Among the many scriptures that reference Christ as the shepherd, two in particular come to mind with this artwork. The first is a Psalm of David: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalms 23:1-4). The second, based on the title of the painting, is from John 10:11, 14: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
The parable given by Jesus in the first 18 verses of John chapter 10 emphasizes His relationship to His followers. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them – and because they have learned to trust Him, they will follow. He is their devoted guardian and protector – ever vigilant and attentive, as is portrayed in the painting. He is eternally a defender, restorer, and redeemer to each in His fold – and will not suffer the loss of even one.
Artist Greg Olsen shared his insight: “The age old symbol of the good shepherd has brought peace and comfort to the hearts of many throughout the years. The strong and watchful keeper of the flock, who knows His sheep and is known by them, guides the sheep to green pastures and to still waters where they can graze and safely drink. He gathers them before the approaching storm and searches for those that may be lost. He places Himself between danger and the flock He tends. His sheep recognize His voice, and His call is a call to peace, safety, and contentment.” (http://www.gregolsen.com/the-good-shepherd-9983)
Additional reading: “Thoughts on the Good Shepherd”