John 10:1-21 Jesus the Good Shepherd
John 10:1-10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
If someone were to ask you today, “What do you believe in and why?” How would you answer?
The key message of John’s Gospel is “Believe in Jesus.” Believe in the Word who lived from the beginning, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. But from where does this belief come? What is a “believing life” like? In Chapter 10, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the son of God, provides the answers to these questions.
Chapter 10 records two teachings of Jesus. The first describes the relationship between Jesus and His people through the illustration of a shepherd and his sheep. This was right after He healed the man born blind. The second comes about 3 months later, at the Feast of Dedication. It focuses on the divine identity of Jesus and the great assurance the Son of God brings to His people.
At this point in His ministry – which is near the end – Jesus gives His people confidence and clarity in His call and care for His people.
So, in the Shepherd teaching, Jesus continues to confront the Pharisees. They had just thrown the man born blind out of the synagogue. This was one of THEIR sheep, but instead of being compassionate like Jesus, they only thought about themselves.
Jesus, of course is the Shepherd who “entered by the gate.” Who came as the promises and prophecies of the Old testament said. Sent by God, He was the true leader of His people. His compassion on the man demonstrated how a Shepherd acts on behalf of His sheep. And this gives believers assurance and peace.
Israel was a pastoral people for many centuries. Therefore, God often used the picture of a shepherd to illustrate His relationship with His people. As students of the scriptures the Pharisees should have known God’s warning, through Jeremiah, of “shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” God said to them, “I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.”
In Jeremiah’s time, the Lord sent the nation into exile, but He also promised He would gather His flock and give them truthful and caring shepherds. “The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up from David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”
A prophecy of the coming Messiah.
The prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He also wrote about “shepherds” who did not lead and teach God’s people with the truth. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says; I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.” But the Lord promised, “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”
The passage closes with, “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
God the Father completed through His son the promise to care for and lead His own people. Perfectly and personally, Jesus continues to complete God’s Word as he calls His people to Himself.
A genuine shepherd demonstrates a relationship with his sheep. There are three points to notice here.
1. Jesus knows each sheep by name. The Son of God has a conscious, person-to-person relationship with every individual who belongs to Him. In the Bible, giving or knowing a name means understanding a person’s true nature or even changing their character.
2. Jesus knows you perfectly. He not only knows your name, He knows everything about you! What you are good at, what you think about! He knows the anxieties you carry with you from childhood, desires fulfilled and unfulfilled, your happiest times and your most profound fears.
He also knows His eternal purpose for you, which means your highest possible joy and satisfaction. And He’s known you forever!
3. Jesus Himself leads His sheep. He goes ahead rather than driving them from behind. He lived in this world as a man, experiencing human hunger, fatigue, family conflict, the betrayal of friends and violence of enemies. And He confronted all of that with focused purpose, justice and grace. The core of His human existence was to defeat sin and death on behalf of His people.
The writer of Hebrews called Jesus the “pioneer of their salvation.” Because of our sin, no human being could enter God’s presence, so Jesus went ahead of us to bring us with Him.
In His flawless life and His death as a sin-sacrifice, He paid our penalty and covered us with His righteousness. He entered into death so we could live forever and He entered heaven, where He intercedes for us, so we can follow Him there.
Jesus is and always will be the Savior of His people, but He also led His flock by example. He loved His Father and was always intent on God’s will. He thought, lived and spoke by God’s Word. He showed grace to those who were helpless and hopeless without Him. When he was treated cruelly, he acted with dignity.
Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus; who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing.
Here He is, the king of Glory. He can stay anywhere; He can go anywhere and do anything. He knows who He is. Yet what does He do – for us and for our sake? He empties Himself until He becomes nothing. The King of Glory allowed Himself to be born in a stable with goats and chickens. He had to learn a language. He had to be clothed and fed by someone. He just gave Himself away, always putting others first. He left His Kingdom, left His glory behind to show us how to live.
While we try to hold on tight to things, He is saying, Give it away. He humbled Himself and made Himself obedient even to death. What a teacher! All we have to do is follow the leader, be in unity with Him, see what He sees, go where He goes, do what he does, pray what He prays, love as He loves.
Peter wrote in 1Peter 2:21-25 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
David wrote in Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
Not ONLY did He come to save us from our sins, but so that we could live new lives, energized and renewed by his own presence with them.
When the Pharisees didn’t understand, Jesus gave them another example. In the first three verses, He described the kind of sheepfold shepherds used during a winter. In a village’s communal fold, a watchman who recognized the shepherds was authorized to open a strong gate. Verse 2 and 3 again; The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.
In verse seven He probably referred to the kind of sheepfolds used in the summer. These had stone walls and the gateway was merely an opening. At night, the shepherd lay down in the gateway, so the shepherd himself served as the gate. No one could enter the sheepfold except through Him.
So, in this illustration Jesus Himself is both the Shepherd and the only Gate into eternal life, God’s kingdom and God’s family.
The thieves and robbers were the self-proclaimed messiahs and teachers who have appeared in the world. All the false religions…
Where He said they will come in and go out describes a free and safe life. God told Israel as they approached Canaan that if they obeyed Him, He would bless their “going out and coming in.”
Psalm 121:8 promises, “the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
And where He says that “they may have life to the full” means our eternal life starts as soon as we become believers and abundant life happens when we live in His inexhaustible joy, peace, love, patience, self-control, power, endurance and ability to meet every situation. Life with Jesus becomes an adventure. It means eternally significant living now and an abundant entrance into heaven.
John 10:11-21 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So, when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to 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 authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
He says He knows them and they know Him. There’s a relationship there.
Where He says He has “other sheep” – Jesus came and spoke first to the Jews, but after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, His Spirit spoke also through the apostles to the Gentiles. Non-Jewish believers flooded the early church.
He says there will be one flock and one Shepherd. The believers will be united in their belief.
And He says He lays down His life willingly. We know Jesus died for US. But we also need to know His sacrifice was first in devotion to God the Father. Jesus surrendered His human will to His Father’s purpose for Him.
On the cross He “gave up His spirit” and 3 days later He walked out of the tomb. So, He had the divine power to lay down His life and take it up again.