Summary: The world is a very dangerous place spiritually, full of wolves that come to us in sheep's clothing, evil shepherds masquerading as good shepherds. How do we find the Good Shepherd? How do we determine the difference between good shepherds and bad? Jesus provides insight in John 10.
If you’re only casually familiar with the Bible, you might be surprised to find out that one of the major themes of the New Testament is false teachers. Under this general category fall false shepherds, false prophets and false apostles.
You see, the Bible claims to be the truth about God and our relationship to Him. And the key truth that we must all understand to be saved and have a right relationship with God is about Jesus—that Jesus is the God man who died for our sins and rose again.
The reason that false teachers and their teachings become such a major subject in the Bible is that, number one, there are a lot of them. and #2, what they try to do is deadly. They attempt to dissuade us from the truth and have us believe a lie about who the true God is and what He has done to give us eternal life. In other words, our ability to recognize all forms of false teachers and false shepherds and their false teaching becomes critical. It can become a matter of eternal life or eternal death. If we fail to know the difference between false teachers and false shepherds and true teachings and reliable shepherds, we are spiritually vulnerable. We can be deceived, and having been deceived we may, as a result, experience eternal destruction.
So this morning we turn to a passage where this subject comes up. It’s John chapter 10, and in many respects it’s one of the most comforting passages in all of Scripture. Jesus identifies Himself for us as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. But in the midst of all the good vibes, we might expect, the passage serves as a warning about, in particular false shepherds, some really bad guys, spiritual thieves and robbers.
And basically what we’re going to find out about them is how to discern the difference between a true shepherd and a false shepherd. Basically, that we’re to Follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus, as the only one who can save. Reject any so-called shepherd who denies that Jesus is the only one who can save.
Now to be honest with you, I have never fully understood this passage as I have in the last couple of weeks. That’s all because of the chapter break. As I’ve read through the Gospel of John, I’ve always assumed when I got to Chapter 10, an entirely new story was being told, unconnected with the events in Chapter 9. But, as many of you know, the chapter breaks in Scripture are not inspired—they are not from God. They were added for our convenience by Bible scholars somewhere around the 14th or 15th centuries, A.D. As John wrote John 9 and 10 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the first century A.D., there was no chapter 9 or chapter 10. There was just one continuous manuscript, without chapters and verses. And even today, when you look closely at the end of chapter 9 and the beginning of chapter 10, you’ll realize that chapter 10 is simply a continuation of the events that occurred in chapter 9. If you were with us two weeks ago, you know that chapter 9 was all about how Jesus healed the man born blind and the controversy that stirred up among the Jews, the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem at the time. The man born blind had been taken to the Pharisees, one party among several who were part of the ruling council of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, to explain what had happened to him. The Pharisees, as well as the scribes and the Sadducees were unalterably opposed to Jesus and had already determined to eliminate Him from the scene. The man born blind who has received his sight from Jesus totally befuddles them, and at every turn demonstrates to them that Jesus is indeed the Light of the World and the Messiah, just as He claimed. And in response to this the Pharisees revile him, put him down, and then put him out—expelling him from the Synagogue. Then Jesus, the great Shepherd and lover of men’s souls, goes and finds the man born blind, instructs him about who He, Jesus, really is, and the man believes. Some Pharisees are watching this entire process take place, and even begin to enter into the discussion with Jesus in verse 41. They have just finished spiritually misleading and abusing the man born blind. And chapter 10 is simply a continuation of this discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees, as Jesus looks them in the eye, and takes dead aim at exposing who they really were and what they were really like in contrast to who He really is and what He is all about.