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John

The Good Shepherd

John 10

The passage of Scripture is justly famed for its metaphor of Christ, the good shepherd. As such, it serves as guidance for those who would know Christ – and warning to those who would be his shepherds.

John 10

1“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

7Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.£ He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

22Then came the Feast of Dedication£ at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,£ tell us plainly.”

25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all£; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”

31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’£ ? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

40Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42And in that place many believed in Jesus.

Christ and the Father

It is a matter of frustration to many Christians that we have no full explanation of the Trinity given in the Scriptures. We are rather presented with various statements about it, and a variety of facts concerning it. From these, we are left to pick our way through a theological minefield. We shall do our best.

The perfect unity

“I and the Father are one.” It is the statement of unity which flies in the face of observation. God is spirit; Jesus is man. Yet over and again we are told that they are one. The assertion is made so strongly that we must assume that this is a fact to be presented to us.

“I am in the Father and the Father is in me “. This seems even more unlikely. But we know that Christ is speaking in a metaphor, and he is not speaking of physical containment. Rather, he is speaking of the union of his spirit with the spirit of God. The two are one. Indeed, they are so much one, that the fathers will is also Christ’s will – and vice versa.

The distinction is made as the Father sets apart the Son. To “set apart “means to make wholly. Christ is indeed the a Holy One of God. We see now that Christ is distinct from the father. Indeed the agents held that he was equal with God as touching his godhood, and inferior to God as touching his manhood. It was the best explanation they could devise. It is best shown in this: Jesus, the Son of Man, is obedient to the Father.

The evidence

Of course, God does not expect us to believe this simply because one man states that it is so. We need evidence. Evidence God provides – but not proof. If he provided proof, there would be no room for faith. So, then, what evidence do we have?

  • First, there are the miracles. These are frequently cited as being done in the Father’s name. By claiming God’s authority verbally, then verifying it with a miracle, Christ convinces most of those who see him. They reason, quite correctly, that God Omnipotent would not allow a fraud to perform miracles in his name.
  • There is also the fact of divine style. “I do what my Father does.” Recognize that what I do is what God does; healing the sick, calling the sinner to repentance, loving the poor.
  • Indeed, the evidence is sufficiently strong that Jesus – contrary to what many believe – frequently challenges his hearers to examine that evidence. He does not want Christians who have faith in having faith – rather, he challenges them to seek out the evidence. Why? So that they might bring others to Christ. (Interestingly, the challenge should also be applied to those who preach and teach in Christ’s name. Their lives should show evidence of God as well.)
The Father Gives

It is a curious phrasing. The father gives the sheep to the Son. At first, it might appear that God has divinely ordained blows to be saved and those to be condemned. Is your spiritual destiny predetermined? I answered no. Rather, this is a statement of the power of God. Those placed in the hands of Jesus, no force on earth can rip away. God is omnipotent. By his power he keeps those who are faithful to his son.

The father loves the son. Christ here gives us the reason. It is because he lays down his life for the sheep. This is obedience in the highest degree. Is it not interesting, then, that he tells us that he is in the father as he is in us. This is divine style again. Should we therefore not have the same obedience to him?

Christ and the shepherds

Our Lord warns us here about those who claim to be shepherds of his flock – but are false. If we are to understand his meaning, we must see the dual use of the metaphor of the sheep gate – the “door” in the old King James Version. In one sense he says that he enters through the door; in another, that he IS the door. How can this be?

It is simple: the door is the picture of the Word of God. See how this passage applies to the door being Scripture:

  • Scripture bars the way to Satan and heresy.
  • By Scripture, the honest man comes to Christ.
  • For those who want the “other way“, they must add, delete, or replace the Scriptures.
  • Now you know the test: does the shepherd honor the Scriptures?
Three types of leaders

Christ tells us about three kinds of leaders:

  • There is the thief. He comes only to steal or to destroy. If to steal, then his motive is money. If to destroy, his motive is hatred. Therefore, look for greed or anger; these mark the thief.
  • There is the hired hand. His test is simple. What does he do when persecution starts? Does he stand by the faith, or does he lick the boots of his oppressors?
  • The true shepherd, or watchman, is also told by his motives. He does not seeking your wallet, nor your destruction, nor does he fear persecution. The greatest test is that he will lay down his life for Christ’s sheep.
The true pastor/shepherd/watchman

What are the signs of the true pastor?

  • He comes in the character of legitimate authority. He comes openly. His motives are easy to see. His actions are honest and above board.
  • He serves the one flock. He believes in and upholds the unity of the faith, and the unity of God’s flock, the church.
  • He is the watchman. He opens the gate for the shepherd; thus, his sole purpose is to bring you to faith in Christ. More than that, he is also watching for the return of Christ.

Christ and His sheep

We now must turn to the most important part of this relationship – that of Christ and his sheep.

How do I know Jesus is the real thing?
  • First, examine the evidence. Read his words. Look at the records of the miracles. Read the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament. See if you can find any other explanation. As Sherlock Holmes once put it, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
  • Next, examine his disciples. Do they act as though they know God?
  • Finally, listen to his voice. Seek the truth; examine his words. If you find truth in them, then follow that truth.
Christ is the only way

So many wishful thinkers ardently wish that this were not so. Over and again we hear, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.” Or we hear, “God would not condemn someone just because…” But is that what God says?

  • “I am the way, the truth, the life – no man comes to the Father except by me.” He is the door, the sheep gate – the only entrance into the mercy of God.
  • He is unique in this too: of all religions, where else do you find one who “lays down his life?” He gives you the ultimate sacrifice, that of a sinless human being. Note, please, that with his own authority he rose from the dead. Not only is his sacrifice unique, his authority is unique. Indeed, all true authority comes from him.
  • “You do not believe because you are not my sheep.” The Good Shepherd has done all that is necessary for your salvation. If you do not enter into it, it is by your own choosing.
The personal relationship

Christianity is not a “system” nor is it a “belief structure.” It is a personal relationship with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Let us indeed see how personal this relationship is:

  • He calls you by name. Is this not the sign of a personal relationship ?
  • You hear his voice. Just like the man born blind, it is his voice that you seek. The true sheep of Jesus listened only to his voice. They listen, and obey. They listen to Christ, and none other. Listening, they obey.
  • The results of this relationship is awesome. We are told we will be gods. We will reign with him. As the Psalm says, opposed to whom the word of God has come will be God’s. When he returns, how glorious we all will be.
  • In the meanwhile we shall find pasture with him. Christ, and Christ alone, feeds us with the breadth of life.

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