Why is Jesus called the Good Shepherd?
In the Bible, Jesus Christ is many times referred to as the Good Shepherd, while his faithful, his friends and disciples, as his flock. It is also very common to see Jesus depicted with a sheep in his arms, a picture that shows love, care and protection.
In an exerpt from John (10:1-21), where Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd, Jesus appears to let the needs of his sheep lead his life. The same is used in all four gospels: Jesus appears to care so much for his flock that he does not allow himself to lose even a single one. The story, as found in the Gospel of John, shows that the people around Jesus had understood very clearly that He was the Son of God.
But why Jesus chooses to be identified with the picture of the Good Shepherd? The answer is simple. Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd, appears as the guide, the protector, the healer and shepherd of his sheep, who need spiritual food, healing, care and mercy. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, finds joy in seeing the weak and suffering sheep to find their way towards spiritual healing.
“Truly, truly, I tell you, one who does not enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”
The Lord’s opponents claim that they are the only ones that can lead the nation. However, He proves to them that they are nothing but selfish, and mercenary shepherds, whereas He is the only truly good shepherd of the souls.
In this parable he proves that he does not mislead, but he is truly a shepherd. And what He does is that he first refers to the characteristics of a destroyer and then he refers to the characteristics of a true shepherd and saviour, so that through His words people can tell that He is the Shepherd.
The Saviour foretold that he will search for the lost and bring back the strays, he will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34:16). So, although Israel is pictured as eaten up by ‘wounds and welts and open sores’, the Saviour strengthens, and promises healing.
Jesus, when he speaks to the people, He speaks with love, compassion and empathy. He is a real shepherd who looks for His lost sheep and finds them in order to offer them relief and hope. His understanding, compassion and love help the faithful have faith in Him, repent and be healed.
The Good Shepherd is the same, he feels the same about sin and the sinful, as when he did when He walked on earth. He does not avoid the sheep when they sin, he does not blame the lost sheep, he seeks out the lost sheep and accepts them back together with the rest of the flock. Just as the good shepherd cannot find peace until he finds the lost sheep, Jesus seeks the return and repentance of the sinful.
Jesus Christ, in Luke 15:7, as well as in the parable above, where he tells the Pharisees about the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek the one that is lost, he wants to say that all the people who sin are like the lost sheep to Him: the sheep may return anytime and He will accept it back.
His love for his sheep, as a Good Shepherd, is evident in the words he spoke before He was crucified. In John (21:16-17) Jesus Christ asks Peter three times “Do you love me?”
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.
Peter fulfilled Christ’s request by teaching His word to the world.