“I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:14-15
Charles Spurgeon believed that Jesus Christ was incomparably great. In fact, he portrayed the difficulty of describing such a matchless savior as trying to “square the circle.” Since Christ was “inconceivably above our conceptions” and “unutterably above our utterances” it was impossible to adequately “set Christ forth in the language of humble men.”
Spurgeon reveled in Jesus’ “tenderness” to his people, whereby he offered “rich revelation of his own all-glorious self” by setting “himself forth by many choice metaphors.” Simply put, the parables of Jesus offered a broad window to his divine glory.
For Spurgeon this divine condescension was both thrilling and enlightening. Since Jesus “masters all our eloquence” and his “perfection exceeds our understanding,” the parables of Christ were filled with revelatory delight as saints were satisfied by what they learned of their savior. Since “the light of his excellence is too bright for us” it was necessary for Jesus to “be his own mirror.” And since “None but Jesus can reveal Jesus,” Spurgeon was eager to receive all of Christ’s “instructive emblems.”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon focused on the “Complete character” of the Good Shepherd. Now, he also noted that “whenever the Saviour describes himself by any emblem, that emblem is exalted, and expanded; and yet it is not able to bear all his meaning.” Simply, in calling himself “the Good Shepherd” Jesus dignified the emblem “shepherd” in a new way.
First, Spurgeon observed that “The Eastern shepherd is generally the owner of the flock.” Unlike hired English shepherds, the Eastern shepherd's wealth was his sheep. While he “very seldom has much of a house” and “usually does not own much land” he always remembers “how he came into possession of the flock.” In the same way “Jesus is our shepherd” and “we are his wealth.” Accordingly, Spurgeon declared “The Lord Jesus Christ has nothing that he values as he does his own people.” After all, “For their sakes he gave up all that he had, and died naked on the cross.”
Second, Spurgeon noted that “The shepherd, as he owns the flock, is also the caretaker.” Like a firefighter, the shepherd is always on duty. As Spurgeon said, “He is on duty when he goes to bed” and “he is on duty while he is eating his breakfast.” Simply, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is never off duty.” Indeed, “He has constant care of his people day and night.”
Third, Spurgeon asserted that the shepherd “has to be the provider too.” Speaking bluntly he remarked that “the shepherd is the sheep’s providence.” In an even greater way, “Both for time and for eternity, for body and for soul, our Lord Jesus supplies all our need out of his riches in glory.” And so, Christians could, and should, rest in the care of the Good Shepherd.
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon focused on “The complete knowledge” of the Good Shepherd. First, Spurgeon considered “Christ’s knowledge of his own.” Here he first observed that “[Christ] knows their number.” Spurgeon insisted that Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd, had a perfect knowledge of his sheep and “will never lose one.”
Second, Spurgeon observed that Christ “knows their persons.” Not only does he know the “age and character” of every sheep he also “assures us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered.” Furthermore, Christ knows “their constitutions.” He knows the “weak and feeble,” the “nervous and frightened,” the “strong,” those with a “tendency to presumption,” and the “sleepy.” Christ knows “their feelings, fears, and frights,” and accordingly comforts his sheep. As such, Christ can provide comfort and encouragement in all our “trials” and the grace needed to overcome all our “sins.”
In the third, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon dwelled upon the “Complete sacrifice.” Drawing attention to Jesus’ words, “I lay down my life for the sheep,” Spurgeon noted that “these words are repeated in this chapter in different forms some four times.” Accordingly, he understood that great emphasis was being placed on this truth by Jesus himself.
Furthermore, Spurgeon reasoned that this emphasis implied a constancy to Christ’s laying down of his life. Simply put, “All his life long [Jesus] was, as it were, laying [his life] down for them.” Thus, in every sorrowful or difficult moment of his earthly ministry, climaxing in his atoning death, Jesus was laying down his life for his sheep that he might secure their everlasting good. A Good Shepherd indeed.
Why you should take up and read:
Charles Spurgeon believed that Jesus Christ was incomparably great. Since Christ was “inconceivably above our conceptions” it was necessary to rely on Jesus’ “rich revelation of his own all-glorious self.” In this sermon, Spurgeon sought to set forth the sweetness of our Good Shepherd. For sheep wanting to savor their Shepherd please take up and read.
Here is a link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/our-own-dear-shepherd#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves as the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City while studying in The Residency Ph.D. program.