The Shepherd of Israel: The True Shepherd John 10:6-10 – Part Two
There are about 162 different animals mentioned in the Bible. But when God describes His people’s behavior patterns and lifestyles, He uses the imagery of sheep more often than any other animal, and there is a good reason for that. People and sheep bear many similarities. Among other things both are timid, weak, stubborn and in need of endless attention from a shepherd.
Just as sheep need a shepherd to care for them, God’s people need a divine shepherd to lead them. In our last article we saw how Jesus in John chapter 10 begins to explain to the Pharisees that He is the true Shepherd over the true sheep of Israel. He is the one legitimate Shepherd whom God promised (Ezek. 34:23) to send to Israel, and that is the reason why people such as the man born blind (Jn. 9) were following Him. In John 10:1-10, we find four truths which Christ gave in relation to His identification as the true Shepherd. The last article mentioned two of these truths: “The Pretense of False Shepherds” and “The Proof of the True Shepherd.” In this article we will examine two more of these truths.
III. THE PROVISION OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD
While the Pharisees listened to Christ’s words, they didn’t understand what He was talking about. Verse 6 says, “This parable spoke Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which he spoke unto them.” So, once again, Jesus continues presenting Himself as the true Shepherd, but He changes the metaphor slightly so that they might know that He provides for His sheep. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (v. 7). Many people have asked the question, Why does the Lord call Himself the door of the sheep when He has already referred to Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep?
As was mentioned in the last article, there were two kinds of sheepfolds in first-century Palestine. The first sheepfold to which Jesus referred in verse 1 was one which was located in a village or town. The sheepfold of which Jesus said He was the door was away from the village. In Israel, when the shepherds took their sheep far away from the town into the hillside, they often could not return to the village at night to use the public sheepfold. Instead, they built their own sheepfold. These countryside sheepfolds were just open spaces enclosed by walls. There was no door, just an opening by which the sheep came in and went out. At night, the shepherd would lie down across this opening and literally became the door of the sheep. Apparently, this was a very common occurrence in Israel. In Luke 2:8 we read, “. . . shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
In keeping with the symbolic language of Christ’s message, what does the countryside sheepfold represent? It cannot mean Judaism because in the progression of this message, Jesus has already led His sheep out of Judaism. This second sheepfold must refer to a new place of God’s blessings — not Judaism but the Church. The only way into this new place of blessing is through the Lord Jesus Christ — the door of the sheepfold. Just as there was only one door into a countryside sheepfold, so there is only one door into a personal relationship with God. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “. . . I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Peter said the same thing when he proclaimed, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
How does Jesus become the door through which a person enters into a personal relationship with God? He first must lead you out of the lifeless religious system in which you have been before you can enter the door of this new sheepfold. For each of us, the circumstances that lead to leaving the old system are varied and different, but the results are always the same — we abandon the old way of life to enter into a new way of life. For the man born blind in John chapter 9, it took the Pharisees’ cruel excommunication from Judaism for him to see his need for Christ. For many people, it takes a horrible and devastating experience to bring them to a point where they are so disillusioned with a false system that they won’t hesitate to abandon it for the true salvation Christ offers.
Jesus is the only door to God the Father, yet many voices claim that there are other ways to God. The Pharisees were one of those voices claiming that they were the way to God. In verse 8 Jesus mentions the Pharisees by once again referring to them as thieves and robbers. He says, “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them.” A thief and a robber is one who steals what doesn’t belong to him. In light of the Lord’s saying that He is the way to God, these thieves and robbers were attempting to steal Christ’s honor by claiming that their way — the way of law keeping and religious tradition — was the door to God. Their message to the sheep was that human effort was the way to God.
The Pharisees reduced Judaism to a legalistic system of works which a person had to keep to get to Heaven. They preached a salvation by works, not faith in the Messiah, Jesus denounced them and their salvation-by-works system in Luke 11:52 when He said “Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” By their heretical teaching, they forbade and restrained others as well as themselves from entering into a true relationship with God through faith in Christ. But they could not restrain the true sheep from genuine salvation because the true sheep did not care what the Pharisees said (“. . . but the sheep did not hear them,” Jn. 10:8). There were some in Israel who were completely dissatisfied with the legalistic and burdensome teachings of the Pharisees. A short time prior to the occurrence of the circumstances surrounding John chapter 10, Peter, in response to Christ’s question as to whether the apostles would abandon and forsake Him, said, “. . . Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68). Peter understood, like all the true sheep in Israel, that Christ was the true Shepherd and the door into a relationship with God.
Having established the fact that He is the only entrance into the presence of God, our Lord now tells us what He actually provides for those who are willing to go to God through Him. “I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (v. 9). As the true Shepherd, Christ makes three spiritual provisions for His sheep. First, He provides salvation (“he shall be saved”). A sheep away from the shepherd and outside of the sheepfold is doomed to die. A sheep cannot take care of itself and is one of the most defenseless animals. Sheep will certainly die unless they enter into the shepherd’s sheepfold and care. When we come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, we are saved from the great enemy of our souls— sin. Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” The moment we come to faith in Christ our sins are completely forgiven (1 Jn. 2:12; Col. 2:13; Eph. 1:7), and we are saved from the penalty of sin — eternal death! The old system of works can never save anyone; it can only drive a person to despair as he strives for perfection but never attains it.
The second provision of the true Shepherd is security. Once a person is saved from the penalty of sin, he needs to be kept saved. Jesus spoke of this security by saying, “and shall go in and out.” These words constitute an old Hebrew expression referring to security, safety and freedom. When a man was free to go in and out, it was the Jewish way of describing a life that was safe and secure. The psalmist expressed this kind of security for Israel when he said, “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Ps. 121:8).
Some Christians don’t realize how secure they are in Christ. They constantly live their lives in fear because they think it is possible for sin and Satan to overcome them and cause them to lose their salvation. They don’t understand that their Shepherd has provided safety for all His sheep. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:27-29). A true sheep never has to worry about the enemy overcoming him to the point of losing his salvation. He is completely secure in the omnipotent hands of both Christ and the Father.
In addition to salvation and security, our Shepherd also provides satisfaction (“and find pasture”). What are the green pastures which the true Shepherd provides for us? They are the lush pasturelands of the Word of God. His sheep are nourished and satisfied by feeding on the Word of God. This is why Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:16). Years later Peter would exhort other sheep to feed on God’s Word; “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that ye may grow by it” (1 Pet. 2:2). A growing sheep is a satisfied sheep.
It is a known fact that hungry sheep will not lie down. Hungry sheep are always on their feet — restless, moving and searching for some forage to satisfy their hunger. A sheep in this condition lacks vigor and vitality. Some Christians are restless, dissatisfied and weak simply because they are not feeding on the Word of God. They cannot seem to rest in the Lord but are always looking for something to fill the emptiness in the pit of their spiritual stomachs, but to no avail. Perhaps this is the reason some believers seek unnecessary emotional experiences. Their lack of true spiritual food has created a discontent which they try to alleviate through an “experience” rather than a balanced diet of the Word of God. I look back at my own Christian experience, and I find that there was a continual restlessness until I started studying the Bible. Once I began to systematically feed on the Word, I became satisfied with what I had in Christ.
The true Shepherd knows what we need to survive and thrive as His sheep, and He has provided it. The last truth which Jesus wanted the Pharisees to know in connection with His identity as the true Shepherd was the purpose of His coming.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE TRUE SHEPHERD (v. 10)
The purpose for which Jesus came to earth as the true Shepherd is summed up in verse 10, “The thief cometh not but 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 Pharisees’ aim was to steal, to kill and to destroy. They were spiritual thieves whose only intent was to take life from the sheep. In contrast, the true Shepherd came to give life to the sheep. Jesus came to give us a special quality of life that is out of the ordinary. It is called abundant life and means an overflowing life. This abundant life is none other than His life within us. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 Jn. 5:12). Jesus came to give His life to His sheep. In the next article we will see that the true Shepherd is also the good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep, thereby making it possible to give His life to them.
There is no doubt about the fact that Jesus is the true Shepherd of Israel. Unlike false shepherds, He stands ready to give to those who come to Him by faith a salvation which is secure and totally satisfying. If you haven’t yet trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, then come to Him today. It’s as simple as walking through a door.