Summary: 1) The Voice of the True Shepherd (John 10:1-6) 2) Following the Voice through the Only Door to the Fold (John 10:7–10)
John 10:1-10. "Follow God’s Voice"
Everton Community Church. Sunday October 17, 2010.
This week saw two radically different outcomes from mine disasters. In Copiapo Chile, 33 miners began their first weekend above ground since a rescue that gripped the world, of their 69-day ordeal trapped deep in the earth. (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Rescued+miners+nightmare+experience/3682562/story.html#ixzz12Wqrf98D)
Twenty Chinese miners have been killed and another 17 are missing after an accident underground in the central Chinese province of Henan Saturday. Although the Chinese Government promises to do everything it can to rescue the miners, their care for them is almost non-existent. Although they promise many things they do not deliver.
For the people of Israel, the care they received vacillated from empty promises to tender compassion. The most tender picture of a leadership that cared was that of a shepherd. Throughout Israel’s history, shepherding had always been a familiar part of everyday agrarian life. And the people all knew that sheep are the most helpless, defenseless, straying, and dirty of animals. They require constant oversight, leading, rescue, and cleaning or they will die. Being a shepherd was good training for leading people. In fact, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been shepherds (Gen. 13:1–11; 26:12–14; 46:32; 47:3), as were Israel’s greatest leaders: Moses (Ex. 3:1) and David (1 Sam. 16:11; 17:28, 34; 2 Sam. 7:8). It is not surprising, then, that the Old Testament writers frequently used shepherding imagery, depicting Israel as God’s flock (Pss. 74:1; 77:20; 78:52; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3; Ezek. 34:12–16), God as her Shepherd (Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Pss. 23:1; 28:9; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 23:3; Ezek. 34:11–12; Mic. 7:14), and her leaders as God’s undershepherds (Num. 27:16–17; 2 Sam. 5:2; 1 Chron. 17:6; Ps. 78:70–72; Jer. 3:15; 23:4). The New Testament writers also used that same familiar terminology to describe the church (Acts 20:28–29; 1 Peter 5:2–3).
But while the metaphor of a shepherd suggests tender care, it can also depict harsh, abusive, autocratic rule. The Bible refers to false spiritual leaders, as well as true ones, as shepherds. It is important to distinguish the voices. In verses 1–10 Jesus contrasted Himself with Israel’s false shepherds and calls us to follow God’s voice in recognizing: 1) The Voice of the True Shepherd (John 10:1-6), 2) Following the Voice through the Only Door to the Fold (John 10:7–10)
1) The Voice of the True Shepherd (John 10:1-6)
John 10:1-6 [10:1]"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. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. (ESV)
In His discussion with the Jews, Jesus switched to a common Old Testament theme to illustrate who He was. Those Jews would remember Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd” (verse 1; see also Psalm 80:1). They would recall Isaiah’s description of the Lord, “He tends his flock like a shepherd” (Isaiah 40:11), and Ezekiel’s, “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:12). They would know the Messiah was to be the shepherd of God’s people (Ezekiel 34:13) (Baumler, G. P. (1997). John. The People’s Bible (148). Milwaukee, Wis.: Northwestern Publishing House.).
The phrase amēn, amēn (truly, truly) introduces a statement of notable importance. Jesus began this discourse by identifying Himself as the true Shepherd, in sharp contrast to all false shepherds. Each village in the sheepherding regions of Palestine had a sheepfold where sheep were kept at night. The shepherds would graze their flocks in the surrounding countryside during the day, and then lead them back to the communal sheepfold in the evening. There the shepherds would stop each sheep at the entrance with their rods and carefully inspect it before allowing it to enter the fold (cf. Ezek. 20:37–38).
Once in the fold, the sheep were in the care as it says in John 10:3, of the gate/doorkeeper who would keep watch over them during the night. He would give only the shepherds access to the sheepfold. There is considerable disagreement as to the identity of the gate/doorkeeper in this verse. Some think this expression refers to the prophets of the OT who foretold the coming of the Christ. Others believe it refers to John the Baptist, since he was the forerunner of the true Shepherd. Still others are equally sure that the gate/doorkeeper in this verse is the Holy Spirit who opens the door for the entrance of the Lord Jesus into hearts and lives. Based on how Jesus represents himself in John 10:7, it is most likely Jesus Himself. (MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997). Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 10:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.).