I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10: 14-15 (New International Version)
The image of a sheep and the shepherd is found through both testaments of Scripture. In an agrarian culture it was a simple analogy that most, if not all, could understand. Now that the Messiah Lord has come on the scene, this imagery takes on all new meaning. No longer is being a member of "the flock" simply based on national identity, but rather on responding to the call of the Good Shepherd Himself.
The "authority" of this call is wrapped in the atoning sacrifice Jesus will make. The religious leadership repeatedly questioned Jesus regarding this part of His ministry. Now the Master reveals to those who follow Him that His authority is bound to His intimate relationship of love with the Father, as well as His willingness to die for those who believe in Him. Disciples can never lose sight of this fact of faith as the basis of the salvation we experience in and through Jesus.
To the world of the 21st century the cross is still scandal and folly, and the temptation before the church is to remove the cross for the Gospel work we do. Discipleship, though, is based on the work Jesus did at Calvary, as well as our willingness to take up a cross-bearing ministry on the One we call Lord. Until faith is given, people will find this model hard to bear. However, with belief comes the confidence that what God has done through His Son, no one can undo.