Shepherd and Sheep painting by Camille Pissaro – 1888
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 (ESV)
Jesus describes his flock in the verses that follow:
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 the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
Here Jesus explains that his flock is composed of two folds, the fold of those to whom he was sent, the children of Israel. The other fold is the Gentiles who are included in God’s plan of salvation in the work of those who follow Jesus. In Matthew and Mark’s gospels, when a Canaanite woman comes to the disciples crying out for mercy from the Lord Jesus, Jesus states that He was sent expressly to redeem the lost sheep of Israel. Here is Matthew’s account:
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
While Jesus’s mission was to confront Israel and preach repentance to them, He was compassionate with the Gentiles as well. For those who had faith in Him, He would have mercy. For example, the Samaritan woman by the well and villagers in John 4:
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.
And the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the message, He instructed them to go only to the Jews:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans,
It was the Apostle Paul who was ordained and sent by the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles: “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles. . .” Romans 11:13 (ESV)
Jews and Gentiles were called, but only those chosen by God are saved.
For many are called, but few are chosen.”
And Jesus said the gate to salvation is a narrow one:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Jesus talks more of His sheep, the chosen by God, in Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel where He continues the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd in verses 27-30:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
In addition to the gift of eternal life Jesus gives to the chosen ones, in these verses He tells us we are eternally secure in our salvation. No one is able to snatch them out of Jesus’s hand or the Father’s hand. That would include the Devil, or anyone who would try to persuade the elect to fall away. For as the Apostle Paul says:
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
With this great salvation awaiting those who God calls, it is urgent for those who have not passed through the narrow gate to heed the words of the Apostle John:
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
And follow the admonishment of Paul to be saved:
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Today is the day of Salvation.
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 paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
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