The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23)
Jesus’ discourse in John 10:1-14 concerning the shepherd and the sheep is his answer to the question posed by the Pharisees, “Are we also blind?” The eye that is turned toward the light is the eye that sees. The ear that is turned toward the shepherd is the ear that hears. The heart that is inclined toward the shepherd is the sheep that follows.
The pastures are not a safe grazing place. The lion and the wolf are present. Safety does not come from the watchful eye of the sheep nor from being together as a flock. Safety lies only in the presence of the shepherd. The lion and wolf have no power sufficient to pluck sheep out of the shepherd’s hand.
In George Fox’s letter addressed to “All the Kings, Princes, and Governors in the Whole World…” he lays out what following Christ looks like.
So now Christ is come, and you that are called christians will confess him; but how does he exercise his offices in you, or amongst you?
His office, as he is a counsellor; do you hear his voice from heaven, concerning your heavenly state: his office, as he is a leader to lead you out of sin and evil, and to rule in your hearts by faith, as a commander: his office, as he is a shepherd, are you his sheep? and do ye hear his voice? for Christ saith, “I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep:” and again, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and I am known of mine.”
“And he calleth his sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and when he hath put forth his sheep, he goeth before them; and his sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (Works, Vol. V, 319)
Isaiah, in chapter 53, described The iniquity of us all that caused the suffering of the servant. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Jesus’ statement, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” is an acknowledgment of being that suffering servant. His accomplishment is to draw the wandering sheep back to their rightful place as followers of the shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep” (verse 11) is often misunderstood. Instead of reading that as “I die for the sheep,” we need to look at that verse in light of verse 10: “The thief comes to kill and destroy. I am come that you might have life, and that more abundantly.” If the shepherd dies for the sheep, the sheep have only his death, not life. “I have power to lay … [down my life]. I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:18) If the sheep have abundant life, they have a living shepherd who, by all he does (present tense) as shepherd, gives his life to the flock. This is the passage from death to life. It comes by receiving the instructions that open our eyes to the eternal light, open our ears to hear the voice of the shepherd, and incline our hearts to follow.
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (John 10:37-38)
What are these works that should cause us to know and understand that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father”? Some will tell you that it was the miracles he performed. It was impressive that a man born blind could be made to see and that his brain would have been reordered to make sense of this new sensory input. But the real work of the Father is making those who hear and respond to the voice of the shepherd into living beings. Life will not fit into the man-made “Christian” religion any better than the man who received his sight could be accepted by the Jewish authorities.
This is why I have stated there are consequences to hearing and following the voice of the shepherd. Life cannot be hidden. You can’t follow the old fleecers of the flock and follow the shepherd. You are faced with an either/or decision. It is not a difficult decision when one realizes that it is a choice between sheepfold or thieves and robbers, between pastures of life or feeding lions and wolves, and between the hireling who flees at the sight of the wolf or the shepherd who can keep the flock through all dangers.