Jesus’ claims the ultimate solidarity with those whom he calls ‘my sheep’.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10:11–13 ESV)
It is possible to imagine that even the most responsible hired hand would practice the craft of shepherding with excellence.
But not at the cost of his life.
The rationale of the marketplace requires that the hired sheep-tender calculate the point at which the job requires more of him than he can rightly give. The horrible expression ‘Every man has his price’ here finds a defensible context. It is so, and it is right that it must be so.
However, Jesus claims a solidarity with his own that runs the path of a different logic. For him, no wolf’s threat is worth the fleeing. He stays, defends, and—here Jesus intimates a most difficult path—gives his life to save his sheep from their most lethal threat. The point is not that he dies in vain—flamboyant, noble sacrifice—when the wolf attacks, but rather that he is willing to give up his own life in fending off the wolf.
Who talks like this?
It is not surprising that this is one of the recorded moments in which at least some onlookers concluded that ‘He has a demon and is insane.’
One simply must arrive at that conclusion, unless Jesus’ care for his own is of a different order entirely. Unless he knows, as one says, what he is talking about.
In that case one properly longs to be loved, shepherded perhaps if the metaphor is sustained, in this way.