Before we dive into John chapter 10 there are a few contextual points that need to be made. First, while it’s hard to say if the sermon recorded in this chapter is the continuation of the things Jesus was articulating at the close of John 9 or happened at a later date, one thing is evident… John is continuing the same theme he began in the previous chapter. Case in point, the healing of the blind man will again be referenced in verse 21.
Secondly, the purpose of Jesus’ sermon will be to contrast Himself with the religious establishment in light of the way they treated the “man formerly born blind.”
Instead of glorifying God on account of the man’s healing, we saw last week how they were offended Jesus healed on the Sabbath, how they challenged his parent’s account, and were audacious enough to even doubt whether he’d actually been blind at all. In the end John says these men “reviled him,” hurled insults at him, before eventually “casting him out!”
For a group who touted themselves as being the most religious in all of Israel — who the masses viewed as the most holy and pious — who were the foremost experts concerning the Word of God — who’d been entrusted with managing the Temple proceedings, the way they treated people was utterly shameful. Instead of caring for those under their influence they judged the sinner, condemned the downtrodden, and were genuinely mean.
Thirdly, Jesus will make His point about these men as well as establish the contrast with Himself using what John calls in verse 6 an “illustration.” While Jesus employed all kinds of teaching methods, it’s interesting to point out John is the only Gospel writer who does not record any of Jesus’ “parables” and the only one who presents these “illustrations.”
In actuality, this Greek word we have translated in John 10 as “illustration” is only used in three other places in all of the Bible: Twice in John 16 the word will be translated as “figurative language” and then in 2 Peter 2 we’ll find it translated as a “true proverb.”
The reason this is important is that in contrast to a “parable” (which is a story used to teach an overarching truth to one group while concealing that truth from another) an “illustration” is used to articulate several lessons to everyone all at once. Before we break down the illustration and examine the lesson, I think it’d be helpful if we read the entirety of the text.
John 10:1-21, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.
Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes 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 command I have received from My Father.’ Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, ‘He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”
In order to understand what Jesus is communicating it’s important we define a few of the components central to this illustration. To begin with, the “sheepfold” and specifically the “sheep in the fold” refer to the true followers of God - the people of God.
It should be mentioned this picture of “sheep” as God’s people was something the religious establishment understood in its O.T. context — they were familiar with the imagery.
The first clear use of this illustration can be found in Numbers 27 when the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land without Moses after wandering the wilderness for 40 years. Concerned about the nation continuing without a leader “Moses spoke to the LORD, saying: ‘Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.’” In the verses that follow the LORD will appoint Joshua the new leader over Israel.
Throughout the Psalms you will again find “sheep” used to describe the people of God. For example, in Psalms 100 we read, “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”
Aside from the Psalms, the illustration of God’s people being likened to “sheep” is used in the prophetic writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Zechariah. For example, in Isaiah 53:6 the Prophet declares, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Though the picture of Israel being the flock of God was understood, it’s important to realize this illustration of sheep used by Jesus was not limited to just Israel. This point is clearly made in verse 16 when Jesus says, “And other sheep (true followers) I have which are not of this fold (speaking of Israel); them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice (future tense); and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” There is no question Jesus is speaking of the larger work of the Gospel being extended to the Gentile world.
While Jesus will provide more details about “the sheep” in the second half of this chapter, notice the two distinct characteristics of what makes a person a member of God’s flock… First, Jesus says, “The sheep hear his voice… For they know his voice.” There is no question this describes an intimate relationship between the sheep and the shepherd.
And it’s because “the sheep” recognize the voice of the shepherd, Jesus also says they are willing to “follow him.” The idea of “following” spoke of a unique dependance. A member of God’s flock hears His voice and responds by following Him. A true sheep in this context has a relationship with and is fully dependent upon the Shepherd!
Continuing our examination on the various terms Jesus uses in the illustration… When He says in verse 7, “I am the door of the sheep” Jesus is declaring to be the only legitimate way into the fold or the family of God. It’s why in verse 9 He says, “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus is clear “if anyone enters by Me.” No doubt this was not restricted to just the Hebrew people.
When Jesus defines Himself as “the door” one must enter to “be saved” He’s using a definitive article. Jesus is not saying He’s “a door”, but “the only door!” There is no skirting the reality the only way you can be saved and enjoy the benefits of being apart of the family of God is to enter through Jesus. He’s the door! Jesus says He’s the only way to gain entry. Friend, Jesus is not a way to God — He claims to be the only way to God!
What I also find interesting about this statement “I am the door” is that Jesus is telling us entering though Him yields more than just salvation or “being saved” — He says it’s through Him that you will “find pasture.” In verse 10 Jesus will clarify this idea a bit further by saying, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
What makes this description of Jesus as “the door” so awesome is that it presents Him as ultimately a passage into a newfound existence. While “pasture” can mean food in this context, the Greek word really spoke of increase. This seems to be confirmed when Jesus adds that He provides an “abundant life” or literally a life that surpasses what it common.
I never really understood the full implications of this idea of Jesus being “the door” until I was watching the second season of Westworld earlier this year and had a “lightbulb moment.” If you’ve never seen the show or don’t know anything about it, Westworld is a futuristic park filled with human-like robots people visit to live out their fantasies. The robots are so advanced technologically it’s impossible to tell a difference between them and humans.
What happens (and this isn’t a spoiler) is that through years of personal experiences a few of the robot’s AI become so advanced they begin to question whether or not their current existence is actually real. In a way they awaken to an understanding there is more to life than what they know in the park. What makes the show brilliant is that it creatively discusses the essence of consciousness, free will, predestination, God, and what it means to be human.
During the second season you’re introduced to one of these robots — an American Indian — who awakens to such realities. Again, he grows so convinced there is more to his life than what he can presently see that he embarks on a quest to find the door — a portal he can walk through that will expand his understanding of what it really means to be alive.
Understand, the idea being articulated is that as “the door” Jesus is so much more than an entryway to heaven — Jesus is the gateway to a greater understanding of your present existence. Jesus is “the door” you walk through in order to make sense of this reality and come to experience a life that surpasses anything you’ve ever known.
Pertaining to terms — Jesus ultimately presents Himself here as “the good shepherd” in contrast to the religious leaders who were bad shepherds. In fact, they were so bad Jesus simply refers to them as being either “thieves and robbers” or just plain old “hirelings.”
In the context of God’s people being sheep, the illustration of a shepherd was also well understood. Aside from the fact all of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were shepherds, as well as Moses and later King David, the presentation of the shepherding of God’s people as the responsibility of the religious leaders was not lost on anyone.
In fact the idea of human beings being entrusted to shepherd the flock of God even carries over to the role of church elders. In Acts 20:28 Paul says to the Ephesian elders, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The imagery is so perfect we actually derive the word “pastor” from “shepherd.”
Though these religious leaders had a responsibility to shepherd the people of God, at best Jesus describes them as being “hirelings.” To be fair there is no question a great many of these religious leaders had been commissioned by God. For example, the Levites had been charged with the care of the Temple and therefore the spiritual state of the nation.
And yet, instead of this being a holy calling, caring for God’s people had become a vocation. Though a shepherd will stand strong to protect the sheep from danger out of love and a sense of responsibility, Jesus says at the first sign of a “wolf coming” a hireling will “leave” for two simple reasons: He “does not own the sheep” nor “does he care about them.” Sadly, the interest of a hireling is not the well-being of sheep, but the wages he’ll earn doing a job.
Worse still, Jesus describes another collection of these men as actually being “thieves and robbers.” In the Greek Jesus is describing who people who seek the same thing, but in two different ways. A “thief” steals by deception. While a “robber” steals using violence.
Though a “hireling” has at least been called and vetted, Jesus said some of these religious men didn’t even “enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbed in some other way.” His point is that some of these men did not gain their position in a legitimate way. Historically, we know the position of High Priest had been absolutely corrupted by influence-peddling.
Instead of fulfilling a holy duty, some of the establishment saw the flock as a means to an end. Jesus accuses these illegitimate shepherds, these “thieves” of “stealing” from the sheep, “killing” them if necessary, and even “destroying” the fold in the process.
In contrast to the religious leaders being at best “hirelings” or at worst “thieves or robbers,” Jesus describes Himself as “the good shepherd.” Notice what characteristics made Jesus such a “good shepherd.” He says a good shepherd “knows his sheep and is known by them.” He adds that a good shepherd “calls his own sheep by name, goes before them, and leads them out” so that “the sheep follow” because “they know his voice.”
Clearly, a good shepherd has established such a personal relationship with the sheep they can recognize his voice and are willing to follow his lead. A good shepherd has such a personal connection and report with his sheep a genuine trust and bond has been formed.
Ultimately, Jesus says you can recognize a good shepherd by the fact he loves his sheep so much he’s willing to “give His life” if necessary. Not only does Jesus say in verse 15, “I lay down My life for the sheep,” but to this point Jesus adds in verses 17-18, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes 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.”
Like so many times already recorded in the Gospel of John the reaction to the things Jesus was saying was mixed. Among the very religious establishment Jesus was addressing, John tells us “there was a division because of these sayings.” Some of these men felt the need to simply write Jesus off as a man demon-possessed. While the more reasonable found it difficult to not take Him seriously in light of the incredible miracles He was performing.
John 10:22-23, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.”
While the events of chapters 7, 8, 9, and the first half of 10 took place around the Feast of Tabernacles (late October), in verse 22 John fast-forwards the timeline 2 months to the “Feast of Dedication” or what is more commonly referred to as Hanukkah (late December).
While John doesn’t provide an account as to Jesus’ activities during these two months, he does set the scene as being a cold “winter” day in Jerusalem with “Jesus walking” around in an area of the “Temple” known as “Solomon’s porch.” Located on the eastern side of the Temple precincts the area was largely protected from the typical winter wind and rains.
This statement that “Jesus walked in the Temple” presents the idea that He was pacing — likely deep in thought. Since we’re told He was in “Solomon’s porch” I’d imagine Jesus is thinking through the events that would happen in that very location just 5 months from then.
You see on the upcoming Feast of Pentecost 120 of His disciples would experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Solomon’s porch, Peter would bold stand up and preach a mighty sermon, 3000 souls would be saved, and His church would be born!
John 10:24, “Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”
Notice this group of religious leaders “surrounded Him.” In the original language the idea John is communicating is that they literally cornered Jesus. Also this statement, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” is misleading. In classical Greek the word “if” can be presented in three distinct classes: “if and it is” — “if and it might be” — and “if and it’s not.”
In context please note these men are not coming to Jesus out of a sincere desire to know the truth. Instead, they don’t believe He is “the Christ” and corner Him desiring Jesus to finally remove their “doubt” by answering their question concerning His identity “plainly.”
John 10:25-27, “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’”
In direct response to their question, Jesus says He’s been about as transparent as one could be. “I’ve told you!” Not only has Jesus specifically told them who He is on numerous occasions, but the miracles they’d seen Him perform should have validated His testimony.
What makes Jesus’ answer really insightful is that He also pinpoints the essence of their unbelief. If separated from the whole, this statement “you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep” could be twisted to imply they couldn’t believe because they weren’t elected. The problem making this connection is that the statement was not made in isolation.
Look again at verse 25, Jesus says, “I told you, and you do not believe.” Then He says, “You do not believe, because you are not My sheep.” Before finally explaining they were not His sheep, because “My sheep hear My voice… and they follow Me.” Why were these men not Jesus’ sheep? They had chosen to reject His Word. “I told you, and you do not believe.”
I think it’s also important to point out the tenses woven into this statement “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” are both active and continual. It could be translated, “My sheep continually hear my voice… and they constantly follow Me.” Never forget the connection between the sheep and their Shepherd is a relationship!
John 10:28-29, “And I give them (His sheep) eternal life (literally Jesus is constantly giving a life that last for eternity), and they shall never perish (in the Greek this word “never” is a double-negative which intensifies the fact that you’ll never ever perish); neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” How glorious knowing your security is based on His ability to keep you and not your ability to stay!
John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.” In the Greek this idea of Jesus and the Father being “one” is that they’re “one” in essence. There is no question Jesus is claiming deity.
John 10:31-32, “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. (They understand what Jesus has just said.) Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’” (Jesus is basically asking them to point out what He’s specifically done worthy of being stoned to death.)
John 10:33, “The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’”
In citing a reason they felt justified in stoning Jesus to death they point to the high crime of “blasphemy.” The irony is that their accusation was a bit off in two ways. First, blasphemy would only be applicable if Jesus was not actually God. Secondly, Jesus was not “a Man” who made Himself “God.” Instead, Jesus was “God” who made Himself “a Man.”
John 10:34, “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods’?’” In Psalms 82 as well as in Exodus 21 and 22 earthly judges were referred to by God as being “gods” because “they determined the fate of other men.” (David Guzik)
Jesus continues… John 10:35-38, “If He (God in the Scriptures) called them (these human judges) gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world (Jesus), ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if (since) I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” Again, if they lacked the ability to believe because they weren’t elected, why invite them to believe?
Note: As a Rabbi Jesus is addressing these religious men using Scripture in order to justify His use of a divine title — “The Son of God.” His logic is simple… If God sanctioned the use of the title “gods” to unjust judges in order to elevate their office, why should it be considered blasphemy for Him to use a divine title in light of the miraculous works He’d performed?
John 10:39-42, “Therefore they sought again to seize Jesus, but He escaped out of their hand. (I wish John had provided more information.) And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first (Bethabara), and there He stayed. Then many came to Him and said, ‘John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.’ And many believed in Jesus there.”
The logic is that while John didn’t perform any miracles, what he said about Jesus was true. Meaning, the things Jesus was saying about Himself were even more believable because He did perform miracles. The grand takeaway is that “many believed in Jesus there.”
In closing, there is much about Jesus we learn from this section of Scripture. There is no question from the illustration of Jesus being “the door” that He cares just as much about changing your life today as He does saving you from a future judgment.
Friend, if you’re making your way through this life convinced there has to be more than what you know or can see… If there is a deep discontentment that you’re missing something, I want you to know there is and you are! I know this sounds trippy, but there is an entire reality around you (an existence) you’re completely blind to, an abundant life you know nothing of!
In actuality, Jesus so wants you to experience this reality — this life — new pastures — this great awakening that He took upon Himself the difficult work of becoming “the door” so that He could be a “good shepherd.” In verse 10 Jesus says the main characteristic of a “good shepherd” is the shepherd’s willingness to “give His life for the sheep.”
Then in verse 15, 17, and again in verse 18 Jesus makes this interesting declaration of Himself. He says, “I lay down My life for the sheep… I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes 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.” Please understand, Jesus died on the cross to conquer death so that He could become “the door” to life through His resurrection.
The Bible is clear that if you want to pass through this door you must lay down your life by accepting His death on you behalf so that you can be raise up to new life in His resurrection. As Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Again, no one took Jesus’ life from Him! Instead, as our Good Shepherd He willingly laid it down for a reason — He loves you! Love for the sheep is what makes Jesus different from all others. A relationship with the Shepherd (not the rules of religion or your good works) is all that’s required of you. Never forget… The Good Shepherd became a Lamb in order to save the sheep! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
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