Our lesson this week continues with us taking a look at living by the teachings of Christ. One of my favorite thoughts to look at when I teach or preach is looking at Christ as our good shepherd; He watches over us and keeps us as we graze in His pasture. So, in this week’s lesson, we will get the chance to look at living under the watchful eye of Christ.
In the Care of the Good Shepherd
Our lesson essentially follows up with what Jesus had shared in our recent lesson about Him being the light of the world. Jesus desired for the people to listen to Him, as I have said in recent weeks, and to follow Him. So, our lesson opens with Jesus having just finished speaking about the nature of sheep.
Sheep in need of care
Jesus had spoken about how sheep aren’t willing to just follow anybody; they will not follow strangers. However, their shepherd, the one they always see and can recognize them and their voice, they will certainly follow (John 10:3-5). Shepherd and sheep have had a very close bond which dates back to the days of Genesis; the relationship between the two have been beneficial for both parties.
Sheep are very fearful animals as they are, for the most part, helpless creatures; they aren’t aggressive; they aren’t predators; they are defenseless. Because they are essentially helpless, sheep will flock together in order to look out for each other. When it comes to danger, the sheep will do their best to scatter and run away, but because they aren’t the fastest of animals, they are easily overtaken and consumed by predators.
So, for the sheep, the shepherd has always been good for them because they can keep watch over them and care for them. When we look at Psalm 23, David gives us really good insight into the role that the shepherd plays. The shepherd leads the flock, watches over them and protects them from outside danger. The shepherd even anoints the head of their own flock in order to protect themselves from each other when they ram their heads together.
After Jesus made the opening statement about the relationship between sheep and their shepherd, scripture tells us that the people did not understand His illustration (John 10:6). We have seen before that some struggled to understand Jesus’ parables because they often thought with a worldly mindset. While Jesus wasn’t speaking in a parable in this scripture, He was speaking figuratively and the people were struggling to understand the figurative illustration.
Door of the sheepfold
So, our lesson opens with Jesus further expounding on the illustration with more figurative speech that turns to be more direct. Jesus, we will see, state, “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 (vss.7-8).”
Now, the thing I love about figurative speech like this is that it opens the doors to questions, and so therefore, it opens the doors to learning. Why does Jesus say that He is the door of the sheep? Who are the sheep that Jesus is speaking of in this scripture? Also, who are the thieves and robbers that He is speaking of?
If we turn to John 9, we will see that Jesus had healed a blind man on the Sabbath (John 9:6-7, 13-16). When the man who was once blind stood before the religious leaders, they tried to persuade him not to listen to Jesus because they didn’t know where He was from (John 9:28). The blind man wasn’t going to turn away from Jesus and because of this, the religious leaders cast him out (John 9:34).
The religious leaders were acting as the door in that they were saying who could or could not be of God or follow God. So, when Jesus said that HE is the door, He was making it clear that He is the one that determines who goes into His fold and not anybody else. Those that came before Him were trying to do this but they did not have the authority to do so. Jesus said that He is the one that determines who will be saved and will go in and out to find pasture (v.9).
So, on this note, we actually answer a few of our questions that we just asked. Jesus said that He was the door of the fold to show He has authority. The flock of sheep, in this case, was in reference to Israel. The thieves and the robbers, in this case, were the religious leaders. Even more about the thief is that Jesus said that the thief only comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy (v.10).
This says a great deal about the religious leaders and then those false prophets that had come before Jesus as well. Rather than to help the sheep, as they should have been doing, they were bringing the sheep harm. The religious leaders should have been learning from Jesus, but they were more concerned about holding on to whatever power they believed they had.
The religious leaders had just said to the blind man, “You are His disciple, but we are ‘Moses’ disciples’”; they, in fact, were not Moses’ disciples as they were disciples. Why do I say that ? Moses would have easily recognized Christ as the only begotten Son of God. However, the religious leaders saw wickedness and a demon when Jesus was healing those around Him both physically and mentally; it was something that truly puzzled the blind man (John 9:30-33).
In the care of the good shepherd
To speak even more plainly to the people and the religious leaders, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep (v.11).” It was very poignant for Jesus to make this statement in the presence of the religious leaders. The reason I say this is because one would have to wonder what did they ever give for the people?
Yes, our minds will right away turn to Jesus giving up His life for all of mankind, but Jesus’ giving goes even further than our simplistic way of looking at Jesus giving His life for us. You see, Jesus left eternity – His Father’s kingdom – to come dwell in our world. Do you understand what that really means?
In our world, there is nothing but wickedness and sin. You see, in our world there is hurt, pain, and suffering. In the kingdom of God, there is peace and joy! The peace and joy that I speak of is not man’s idea for what peace and joy looks like but true peace and joy according to the Lord. Jesus gave up His life there to come to us and give His life for us!
The religious leaders, as Jesus said, loved to be seen by the people in their fancy garments (Matt. 23:5). Jesus said that the religious leaders loved the “best places at feasts” and they loved the “best seats in synagogues” (Matt. 23:6). The religious loved to be puffed up and glorified by men who would call them Rabbi (Matt. 23:7). Again, those religious leaders loved their ‘power’ and they wouldn’t give it up for anybody.
For Jesus to say that He was the good shepherd and likened Himself to one that would give His life for His sheep, it had to hit really hard for those religious leaders. To add on to that, Jesus said that those who are like a hireling would run away in the face of danger as they don’t really care about the sheep as they should (vss.12-13).
Jesus was likening false prophets of old and the religious leaders of His day to hirelings. There are many in the world today that act as if they are shepherds of God’s flock today but in the presence of wickedness, they cower and allow wickedness to have its presence within the flock. Again, this was something that would hit those religious leaders incredibly hard.
Recognizing the good shepherd
Some believe that sheep are dumb, but they aren’t as dumb as one may think. One thing is for certain, is the sheep recognize the one that truly cares about them. Yes, there were some who listened to the voice of the religious leaders just as there are many who listen to the voice of false teachers today.
However, just like the blind man, many of us recognize the voice of our good shepherd today and He rejoices in this. Jesus plainly said again, to further illustrate that He is the good shepherd, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own (v.14.) Let me tell you something, it is truly special to be able to recognize the good shepherd and all that He has done for you.
As I said in a sermon recently – Listening to God – in order to recognize the good shepherd and listen to His voice, one must be of the same spirit. Sheep have a habit of wandering and they will wander off at times, even though they may be following their shepherd and in their care.
The truth of the matter is that all of us will have moments when we wander off track because of where we may be spiritually. In order for us to get back on track, the Lord will call our name. In order for you to recognize He is calling out to you, you must get back to being of the same spirit. In order to be of the same spirit as Him, you must walk by faith in Him.
Being able to recognize the good shepherd won’t just be for those of Israel. Jesus, we will see, said, “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 (v.16).” This figurative speech, again, raises questions, right? Who are the other sheep that are not of the fold of Israel that Jesus is speaking of?
Let us remember that scripture says that God loved the world (John 3:16). The other sheep are all of those who are not of Israel – gentiles. This is Jesus repeating the fact that all people can be saved and that He was sent to save all people. This particular verse is one of my favorite verses in the bible because it speaks to the fact that you don’t have to have special blood in order to be saved. The good shepherd cares for all of His sheep.
A good shepherd has complete control
Our lesson closes out on Jesus again saying that He lays down His life (gives His life) for His flock (v.15). Why does He lay down His life for His flock? We know that He lays down His flock because He loves the flock. Yet, at the same time, we will see that Jesus says He lays down His life because He knows the Father; it was the Father’s will that the Son give His life for us so that we can dwell with Him eternally.
Jesus also said that the Father loves Him because He lays down His life that He may take it again (v.17). In this statement, Jesus was showing that He was in full authority (control) over His life and not anybody else. Jesus said, “No one takes it (His life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (v.18).”
As we said on Palm Sunday, Jesus dismissed His spirit on the cross because He was in control. Jesus, scripture clearly shows us, never put up a fight when He was arrested in the garden whereas Peter and the others acted wildly. Even when He was placed on “trial”, Jesus never put up a fight as He displayed being in fully control.
Though He is no longer physically in this world, all authority, Jesus said, has been given to Him (Matt. 28:18). With all authority, Jesus is in complete control as He leads us beside still waters. Jesus leads us into His pastures and cares for us in the presence of our enemies. I tell you that we are well cared for by our good shepherd and we should be very grateful to live in His care.