Hi, I'm Tim Coombs, co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, NY and a member of the network of biblical storytellers. To learn more about its mission, go to nbsint.org
People today refer to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We get that primarily from the Gospel of John, where Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd. And it's a series of teachings in which Jesus begins by saying, ""I am the good shepherd,"" for many reasons. One, Jesus says the sheep know the shepherd's voice and will follow only him, which is actually what happens with shepherds in the Palestine area. Shepherds will sing a song, and their sheep know it and will follow the shepherd. In fact, you could have a whole group of sheep all mingled together and if a shepherd sings that particular song, only his sheep will come and follow him.
In that teaching also Jesus says that a shepherd lays down his life for his sheep to protect them from wolves or other predators. That's what a shepherd is to do and what Jesus ultimately will do for his own people. In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say, not only do I lay my life down, but I am the gate, and then Jesus, toward the end of that teaching says something very intriguing, he says to all those who are listening, I have sheep that are not part of this fold, meaning there are sheep beyond those listening to me. Beyond the people of the Jews even, perhaps. And so, Jesus is the good shepherd.
There's another shepherd reference in the Gospels and that occurs in the Gospel of Luke in the series of parables of the lost and the found. It begins Luke 15, Jesus says a good shepherd is one who has a hundred sheep, and if one gets lost, leaves the ninety-nine and will go and search for that one sheep until it is found and when he comes back, he says to his neighbors to rejoice with me, for the sheep that was lost is now found. This is Jesus' understanding of what it means to be a good shepherd.