Read John 10:1-21
The first part of chapter ten is somewhat like an epilogue to the story in chapter nine. Jesus is describing Himself as the good shepherd as a way of helping the Pharisees understand His actions. This time we read that “many” don’t understand while others are beginning to see what Jesus is saying. The division among the Jews widens as Jesus provides some of the most quoted phrases from the New Testament.
Good Shepherd – Part One
Jesus directs His words toward the Pharisees with some deep implications that set them in a defensive crouch.
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. John 10:1
If this story were merely about sheep and shepherds there would be no cause for alarm, but Jesus is clearly using this imagery to make a point. Everyone listening is on edge, waiting for the next phrase.
He continues to describe the perfect scenario of a shepherd with his sheep. In reality, sheep are not very smart but they do know a few things about their shepherd. They know when he speaks, they know to move when he says move and eat when he leads them into the pasture. At least most of the time. As I said, they’re not all that smart.
There is a gatekeeper that opens the gate, the only way in or out, but the sheep wait for the voice of the one they trust. They know his voice.
But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. John 10:5
Good Shepherd – Part Two
The Pharisees didn’t understand what Jesus was saying (John 10:6), so He tries again starting with the same analogy, but stronger words.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. John 10:7-8
Let’s make this clear, Jesus is the way. There is no other way. Those hearing this as if it is only about sheep are missing the point, so Jesus continues the story while elaborating further.
When He says, “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus clearly shifts the story to ensure there is no misunderstanding. He was sent by the Father for something no one else can do:
…I lay down my life for the sheep John 10:15b
A contractor, i.e., a hired hand, would not be willing to risk his life for the work before him. Jesus is not a hired hand. He is the one and only good shepherd.
Jesus explains that His sacrifice is offered willingly and in accordance with the Father, making it the perfect sacrifice.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 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.” John 10:17-18
The words here are very strong. Jesus speaks of authority and choice; He states explicitly that He is following the Father’s command.
The Pharisees and other Jews listening to Jesus’ words understand what He’s saying and once again they are divided.
Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” John 10:20-21
The Choice is Ours
The evidence is presented over and over throughout the Bible. We have the great advantage of being able to flip through pages that the Pharisees didn’t have. Yet when we lean on our rules and procedures, our bylaws and board meeting minutes, we begin to look a lot like Pharisees. Jesus makes it clear and simple, but sometimes that’s the hardest thing for us to accept.
Is He raving mad? How can He be demon-possessed while doing such marvelous works? I pray you will sincerely seek to hear the voice of Jesus today as you remember these powerful words:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
To seasoned Christians, this is a familiar verse, one we’ve heard many times. My earnest desire is for you to avoid reading these words while nodding your head as if you’ve heard this a thousand times. May you hear the words of Jesus fresh this time, as if you had no food for days, then God provided manna from nowhere to nourish you fully. Have life to the full. Invite others to do the same. Go in peace today as you listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd.