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Friends, the image of God as shepherd is a classic one in the Bible. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we hear that God would one day come and shepherd Israel himself. Shepherds guarded, guided, protected, and watched over their flocks—just as God guards, guides, protects, and watches over Israel.

This image comes to a climactic expression in the words of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd.” What precisely makes him good? A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The good shepherd is so other-oriented, so devoted to his sheep, that he is willing to surrender his life that they might live.

Sure, a good shepherd should do all that he can to protect and guide his flock, but who among us would really expect him to give his life for them? But this is precisely what Jesus claims to do. 

Imagine the difference between humans and sheep; now, multiply that difference infinitely. That would give you some idea of the difference between God and humanity. And yet God is willing to lay down his life for the likes of us.