Reading through the Bible together
Sheep are flock animals whose tendency is to follow a leader. Because being very meek animals, the leader they follow may simply be the first one to move out front. It is worthy of note, then, that Jesus speaks about being The Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and they know Him. When sheep know their shepherd—because they are fully acquainted with the one who cares for them—they are not likely to follow an impostor.
What is not easily noticed by a surface reading of the text, when read carefully one can see the connection between the previous story—the healing of the blind man—and the statement of Jesus as being The Good Shepherd. To be sure, the healed man is as a sheep that recognizes the voice of the Shepherd and follows Him. As The Good Shepherd, Jesus cares for His sheep, even those who have been cast out—like the blind man who people accused of having sinned—and heals him and sets him free from literal and spiritual darkness.
The healing of the blind man in the vicinity of the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to appeal to the masses that have travelled to Jerusalem for this spiritual feast. Jesus is giving the people another opportunity to be able to distinguish between The Good Shepherd—Himself—who wants nothing but the best for His sheep, and the religious leaders of His day—hirelings—who in many ways reject some people and set them aside.
Ellen White states about this scene: “As the shepherd goes before his sheep, himself first encountering the perils of the way, so does Jesus with His people…The path may be steep and rugged, but Jesus has traveled that way…Every burden that we are called to bear He Himself has borne” (The Desire of Ages, p. 480).
Let us be encouraged by knowing that our Shepherd is Jesus who is fighting for our safety and salvation. And let’s be sure we recognize His voice by staying in touch with Him and His Word each day.
Department of Family Ministries
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists