Summary: Jesus is the way into the fold and He calls us by name to follow.
I AM THE GATE
JOHN 10 VERSES 1-10
I don’t know about you but I cannot tell one sheep from another. If I look at a flock of sheep all I see are sheep. But the shepherd when he looks sees not a flock but individual sheep. Each one is different to him, distinct. Each one he will tell you has a different temperament and apparently a different gait. This morning in our reading from John 10 we encounter Jesus using the imagery of sheep, a shepherd and the sheep fold to teach His listeners about Himself.
As I always do let me set the context for you. Jesus has had an entanglement with the Pharisees after He healed the man born blind. He tells the Pharisees that they remain guilty of sin because they claim to know the truth and yet deny who He is – 9 verse 41 READ. He then proceeds in chapter 10 to speak about Himself. So the background setting these words are an attack on the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees who claim to be the shepherds of God’s people.
Verses 1-6 The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice.
In these verses Jesus is clearly the Shepherd and the flock are those who hear His voice and obey His call to follow. The sheep fold of Christ’s day was very simple. It consisted of four walls of stone or mud bricks and in one wall was an opening for the sheep to go in and out of. Hence Christ’s assertion in verse 1 that anyone who does not enter via the gate (or door) is not a true shepherd but a ‘thief and a robber.’ It is interesting how Christ describes these people who climb into the sheep fold and don’t enter via the door. A ‘thief’ is one who uses subtlety and trickery whereas a ‘robber’ uses violence and plunders. The purpose of both is exploitation. Christ is here saying to the Pharisees – your purpose is to exploit the people because you have entered the sheep fold not by the door but by climbing over the wall. In contrast (verse 2) the shepherd enters via the door, the rightful means of entry and exit. The shepherd has no need to climb over the walls of the sheep fold – he, and he alone, has the right to go in through the door to ‘his sheep.’ Did you notice that? ‘His sheep.’ They are his, they belong to him and he has the right to go into them via the door. This shepherd, whom Christ wants His hearers to understand as Himself, goes into the sheep fold and calls each sheep out by name. Most of the commentators say that what is being alluded to hear is the common sheep fold of a city where many flocks would have been kept securely overnight, hence the watchman (hired). The next morning each shepherd would go into the fold and call his own flock and they would follow him out of the pen. Each flock new the distinctive call of their shepherd. I want to linger here for just a moment. Think about the significance of these words – READ verse 3. The sheep listen for the shepherd’s voice. They listen to his voice because it has become familiar to them and from experience they know it means protection and nourishment. Protection in that this voice has kept them from danger, rescued them when they were in difficulties and nourishment because this same voice has led them to green pastures and still cool waters to refresh them. So they listen for the voice. The application is quite simple is it not? Do you and I know the voice of God? Is it a voice we are familiar with? Do we actively listen for it? Where do you listen for it? The answer to that is right here in front of you – the Bible. This is the voice of God – it is God’s word to us. It is from these pages that I hear God speak. I listen by reading His word, praying His word, thinking upon His word and testing everything according to His word. Let us move on in the text – look what Jesus says next – verse 3 – this shepherd knows each sheep by name. How awesome is that to ponder? You know that sentence helps explain the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. The reason the shepherd knew there was one missing was because each night as they went into the sheep fold he would stand across the doorway and call them in. As each sheep passed he would inspect it for injuries and anoint with oil and cuts or grazes. He knew each sheep individually and so he knew one was missing. Christ was saying to His hearers- God knows you as an individual. You are not just an anonymous face in a crowd. You are John, Mary, Jane – you are known by God. When the shepherd has called them by name what does he do? He leads them. He does not drive them out but he leads them out. The shepherd went before them and because they know his voice, and by experience know he will lead them to pastures green and still waters, the sheep follow. Friends we are not a driven people. When Christ calls us by name into His flock he goes before us to lead us out to pastures green and waters still. Note will you that until the shepherd called the sheep remain safe and secure in the fold. It is only when he calls and he leads that they go out. There is a spiritual lesson for us to learn. Then in verses 5-6 READ Christ points out how the sheep will not follow a stranger’s voice because they can recognise that it is not the shepherd’s voice. How important it is to know the shepherd’s voice.