Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them.
The image of the shepherd brings together several aspects of Jesus’ identity. First, leaders were often called shepherds. Good leaders were those who cared for people, in contrast to the negligent leaders or shepherds who did not. Jesus fits the role of a good shepherd by caring for others (see Ezekiel 34:1-2). Second, the good shepherd was an image for the The Messiah was the one who, it was believed, would come to free the people of Israel from bondage and exile. In Jewish thought the Messiah is the anticipated one who will come, as prophesied by Isaiah. In Christian thought Jesus of Nazareth is identified... More, who was to rule over the people of God. Here Jesus identifies himself as the one in whom this promise is fulfilled (see Ezekiel 34:23). Third, God was known as the best of shepherds, who gathered and nurtured the flock. As the good shepherd, Jesus is the one in whom God comes to God’s people (see Ezekiel 34:11-12). Jesus also says that the principal trait of the good shepherd is laying down his life for the sheep. This occurs when Jesus lays down his life in crucifixion. By dying, Jesus reveals the lengths to which he will go to provide life for others. This is one of the seven “I am” sayings in John’s Gospel. Since the expression “I am” recalls the name of God, who is the “I Am” (Exodus 3:14), these sayings emphasize that Jesus is God’s Word in the flesh.