Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
John 10:1-4 (NIV)
Read: John 10:1-21
Consider: In today’s reading in John 10 Jesus speaks of himself as ‘gate’ and as ‘good shepherd’. In John 10:7, 9 we read: Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. … I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. Typically a gate serves two functions – to allow the sheep to enter the sheepfold and also to keep the sheep safe once they are inside the sheepfold. Jesus is claiming not just to be the way to God, but additionally that he provides protection to those who are in him.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus described himself as the ‘good shepherd’, rather than just ‘shepherd’. It could just be that the Pharisees listening to Jesus would have thought of themselves as shepherds for the people; charged with leading them spiritually. Jesus would then be highlighting their lack of real concern for the spiritual welfare of the people. Perhaps in a similar way as the term ‘good Samaritan’ is used to describe the actions of a Samaritan (which challenged Jewish understanding of what could be expected of a Samaritan), so the term ‘good shepherd’ is being used to describe the attributes of someone who was not a typical shepherd. This is hinted at in verse 12 where the hired hand is mentioned – someone who has no personal stake in the ownership of the sheep, so is quick to desert them in times of danger. In John 10:11 Jesus states that he lays down his life for the sheep and in verse 14 he states that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Jesus is not claiming to die just because he is the shepherd, but because he has a personal interest in each and every one of his sheep.
What are we to learn from this interaction between Jesus and the crowd? If you think the story is purely about us being the sheep, this may create in your mind an incorrect picture. Sheep are not renowned for being the most intelligent animals on the planet. Jesus’ language in John 10 is not there to make us concentrate upon the sheep part of the analogy, but on the ‘good shepherd’ imagery and what it means. Our focus should be on Jesus, not on ourselves.
Notice the reaction of the people who listened to Jesus. In John 10:19-21 we read: The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, ‘He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?’ But others said, ‘These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ The crowd were polarised in their assessment of who Jesus was and the claims he was making. The same thing still happens today.
Pray: Father, we recognise that Jesus’ claims to be the ‘gate’ and the ‘good shepherd’ still cause division between those who accept him as their Saviour and those who reject him. We pray that your Holy Spirit would move in the hearts of men and women, enabling them to see and accept who Jesus really is. Amen