It is small wonder that the image of the shepherd was frequently upon the lips of the savior. It was a part of his heritage and culture. Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks. Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him into a special service. David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel.
The imagery of the shepherd was also imprinted upon the literature of the day. The 23rd Psalm is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters."
When Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah he worded it by saying: "He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms." Yes, the tradition of the shepherd was very much a part of the heritage of Christ.
This picture comes more clearly into focus in the New Testament. Jesus once told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep, but one of them went astray. In our way of thinking a 99% return on our investment would be most desirable, but not this shepherd. He left the 99 to go in search of that one lost sheep. Later, when Jesus was speaking to a great throng of people, Mark tells us that he had compassion upon them because they were "as sheep without a shepherd."
Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith, then, the image of the shepherd has been stamped upon our thinking. In our scripture text for this morning Jesus again taps into this imagery when he refers to himself as the good shepherd. For a few moments this morning, I would like for us to examine together what he had in mind when he described himself as the Good Shepherd.
1. First, we have a shepherd that is a genuine shepherd.
2. Second, I think that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep.
3. Third, the Good Shepherd also includes other sheep.
4. Fourth, the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
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