In our text today, Jesus describes salvation and the kingdom of heaven on earth in terms of a relationship between sheep and their shepherd.
• In the course of this teaching, He unveils two more “I am” statements.
• We will explore the meaning behind the metaphor, the “I am” statements, and the relationship of all its characters – the sheep, the shepherd, the thieves/robbers, and the hired hand.
1) THE METAPHOR
John 10:1–6 (ESV) — 1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
We need to define some terms so we can get a handle on this sheepfold metaphor.
What is a sheepfold?
• It is “an area open to the sky, freq. surrounded by buildings, and in some cases partially by walls; enclosed open space; courtyard” – BDAG.
• In other words, we aren’t out in the countryside.
• D. A. Carson says “it is better to think of a larger, independent enclosure, where several families kept their sheep, hiring an undershepherd to guard the gate.”
• See picture example for an idea.
• And in Jesus’ metaphor, it represents Israel.
It was customary in Jesus’ time to hire a watchman, the gatekeeper from vs. 3, to keep watch over the sheep.
• Typically, there was only one way for the sheep themselves to enter or leave – the gate or door.
o Sheep couldn’t climb the walls or jump over them.
• This gate/door was guarded by the watchman.
• However, there were other ways for the “thief” and “robber” to enter or leave.
The Wrong Way In:
• Jesus tells us that he that enters the sheepfold by any means other than the gate/door “is a thief and a robber” (vs. 1).
• This person’s motives are to evade the watchman and steal or devour the sheep.
The Right Way In:
• Jesus then tells us that the one who enters correctly through the gate/door is “the shepherd of the sheep” (vs. 2).
• He has no need to evade the watchman.
• The watchman obviously knows the shepherd because he is the one who hired him in the first place.
• Therefore, the watchman does not hesitate to open the door for the shepherd.
o “The verb ἀνοίγω (anoigō, open) is used repeatedly in the context for Jesus’ opening of the congenitally blind man’s eyes (9:10, 14, 17, 21, 26, 30, 32; 10:21; 11:37)” – Kostenberger.
o Given the context, this may be significant.
Jesus also points out a unique relationship the shepherd has with His sheep (vss. 2-5).
• They know him by the sound of his voice.
• And even more than that, they will follow only his voice.
• If there are other villager’s sheep in the sheepfold, they will not follow.
• In fact, Jesus tells us that at the sound of a stranger’s voice the shepherd’s sheep will flee to the other side of the sheepfold.
• And remarkably, Jesus tells us that He will call His sheep by name.
o Revelation 13:8 (ESV) — 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
John tells us that the Jews listening didn’t understand what Jesus was saying.
• Most believe Jesus is still talking to the same group of Jews here as He was in John 9.
• If so, what John is telling us is that those that Jesus called spiritually blind also lack the ability to understand spiritual things.
o Does this inability in the unbeliever make it difficult to evangelize?
• In verse 7, John tells us Jesus sheds a little more insight into His intended meaning.
2) THE MEANING OF THE METAPHOR
John 10:7–18 (ESV) — 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 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. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
We will deal with the thieves, robbers and hired hand before we get into Jesus and the sheep.
Thieves and Robbers (vss. 8 and 10):
Jesus tells us that the thieves and robbers come before Him.
• This may refer to at least three things (Kostenberger).
o (1) The corrupt leadership throughout the history of Israel.
o “The OT prophet Ezekiel refers to the ‘shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves’ and ‘do not take care of the flock’ (Ezek. 34:2–4 [see the entire chapter])” – Kostenberger.
o (2) The Messiah pretenders similar, for example, to those in Acts 5:36-37.
o (3) And false prophets cited by throughout Jewish writings (Scripture and Josephus).
Given the context of John 10 and its relationship to John 9, the thieves and robbers clearly represent the very Pharisees and Jewish leaders hearing Jesus speak.
• The Pharisees, of course, were self-righteous and corrupt.
• In keeping with the sheepfold metaphor, MacArthur tells us that they sought “to spiritually fleece and slaughter the people”.
• Their dealings with the healed blind man, casting him out, show us why.
• They not only rejected Jesus, but also those that believed in Him.
• Under their leadership, Israel, the sheepfold, has suffered.
o Jeremiah 50:6 (ESV) — 6 “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold.
Hired Hand (vss. 12-13):
Whoever they might be, they do not have an abiding interest in the welfare of the sheep.
• When serious danger comes, a wolf/theif/robber, they abandon the sheep.
• The sheep are then left to be ravaged by the wolves.
• Kostenberger suggests that the hired hand represents leaders throughout the history of Israel “who fail to perform their God-given responsibilities”.
Let’s now look at the symbolism for Jesus which is ripe with OT allusions.
The Door and the Good Shepherd:
Jesus tells them twice that He is the door.
• “I am the door of the sheep” (vs. 7)
• “I am the door” (vs. 9)
• Jesus is clearly alluding to Psalm 118:20.
o “This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.”
• BTW – Interestingly, as is attested in Greek literature since Homer, people in ancient times frequently thought of entering heaven by a gate.
o Jesus’ claim to be “the gate” would have resonated with this kind of thinking (cf. 1:51) – Kostenberger.
Jesus also tells them twice that He is the good shepherd.
• “I am the good shepherd” (vs. 11)
• “I am the good shepherd” (vs. 14)
• As with the door imagery, Jesus here is also alluding to the OT.
o Genesis 48:15 (ESV) — 15 And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
o Jeremiah 31:10 (ESV) — 10 “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
• And Kostenberger tells us that when Jesus’ uses “shepherd”, He is purposely placing Himself within “traditional Jewish messianic expectations”.
Now let’s take a look at the relationship Jesus describes that He (as the door and the shepherd) has with the flock and the Father.
The Door/Shepherd’s Relationship to the Sheep
(1) If they enter the sheepfold the right way, through Jesus, they will “be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (vs. 9).
• This is covenant language and also alludes directly to such language in the Old Testament.
o Deuteronomy 28:6 (ESV) — 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
o Isaiah 49:9–10 (ESV) — 9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.
(2) They will “have life and have it abundantly” (vs. 10).
• Abundant life is salvation, but it is more than that.
• What it is NOT is the prosperity gospel.
• In fact, Jesus in John 15:18-25 , teaches that “if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you”.
• So what is the abundant life lived in the here and now?
• Psalm 23:1–6 (ESV) — A PSALM OF DAVID. 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(3) Jesus lays down his life for them (vs. 11).
• This is how salvation and the abundant life are secured for the sheep.
• This is God initiating the new covenant with those that hear his voice and follow him.
(4) Jesus knows His sheep and His sheep know Him (voice) (vs. 14).
• Those that are born again and saved are those that hear and trust in the voice and witness of Jesus.
• And like the sheep, they follow Him.
What is helpful about this concept is that it provides a way that we can have assurance of our salvation.
• With respect to His claims to be God, His relationship to the Father, and His hard sayings:
o Does the voice of Jesus ring true to you?
o And what do you do with the words of Jesus?
o Do they make sense to you?
o Do you follow Him?
o Or are the words of Jesus offensive and awkward to you?
(5) Jesus has other sheep from a different sheepfold – Gentiles (vs. 16).
• Yet another allusion to the Old Testament.
• Isaiah 56:8 (ESV) — 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
The Door/Shepherd’s Relationship to the Father
• Very similar to our lessons from John 5 on “The Father’s Jesus”.
• The Father loves Jesus (vs. 17).
• Jesus lays down His life at the charge of and under the authority of the Father (vs. 18).
• Jesus knows the Father and the Father knows Jesus (vss. 14-15).
o In the same way Jesus and the sheep know each other.
This statement of knowledge by Jesus in John 10:14-15 is extremely significant.
• The Greek word for “know” here is “ginosko”.
• It has a variety of meanings.
• However, in our context today, the BDAG shows us that it means “to grasp the significance of” something.
• So to paraphrase, Jesus is saying that believers are such that they grasp His identity in the same way that the Father grasps His identity.
• This is an awesome claim!
So why is this so significant and how is this possible?
How can we have the same kind of grasping of Jesus as the Father does?
• (1) It is clear from the entirety of John’s Gospel that we can’t grasp in this way without a work of God.
o So this points us to the Holy Spirit.
o John 3 and Ezekiel 36:26 point us to this work of God through the Holy Spirit.
• (2) It is also obvious that those who recognize the voice (John 10:4) of Jesus, the good shepherd, and follow Him are those that grasp His identity and His relationship with the Father.
o So this points us to the miracle of the new birth.
o The new birth gives us the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
• (3) It also reveals to us the objective and transcendent nature of our knowledge.
o Salvation, knowing and grasping Jesus’ identity, is somehow related to the relationships within the Trinity.
o In other words, we know Jesus because the Father knows Jesus.
o This means our knowledge of Jesus is not subjective and relative, but exists objectively and transcendentally in God.
o Our knowledge of God is not a feeling or just intellectual assent.
o Our knowledge of God is not our doing.
o It is eternally grounded in our Creator…what a relief!
Now let’s look at the response to Jesus’ sheepfold metaphor.
3) THE MUMBLING OVER THE METAPHOR
John 10:19–21 (ESV) — 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
• The Jews continue to insult Jesus.
• They call Him insane.
• They call Him demon oppressed.
• These are actions of those who do not recognize His voice and follow Him.
• However, given the healing of the blind man and the words of Jesus in John 10, it appears that there are some who recognize in Jesus something of the Father.
• And like Jesus, they also allude to the Old Testament when they ask, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
o Psalm 146:8 (ESV) — 8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
Lessons for Us:
• It seems that the Gospel presentation for Jesus often consisted of contrasting unbelievers with believers.
• He did so in John 6, in John 9 (blind/seeing) and He does so again in our text today.
• And when making this contrast, He attributes a work of God as accounting for the difference between believers and unbelievers.
• Why do you think He does this?
• How should this influence or inform our presentation of the Gospel?