Today we continue our study of John in chapter 10. Jesus gives some of the most reassuring words in all the gospels. Jesus is the good shepherd. He calls to his people, his sheep, who know his voice, will follow him, and will never be cast out. If we are his sheep, if we believe he is the messiah, we can be sure he will never cast us away, even when the world does.
Let’s set the stage quick.
Last week we studied chapter 9, where John records the restoration of sight to a man who was born blind. An amazing miracle, that was unheard of previously. Interesting to note that Jesus didn’t merely fix something that went wrong, he reversed the an effect of the curse directly. Created something new that wasn’t there previously.
The Pharisees refused to acknowledge the miracle. Refused to see it for what it was. In their mind, the man whose sight was restored was a sinner, obviously, because he was born cursed, and Jesus was a sinner for performing a miracle on the Sabbath day. And what could sinners possibly have to teach them? The Pharisees cast the healed man out of the synagogue, which was the same as banishment from the community. This was something that they did to anyone who professed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. And this sets the stage for us today. Chapter 10 picks up immediately after chapter 9. You’ll hear me say occasionally that the chapter and verse marks in the Bible are almost completely arbitrary, added later by a monk in the 15th century to help us study. But this is one of those chapter breaks that frankly just gets in the way.
So here we have the setting for today: Jesus, the healed blind man, the crowd of onlookers, the pharisees, a synagogue, a courtyard with a bunch of sheep in it (the sheepfold), a gate. It probably didn’t look exactly like this, but the conversation would have loaded something this up, more or less, in people’s minds.
A man had just been kicked out of the synagogue by the leaders, the crowd was in an uproar, and Jesus begins talking about sheep.
Sheep, Thieves, Strangers, Doors, Shepherds, Wolves, and Hired Hands
John 10:1–15 (ESV)
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. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
There is a lot going on here!
- A crowd of people milling about,
- Unsettled, divided, scared of the leaders,
- Which called to mind a perfect metaphor for Jesus to use to teach people something about himself: A flock of sheep. In fact, multiple flocks all bunched together in a sheepfold.
- A courtyard, “the sheepfold”,
- Probably contained sheep from multiple owners, guarded by a gatekeeper.
- Thieves, Robbers, Hired Hands, Wolves, Strangers
- Seeking only their own benefit, power, consumption, profit, money.
- This is referring to the Pharisees, and is a reference to Ezekiel 34, where God accuses the “shepherds of Israel” (the leaders at the time) of “fleecing the sheep”, being in it only for selfish gain, not protecting them from predators, not healing their wounds and meeting needs.
- The good shepherd
- Calls his own sheep out by name
- His sheep follow him
- Lays down his life for the sheep
- The door to green pasture
- The only way in
- Abundant life
The Gentile Sheepfold
John 10:16-18 (ESV)
16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may 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 I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
- Another sheepfold, one flock
- A reference to the gentiles that Jesus also came to save. The gospel of Jesus is for everyone, not just for Jews, and he has come to create one new flock from members who are called out of previously divided flocks.
- The word for “church” in greek: “Ekklesia” – can mean “called out ones”.
John 10:19-21 (ESV)
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
- Here we have the same division among the Jews that was also among the pharisees:
- Some called him insane/sinner/demon
- Others recognized the work for what it was, and believed.
John 10:22-25 (ESV)
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,
- Tell us plainly! (Inability / unwillingness to hear)
- And why didn’t they believe? This is one of the primary questions that the original recipients of the this book, (The Gospel of John) would have had on their minds! “Are we crazy? Why didn’t the Jews believe?” Jesus’s answer, I think, is a little surprising.
My Sheep Hear my Voice
26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
- You do not believe because you are not my sheep… my sheep hear my voice…
- This is s surprising phrase. You’d expect him to say “you are not my sheep because you do not believe.” That the phrase is flipped is signifiant.
- John, the evangelist, records Jesus words in a way that is a little surprising to us modern evangelistic types. He rarely records Jesus speaking in an exhortative, pleading sort of way “Please, believe my message!” He records Jesus speaking in very definitive terms.
- “Whoever believes will have eternal life.”
- “If the son sets you free, you are free indeed.”
- “If God were your father, you would love me.”
- “Why do you not understand me? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.”
- “The reason you do not hear is because you are not from God.”
- “My sheep hear my voice.”
- “You do not believe because you are not my sheep.”
- Jesus knows that his mission is to seek and save the lost sheep of Israel. (Which also includes the Gentiles…)
- Jesus sets the model in evangelism for us. It is up to us to tell the truth and deliver the mail, and remain confident that Jesus’s sheep will hear his voice and follow him. So we must speak with his voice and preach his words. As Paul says later to the Corinthians:
- “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)
- No one will snatch them out of my hand
- They will never be cast out (John 6)
Jesus claims to be God
John 10:31-39 (ESV)
30 I and the Father are one. 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 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 am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
Here we we see why the Jews wanted Jesus dead. Not because he was a troublemaker, or political revolutionary, but because he claimed to be God.
Jesus points out their blindness. The last several chapters have argued that, even according to their own theology, Jesus could not be doing what he was doing unless he was who he claimed to be. They were guilty because of their refusal to believe.
John 10:40-42 (ESV)
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
Jesus gives his people some of the most comforting words in the entire scriptures. “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.”
- He contrasts several kinds of people:
- Those that refuse to (or cannot!) hear him.
- Those who hear him but refuse to follow (obey!) him.
- Those who hear him, but are afraid to follow him because of the consequences
- Those who hear him, and follow him. I wonder where you are at with Jesus this morning.
Do you acknowledge that Jesus, acknowledging him, and following him only, and no other is the way in to the father? Do you seek to follow him specifically, and no other path? However failingly! However imperfectly? You are his sheep if you, when you hear his voice (through the scriptures), seek to change the way you live and think to the way he teaches us. His sheep hear his voice and know him.
Do not be like those who were afraid of getting kicked out of the synagogue, afraid of the consequences! The green pasture of abundant life that is to be had in following Jesus.
I know some of you may be concerned about whether or not you are in.
Maybe you want all the good things Jesus promises, like a sheep wanting the green pasture of abundant life, but just don’t want to go about it the way Jesus says. Like you are trying to get in to the green pasture by hopping the fence rather than going through the door. That would be the way of the thief and the robber.
Maybe you are hear this morning, like the blind Pharisees, who refused to see the miracles of Jesus for what they were: signs that he is who he claimed to be: God. You think he, and his followers are (as they said), insane.
But if you acknowledge the Jesus himself is the only way in to the green pastures. If you have the desire to follow, perhaps even crying out like the man who told Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief”, then I have great hope for you. Jesus’s sheep hear his voice, Jesus knows them, and they will never be snatched away from Jesus’s hand.