. He came to tread the path of obedience to God. He was perfectly submissive to the will of Him that sent Him. The Lord God opened His ears and He was not rebellious, neither turned away back; and every sorrow found its centre in Him because of this.

Now mark well who He is who trod this path of submission to God, and of suffering from sinners, who was buffetted by men because He would obey God. He says, "At my rebuke I dry up the sea . . . I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering." He is the mighty Lord of the universe.

Can anything affect us more profoundly than this? The Virgin's Son was Emmanuel, and, "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

"Heaven's arches rang as the angels sang,
  Proclaiming His royal degree —
But of lowly birth came the Lord to earth,
  And in great humility."

Thus is He shown to us as the Shepherd of the sheep, gentle and submissive, meek and lowly of heart, the servant of God and the servant of men, yes, even of those who hated and derided Him. Have we seen the glory of that life of His — the glory of its humility?

His Death Upon the Cross

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep."

He has become the door of salvation and liberty for the sheep, the God-appointed and only way of blessing, but He has become that door by giving His life for them. There was no other means by which He could deliver them, for they were sinners every one, and held in the power of death. So the sword awoke against Him who is the Shepherd, who has proved Himself to be the Shepherd by standing between that sword and the sheep. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It is not here a question of physical pain: of the thorns, the smitings and the nails; nor of all the shame and degradation connected with His suffering a malefactor's death. Undoubtedly our Lord felt these things with an intensity of which none other could be capable; but there was more than that at Calvary, for, "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief" (Isa. 53:10). It was Jehovah's sword that smote Him when His soul was made an offering for sin; the billows of His wrath rolled over Him as He stood as the substitute in the place of the sheep.

He gave His life for the sheep. He entered the field where death seemed to hold an undisputed sway, and there He annulled him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. As David beat down the mighty giant in Elah, so has the Good Shepherd, by His dying, destroyed the great foe, and wrought deliverance for the sheep.

He laid down His life, no man took it from Him. He had power to lay it down and power to take it again. These are wonderful words, proclaiming the fact of His Deity, for no creature could so have spoken, and yet in this same connection He says, "This commandment have I received of My Father" (v. 18).

How startling is that which greets us here. The supreme power of Deity was His, and yet He shows Himself to us in absolute submission to the Father's command. But further, this commandment of the Father's had the sheep entirely in view. His purpose was that they should be saved from every foe, and He has found a new reason for loving His well-beloved Son in that He laid down His life for them. These are wonderful things for the heart's meditation. Have we seen the Good Shepherd in the glory of His love?

His Resurrection From the Dead

"Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again."

He has taken His life again, that, as the great Shepherd, He might gather the sheep of God into one flock. His voice sounded amidst the dead legalism of the Jews' religion, and the sheep within that fold heard it and followed Him out of it; His voice was also to ring tenderly and clear over the far-away mountains of sin, that His "other sheep" from among the Gentiles might also be brought, that there might be ONE FLOCK and one Shepherd. Not a fold now in which the sheep should be held together by the high walls of law and ordinance, as the Jews had been kept from the nations; nor yet by rules and regulations, either written or unwritten, but a FLOCK held together by the all-sufficiency and attractive power of the ONE SHEPHERD.

This is the beginning of the revelation of the oneness of the Christian company. It is developed in the thought of the family having God as FATHER, and still further in the body and its one HEAD, which is Christ; but there is a sweetness about the thought of the one flock which is entirely its own, and it is this: the sheep are not united to each other organically, as are the members of a body, but each individual in the vast flock of God is attached to the Shepherd by an intimacy known to itself alone. "He calleth His own sheep by NAME." "I know My sheep and am known of mine." It is because we know Him that we belong to the one flock. He has a special name for each one of us, each of us is —

"Called by that secret name
  Of undisclosed delight."

We shall fully understand its meaning when we see Him in the "saint-thronged courts" above, but now our ears should be so keenly attent to His voice that we should be learning it here. There should be with each sheep a secret history of soul, with the Shepherd increasing in blessedness as the days go by.

How precious is this oneness to God, and to Christ, and to everyone whose heart is intelligent in divine truth. "I am the good Shepherd, and I know those that are Mine, and am known of those that are Mine, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (N.Tr.). This is an intimacy and communion that creature thought could never have conceived, and which can only be enjoyed by the Holy Ghost.

The devil's work is to hinder the sheep from enjoying the wonderful portion which has been won for them by the laying down of the good Shepherd's life; and he has done it very effectually by seducing them from the simplicity that is in Christ. He has transformed himself into an angel of light, and turned their eyes from the Shepherd to men; filled their ears with the clamour of party strife; made them believe that the "grievous wolves spake with the Good Shepherd's voice; and has separated them into little flocks and folds. As an angel of light he has done this, and so deceived by him are some of the sheep that they glory in his work, and account it just and right. Every scattering, and all the sectarianism that has ever afflicted the flock of God was conceived in the mind of the devil, and was engineered by him. He is the inveterate foe of the Shepherd and the flock, and of every thought that God has revealed for His own glory and for the joy and blessing of His sheep.

"There shall be one flock and one Shepherd," this is the purpose of God, and, blessed be His name, it abides true, for there can he no failure in the one great Shepherd. It is true for God, and true also for the faith and affection of every sheep that is contented to hear the Shepherd's voice and follow Him. Have we seen Him as the great Shepherd, in the glory of His all-sufficiency for the whole flock of God?

His Supremacy Over All Evil

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."

These words were spoken to those who believed not, and they were the declaration of the Lord's ability to keep and bless His sheep. Those Jews who urged Him to tell them plainly whether He was the Christ or not were seeking some sign that would satisfy their sensuality, a sign such as He had given them when He fed the multitude. They wanted a king who would give them the bread that perisheth, and bless them according to their own carnal thoughts, but for the Bread of God they had no taste. But His sheep heard His voice; they said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." And this life He gave to them, a life outside of the world and nature, a life which was manifested to them in Him, and which belonged to the home out of which He had come.

He gives this life to His sheep, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of His hand. Neither decay within nor foes without can rob Him of those whom the Father has given Him, He is their life and protector, and He is supreme in His glorious power. Can any sheep have a doubt since He is its Shepherd? If when crucified in weakness He annulled the power of the devil, what will He do in the glorious strength of His resurrection? Shall He not be triumphant over every force of evil, and that for ever? It must be so, and He declares in this His supremacy that He will hold all who are His. Have we seen Him in the glory of this great power?

Time fails to say more about Him, but this is the way in which He shows Himself to us, and speaks to us, that we may both see Him and hear His voice, that henceforward our feet may follow Him in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.