Now Available on Kindle Living The Life!: Daily Reflections

On The Upper Room Discourse Re-Release For Lent 2024

March 22

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that
they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 ‘I am the good
shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own 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 do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.
John 10:10-18

Jesus’ audience must have been startled at the boldness of his claim, “I am the good shepherd.” Their shepherd was the Lord God, the Lord of whom David so contentedly sang: “The Lord is my shepherd. ” It was the Lord who led them, guided then, and cared for them through all of life. But even more, Jesus’ listeners must have been shocked at his words that he would lay down his life for his sheep.

Shepherds do not ordinarily face the threat of death in caring for their sheep. But Jesus’ sheep are in a mortal danger that Jesus will go out to confront and take on. Four times in this brief text Jesus says that he will “lay down” his life for his sheep. Jesus then makes clear that “No one” will take his life from him. His death will be a voluntary, laying down of life for his sheep.

Throughout the final hours of Jesus’ life, all the way from the mock trials to his handing over his life to the Father, we see Jesus is in complete control, resolute in laying down his life. Jesus was not murdered. He did not die a martyr’s death. Rather, with his Father, Jesus had purposed to come down and lay down his life for the sheep that we might have life “abundantly.”

Biblical scholars and grammarians say that it is significant that Jesus says that he will lay down his life “for” the sheep. That is because the preposition translated as “for” signifies “in the place of,” or “instead of.” It means that Jesus died for our sins “instead” of us. Jesus took on eternal judgment “in our place.”

Eight centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah foretold the good shepherd dying for us his sheep: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus did not come to be a great moral teacher or example, but he came to be Redeemer. He took our guilt and made it his own. He faced our judgment for us.


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