John 10 Jesus is the Good Shepherd WC McCarter
On one occasion, which is recorded in John 9, Jesus hid Himself and left the temple after a major conflict with the Jewish leaders who had decided to stone Him to death. As He was leaving, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. To answer a question which His disciples had asked, Jesus said that the man had been born blind so that the works of God could be revealed in Him. Then Jesus spat on the ground and may mud with the saliva and dirt. He took the mud, put it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did what the Lord commanded and came back seeing. Of course, this stirred up quite the commotion among the people.
When the man gave his testimony of the miracle, he told the people that a man called Jesus had healed him. Well, the man was taken before the Pharisees who had previously decided to stone Jesus to death. They immediately stated that Jesus was not of God because He healed the man on a Sabbath. The Pharisees even called in the man’s parents to validate the claims that the man had been born blind and could now see. Although the Pharisees continued their attacks against Jesus, the man would not back down to his claims that Jesus was a healer and prophet. So, the Pharisees excommunicated him from the synagogue (which is to say that he was cut off from the community).
Later, when He had heard that the man had been cast out, Jesus went and found the man. It was then that the man confessed his faith in Jesus and worshiped Him. There were some Pharisees who were present when Jesus and the healed man met up again. They were not happy at all when Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” It is in this context that Jesus says what He does in chapter ten.
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Stranger vs. Shepherd (1-6)
Based on the context, which I rehearsed in the introduction, the speech of chapter ten is first and foremost a criticism of the Pharisees. Yet, we can learn many things about Christ as Good Shepherd and about ourselves as sheep in the flock of God.
“Most assuredly, I say to you” is the famous “Verily, Verily, I say unto you” of the KJV. This reflects the Greek which says, “Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν” (Amen, Amen). It is an emphatic statement which serves to catch the hearers’ attention. The “you” of this passage is, first and foremost, the Pharisees who are seen here as terrible shepherds of Israel. Jesus is about to contrast the Jewish leaders of His day with Himself; it is stranger vs. Shepherd.
Jesus puts the Pharisees in the camp of “strangers.” They are frauds. They pose as shepherds of the flock of God, but they are only in it for themselves. Notice all of the descriptions that Jesus uses for them through the passage:
He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door
Climbs up another way
Thief and robber
The sheep will not follow a stranger
The sheep flee from him
The sheep do not know the voice of strangers.
On the other hand, Jesus refers to Himself in many positive ways by putting Himself in the category of true “shepherds”:
He who enters by the door
The shepherd of the sheep
To him the doorkeeper opens
The sheep hear his voice
He calls his own sheep by name
He leads his own sheep out
He goes before them
The sheep follow him
The sheep know his voice.
Verse six tells us that this was an illustration, but no one knew what the Lord was talking about. This is common, especially in the Gospel of John. Jesus often teaches in figurative ways, sometimes so that the audience can’t understand Him and sometimes the audience should understand, but they are too dull to comprehend the simple truth.
I AM the Door of the Sheep (7-10)
The next paragraph appears to be an explanation of what was said in verses one through six. The people did not understand, so the Lord continues the discussion of the sheep and the door. He is not ready to tell them bluntly the truth of their corrupt leadership, but He continues to talk figuratively. To begin this explanation the Lord says again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you” (Listen up).
At the end of verse seven we have the third of seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John. Jesus says, “I AM the door of the sheep.” We know that this is important because John records it as emphatic in the original language. It is, “ἐγώ εἰμι” which simply means, “I, I am” (ἐγώ means I, and εἰμι means I am). When something is repeated back-to-back in Greek it is for emphasis. To put it simply, the Lord is saying that He is uniquely and opposed to all others the one door of the sheep. This is a significant statement. First, Jesus is saying that He is divine. He is equating Himself with Yahweh. This Greek statement is equivalent to the Hebrew that God used to reveal His personal name to Moses at the burning bush. Moses asked, “Who shall I say is sending me?” The Lord responded, “Tell Pharaoh that I AM is sending you.” You see, Jesus has already said this to the Jews, and He did not mix words in John 8:58 when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Of course, Jesus says very clearly again in this tenth chapter verse 30, “I and My Father are one.” In response to that comment, the Jews were going to stone Him because they realized that He was claiming to be God (verse 33).
Second, what does it mean for Jesus to be the door? Almost all commentators will point you to this: In those days, there was a walled enclosure, or a cave, or out in the field the shepherd would form a sheepfold and the shepherd would sleep in the entryway and function as a door. He wanted to keep the sheep from getting out and discourage any wild animals from getting in. This, of course, was for the benefit of the sheep so that they would not get lost, injured, or killed. I think we can understand this simply. What does it mean to be a door or gate? The thieves and robbers went through illegitimate ways (they climbed through windows), but Jesus is the door.
Jesus says that all who come by Him are saved. He makes this a salvation metaphor. If you are going to be saved, you are going to have to go through Him. He is the legitimate entryway for salvation. This is just another way of saying what He says in many other places in the Gospels. He is exclusively the way to salvation.
What does it mean to find pasture? It means that you will be fed, you will find rest, and you will be led by the shepherd. The thief does not do that. The thieves come to kill, steal, and destroy which is language that is usually reserved for Satan himself. Jesus is veiling His criticism of the Pharisees. They are like their father, the devil. They were only looking out for themselves.
What does it mean for the shepherd to provide life? It means he is going to get them to food, water, rest, safety, and all the rest. He will care for them. Jesus is teaching at the end of verse ten that He offers life not only in this age but in the age to come. He offers eternal life.
I AM the Good Shepherd (11-16)
In the last paragraph of our sermon text today, Jesus uses another metaphor. He is no longer the Door, but now He is the Good Shepherd. What makes Him so good? He dies for the sheep. You see, this makes sense from a literal, physical perspective and of course it makes sense from a Christian perspective. Shepherds who own a flock are willing to lay down their lives for the preservation of their sheep. It is their family’s livelihood and long-term investment. While Jesus is not dependent on us, we are totally dependent on Him, and we needed Him to lay down His life for our sakes.
The Lord is the Good Shepherd because He lays down His life for the sheep. He is referring to His substitutionary atonement on the cross. The wolf of the wrath of God was coming after us, but Christ through Himself in between.
The last line refers to global missions. There are people from all over the planet who will hear the call of the Good Shepherd and come into His fold. Verse 16 still stands true and active today.
Conclusion and Christian Application
I only have two questions for you as we conclude this sermon. These two questions are simple, but they are as serious as any question that may be posed to you (if not more serious).
(1) (Look at v3) Do you hear Christ’s voice? I don’t mean audibly. I mean, do you hear His voice when you read the Scriptures? Do you hear His voice when His word is taught? Do you hear His voice in your day-to-day life and routine as He guides you by His Spirit?
(2) (Look at v4) Do you follow Christ? This second question is linked to the first. If you are a sheep that belongs to Christ, then you know His voice, and when He calls, you go running to obey His word.
(3) (Look at v14) Do you know Christ? The last question sums up them all. In order to receive the benefits of the Good Shepherd’s accomplishments, you must know Him.