The Good Shepherd - John 10:1-18
This is my wife’s favorite passage and she has asked me for years to teach on this, but somehow it has never seemed to be what I was being lead to preach or teach. Finally, here we are. I guess that is a lesson in itself on patience. C];-)}|>
There are many people in the world today claiming to know the way to God and a godly life. In fact, I would not even try to number the voices and spirits in the world today or the books, radio, TV and computer programs they produce. (1 Cor 14:10, 1 John 4:1) It is no wonder people are confused. All these "shepherds" desiring to have "sheep" follow them and they are all going different ways and saying different things yet claiming they will get the sheep to the same or proper pasture dictates a study on what constitutes a good shepherd and a good voice.
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter open; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. KJV
In the first five verses, we have a parable given. In verse one, we have only one door to enter the sheepfold. In verse two, we have only one shepherd. In verse 3, we have only one voice to recognize. In verse 4, we have only one person to follow and in verse 5, we have only one response to strangers.
At this point, the Jews would have no argument with Jesus. They understood sheep and shepherding and would have no problem with the concept of one in this context. They knew how sheep were sheltered. They knew what thieves were. Some of them were thieves and knew the modus operandi. They knew that sheep would learn the voice of their shepherd and would only follow him ignoring the voice of another. Their anger would come with the interpretation of the parable. In our society, we lack this understanding. Few of us tend sheep or know anyone that does tend them.
I think one being emphasized is significant in our day. We want all kinds of legitimate entries into the sheepfold. We want to recognize numerous shepherds. We want equality for all voices and recognition of all who claim to be a shepherd and for the sheep to just follow anyone. All ideas are of equal value is the cry of those who preach tolerance but do not practice it.
Indeed, I have heard that a Supreme Court judge has written that freedom of speech applies to everyone but Christians. If that is true, he needs to be impeached because of such gross ignorance of the Constitution and its framers. That may even border on hate speech and it is most certainly prejudice. What this country needs is a cowboy and truck driver in the White House and some of them on the Supreme Court as well. These rich kids and lawyers we have been electing have lost touch with reality.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. KJV
In verses 6-10, Christ explains the parable and then the fireworks begin. To tell the Jews that He is the Door, Jesus warps their minds. (Vs. 6,7) They are expecting a Messiah, but Jesus does not fit their bill. They want a military leader and a King. Ironically, when God was their King ruling from glory, they wanted a human king to rule and God to stay in Glory. (1Samuel 8) Now God comes to them in human form to be their King and they just want a human warrior king with a God conveniently in Glory. Some things never change.
Not only is that a menace to their theology and political goals, but by calling Himself the Door, they understand that He is saying that He is the only Door into the sheepfold which they understand as meaning entrance into the presence of God or Heaven! They thought that they were the doorways to God. After all, they were the theological leaders. Yet, Christ said that they were not going through the Door and that they were blocking others from doing the same by taking away the key, which is the truth. (Luke 11:52)
By adding to and taking away from the Word, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Lawyers, were all thieves and robbers trying to get into the sheepfold their way. (Vs. 8) Things have not changed much. The names have changed to protect the guilty, but we still have Word tampering and people designing their own pet doctrines and gimmicks to show that they are the only shepherds that can get you into the sheepfold. For the cultural fussy eater we just provide a luxury sheepfold with a buffet where the sheep can pick and choose their doctrine or shepherd according to the latest fad diet. Some cater to the elite and others glean the poor, but they are all thieves and robbers. Look for their latest book coming soon with the new revelation to explain why the previous revelation did not come to pass, like the Y2K revealing of the AntiChrist or Rapture. Sadly, more and more of these types are cropping up even in the "Conservative" Baptist groups.
Jesus explains that there is only one way to salvation. (Vs. 9a) That did not sit well with the Jews or the Gentiles. The Jews knew they were the chosen of the only true God, so they had no problem with one salvation. They just could not accept Jesus Christ as that only way. Gentiles could not deal with that since they were polytheistic which is one reason they had such fits with the monotheistic Jews and persecuted them every chance they could.
The Romans believed in religious liberty as long as you bowed to the Emperor as god. After that, you can have a million gods they did not care as long as you recognized theirs. They did not even care if it was lip service. Now, if you had come along preaching that their god was the only way of salvation you would have received praise, a headquarters and a stipend from the Emperor or maybe a seat in the Senate. Ah, but to claim that there was only one God and theirs was not the one ended their tolerance and you became an enemy of the state.
Hmm, sound like the local news? I could start a religion where we all had to dye ourselves purple and dance naked on the full moon with marshmallows in our nostrils, while the men barked and the women meowed. I would be accepted into the ministerium as an avant-garde leader in spirituality. I could probably get some chaplains in the military as long as I filed my appropriate papers with the government. That is, as long as I said, "I’m Ok. You’re OK" and accepted everyone else as being on the same trail to the sheepfold expressing themselves in unique innovative worship.
Ah, but say that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and I am being intolerant and there is no toleration of me. Yet, what else can I say if I am a Christian when Christ said it Himself? How can I deny the clear teaching of the One I worship and serve? The Great Commission clearly teaches to teach and make disciples of all men. Well, if I come across a person of another faith or an atheist my commandment is to seek to make that person a disciple of Christ by love and not by sword as some have done in the past. Christ is the only Door to Heaven. He is the only way of salvation.
I had a black Baptist brother ask me about that and he said that he just could not see how the rest of the world was lost. I quoted him this passage and Acts 4:12 and others saying that you have to believe it because the Bible and the Savior you say you serve said so. I later found out that there is sort of a movement or thinking within some black Christians to try to redeem their animist ancestors.
I understand their concern for their ancestors, but my Teutonic ancestors are in Hell if they did not receive Christ. Many of my ancestors who might have been "Christians" by name only are there as well. We have to trust them to a righteous God that will do right. We need to lead to salvation all we can within our lifetime. We cannot help the dead, only the living. When you consider that God had every right to toss all of us into Hell, it is easier to be grateful that any make it to Heaven at all! It should spur us to greater zeal for evangelism. I trust the God of grace that is not willing that any should perish to provide the opportunity for salvation to all that would accept the gift He offers. I have read some tremendous testimonies as to how God accomplishes this.
Christ also says that He is the one way to spiritual growth and nourishment. (Vs. 9b) We seek fad ways to the deeper life like we seek fad diets. We buy all sorts of books and attend a myriad of seminars, but Jesus said that we get to the pasture by Him. The pasture was a place of rest and food. (Psalm 23) If we are hungry or stunted in our growth it is because we have been eating too much processed or regurgitated food and not feasting on the Bread sent down from Heaven or drinking from the spring of Living Water. (John 6:35; 4:10)
I did my time at Bible College. I have sat under the ministry of many teachers and preachers. Some I admired and some were mired in the muck. My best learning times were when I was in the library doing my own research apart from what my professors assigned. My sermons come more from what I have learned from God through my own experiences and my own study which is why I do not quote a lot of people unless they have been dead for a hundred years or more.
God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to win souls and equip saints. However, we are to learn to pour our own milk and learn to cut our own steak that the Lord would serve us. (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13,14) It is needful to come and hear the Word preached as many times as the doors are opened, but it is equally important to spend time in your own study of the Word and to receive what the Lord has to say to you specifically as His child. If a husband hired a guy to come and tell his wife that he loved her three times a day it would not be the same as him telling her himself. Jesus has a guy telling you that three or four times a week, but that is to inspire you to come to Him and hear it from Him personally.
If I eat a steak in front of you, giving you a description of the taste with every bite and telling you how I feel you will get very hungry while understanding how juicy and tender it is. However, it will not satisfy your hunger and you will starve to death if it continues for very long. Your preachers and teachers are describing the meal they were given by the Lord to make you hungry to go get one from Him served hot from the throne and not live off of what they describe. If we ate physical food like spiritual food, we would be anorexic from three or four meals a week. Grab a spiritual knife and fork and eat all you want!! There is no cholesterol or fat!!! You will be lean, clean fighting machines if you eat regularly at the Master’s Mess Hall!!!
Thieves bring loss and death (Vs. 10a) Have you ever heard of a thief that broke into a house to deposit money and jewels? Do they install a top of the line computer and an entertainment center including a large screen TV? I don’t think so! I would leave the door of my house unlocked if they practiced that!!! No, they come in through another means to take everything that is valuable and if you get in the way they will take your life.
Spiritual thieves and robbers do the same thing. They come to the sheepfold or the church and because they have not the proper faith and belief in Christ, they cannot get through the Door, so they develop theologies and doctrines trying to get in another way. Sometimes, they even create something that looks like the Door. It is a good copy. It deceives many, but it is a doorway to Hell, not Heaven and will result in eternal death for those they rob of the Truth and their most precious possession, their soul! There is no greater loss!!
Contrast Christ who brings gain and life. (Vs. 10b) Thieves take and Jesus gives. Christ does not only promise us eternal life for our soul, but He promises us life more abundantly in this life. He does this in many ways. He changes our hearts, which changes our thoughts and practices, which guides us from destructive lifestyles. This improves our health, wealth, and relationships. He answers the questions that plague us as to where we came from, why are we here and where are we going after death. This leads to peace. He promises to always to be with us which is just one of many promises. He gives us purpose and vision and then supplies through the Holy Spirit the gifts to achieve the vision He gives us. And I am sure that if I asked for testimonies from the Brethren, I would get list way to long to place here as to how Christ brings gain to their lives and how the abundant life is experienced by them. It is a much more abundant life to be led by the Good Shepherd than being deceived, used, and abused by thieves.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. KJV
We now have a Good Shepherd defined. In verse 11, we see a Good Shepherd gives his life. Not just giving his life as we think of dedication or devotion, but literally laying down his life. David fought a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. In that process, you could lose your life. No matter what the danger, a good shepherd stays by the sheep. No matter how far a sheep may stray or how deep a ditch it has fallen in, the Good Shepherd seeks out his sheep and if necessary will die for that sheep. He is preparing His disciples for His crucifixion, but they are not ready to receive that yet so they will miss it.
Compare this to the hirelings who flee (Vs. 12a) You see, the Good Shepherd or the ones whom the sheep belong to will have far more loyalty to the flock than someone paid to tend to them. Ever find it hard to hire a good worker? Many only find the paycheck important and when your interests’ conflict with theirs, they will follow their interests until you pressure them to do what they were hired for or they quit. They will never care about your business as much as you do. There are rare exceptions.
When a hireling sees trouble coming, he will flee. He is not going to risk his life for the sheep. A wolf shows up and he is gone. They are only there as long as all goes well. As long as there is money, fame, or power in his "ministry" he will hang around. Ah, but let that fame wane. Let the offerings and his take of it drop off or let someone that is spiritual challenge his actions and he is out of there. He deserts the sheep.
Sheep deserted are prey (Vs. 12b) Usually, when one of the hirelings flee, the church suffers. They are taken by ravening wolves of fear or anger. The weak are the first. They have looked to this hireling as a spiritual man and when he deserts them. They fear what the next man will be like. Will he also desert them? Will he also hurt them? They often leave and wander from church to church always afraid to commit to another undershepherd or church.
Others get angry either at the hireling or the leaders left behind who may be as surprised, fearful, and angry as anyone else, but because they are leaders they take the flack. Sometimes things are found out that the hireling had done during his tenure and this causes arguments. Someone blames others for letting him get away with it. This cause dissension and people leave and the sheep are scattered. All because people were looking to the hireling and not to the Good Shepherd.
Hirelings are selfish (Vs. 13) The flock is not theirs. If it prospers, fine, as long as that prosperity prospers them. If it does not prosper as long as their paycheck does not suffer, they will not care. Often this flock is only a stepping stone to a greater flock with greater benefits. They can change at a moment’s notice.
The Good Shepherd is committed (Vs 14a) He knows His sheep intimately and He will stay with them. It has been said that trying to get people to commit to anything today is like trying to nail Jell-Oâ to a wall. I believe it. I am of the old school that believes when a preacher takes a church he should put his tombstone in the church cemetery. If they do not have one, then start one with yours as the first plot. I read where one preacher accepted the call only when the congregation consented to allow the preacher’s father to come and conduct a wedding ceremony between him and the church. Now, that is commitment!!!!
It is odd that God changes his mind so often now when He kept men in the same ministries for decades in the past. Now, He seems to change His mind about every three years for a preacher and half that for a youth minister. Is it not odd that God nearly always calls a pastor to a bigger church or higher position in the denomination while the smaller churches often stay pastorless for long periods? Jesus goes the long haul with His flock and often ministers most to the weak and small. Why do not the undershepherds do the same? Why do the sheep change flocks every two years? There is no commitment. Yes, I know that God can and will call people to different ministries. I have doubts that He does it as often as he is given credit for it.
Because the Good Shepherd is committed, the flock will know Him (Vs. 14b) Christ so interacts with His sheep that they know Him when they hear Him. Sheep know their shepherd. They know his voice and his scent and when a stranger approaches they will bleat in alarm and calm down when they hear their shepherd’s voice.
This is why the Jews did not know Him. They were not His sheep. (Vs. 26,27) No matter how clearly He spoke or how well He explained His parables, they did not know that He was the Christ or the Good Shepherd. (Vs. 24) It is the same today. Many do not hear His voice and so they do not follow. That is fine, as Christ compels no one to believe in Him or to follow Him.
However, like the Jews of His day, they seek to stone Him by scattering His sheep. They may cause some fear in His sheep, but they will bleat and He will answer. He will lose none of His sheep for they will not follow another. People have asked me over the years about people who were once faithful and then went off and joined a cult. They want to know how that can happen. It is obvious that they were not His sheep. If they join a group that denies who He is or denies His work then they could have never been His because they are listening to a voice other than His. True sheep will not do that. They may stray into sin and maybe be enticed by pretty packaging and slick talking, but the Holy Spirit within them will tell them that they are not hearing the voice of the Shepherd and they will depart from the stranger.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. KJV
Finally, we have the Shepherd’s Mission Detailed (Vs 15-18) The Father and the Son are in agreement with the mission (Vs. 15a) He did not come on His own. He and the Father are of the same essence and they know each other in a way that is far beyond our comprehension. The thrill is that they know us in the same way and one day we shall have full knowledge of them as well.
When we want to try to describe how the plan of salvation came about with our minds we like to think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sitting at a table brainstorming. Because they are of the same essence, I like to think that plan was conceived in their essence instantaneously each taking their roles in it automatically as the expression of their love for Mankind. However it happened, there was agreement among them and we are the blessed recipients of that plan.
It was to be a mission of sacrifice (Vs. 15b) We cannot comprehend the sacrifice Christ made by stepping into flesh and leaving Glory. To leave all that to be born into a stable, live as a carpenter and then to die on the Cross, for those who did not believe and appreciate what He did. I doubt that any of us would even do half of that for such an ungrateful crowd. Yet, if we are to follow the Shepherd we will learn to sacrifice. We are called to carry His Cross and die daily. (Luke 9:23-25) Have you sacrificed anything for him today?
All sheep to be brought into one fold. (Vs. 16) An essential sign of someone following the Good Shepherd will be the death of prejudice. In those days, you were either a Jew or a Goy. To be Goy was on the same level as a mongrel dog. Color was not as important as whether you were a Jew and circumcised. Christ was going to bring those two groups into one fold.
What I love about the church where I am a member is that we have a neat blending of many folks into one fold. We have Indians (Bombay type), Phillipinos, Hispanic, Blacks (both African and American), and some of us white folks hang out there as well. We all come together to worship and love each other, which is how it will be in Heaven. Thank God, we are getting into practice for Glory!!! If you are ever in Mesquite, TX come and get a taste for yourself at Macedonia Baptist Church. Look me up and I will introduce you to some mighty wonderful folk and Brother John who is a shining example of an undershepherd that is following the Good Shepherd!!
It was to be a mission of love. (Vs. 7a) God so loved us that He sent the Son. The Son so loved the Father that He willingly came. The Father loved the Son for giving up His life for us. The Holy Spirit is the gift of love to us and the one who conveys the love of the Father and the Son to us and to the Lost by showing us the Son and the Lost their sin that they might repent and receive God’s love. Once Jesus saves us and then the Spirit enters us, we are ordained to enter the same mission of love and produce fruit. By the way, how is your crop?
A mission accomplished by death but granting life (Vs 17b) Just as a seed falls into the ground to die before life can spring from it so also did Christ die that He might rise again and bring us into eternal life. We follow Him by dying to ourselves. The Spirit then leads those that witness our death and the resurrection life in us into repentance and life. Oh, that they may see more of that death and resurrection in us!!!
It was a volunteer mission (Vs. 18a) Jesus came of His own free will. He only went to the Cross because he chose to do so. He allowed Himself to be led as a lamb to slaughter. One word and the city would have been leveled to ashes and His enemies vaporized. His power was not jut in the ability to do it as we think of strong men lifting great weights. The word power is authority. He had the authority to raise Himself from the dead as He will have the authority to raise His own to reign with Him when He returns and the authority to send the devil, his demon mob, and human pawns to an eternal Hell.
Finally, it was a mission with no chance of failure. (Vs. 18b) With the omnipotence and authority that He had, He could not have failed. The Father also commanded Him and the Father would not have given Him a commandment that He could not keep. We have a Shepherd that could not and would not fail the flock! Glory to God that was true then and it is forever true!!! What joy! What comfort! What peace comes from that my Brothers and Sisters!!! My Lost friends that should cause you to realize that He will not fail when He returns as the King and Judge of this world! Better to be born into His family and become one of His flock today than to face Him as Judge in that day! Many Christians will lose rewards and weep over lost opportunities to serve at the Bema, but that will be nothing in comparison to the Great White Throne and its outcome. I beg you to receive the love of the Good Shepherd today!!
Who are you following the one Good Shepherd or a hireling? Whose voice are you listening to? Preachers are you following Him or your denomination? What door are you entering? Are you a sheep or a thief? Have you obtained the only salvation?
Brethren, have you entered as a volunteer, into the mission of love and sacrifice that will not fail? Are you following Him into green pastures or are you dying from malnutrition caused by fad processed foods? Are you committed or selfish? Have you left sheep to be a prey or defending them with your life? Do you know Him? I pray that we will all learn of Him and follow in meekness and lowliness taking up our Cross and receiving the power of the resurrection!!!! Lord, make it so!!