As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Our Lord Jesus is the chief Shepherd, under whom all other spiritual pastors are called to labor for the welfare of the flock, to whom they owe their authority, and by whose example they are bidden to be guided. He is the great Shepherd, who has proved his power to deliver and to save. And he is the good Shepherd, who shrinks from no effort and from no self-denial, in order to secure the welfare of his own. What more could he do than he did, when he laid down his life lop the sheep?
I. THIS OFFERING WAS DELIBERATELY PURPOSED. Nothing can be more absurd than the notion of some modern critics, who contend that the Lord Jesus never contemplated such a close to his ministry until within a short period of his betrayal, and that he accepted the martyrdom as inevitable, and in order to save his credit with his followers. The Gospel record makes it manifest that from the early days of his ministry Jesus knew how that ministry would end. In his conversations with his disciples he gave them to understand that his life of service was to be crowned by a death of sacrifice.
II. THIS OFFERING WAS VOLUNTARILY RENDERED. There had been times when the life of Jesus seemed to be in danger, and on such occasions he had escaped out of his enemies' hands, for his hour was not yet come. And to the last he possessed power either to crush or to evade his foes. But when the time came for him to be offered up, he made no resistance. He set his face towards Jerusalem. He acted in a manner certain to bring on the crisis. His miracles, his teaching, and especially his denunciations of the Pharisees, were of a nature to ensure the open opposition of his bitter foes. He withheld his supernatural power when he might have saved himself. In short, he laid down his life as something precious, which nevertheless he was content and ready to part with.
III. THIS OFFERING WAS VICARIOUS IN ITS MORAL IMPORT.
1. Christ died on behalf of his sheep, and in defense of them. This, which was obscurely seen by the high priest, was very present to our Lord's own mind. He had no personal end to serve by consenting to a death of pain and ignominy. It was for the sake of his flock that the Shepherd sacrificed himself.
2. Christ died in the stead of his sheep. As a shepherd may fight with a wild beast that attacks the flock, may receive wounds of which he himself may die, and yet may slay the beast and deliver the sheep of his charge; so our Savior, by his death, delivered his spiritual flock "from the bitter pains of eternal death." Not by way of a bargain, as if suffering were something that could be transferred from one to another, as though Jesus endured an equivalent for the punishment men deserved; but by Way of substitution and moral mediation.
IV. THIS OFFERING WAS REDEMPTIVE IN ITS PURPOSE. "Ye were redeemed," writes Peter, "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish." The bondage of sinful men was exchanged for liberty, their malady for health, their death for life.
V. THIS OFFERING WAS ACCEPTED BY THE FATHER. Of this our Lord was confident beforehand. "Therefore doth the Father love me," he himself says in the anticipation of his sacrifice (ver. 17). It was necessary that this should be the case, that the Father should approve the offering. This language may easily be misunderstood and misrepresented, as if there were something arbitrary in the pleasure or displeasure of the Eternal. But the fact is that the Father delights in that which is in accordance with unchanging reason and righteousness. What Christ did and suffered, and the aim he set before him, was what commended itself to the mind of the God of wisdom and justice. And, indeed, it was by the Father's will that Christ's work was undertaken, and his acceptance of it was the ratification of his own counsels.
VI. THIS OFFERING WAS EFFECTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL IN ITS RESULTS FOR MEN. In this supreme instance, benevolence was not in vain. If the Shepherd died, the flock was ransomed. And Christ "sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied." - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.