Our Wednesday evening Bible study group has finally made it to chapter 10 of the Gospel of John. And without a doubt this chapter has been worth the wait. The chapter is so rich that we were only able to cover the first three verses of the book before it was time to quit for the evening.
“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; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out.” John 10:1-3
These verses are built upon Ezekiel 34 where God gives an overview of the different ways that the shepherds of Israel failed them by their indifference and desire for personal success and the pursuit of wealth. Any Jew who was even slightly knowledgeable regarding the writings of Ezekiel would have grasped instantly that Jesus was claiming to be the true shepherd of Israel as opposed to their own spiritual leaders.
It is interesting that in Ezekiel 34 God is the true shepherd and in John 10 Jesus is claiming to be the good shepherd and therefore equating Himself to God. The Jews would have picked up the implications of what Jesus was teaching very quickly.
But Jesus is even more than the shepherd. He is also the door by which the sheep enter safety each evening and go out in the morning. Verse 1 makes it clear that He is the only way to enter the sheepfold and only thieves and robbers try to enter by climbing over the fence. Jesus is obviously equating this verse to grace.
There is no other legitimate entrance to the Kingdom of God than through Jesus and His death at Calvary. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14,15
Notice in verse 15 Jesus says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” The concept is that Jesus is the substitute for the sheep having to die. In Jesus day it was very rare for a shepherd to die for the sheep he cared for because most shepherds were hired men who had no desire to die for the owner’s sheep. Jesus, however, was more than willing to die to save the sheep because they were His sheep.
I would like to be so bold as to suggest something about verse 1 that might cause us to meditate upon the verse a little more thoroughly than usual. I believe that the robbers and thieves are those people who try to enter the Kingdom through their own works. If they say that anything they do can add one iota to their salvation, then in reality they are robbing Jesus of His glory and sacrifice at Calvary. They diminish the work of God in our salvation by saying that it is incomplete without their doing something themselves to add to it.
We have mentioned numerous times in this blog that the Bible is about our separation from God starting in the Garden of Eden through doubt and breaking our trust relationship with God. Jesus has been pursuing us ever since to invite us home. He makes that invitation possible because of Jesus’ sacrifice that paid the penalty for our sin so that there is no barrier to keep us from returning. “To Him the gatekeeper opens, the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” 10:3
Eve thought she could be like God when she ate the forbidden fruit in the garden but instead she only ended up seeing herself naked. Ever since that day this theme of wanting to be like God has run through humanity causing us to run from God and seek salvation in work, fame, fortune, sex, drugs and the list goes on.
It is important for us to remember that the reason legalism and the attempt at law keeping for salvation is so insidious is because it represents the residue of what Eve wanted in the Garden. It is an elevation of our own performance and when we do that we diminish the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.
One of the wonders of the first three verses in John 10 is that we are introduced to Jesus as the Shepherd and the Door. In the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, He came calling for them. Now in verse 3 we see that God comes searching for the lost and He is calling their name.
Jesus knows each of us individually and He knows our name. Shepherds in Jesus day would often huddle their sheep together in one pen at night and then in the morning they would call their sheep and the sheep would separate from the other sheep in the fold and follow the voice of their shepherd. In verse 3 Jesus tells us that He comes calling our names and each of us who will listen and hear His voice will be cared for and looked after.
When it says Jesus “leads them out,” it is a reference to the reality that the shepherd led the sheep out in the morning to green pastures. Once again the Jews would have understood that Jesus is claiming the status of Good Shepherd as portrayed in the twenty-third Psalm. In case they did miss it, verse 11 makes it clear that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
These three verses give us great assurance of the love of God for us. He protects us and keeps us. He is the door through His death and resurrection that we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and He is the shepherd that leads us there. He calls us by name and never rejects or abandons anyone who comes to Him.
Jesus is the shepherd that leaves the ninety and nine to seek the one lost. When we put our trust in Him nothing can snatch us out of His hand. (10:28) To trust in the good shepherd is to know that you have salvation and your future is assured.
* Take just a few minutes and go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians. Please pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith in Christ, many times even unto death.