This upcoming parable of the Good Shepherd grew out of Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish leaders after the blind man was excommunicated in chapter 9. With the chapter and verse breaks, it can be difficult to maintain the flow of chronological events, so I wanted to bring remembrance to what we learned last week because it is a continuance of this week. Beautiful stories grow out of brokenness, so take courage if you’ve had a rough week—misery is an opportunity for ministry.
“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.
Jesus was using an illustration that was quite familiar to other Jews; however, since it’s not a typical profession for us in Western culture, I’ll provide some context from Warren Wiersbe:
“The sheepfold was usually an enclosure made of rocks, with an opening for the door. The shepherd (or a porter) would guard the flock, or flocks, at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. Each sheep recognized his own master’s voice.
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.
A true shepherd will lead the sheep, not try to steal the sheep. This is a meaningful distinction in society today. There are many thieves and robbers who try to sneak over the enclosure and steal the Lord’s flock.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” This John 10:10 verse is worth committing to our heart because if you become confused or anxious about a situation, you can do a “10:10 line up” and ask yourself, “Does this steal my joy, or give me joy? Does this kill my flesh, or kill my spirit? Does this destroy God’s work, or build it up? Does this bring me life and fullness?” These questions can help us sort through our thoughts and feelings when we are unsure of the truth.
11 “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.
Verse 11 is the fourth of our Lord’s “I Am” statements in John’s gospel. He’s declaring that He is the Good Shepherd—one that can be trusted and followed. I’m comforted by Psalm 23 and the parallel it has to Jesus’ declaration:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3
So often, our mind can wander to our lack instead of our life (remember the John “10:10 line up” questions to help us filter through anxiety and confusion). When I’m tired and weary from this world, I meditate on Psalm 23:1-3 as I lay my head down on my pillow. I think about how He is leading me. I visualize lying down in a soft, green pasture (with no chiggers, mosquitoes, spiders, or snakes, of course), and listening to the sound of water flowing. I begin to talk to Him and before long, I experience His refreshment. I trust that He will guide me in tomorrow’s journey, should I wake. It is in these still, quiet moments, that I discover deep connection with God (and I usually drift off to sleep somewhere in there, too…and that’s okay).
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.”
God knows you. He sees you. In fact, He loves you so deeply that He chose to willingly give His life for you so that you would not die wandering. He provided you with a gate to walk through, but He will not force you. He will call you, but He will not control you. I pray that you choose to be led by the True Shepherd.
Jesus reiterates that no one took His life. It was His to give, and that is exactly what happened: He gave. That is why when Jesus was on trial, He did not defend His sinlessness. He did not argue His points of righteousness. He knew His purpose and the reason He was sent, and He lived it out through action each day.
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?”
22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
The events starting in verse 21 are 2 ½ months after those described in John 10:1-21. Now, it’s the Festival of Dedication—or Hanukkah (“the feast of lights”). Hanukkah takes place in December, near Christmas. This feast commemorates the re-dedication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164, after it had been desecrated by the Romans (Wiersbe). Maccabeus was a Jewish leader who helped protect the Jews from an invasion by King Antiochus Epiphanes, therefore, preventing the imposition of Hellenism and preserving the Jewish religion. [Just a touch of history for you to fill in the context, thanks to Britannica online!]
The Jews expected Jesus to be at the feast, just as He was present for others. Several chapters ago, we talked about how worship was a delight for Jesus, not a duty. Let us consider our own heart’s posture and whether we delight—or drag our feet—when it comes to fellowshipping with other believers.
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Jesus reminded them of what He had already said. Sometimes we ask for a fresh Word from God when He’s waiting for us to be obedient to His present teaching.
Jesus reinforces His earlier teaching of being the Good Shepherd and His sheep knowing His voice. Those He was speaking to were not His sheep, or they wouldn’t have continued to question whether He was the Messiah.
I love how the Savior reinforces and reiterates His love for us. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” When we are true believers—true followers of Christ—nothing can triumph. I’m so thankful that He is faithful, even when we are not.
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
There are several religions that want to claim Jesus wasn’t God. However, Jesus was crystal clear in His claim—and the people wanted to stone Him for it. I was messaged a few weeks ago about where in scripture Jesus claimed to be God—this was one of the chapter and verses I mentioned, among others. I never received a response from the individual, but I prayed that His Word would take root in their hearts.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
1 Peter 3:15
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.
Jesus continues to display great courage and bravery. Even though the crowd was rearing up against Him, He unabashedly proclaimed the truth and they once again tried to seize Him…but He escaped their grasp. God had Jesus in His hand, too—just like He has you.
God had the perfect hour designated for Jesus to die. It was all planned out to the “nth” degree of perfection…and until that essential moment, God kept Him. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” He keeps you, too. Stay with Him. Move in with Jesus. He will keep you in perfect peace in a chaotic world.
Jesus removed Himself and retreated to a place beyond the Jordan instead of staying around the hostile Jewish leaders. There’s wisdom in removing yourself from certain situations and retreating to be alone with God. Maybe the situation itself doesn’t need to be removed, but you should graciously bow out.
The people who should have accepted Jesus (the Jewish leaders) chose to reject Him; yet, those who were “unholy” believed. Funny how that works. There was too much selfish pride blocking the hearts of the Jewish leaders, and this thought should cause us to pause and consider what selfish pride might be barricading us from knowing Him more.
Father God, help our hearts to be tender and soft toward Your word. Break our pride so that we can hear You and believe. Amen.