The Lord Jesus Christ said in John’s Gospel, chapter 10, “I am the Good Shepherd.” One can look at His life and ministry to see how accurately this metaphor describes the intimate relationship between Jesus and His followers.
He knew His sheep by name, and was known by them. He led His sheep, cared for their every need, watched over them tirelessly, protected them from enemy forces, bathed their wounds, and searched for the lost and wandering, as any good shepherd would. Jesus completed that verse by saying, “… The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11)
In order for the Good Shepherd to lay down His life for the sheep, He actually would have to become one of them. Here is where the metaphor changes. Now the shepherd must become a sheep; God would become a man.
Since man’s fall in the Garden of Eden, God had required a sacrificial system, as a means whereby sinful man could approach a holy God. Throughout the Old Covenant, animal sacrifices “without spot or blemish” were offered as a vicarious and substitutionary atonement for the individual’s sin. But animal sacrifices were never, in and of themselves, a permanent remedy. They never did remove sin; they covered sin, but only temporarily. That is why animal sacrifices had to be continually offered year after monotonous year. (Heb. 10:1) The sacrificial system foreshadowed a future sacrifice which would be “once and for all” perfect and eternal. The one sacrifice who fulfilled this position would be God in the flesh. Only God’s blood could redeem man, so God would become a man, and thus be called, “a lamb.”
“In the fullness of time, “ God did take on flesh. They called His name Jesus, born of the virgin Mary in a stable where animals were born. Thirty years later, John the Baptist had been baptizing people in the Jordan River, when he saw Jesus coming toward him. He said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) And that was exactly Jesus’ destiny on earth. He was born to die as the sacrificial Lamb. Isaiah prophetically wrote of Messiah’s silent voluntary surrender to death on the cross : “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isa 53:7)
All of man’s sin was imputed to Jesus as He hung on that cruel, Roman cross. “For he made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor 5:21
In his first epistle, Peter brings his readers from the Old Testament system into the New Testament reality, as he declares Jesus to be the Lamb of God: “…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18,19) He writes further: “Who himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25) Selah.
Jim and Judy Vaught are ministers at Calvary Assembly of God in Mount Airy.