The Good Shepherd
April 30, 2023 |The Good Shepherd|John 10:1-18
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The gospel of John records seven ‘I Am’ statements made by Jesus.
These revolutionary and revelatory statements recorded by John would have been impactful to their original hearers first and foremost, but they also are used by John, along with the miracles he records, to accomplish his stated purpose of revealing who Jesus is so that readers may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing they may have life in his name. (John 20:30-21)
1. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
2. “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
5. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
7. “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser… I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5).
Our attention this morning is on two of those ‘I am’ statements recorded in the tenth chapter of John’s gospel. (turn there now)
We see in his other statements that he used many metaphors to describe himself and his ministry. Bread, Water, Light, Vines. In a similar manner, Jesus uses a metaphor in these two statements, specifically images from the world of shepherding.
Culturally, this one makes a lot of sense. Shepherding was a way of life for the Jewish people.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) God has often used geography to shape theology. An example is the way in which the landscape of Judea focused the values of shepherding upon the Jewish consciousness. The country of Judea was not well suited to agriculture, but it was ideal for pasturing livestock, so that inevitably the Jewish way of life would depend on shepherds. It seems, therefore, to have been God’s intention that the imagery of the shepherd should take hold in the Jewish imagination.
So when Jesus makes statements like I am the door of the sheep, and I am the good shepherd, these would have been imagery that would have been immediately accessible to the Jewish people. They knew sheep and they knew shepherding.
We should not think these are just examples of Jesus engaging the culture around him or being culturally relevant with his audience. This language is much deeper than that, this is the language used throughout scripture.
Through the prophets, prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah,God used the image of shepherds and sheep to describe his people.
Ezekiel 34:2-6 (ESV) 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; 6 they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
He also used this imagery in his promises to his people
Isaiah 40:10-11 (ESV) 10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him,and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
David used this imagery in his most well known psalm- Psalm 23
(ESV) 1 The LORD is my shepherd;
Furthermore, this language doesn’t stop with Jesus, the writers of the New Testament picked up on this imagery and used it to describe the church and its leaders.
1 Peter 5:1-3 (ESV) 1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
So we see this imagery of sheep and shepherds Jesus used in John 10 to be thoroughly scriptural, adhering to the way the Father spoke about his people, and more importantly, still relevant for those of us who make up the body of Christ.
But what does it mean? How does it help us understand who he is, what he came to do, and what that means for us?
These are the questions we will try to make sense of this morning as we dig into Jesus’ statements recorded in John 10, beginning in verse 1.
Three truths about the Good Shepherd from three statements Jesus makes in John 10.
As a way of introduction, let’s read the first 6 verses together of chapter 10.
John 10:1-6 (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.
Verse 7 begins ‘So Jesus again said to them,’ indicating that what follows is tied to what he has said in verses 1-6 but also expounds and explains it.
In a broad sense, Jesus is contrasting himself with the religious leaders of the day. For context, understand that this is happening immediately after they try to kill Jesus, he heals the blind man, blind from birth, that the religious leaders then kick out of the temple, whom Jesus finds and reveals himself as the Christ to and explains (ESV) he came… that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind. The Pharisees hear it and understand he is talking about them and the fact that they claim to see but are really blind.
In light of that, we see this contrast of the shepherd of the sheep with the thieves and robbers, as a contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders, and the sheep who follow the shepherd but flee from the stranger, as the people who having now heard Jesus, the true shepherd, who will follow him.
But they don’t get it. The imagery was familiar, but they couldn’t grasp the metaphor.
Here is where we will pick up in our text this morning.
John 10:7-9 (ESV) 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.
The first truth about the Good Shepherd is…
He is the only way to salvation
I am the door of the sheep.
Admittedly, this seems like a strange statement to our ears. What is a door of the sheep?
Jesus kind of changes his shepherding metaphor a little here. In this area, there were two major kinds of sheep pens. In verses 1-6 Jesus seems to describe a larger pen where multiple flocks were placed with a gate and a gatekeeper. This would have been used in larger cities and areas when the shepherds and their flocks were close to home. Multiple flocks would be housed together, a prime target for thieves and robbers to climb over the wall and take advantage of the situation. However, the shepherd would come to the gate, the way would be opened to him and he would call his sheep. Those who knew his voice, those that belonged to him, would come out and follow him and he would lead them out to pasture.
In that metaphor, Jesus seems to be contrasting himself as the rightful shepherd of the house of Israel, and all others as thieves and robbers. Now, in verses 7-9, he says he is the door of the sheep.
This seems to reference the other major kind of sheep pen, one that was used when the flock was out away from town. These were stone enclosures that the shepherd would guide their flock into. According to the Nelson study bible, ‘These structures had no doors. The shepherd would sit or lie in the opening to prevent predators from attacking and the sheep from wandering out into danger’. In this way, the shepherd would become the door of the sheep.
In this way, Jesus places himself as the governing authority on who goes into the sheep pen and who does not. Furthermore, he says that there is no other door, all that came before him are thieves and robbers, he is the door.
It is hard to imagine a clearer way that Jesus could tell them that in order to get into God’s “sheepfold” or “dwelling” they had to come through him, but he does state it in much simpler terms when he is alone with his disciples on his last night with them.
Abandoning all figures of speech, he says in John 14…
John 14:1-7 (ESV) 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
This is one of THE defining understandings of what it means to be a Christian. It is also the most culturally unacceptable statement you can make in our culture of tolerance and acceptance.
You can say Jesus is a way, you can even say Jesus is your way, but you cannot say he is the only way, and yet, if you say you are a follower of Christ and you believe in what he says, how can you say anything else?
Jesus says he is the way, the door, the only way to the Father. Not one path among many paths, not one option among many options, if you are going to experience salvation there is no other name by which we must be saved.
To accept Christ as the door is to reject every other way to God as being illegitimate and ultimately fraudulent.
The world says that is too exclusive, too narrow, and yet Jesus adds a beautifully inclusive statement, if anyone, if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.
We must take him at his word that no one who hears the voice of the shepherd and seeks to enter the sheepfold through him will be denied. No matter ethnicity, no matter culture, no matter religious background, criminal record, or past. Whoever enters by Jesus will be saved. These are the words of the one who says he is the door, the way, and he says whoever, and I believe he means whoever.
Would you be saved? Jesus is the way. Would your neighbor be saved? Jesus is the way. Your children, grandchildren, Jesus is the way. The man or woman halfway around the world, Jesus is the way. If Jesus tarries for a thousand years, he will still be the way for men and women to be saved. This is the claim that Jesus makes here, he is the door through which we find salvation, but he adds a description in line with his imagery of being a door that introduces our next truth. He will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
Salvation is not just being saved from something, it is being saved to something, which brings us to our next scripture verses here in John 10.
John 10:10-13 (ESV) 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.
The next truth we find here in John about Jesus is that…
He is the source of abundant life
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus says that salvation through him is the way to true and abundant life.
Still using the comparison of the thief verses the shepherd, Jesus highlights the difference. The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. His purpose is to take from the sheep, to use them for his own ends, no matter who gets hurt or the damage he does. On the other hand, Jesus says he is the good shepherd that would fight to the end to protect the sheep. When we hear Jesus say the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, our minds naturally jump to his sacrificial and atoning death. He certainly speaks of this in verses 14 on, but I think he is making a statement, not about his coming atoning death, but the difference between the life of the sheep under two different kinds of people. The shepherd and the hired hand. Right?
The hired hand, who cares nothing for the sheep, when there is danger to his life, he will flee and leave the sheep unprotected.
The shepherd, who owns the sheep, who cares for the sheep, will stay and protect the sheep, even at risk of personal injury to himself.
This is like David’s experience that he relates to the king before he faces Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:34-36 (ESV) 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
For a sheep, do you see the difference between life under a hired hand and life under the shepherd?
Under the care of the shepherd life looks much different, doesn’t it? This is the beauty of Psalm 23 that we heard read this morning.
Psalms 23 (ESV) 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
David says under the watch and care of the good shepherd he lacks nothing, he is led to green pastures and still waters, he is led on the right paths and even in the danger of death, there is no fear, because the good shepherd doesn’t abandon his sheep.
David uses the phrase ‘my cup overflows’ to describe this life under the good shepherd.
Interestingly, this is similar language to what Jesus says here about life in him, the Good Shepherd. He says it is the abundant life. The word abundant means exceeding the measure, or overflowing. Something like ‘exceeding abundantly’ or ‘more than is necessary’. It is the idea of overflowing.
Jesus uses shepherding language for us to understand the abundant life when he says they will go in and out and find pasture.
Reminding us again of the 23 Psalm, what does it mean that we shall not want?
Is it like prosperity preacher Joel preaches? That the Christian faith not only provides blessings in heaven, but also consists of happiness, success, and fulfillment here on earth.
Osteen expresses his version of the prosperity gospel: “I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to enjoy our lives.” And he unabashedly defines these in material terms.
Prosperity preachers like Osteen often used John 10:10 as proof that God wants us to be abundantly blessed. The problem is that Jesus didn’t say he came to give us an abundance of stuff, but abundant life. He also defines what life is not for us in Luke 12:15 (ESV) 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
He goes on to say Luke 12:32-34 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. He teaches us that true life is found in the kingdom of God and true abundance is found with him, not with what he provides.
Jesus promises rest, security, safety, satisfaction, contentment, these are the markers of an abundant life, and by the way, isn’t this what the world is chasing after through their possessions?
If I had a little more I would be… financially stable, finally happy, finally satisfied.
This is the marketing system to the letter.
If you had this car, you would feel satisfied, if you had a house like this, you would be content, if you had this kind of money, you wouldn’t have to worry about anything again, if you had a body like this, you would be happy.
Paul says, in Christ, God will supply every need of yours according to his riches…
In another place, Paul says Romans 14:17 (ESV) 7 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
What do we need to have an abundant life? Righteousness, which the Bible says is imputed to us by Christ, peace with God and with one another, which the Bible says is given to us by Christ, joy, which God supplies in and through the presence of his Holy Spirit. These are the pastures available to God’s flock, these are the green pastures and still waters that Christleads his sheep to. We don't have time to examine all of psalm 23 but we find not just provision, but protection, and guidance from the shepherd.
Indeed, once we are in Christ, nothing can take us from his hand.
Abundant life is not found, despite what culture tells you, or what prosperity preachers tell you, in the abundance of things that rust and deteriorate and are ultimately destroyed, abundant life is found in the things that we can experience now that we will also experience for eternity with Christ. This is what we have been saved to in Christ, the Good Shepherd.
To whom is this life promised? The ones who come to God by the door, the ones who come by the good shepherd.
And why can anyone come to God through Jesus in the first place? Because he has made the way possible through his atoning death on the cross, which brings us to our last truth find in John 10. Let’s pick up in verse 14.
John 10:14-18 (ESV) 4 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. 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.”
The third truth we find in John 10 about Jesus is that…
He is the rightful owner of the church
Jesus makes several statements here that are important to us.
I know my own and my own know me.
I lay my life down for the sheep.
I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice.
There will be one flock, one shepherd.
This one flock and one shepherd language is straight from the word of god given to the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 34:23-24 (ESV) 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.
Ezekiel 37:24 (ESV) 24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.
Jesus is claiming the be God’s one shepherd that would be the shepherd of God’s one people that he will seek out and will rescue, that he will bring out and bring them into their own land where he will feed them, where they will be safe, where the injured will be bound up, the weak will be strengthened, and the unjust abusers will face justice.
Jesus was sent by the Father to gather to himself God's people in order to do all of that for his sheep.
Furthermore, he will gather them from beyond the house of Israel, jews and gentiles alike, into one flock before God. This is what we have been studying on Wednesday nights in Ephesians. Christ reconciled us both, Jew and Gentile alike in one body through the cross. Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the father.
How would he carry this out? How would he gather the lost sheep of Israel and the Gentiles?
How would he bind up the injured, strengthen the weak, bring the wicked to justice and the redeemed to glory?
He says, I lay my life down for the sheep.
Not only that, but he would lay it down of his own accord, willingly, voluntarily, and then he would take it up again. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated this great truth in the crucifixion of Jesus, where he laid down his life, and in the resurrection, where he took it up again.
It is in that great act that he purchased the sheep with his own blood.
Mark 10:45 (ESV) 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Acts 20:28 (ESV) 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Galatians 3:13-14 (ESV) 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Hebrews 9:11-14 (ESV) 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Christ is the Good Shepherd because he laid down his life to redeem you from the curse of the law, from the curse of sin, he bought you with the price of his own blood so that you could be free from sin, death, and the wrath of God on your sin.
If you are in Christ, you belong to Christ. He purchased you and as the Good Shepherd, he is the rightful owner of all God’s flock. This was God’s plan from all eternity, as Paul says in Ephesians, this was according to his eternal purpose that he realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Three truths from Jesus teaching here in John 10 about him being the Good Shepherd.
He is the only way to salvation, he is the source of abundant life, and he is the rightful owner of the all those, from all times and all places, who make up the church. Amen?
So let me finish with this question, there is no doubt that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but is he your good shepherd?
Have you heard his voice and followed him?
Do you know him and having come to God through him are you experiencing life abundantly?
How do you know if you are one of the ones the Father has given him? How do you know if he is your good shepherd?
Let me read to you one last scripture from John 10.
John 10:22-30 (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, 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. 30 I and the Father are one.”
If you believe, then you are his sheep, because you hear his voice and you follow him, if you do not believe you are not among my sheep.
Now, there is a chance there is someone here this morning that is hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd for the first time. I pray that you will listen to his voice, surrender your life, and follow him.
If you know that you are one of his and he is your Good Shepherd, ask yourself if you are walking in the abundant life he has given you or if you are still striving to find it outside of Him. If so, repent today, come back to the Good shepherd and be led to green pastures and still waters, rest in the secure love of Christ now and for eternity. Let us pray.