John 10:11-16 (ESV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
I Am the Shepherd the good one. There is a bit of emphasis in the Greek that is lost in translation, though not meaning by any stretch of the means. This is the way it is with translations, believe me I know how hard it is to translate. Sometimes I think it might be harder than writing. But I haven’t written anything of the worth for which I have translated, so what do I know on that? But as much as you attempt to translate accurately, some nuance, some emphasis will be lost. It is so also with God’s word. This is why you have to study Greek and Hebrew to become a Lutheran pastor. So you can see God’s word for all of its glory, study it and see. But this is not necessary for one to understand scripture. A Person is perfectly capable of understanding scripture from any of the reputable translations out there, and study and learn from it their entire lives. As in the end the translation does communicate the same story, the same message, and has the power of the Holy Spirit working through it to create and strengthen faith.
I am the Shepherd the good one he says. The I am is a clear reference to his divinity. Once again he uses the formula that says, I am I am, meaning that he is the foundation of all existence, the source, creator and author of life, YHWH of the Old Testament. Ego Eimi, I am. But then he follows up describing what this means. He is God, and as God he is the shepherd a good one, one who lays down his life for his sheep, unlike bad shepherds that abandon the sheep when the going gets rough.
Jesus is a shepherd, we are the sheep. Perhaps it is not the most of flattering comments today to be called a sheep. Sheep are looked on as being helpless, foolish animals that can’t really do anything for themselves, and no one even likes to eat them anymore, so they seem to be all but worthless too. This was not the case in Jesus day, when people had better taste in meat. Lamb beats steak almost any day folks. The wool was used to make garments, before cotton came to be more popular. Sheep were where it was at. And the shepherd was as romantic a fellow as the American cowboy or the Argentinean gaucho, when Idyllic scenes filled the heads of daydreamers. But not all made good shepherds. The work was every bit as hard as that of a cowboy, and when you aren’t yourself invested in the cattle, the $4.25 an hour doesn’t quite seem to pay for the cold days and nights, the frostbite on the foot that stayed on the windy side of the horse, the early mornings and the late evenings, and the smell of barn that surrounds you on the one day you make it into town and have the chance to talk to that girl you like.
It perhaps isn’t a compliment today. But it was a metaphor for the relationship of God and his people a long time running, as can be seen by the 23rd psalm recited at almost every funeral, perhaps the highpoint of that metaphor in the old Testament. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. That is because he is my shepherd, I have nothing to want, he takes care of everything for me. And it is a fitting metaphor for God and his people, Christ and his church. He is the shepherd, the good one.
He it is who tends to the sheep in good times and bad. He says he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. This is the way of things in the church, where the sheep here the voice of their shepherd and listen to him. That is the church, the church is the sheep who hear the voice of the shepherd and listen to him. Not only hear, but listen. Sheep hear the voices of many shepherds in the wilderness, but they listen to the voice of their own shepherd, and him they follow. They listen to his voice, because he is the one who was there from the beginning singing to them as they opened their mother’s womb, from the very beginning. It is the shepherd that creates the relationship. It is the shepherd who teaches the sheep to trust, it is the shepherd that inspires the sheep to love their shepherd and follow them. It is the shepherd who chooses the sheep, not the sheep who choose the shepherd, in other words. Jesus chooses you. You are the sheep he lays down his life for. You can’t lay your life down for his. You can’t even give your life to him! It belongs to him already.
It was him who baptized you as a young child, even if you were an adult. It was he who took you in his arms and carried you. And he is the one who laid down his life for you that you might have life. He is the shepherd, the good one. God incarnate who leads you by still waters, and lays you down in the green pastures of Beshan and Gilead. Who fights off the temptations and the devils of this world and makes you his own forgiving your sins. Yes this is the voice we hear and listen to, trust and love, the voice of the shepherd, the gospel that says I know you, you are mine, I purchased you with my very own life, your sins are forgiven.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.