“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jn. 10:11).
There has been much debate regarding the deity of Jesus Christ. Did He in fact claim to be God? The consensus among anti-Christian sects and liberal theologians is one of denial, that Jesus cannot be divine. However, this observation is absolutely erroneous and completely “misses the mark”, for on many occasions Jesus claimed deity. In the Gospel of John, Jesus made twenty-three “I Am” statements—those statements alone are clear and convincing evidence that ought to quash the debate (Jn. 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8). In fact, even the Pharisees and Sadducees understood that Jesus claimed to be God. For example, when Jesus made the powerful declaration: ‘“I and the Father are one.’ The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’” (Jn. 10:30-33). However, like all unbelievers, the Pharisees and Sadducees could not accept the truth of Jesus’ claim. The spiritually blind will not and cannot acknowledge truth, even if it is dangled before their eyes or trumpeted in their ears (1 Cor. 2:14).
In John 10:11, Jesus declared: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11—emphasis added). Jesus’ “I Am” declaration in this verse, transports the reader back to Exodus 3:14, when God first appeared to Moses in the burning bush: “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” When God sent Moses to deliver His chosen people from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 3:10), Moses was commanded to say to them, “I AM” (YHWH), sent him. Israel would have understood from ancient time past that the God of Israel’s name was “I AM”. So, when Jesus repeatedly applied “I Am” to Himself, the people of Israel most likely knew He was claiming to be God.
The twenty-third Psalm is perhaps the most well-known of the Psalms among Christians and even known among unbelievers [who often reciting it at funerals]. In the first verse of the Psalm a case can be made for Christ’s deity: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Ps. 23:1); King David, who wrote the Psalm, recognized the “LORD” (YHWH) as his Provider, Protector, and Preserver—his Shepherd. With this verse in mind we turn to the Gospel of Mark, when a rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked: “…Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17b). Jesus responded: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18—emphasis added). The MacArthur Study Bible commenting on this verse states: “Jesus challenged the ruler to think through the implications of ascribing to Him the title of ‘good’. Since God is only intrinsically good, was he prepared to acknowledge Jesus’ deity? By this query Jesus did not deny His deity; on the contrary, He affirmed it.” 1 By juxtaposing Psalm 23:1 and Mark 10:17-18, with Jesus’ proclamation: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 —emphasis added), the case for Jesus’ deity ameliorates. Incidentally, Jesus proclaimed to be “the” good Shepherd, not “a” good shepherd. John used the definite article —indicating there is only one “good Shepherd”—God alone.
Additionally, this verse underscores Jesus willingly made the ultimate sacrifice for those who are His: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jn. 10:11—emphasis added). Moreover, Jesus adds to His mind-boggling declaration by expanding His claim to be God: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (Jn. 10:17-18—emphasis added). Jesus not only surrendered His own life but rose again by His own power.
With Jesus’ wonderful proclamation the reader is presented with an alleged contradiction in the Bible. Scripture indicates the Father delivered up His only begotten Son and raised Him from the dead (John 3:16, Acts 2:23-24, Rom. 6:4). Scripture also affirms Jesus was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11, 1 Pet. 3:18). It is also written in John 10:17 that Jesus declared: “…I lay down My life that I may take it again.” –byHis own initiative. Which Member of the Godhead is credited with Christ’s death and resurrection, is this a contradiction in the Bible? According to Bishop J. C. Ryle it is not contradictory:
“Our Lord teaches that His [Jesus] resurrection as well as His death, was in His own power…It is noteworthy that the resurrection of our Lord in some places is attributed to His Father’s act, as Acts 2:24-32; once, at least, to the Holy Spirit, as 1 Pet. 3:18; and here [Jn. 10:17-18], and Jn. 2:19, to Christ Himself. All lead to this same conclusion…all three persons of the trinity concurred and co-operated.” 2
Jesus’ death and resurrection are just two of the many inexplicable functions of the Trinity. Even if God’s Word explained such a mystery, the finite human mind would be incapable of apprehending such profound truth. Only “God” could offer a sacrifice that appeases the Father, and only God’s Son qualified to be that sacrifice. Christians stand forgiven because the Lamb of God made the perfect sacrifice for His sheep—what an amazing truth!
There is only One who is “good”, the Shepherd (YHWH) of Psalm 23:1. So when the great “I Am”, Jesus, declared Himself to be the “good” Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep—it was a crystal clear profession of deity. A. W. Pink asserts: ‘“I am the good shepherd.’ This was clearly an affirmation of His absolute deity. He was here addressing Israelites, and Israel’s ‘Shepherd’ was none other than Jehovah (Psa. 23:1; 80:1). When the Saviour said, ‘I am the good shepherd.’ He thus definitely identified Himself with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.” 3
In conclusion, John 10:11 and 17-18 are powerful verses for accentuating Christ’s deity. It’s hard to believe any true Christian would deny that Jesus claimed deity, when in fact He declared it three times within one verse: “I am the good shepherd the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep”. (John 10:11). And if you add His further declaration: “…because I lay down My life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17) –it makes four times within these two verses, Jesus declared deity! How tragic it is for those who are spiritually blind and whose understanding has not been illuminated by the Holy Spirit. They will always fail to see spiritual truth without the illumination even when plainly presented in the Bible. On the other hand, true Christians recognize profound spiritual truths, such as Christ’s claim of divinity. How blessed is he whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit, to see clearly that Jesus is God. Amen!
1 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 1,482—Footnote on Mark 10:18, Why do you call Me good?
2 J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, John Vol. II, James Clarke & Co., 1957, pg. 225—brackets added.
3 A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Zondervan, 1975, pg. 530