‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern 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 my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock
and one shepherd.
The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is presented as the ‘Good Shepherd’ who comes to gather the lost flock of Israel and who ultimately ‘lays down his life for his sheep’ (Jn 10:15).
The metaphor of the ‘Good Shepherd’ is drawn from the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34:11-16) and it was to be an image used by the Prophets to depict God’s loving relationship with the people of Israel and the nature of the promised Saviour (Jeremiah 3:15; Micah 5:3-4).
Jesus assured his followers ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (Jn10:10), the one for whom the people had waited. He extends the image of the sheepfold to represent the Kingdom of Heaven and he is the gate through which all people must pass. ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved’ (Jn 10:9).
The ‘Good Shepherd’ is a recurring image used in Jesus’ discourses and parables, primarily to represent God’s unconditional love for humanity. The ‘Good Shepherd’ will leave his flock to search for the one who is lost (Mt 8:12-14) and protect them against all dangers. Importantly, he will know his sheep, and they will know him and will listen to his voice (Jn 10:14-16).
Of particular significance is that it was this image that Jesus chose for his future Church, imploring Peter ‘tend my sheep’ (Jn 21:16). Not only would Peter and his Apostolic successors be charged with the responsibility of leading and teaching the people of God, and of seeking out the lost, but also for caring for them with a true sense of pastoral care.
Director: Religious Education and Evangelisation