Jesus Declares Himself The True Shepherd Of Men
John 10 focuses on the image of sheep, sheepfolds, and shepherds. It is a rural and Eastern image, to be sure; but it is an image that can say a great deal to us today, even in our urban industrialized world.
Paul used this image when admonishing the spiritual leaders in the church at Ephesus. The truths that cluster around the image of the shepherd and the sheep are found throughout the Bible, and they are important to us today. The symbols that Jesus used help us understand who He is and what He wants to do for us.
This sermon grew out of our Lord’s confrontation with Jewish leaders, following the excommunication of the beggar (John 9). He had briefly spoken to them about light and darkness, but now He changed the image to that of the shepherd and the sheep.
Because to the Jewish mind: a “shepherd”, was any kind of leader, spiritual or political. People looked on the king and prophets as shepherds. Israel was privileged to be “the flock of the Lord” (Ps. 100:3). For background, read Isaiah 56:9-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; 25:32-38; Ezekiel 34; and Zechariah 11.
The Pharisees are frequently around to challenge whatever Jesus says and does, but He always gets the better of them. Once again, Jesus turns what the Pharisees say inside out. They think blindness is a curse that evidences sin, and they think vision ensures knowledge and understanding—even concerning spiritual matters.
Instead, the Pharisees’ confidence in their vision and discernment make them unable to see the truth about Jesus. Ironically, they have blind trust in their sighted leaders. By refusing to believe in Him, they are the sinners—not the blind man.
Jesus: I tell you the truth: the man who crawls through the fence of the sheep pen, rather than walking through the gate, is a thief or a vandal. The shepherd walks openly through the entrance. The guard who is posted to protect the sheep opens the gate for the shepherd, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When all the sheep have been gathered, he walks on ahead of them; and they follow him because they know his voice. The sheep would not be willing to follow a stranger; they run because they do not know the voice of a stranger.
Jesus explained a profound truth through this metaphor, but they did not understand His teaching.
John 10:1-6 (VOICE)
Jesus opened His sermon with a familiar illustration, one that every listener would understand. The sheepfold was usually an enclosure made of rocks, with an opening for the door. The shepherd (or a porter) would guard the flock, or flocks, at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. Each sheep recognized his own master’s voice.
The true shepherd comes in through the door, and the porter recognizes him. The thieves and robbers could never enter through the door, so they have to climb over the wall and enter the fold through deception. But even if they did get in, they would never get the sheep to follow them, for the sheep follow only the voice of their own shepherd. The false shepherds can never lead the sheep, so they must steal them away.
It is clear that the listeners did not understand what Jesus said or why He said it. The occasion for this lesson was the excommunication of the beggar from the synagogue (John 9:34). The false shepherds did not care for this man; instead, they mistreated him and threw him out. But Jesus, the Shepherd, came to him and took him in (John 9:35-38).
It is unfortunate that John 10:1 is often used to teach that the sheepfold is heaven, and that those who try to get in by any way other than Christ are destined to fail. While the teaching is true (Acts 4:12), it is not based on this verse. Jesus made it clear that the fold is the nation of Israel (John 10:16). The Gentiles are the “other sheep” not of the fold of Israel.
When Jesus came to the nation of Israel, He came the appointed way, just as the Scriptures promised. Every true shepherd must be called of God and sent by God. If he truly speaks God’s Word, the sheep will “hear his voice” and not be afraid to follow him. The true shepherd will love the sheep and care for them.
Discerning God’s Voice
People ask, “How can I be sure I am hearing from God?”
As believers, hearing God speak to us is our right and our privilege. The Word says that we can know his voice and distinguish it from others; He gives us discernment to identify His voice over voices of deception. In John 10:3-5, He parallels this discernment with the instinctive nature of sheep that recognize the voice of their shepherd.
We can discern the difference between God’s voice and the voice of deception if we truly know God’s character, nature, and the history of how He has led others before us. We will know that what we have heard is something that is in His nature to say. We will know that what He has said does not contradict his Word, wisdom or common sense.
We truly belong to God, He will give us discernment to know if what we are hearing is truly from Him or not. He will enable us to distinguish his voice from the deceptive spirit of error. Then we can have confidence that we are following God’s direction, whether He is leading us to go forward or telling us to wait.
To hear God and avoid the spirit of error, it is important to look into God’s Word and spend time with Him there. The more we study and learn the Word, the more we will let its power flow through our lives and the better we will be able to hear, discern and obey God’s voice.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I fully understand that there is only one way to enter into the sheepfold of Jesus. There is only one way into the presence of the Father and into the family of God. Jesus is that Way. It is not works of righteousness, penance, or religion that will get me there. Jesus is the only Way. He alone is the Door and the Shepherd of the flock to which I belong.
I hear the voice of my Shepherd. I follow Him faithfully and do everything that He would have me do. He calls me by name and leads me in the ways of life. He walks before me in the path that He has called me to and I follow Him because I know his voice.
I will never follow a stranger (the voice of falsehood, false teachers or false religion). I do not have intimacy with strangers and I do not recognize their voice as being true. Therefore, I shun their call.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name. Amen!