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Sun, Sep 05, 1999

63 - The Good Shepherd

John 10:1-6 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 12 secs

The Good Shepherd; John 10:1-6

 

Chapters nine and ten flow together. Originally there were no chapter divisions in the New Testament. We must understand the events of chapter nine if we are going to properly interpret the events of chapter ten. Chapter ten is the discourse on the good shepherd. Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, He is called the great shepherd, He is the chief shepherd.

 

One of the basic rules of interpretation is context. Scripture must be interpreted in the time in which it was written and it must be interpreted within its context. There are three different aspects to Bible study. The first is observation. That looks at the text and asks what is there. That is a very important procedure: what is there, what it is saying, what the parts of speech are, the verbs, classifying the nouns, etc. The second stage is interpretation, and that asks what it means. It does not answer the question: what does that mean to me? That is not the issue in interpretation. John did not write this Gospel to you. It is written to you by extension and by application but not directly. Paul did not write to us the 1st epistle to the Corinthians. He wrote that to a particular people in a particular time in a particular place going through particular problems. When we understand and properly interpret what he was saying to them, then we develop application to us. Then the third stage is application. Application then asks the question: how does this relate to the way I think and to what I do? This passage on the good shepherd has nothing to do with pastors and congregations. 

 

The passage begins when Jesus says: "Truly, truly, I say to you." We are coming to the climax of a crescendo. He has been building an argument for the last couple of chapters and the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees has been intensifying. We have to think back on how John has developed this in his Gospel. There was His initial statement that "if you tear down the temple I will rebuild it in  three days," and that immediately antagonised the Pharisees. In John chapter three there is the discussion with Nicodemus where Jesus made it clear that the issue was authority. If the ultimate authority, Nicodemus, is going to be the things you think, the things you see, then how will you ever believe me when I not only tell you about the things on the earth but I tell you about things in heaven? So he challenged Nicodemus at the core of his thinking in terms of ultimate authority issues. In chapter five there is a more heated discussion following His healing of the cripple at the pool of Bethesda, and it was then that the Pharisees first determined that they were going to put Him to death. And there is a continuing conflict as He makes clear His claims to be deity and equality with God the Father. In chapter six there is further conflict. We should not get the idea that Jesus is developing conflict for the sake of conflict. That is not what is happening here. Jesus is perfect, He is impeccable, there is no sin here. He is not on an ego trip; He is not trying to win an argument; He is not being argumentative or stirring up conflict simply for the sake of conflict. Jesus is making His claims, and the claims of truth are always going to divide people. That is one of the major themes in this section. When Jesus makes His claims those who reject Him in negative volition have to be antagonistic to Him. Truth divides people. Jesus shows us how to stand our ground in a way that is calm and grace oriented but in a way that doesn't back up. Jesus does not back up for anybody. He makes some extremely hard statements, statements that are very confrontational, but He does not say them in a harsh or necessarily confrontational manner. His entire discourse is designed to illuminate, to bring out into the open, the thinking, the legalism, the arrogance of the Pharisees. He is exposing them for who they are and what they believe; that they don't know God, they don't want to know God, and they don't understand anything about the Old Testament. It is going to culminate here in this entire chapter when He is going to show that they are bent on their own agenda and that they are, in fact, the evil and wicked shepherds who have no right to shepherd the flock, and He is the one who has the credentials and is ultimately the good shepherd. So we have to understand it in that context.

 

There is a figure of speech called a simile. This always uses the terms like or as—I am like a door, I am like a shepherd, I am like a gate. It is a stated comparison. A metaphor is an unstated comparison—I am a door, I am a shepherd, I am the gate. When it is extended out in a story like this it is an allegory. An allegory is an extended metaphor where the different elements of the story relate to a principle. But like any allegory you don't try to make every single detail mean something. That is the pathway to heresy.

 

In this passage we have the metaphor of shepherd. Shepherd describes a field of meaning. Shepherds have all kinds of responsibilities, they do all kinds of things. Their business, their job is relating to sheep and they do all kinds of things to sheep. That describes the field of meaning. Then there is the analogy. The analogy here is to Jesus Christ and His role as the good shepherd. Not everything related to a shepherd is going to compare to the Lord Jesus Christ in His ministry. Not everything in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is analogous to the work of a shepherd. So we have to define the area of overlap. The Scriptures always define the interpretation for us. That is the principle. The Bible never leaves us hanging to just go out and say: "Okay, how is Jesus going to compare to a shepherd? Let's figure that out." We are not left to our own devices, that is what allegory does. The Scripture always defines the parameter and meaning for any figures of speech. So we will see what the Scriptures tell us about the analogy of shepherd. It is one of the most important images used throughout the Bible.

 

1)  It goes back to creation. God made the creation to show His handiwork, Psalm 19:1 NASB "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Why are things the way they are? Because God made them that way. God made sheep to be sheep and to have those characteristics so that he could use that animal as an analogy to teach certain things to Christians about the nature of the everyday believer. The person most responsible for dealing with the sheep is the shepherd, and a shepherd is someone who knows the sheep inside and out, and in the culture of that day the shepherds lived with the sheep. They knew every single one of the sheep. When we look at Scripture like John chapter ten we need to realise that every passage has a context. As we have seen before, one rule of hermeneutics is any text without a context is a pretext. This particular passage has three levels of context we need to look at. The first level we need to examine is the overall biblical context. The second is the cultural context of the time in which the Scripture was written. Third, we must look at the immediate context, i.e. John chapter nine, in order to understand why Jesus suddenly begins to talk about sheep and shepherds.

2)  Prior to the first advent we have the shepherd-sheep analogy used in several ways. First, it is used of Yahweh. Psalm 23:1 NASB "The LORD [Yahweh] is my shepherd, I shall not want." Psalm 79:13 NASB "So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture Will give thanks to You forever; To all generations we will tell of Your praise." Psalm 80:1 NASB "Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned {above} the cherubim, shine forth!" Psalm 95:7 NASB "For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice." Ezekiel 34:15 NASB "'I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,' declares the Lord GOD [Yahweh]." So it is an identification of deity. The second way it is used is of the kings, princes and leaders of the nation Israel—and of other nations at times as well. Psalm 78:70 NASB "He also chose David His servant And took him from the sheepfolds; [71] From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. [72] So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands." Here we see that the  term "shepherd" is used of David the king. So it is a term that has an Old Testament connotation of God and also the Davidic kingship. What does that tell us? When Jesus says He is the good shepherd He is claming undiminished deity and He is claiming to be the Messiah—Davidic kingship. What was the purpose for John: "These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah…" The Messiah is the Davidic kingship. So when we come to John 10 we must understand the context. The context is the Old Testament and the Old Testament tells us that this is not just some little analogy that Jesus comes up with. He is making a profound doctrinal point and that is why He introduces it by the phrase, Truly, truly [A)mhn, a)mhn]. Every time He uses that it is to emphasise an important doctrinal point. Then the term sheep and shepherd is an analogy that is used to describe the evil false teachers. Jeremiah 23:1-4 NASB "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!" declares the LORD." Think about what has just happened in John chapter nine. Jesus healed the blind man, the blind man is brought before the Pharisees, the Pharisees go through this interrogation procedure to see what happened and how it happened, and in his very simple yet profound way he refutes all their arguments by saying all he knew was that he was blind but now he sees. The Pharisees say they can't accept that, you have to be lying, get out of here, and he is excommunicated from the synagogue. They are "scattering my people." So the Pharisees are going to be the false shepherds.  "Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: 'You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,' declares the LORD. Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. [23] I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,' declares the LORD." This is an indictment by God of the leaders of Israel. Ezekiel chapter 34 is crucial to understanding John chapter 10. The first ten verses relate to the false shepherds. [1] NASB "Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 'Son of man [Ezekiel], prophesy against the shepherds of Israel [leaders of the people]. [2] Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, 'Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! [Religion always hates grace] Should not the shepherds feed the flock? [3] You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat {sheep} without feeding the flock. [4] Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. [5] They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered …. [11] For thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out." So who is it that is seeking the sheep? It is God. So when Jesus says He is the good shepherd He is clearly claiming deity.  [12] "'As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. [13] I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land [the restoration of the nation Israel at the end of the Tribulation]; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land.'" 

 

Just north of the temple enclosure is a gate in the outer wall of Jerusalem, the sheep gate. It is called the sheep gate because that is where they bring the sheep in and out. There were various pens in the area to hold the temple flocks. The shepherds would take them out during the daytime and pasture them and then at night they would bring them in the sheep gate and put them into the pens. The shepherd would leave an attendant in charge at the single gate in the sheep pen. There are three or four flocks in the pen, so how does the shepherd separate them? He walks around the walls calling and his sheep know his voice. If somebody else comes in saying the same word they ignore him because it is a different voice. The shepherd walks right out the gate and all of his sheep follow him out to the pasture. The rest of them stay there. At night the sheep are kept from wandering out of the pen by the shepherd lying across the opening of the pen and he becomes the door. So there is going to be a shift in this metaphor that Jesus presents in this chapter. At the beginning He is the shepherd, then He is the door, and He is tying these relationships together. 

 

The Pharisees have just demonstrated that they have more concern for their petty non-biblical regulations about the observance of the Mishnah than they have for alleviating the suffering of the blind man, or healing him, or its significance as a sign of the Messiah. They have accused him of being a liar, a perjurer, of just making the whole thing up. They have rejected his evidence, the evidence of his parents, and they have excommunicated him from the synagogue. As the leaders of the nation they have failed. They have failed to accept Christ's messianic claims, they have threatened His life, they have been more concerned about their own traditions, their own desires, and their own power than they have about the true spiritual needs of the people. They are, in the analogy, the evil shepherds on contrast to Jesus who is laying claim to be the good shepherd. He is the one who is concerned with the sheep and the spiritual needs of the sheep. He is the one whose voice they hear. The blind man heard His voice.

 

What Jesus says in chapter ten is to illustrate the dynamics of what went on in chapter nine. John 10:1 NASB "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber." "Truly, truly" means that which is true, but it is used idiomatically to emphasise a point' "he who does not enter" is the present passive participle of eiserchomai [e)iserxomai]. It is a deponent verb so it has an active meaning. erchomai = to enter; eis = into; "through the door" is dia [dia] plus the genitive and it emphasises the means. Thieves and robbers would hang out in between the pens hoping they could snatch a lamb. The walls were about eight feet high and when night time came they would climb over the walls and try to steal the sheep. They looked upon the sheep as something that was there for their own personal use. They had no right to it, and it is a perfect picture of religion. All religion in human history operates from whoever the religious leaders are. They are either operating on approbation lust or on power lust or a combination of the two, but they often try to come up with some kind of new, interesting interpretation of Scripture which has nothing to do with any governing rules of hermeneutics. It is sad to say that people who ought to know better are practicing this today. We need to always watch how people handle the Scriptures. Of course, Jesus is talking here about the Pharisees. Jesus does not mince words, He is not afraid to tell them exactly what the truth is, but He doesn't do it in an unkind or malicious manner. He is explaining the truth as it is.  

 

John 10:2 NASB "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep." The door is the proper and legitimate entry way for the shepherd. What was the legitimate entry way for Jesus as the shepherd? The fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 7:14, that He would enter by means of the virgin birth. Micah 5:2, that He would be born in Bethlehem, that he would be of the tribe of Judah. 2 Samuel 7, that he would be a descendant of David. All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That He would have a ministry that included miracles, Isaiah 35:5, 6, and that he would be presented by a forerunner in Malachi 3:1. So there were certain qualifications. There was a specific doorway and that door is really the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and it had to follow certain prophesied patterns. All doors have two sides. One side is the incarnation of Christ, the other side which is the way to exit to the pasture (phase two, the Christian life) is the cross. Jesus says that he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep, and He is claiming that he is the one who has entered by a legitimate way as the shepherd.

 

John 10:3 NASB "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." Who is the doorkeeper? He is the forerunner who announced the Messiah, John the Baptist, the one who as the keeper of the sheep is the one who recognised the shepherd and allows the legitimate shepherd to enter into the sheepfold. The sheep hear His voice, and this is when Jesus comes and He teaches the gospel. When He said to the blind man, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" that is the call of the shepherd. The sheep, those who are on positive volition, hear His voice and they respond as the blind man did and say: "Lord, I believe." Those who are of His flock say "I believe," and then they walk out the door to pasture. That is the point. It is not to stay in the sheepfold, it is to go through the door and out to pasture and feed on the Word of God so they can get nourishment and grow. That is not going to happen by staying in the sheepfold. You have to go out to pasture, you have to daily take in the Word, you have to study and make this the priority of your life because if we are going to make the priority of our life to be pleasing the Lord, according to 2 Corinthians chapter five, you can't please the Lord of you don't know what pleases Him. The only way we are going to know what pleases the Lord is to know the Lord and to know His Word, and that has to be the priority of our life.

 

John 10:4 NASB "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice." They hear the true Messiah, they don't follow someone else. They have positive volition so that when they hear the truth they respond to it.

 

John 10:5 NASB "A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." So we don't have to worry. If we know somebody who is in a cult, they don't know their shepherd's voice, they are not positive.

 

John 10:6 NASB "This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them." This tells us that this is an analogy. So what is the point of the analogy? That Jesus is claiming to be God, the only true shepherd, the only true leader of the people, the Messiah, the Davidic King. He is claiming to be the one who calls them by what he says, which is Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the course of explaining this He is indicting the Pharisees for their failure to properly lead the people and is calling them evil shepherds and accusing them of all the things that are said in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.