A. Knowing Your Own
For many years we had a large dog named Sassy. I could always identify Sassy’s bark from several blocks away, even though there were dozens of dogs in our neighbourhood; Sassy, in turn, could identify my call and would come to one in a crowd of people.
In a similar way my wife and I can identify our young daughter’s cry in a room full of toddlers. My son’s first-grade class at church, where I volunteer as a youth sponsor, includes a pair of twins who define the word identical. Their teachers are constantly in a quandary trying to
tell them apart. The teachers insist that the two must never wear matching clothes. Yet the parents of these boys can immediately tell one from the other.
Knowledge of this kind—the ability to pick out a voice or a face in a crowd—is a sign of intimacy: we know those we love and they know us, through constant interaction. In our lesson today Jesus will apply this principle to His loving relationship with His disciples.
B. Lesson Background
Most scholars today view John 9, just preceding today’s lesson text, as a critical passage for understanding the background of John 10. In John 9 Jesus met a man who had been blind from birth and healed hint. The healing came about when Jesus covered the man’s eyes with mud and sent him to wash at the Pool of Siloam. The cure was effective, but it was impossible for the man to recognize Jesus or know much about Him. (Jesus was gone before the man had a chance to see Him.)
The Pharisees later interrogated the man who had been healed because Jesus, in their view, had violated the Law of Moses by healing on the Sabbath. The man refused to condemn Jesus and ultimately criticized the Pharisees for ignoring the obvious evidence of His divine power. As a result they excommunicated him (John 9:1-34).Jesus later found the man and led him to faith, while the Pharisees continued to question Jesus’ authority (John 9:35-41). Jesus’ teaching in chapter 10 about His role as the good shepherd is a commentary on this situation. It includes several promises that Jesus will protect and save those who believe in Him.
This teaching undoubtedly was extremely meaningful to the apostle John. He, along with the other apostles, also experienced persecution and excommunication for faith in Christ (see John 16:1-4).
I. Shepherd and Thief(John 10:1-6)
A. Reaction to the Shepherd (vv. 1-4)1, 2. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up sonic other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
The opening phrase verily, verily, I say unto you leads an to ask a question: to whom is Jesus speaking? The context of John 9:40. 41 seems to indicate that Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees. On the other hand the phrase “they under-stood not” in John 10:6 (below) may indicate that a different audience is in view.
In either case Jesus’ parable about the sheep-,old here in verses 1-6 is a sharp condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus compares God’s people to sheep in a pen; in the immediate context, the specific “sheep” in question is most likely the man whom Jesus has just healed of blindness in chapter 9.
The shepherd in this analogy is Jesus himself, while the thieves are the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who are attempting to prevent people from believing in Him (compare John9:40). Jesus’ legitimate spiritual authority is evidenced by the fact that He enters by the door. He displays God’s care and love, and people recognize Him as the one whom God has sent (com-pare John 9:30-34).
God’s true sheep, however, refuse to accept the false teachings of the Pharisees. These sheep recognize that those teachings do not reflect correct understanding of Christ in light of Jesus’ miracles. Many Pharisees are thieves and robbers, bent on self-preservation at the sheep’s expense (compare Ezekiel 34; Jude 12).
3. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
Middle Eastern shepherds lead their flocks by voice commands. Consequently the sheep know the voice of their shepherd. Even when many different flocks graze together, a shepherd can gather his own simply by calling to them. In a similar way those who sincerely seek God’s will recognize Jesus’ voice and willingly follow Him.
The porter is the person who guards the gate of the sheep pen. In the context of Jesus’ illustration, this character probably does not refer to any specific person. Rather, the reference is to the general fact that Jesus has a legitimate claim to call God’s people.
KNOWN BY OUR NAMES
For several years we had a professor on our college faculty who had an amazing gift. He would look at the pictures of all incoming fresh-men that the admissions department provided. He would also notice the hometown of each. At freshmen orientation he would then have all new students stand up—usually over two hundred people whom he had never met.
Starting at one end of the group, he would begin to call out names and hometowns. Each
student named would then sit down. By the time he got to the other end of the room, only one or two students would be standing—and often they were recent applicants for whom the admissions office did not have a picture!
In addition that man often taught at a particular “high school week” at a nearby Christian service camp. He would have all students who were there the previous year stand up. He had not seen these students in a year, but he called off their names without any mistakes.
In the 1996 movie Fly Away Home, Amy Alden raises a flock of orphaned Canada geese. She gives them all names and leads them into winter quarters in the southern United States. To most of us one goose looks just like another.
If a human being can have an ability to know names, hometowns, and individual geese, how much more is Jesus able to know us! He is the good shepherd, and He knows the names of His sheep. That’s a comfort that will follow us into eternity.
4.And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
To heed the call of Christ is vital! Ancient shepherds walk ahead of their flocks to lead them from the pen to safe pasture, and Jesus uses this analogy to describe His leadership of God’s people. The twofold emphasis is on knowing his voice and on following him. The first of these two speaks to the ability to recognize Jesus as throne who has come to reveal God to the world. The second speaks to being obedient to His teaching in all circumstances.
B. Reaction to Strangers (v. 5)
5.And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.
In John 9 the man healed of blindness stubbornly refused to yield to the Pharisees. He would not condemn Jesus despite pressure. His reaction contrasted sharply with that of his parents, who tried to straddle the fence when called to testify(John 9:18-23).
The attitude of the man healed of blindness parallels the way that sheep will scatter when strangers attempt to lure them away. God’s people will listen to Jesus’ voice and no other.
C. Reaction of the Listeners (v. 6)
6.This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.
Although the meaning of Jesus’ analogy seems obvious to us now, it is misunderstood by the original hearers. This confusion may suggest that Jesus is now speaking to a different audience: not to the Pharisees of John 9:40, 41 but to a larger group of Jews of John 10:19.
This view could be supported by the reaction of the chief priests and scribes in Luke 20:19.There we see that those religious leaders are able to understand all too well that Jesus uses a figure of speech against them. Here, however, the audience understood not what things they were which He spoke unto them.
So perhaps this is a larger audience (again, John 10:19) that is not aware of Jesus’ earlier discussion with the min whom He had cured of blindness. In either case Jesus proceeds to expand the illustration in order to explain its relevance to all people who are considering whether or not to follow Him (next verse). [See question#3, page 2011
II. Individuals and Motives(John 10:7-10)
A. Now vs. Then (vv. 7, 8)
7.Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
In ancient times sheep often are kept in caves or in pens made of rock walls in open fields. The shepherd brings his flock back to the pen at the end of the day. There he counts and inspects them.
These pens may have no physical doors or gates. For that reason the shepherd himself would stand or lie across the opening to prevent sheep from wandering out and wolves from entering. Thus the shepherd himself becomes the door or gate of the sheep pen. This is the imagery Jesus uses to describe how He watches over His sheep and guards them from harm.
R. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. The thieves here may refer again to the Jewish religious leaders as depicted in Jeremiah 23:1, 2;Ezekiel 34:2, 3. The term may also refer to the
various false messiahs who led anti-Roman revolutionary movements after the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC (compare Acts 5:36, 37). In either case God’s people are waiting for the true shepherd, Jesus. Thus the sheep do not heed the imposters who came before Jesus.
B. Salvation vs. Destruction (vv. 9, 10)
9.I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
This verse pictures the sheepfold as the dwelling place of God’s redeemed people. Go inland out does not suggest that one falls in and out of salvation. Rather, the reference is to the way that Jesus continually provides for His people by leading them to safe pasture—by providing for their spiritual needs. The sheep depend on the shepherd to lead them out of the pen for food and water. In the same way we depend on Christ to provide for us.
The imagery thus emphasizes the shepherd’s ongoing. daily care for the flock. Jesus’ concerti for His people is constant.
10.The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
The false messiahs attempt to “call” God’s sheep, but they do so for selfish reasons. They want to increase their own power and prestige in service of their own agendas. Jesus, here as else-where, stresses that His motives are entirely pure. He does not wish to promote himself at the expense of others. He seeks only to protect the lives and well being of His flock. In fact He is willing to sacrifice His own life to save them (v.11, next). (See question #4. page 2001
III. Shepherd and Hired Hand(John 10:11-18)
A. Shepherd’s Actions, Part 1 (v. 11)
11. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Shepherds give their lives for their sheep in at least two ways. First, sheep need constant care and attention, with many long days and nights in the field. The job is all-consuming.
Second, and more specifically here, shepherds are called upon to protect the flock from dangerous predators. In these cases the shepherd risks his life by placing himself between the sheep and the wolves. Ancient Jews can well relate to this sort of imagery because so many of them work with livestock.
The Old Testament frequently refers to God as the shepherd of His people. Often the emphasis is on protection and provision. Perhaps the most famous of these passages is Psalm 23. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd against this backdrop to emphasize His loving care for His people. This is in contrast to the religious leaders of His day. It is Jesus alone who literally will give his life on the cross for the sheep (compare Hebrews13:20).
LAYING DOWN ONE’S LIFE
On January 23, 1943, more than 900 men sailed from New York on the USAT Dorchester, a former luxury liner, now a troop ship bound for Greenland. Most of the travelers were young Army enlistees, plus some officers and Merchant Marine sailors. There were also four chaplains: George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Clark V.Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister; John P.Washington, a Roman Catholic priest; and Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish rabbi.
About 150 miles from Greenland, at about1:00 AM on February 3, German submarine U-223torpedoed the aging transport. The attack killed about 100 men immediately. The rest groped for the openings in the darkness that would lead to the deck. The four chaplains helped where they could, lending some sense of calm to the fear-crazed young men. Lifeboats were readied, and the chaplains went to the lockers to hand out lifejackets.
Unfortunately. there were not enough jackets for everyone. The four chaplains had theirs on, but all four removed their jackets and handed them to young men and directed them to the boats. The Dorchester sank in less than 30 minutes. As it went down the survivors noticed the four chaplains standing at the railing, arms linked together, singing and praying, giving strength to others.
About 75 percent of the men aboard perished in the sinking, including the four chaplains. Those four had laid down their lives for the men of their “flock.” We marvel at their sacrifice, even after more than 60 years. Do we marvel as much about Jesus? He also laid down His life, but in much more profound way. His sacrifice made it possible for us to live eternally. That’s something that even the selfless sacrifice of the four chaplains could not accomplish. —J. B. N.
B. Hired Hand’s Actions (vv. 12, 13)
12, 13. But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming. and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
While the thieves and robbers of verse likely allude to the Pharisees who had persecuted the healed man in John 9, we’re not really sure who the hireling represents. Whoever this is. such a person works among the flock (God’s people) but without genuine concern.
Jesus, by contrast, knows His people and loves them as His own. The next several verses de-scribe the ways that He expresses this love.
C. Shepherd’s Actions, Part 2 (vv. 14-18)
14, 15. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
The verb know here refers to more than merely “know about.” Of course Jesus knows His sheep in the sense that He knows who we are. But the hireling of verse 13 can also claim that he knows the sheep in this way—how many sheep there are, what they look like, which ones walk slower, etc.
Jesus therefore proceeds to outline two ways in which His ministry is unique. First, He emphasizes the special relationship that He has with His people through comparison with His own relationship to God. Jesus and the Father are completely united, and Jesus and His people are united as well (see Matthew 11:27). Second, Jesus restates His willingness to lay down His life, sacrificing everything for the well-being of His flock.
16.And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Who are the other sheep of whom Jesus speaks? Most commentators conclude that these are Gentiles (that is, non-Jewish people) who have not yet heard about Jesus and His message. Consider the prediction in Isaiah 42:6: “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.”
Jesus is thus making a prediction about the mission to the Gentiles that will follow the con-version of Cornelius in Acts 10. That mission ultimately will find its fullest expression in Paul’s ministry.
Notice also the emphasis on the unity of the flock. The phrase one fold speaks to the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ, one shepherd. Jesus’ words are especially meaningful to John’s churches in the late first century AD. These churches likely include believers from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. Christ cares for all of His people equally.
17.Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that t might take it again.
7’ake it again refers to Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus enjoys the Father’s love because He, unlike the Pharisees and false Messiahs, proves His love for God’s people.
The ultimate proof comes when He lays down His life to pay the price for sin. After the resurrection Jesus is exalted once again to His heavenly position beside the Father.
18. No man taketh 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 commandment have I received of my Father. John stresses throughout his Gospel that Jesus ‘death was not an accident of circumstance. Despite the fact that He died in a gruesome and humiliating way, Jesus was at every moment completely in control of everything that happened to Hint. This snakes His death so much more meaningful as an expression of His care for the flock.
Many shepherds may have to risk their lives to protect the sheep at a moment’s notice; Jesus consciously chooses when and how He will die, confident that He has the power to live again. No one else could make such a claim.
A. One of the Crowd
Very often we are told (especially in advertisements) that it’s bad to he “just one of the crowd.” We are supposed to let our individuality stand out. We like to think of ourselves as independent individuals who don’t need to rely on anyone else.
At the same time, however, it is very comforting to be a member of a group in which we can feel safe and at home. The hit television show Cheers (which ran from 1982 to 1993) portrayed group of close friends at a small bar in Boston. That bar was a place “where everybody knows your name.” That was an important part of the show’s appeal: it illustrated the type of place that many of us long to find. A place to be “one of the gang.” A place to be accepted for who one is. The sad thing about that television program is that so many people seek these types of relation-ships in bars rather than in churches. While we are all individuals, together we make up Jesus’ flock as we follow His voice. He knows each of our names, and we each have a special place in His family. In Him we find an eternal peace and comfort that the world cannot provide.
Lord, we know that You call to us its every situation; help us to hear Your voice. We live in a world with many false ideas and .1f-servingteachers. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s right. Keep us focused on the one who gave His life for us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
C. Thought to Remember
Jesus still shepherds us today.