Jesus, Our One True Shepherd Tuesday, October 30, 2012 Introduction Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus offers to those around Him, most specifically His Disciples, metaphors to help them understand who He is and what His purposes are. Jesus uses common phrases to illustrate His point. He does this twenty-three times in the Gospel of John Repeating important. He begins seven of those important statements with two exceptional words, “I AM”. These words illustrate his world-saving purpose.
For example in John 6, Jesus makes the profound statement “I am the bread of life” right after feeding a huge crowd and speaking of Moses and the manna God gave from Heaven. Without the manna, the nation of Israel would not have survived their time in the desert. Later, in John 8 Jesus speaks of walking in light versus darkness, and makes the statement, “I am the Light of the world…” We know that a belief in Jesus allows us to walk in the light, to be out of the darkness of sin and death. By the time we reach chapter 10 in the Gospel of John, Jesus is going say again, twice, an “I AM” statement.
The rest of this paper will focus on John 10:1-18. It is important however, to understand that what Jesus is doing in these verses is in the midst of a long line of hugely important moments between Him and those He came to save. In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus makes two huge “I AM” statements. The first one Jesus speaks to is addressed in verses 1-10, and is spoken in vs. 7, “I AM the door of the sheep. ” The second comes later in vs. 11, “I AM the good shepherd. ” In John 10, the structure of the passage comes in two parts, yet concludes with one main theme, Jesus is our true Shepherd.
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The paper will take a look at the first part of the passage where Jesus talks about being the “gatekeeper”, and then will shift focus into what Jesus being the “Good Shepherd” means. While again, each could be looked at independently, the focus of this paper will be to demonstrate that each part works together to help Jesus’ followers then and people today understand what it means for Jesus to be the one true Shepherd. It is important to understand weight of each of the “I AM” statements that Jesus speaks in John 10. In order to gain a better understanding of the premise of Jesus as “Shepherd”, here are a few important things to note.
First, sheep and goats were two of the most well known and spoken about animals in the Bible. Also, “sheep and goats require constant care, since they are practically defenseless” and such would require a Shepherd, someone to guard them, and provide a constant watch over them. So now, Shepherds became a pivotal part of God’s story. Shepherds not only tended to the feeding and providing of care for the sheep, they guarded and protected them against thieves and robbers. It was the Shepherd’s sole responsibility to care for and tend to his sheep – to make sure they were accounted for and maintained to the best of his ability.
Second, even thought this is the first time in John that Shepherding is mentioned, the other Gospels also discus this ‘job’. It is also, as previously mentioned, seen a huge amount throughout the Old Testament. Think back to David or some of the great Prophets, like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, or Isaiah, and you find a vivid picture of what it means to be a Shepherd, one of the sheep, or part of the flock. In John Chapter 10, Jesus will identify Himself as a Shepherd, and the implications of this are great. Not only does Jesus speak about being the ‘gatekeeper’ of the sheep, He also says that he is the “Good Shepherd”.
Both concepts help to illustrate Jesus’ purpose and one main idea, “Jesus is our one true Shepherd”. The Gatekeeper In the first part of the passage (John 10:1-10), Jesus is going to identify Himself as the gatekeeper, the guard and protector of the sheep from thieves and robbers. To understand this properly, and to put the first part of this passage in context, we must go back to what the people would have understood as he said this, and why they would have understood its implications. Ezekiel 34 is the starting point for this analysis. The basic implication of Ezekiel 34 is the rebuking the false shepherds of Israel.
Making note that one day He will gather the lost sheep and bring them to Himself, as promised. From Ezekiel, Verses 2, 4-5, and 11-12 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? ” “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. “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. The idea of false or evil shepherds can also be found in Jeremiah 23: 2-5. 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. “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. What Jesus does by introducing the rightful gatekeeper in the first 10 verses of John is to open the door to Him being the true Shepherd for the sheep, His people.
When looking at the passages in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, it is easy to see how the idea of false or evil shepherds was standard in this time. Up until this point, Jesus’ greatest adversaries had been the Pharisees, the ones who claimed to be the most righteous and Godly men around. They were the ‘gatekeepers’ to religious law and practice. They held the mandates and seemed to ultimately decide who was right, or “in” with the Father. The people also listened to them. They paid heed to everything the Pharisees said and did.
When Jesus, in the opening verses of John 10 describes thieves and robbers, He is speaking to these individuals, and all the other leaders of the past that had led Israel astray. John 10:3 details how the doorkeeper recognizes the shepherd, and how the sheep hear his voice and follow. This is such rich imagery. We may not value this as significant, because in the Western World most sheep are herded by a dog, or by the movement from a ranch hand from behind the flock. In the Near Eastern culture this is not the case. D. A.
Carson describes it like this: “The Sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice… Near-Eastern shepherds have been known to stand at different spots outside the enclosure and sound out their own peculiar calls, their own sheep responding and gathering around their shepherd. ” Jesus is making a bold statement in verse 5 to say, “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers. ” Jesus is asserting that those who have come before Him, and who have pretended to be His people’s shepherds are nothing more than strangers.
He shows that a time will be coming when He will call the names of those whom He loves, and they will know His voice, because they are already His. This moment links us directly to Jesus as Messiah – coming to save those who have been as scattered sheep. Only the one true Shepherd will call His sheep, and only then will the people hear the voice of the this Shepherd. Jesus being the ‘gatekeeper’ is so very important. So not only is the gatekeeper responsible for the sheep in the sense that he decides who will come and go from the fold, Jesus being the ‘gatekeeper’ or the ‘door’, is the means to eternal salvation.
Only the one true Shepherd can be held responsible for those who come into the fold. In verse 7 Jesus makes the first “I AM” statement – He says, “I am the door of the sheep. ” Not only now do the sheep recognize Him as the Shepherd, He now is their passage through the gate into the fold. Jesus points out again in verse 8 that those who came before Him were nothing but thieves and robbers, and that the sheep did not recognize them. The thieves and robbers were only out for their own interests (looking back to Ezekiel 34) and because of this, the sheep are eternally destroyed.
But Jesus as the door to the fold, the gate itself, gives life, and does not take it away. Jesus as the one true Shepherd is the only door there is to the Father, the only true gate in which a sheep can enter into the fold. Up until this point, the passage has reflected on the Jewish nation. Jesus as “The Good Shepherd” will become an even bigger idea, also helping to verify Jesus as the one true Shepherd, and for all people. The Good Shepherd In this portion of the passage, Jesus makes several important claims about His role as the one true Shepherd of the flock.
In the earlier verses, this same idea was true, but only for a certain subset of people. As we look through the following portion of the text we will see how Jesus is “The Good Shepherd” for all, and therefore is the one true Shepherd of the flock. Right away, John points out something crucial to the passage, and that hints to earlier parts of the passage. He opens up by saying this: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. This mention of a hired hand again points to those who came before Jesus, who were even there at that time, pretending to be Israel’s shepherds. They, the religious leaders and Pharisees were nothing but hired hands, looking after the sheep yes, but in the sight of danger, they would flee. The ‘hired hand’ cares much more for his own interest than the interests of his flock. We know Jesus to be the complete opposite, and He truly hits it home when He says that as The Good Shepherd, not only will He protect His sheep, He will die for them.
Only the one true Shepherd would do that for His sheep. The next portion of the text is also monumental in meaning when it comes to Jesus being the one true Shepherd. Right after Jesus emphasizes that He will know His sheep and His sheep will know Him, He makes a gesture not only to those who already know Him, but also to those who have yet to know Him. From John 10:16, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. The significance of this moment in scripture is profound.
Jesus states here that He is the One who will bring all to the fold. That no longer will there be a division between Jews and Gentiles, but that there will only be one flock, with the one true Shepherd. Many times throughout the New Testament this same grand gesture is given to the Gentiles. See Galatians 3: 26-29: “26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 9And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. ” This moment says exactly this! Jesus is the one true Shepherd, fulfilling a long foretold promise that He and He alone will bring ALL the sheep into the fold and He will be the only Shepherd. The final portion of this text helps us to understand more clearly who “The Good Shepherd” is. As The Good Shepherd, Jesus makes some declarations about who He is in not only relation to His sheep but His Father, thus explaining His own sovereignty. Jesus’ life is not taken, it is given up by Him and Him alone.
This is why God sent Him. The choice to watch over, guard, protect, and call-in His sheep was the plan, the plan of a great and sovereign Shepherd, who had to give His life so that His sheep could live, so that they could go through the gate. Jesus was not forced to be The Good Shepherd, the one true Shepherd, He choose to do this willingly. Conclusion Throughout the first 18 verses of John 10, John helps us to understand the implications and simple delight that Jesus is our one true Shepherd. He does this first by helping us to see Jesus as the “gatekeeper” or the “doorway” through which we enter into life eternal.
John also tell us of the personal relationship that a Shepherd has with his sheep, and likewise that Jesus has with each of His sheep – He knows them, and they know Him. Furthermore, John points out that there have been and will probably always continue to be, false or evil shepherds that come like thieves or robbers in the night to try and steal or sway the sheep. But in regards to the text, the sheep shall not worry, but rather hear the voice of the true Shepherd and follow Him. The second portion of the text discusses the sovereignty of the one true Shepherd.
Jesus, by choice is The Good Shepherd, and subsequently came to be the one true Shepherd for all. By His choice to lay down His life for all of His sheep, we are able to enter into the fold where He will reign as our Shepherd for eternity. If another shepherd offered this same promise, or was able to, then Jesus would not be The Good Shepherd, He would simply be like the rest before Him – thankfully this is not the case. The verses in John 10: 1-18 clearly demonstrate that Jesus is our one true Shepherd, by means that He is not only The Good Shepherd, but also the “door” that we must come through to have eternal life.
There are some implications that come from knowing this. As followers of Christ in the modern age, we are prone to listen to other shepherds – often times even letting ourselves run and follow after other voices. It is in fact shameful how easy and accustomed we have become to listening to the other voices, which try and replace our one true Shepherd. We find it easier to place our faith in the hands of those hired and not the One high above. We become attuned to religious practice and not the stillness of the green pasture that He leads us to.
We become fixated on practice and not righteousness, letting ourselves adhere to the rules put in place, rather than the standard in which the fold was formed. We forget that our one true Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep – doing this so that they might be able to live a life, which with Him alone is full. Knowing that Jesus is the one true Shepherd also helps us to know how to be good shepherds to those around us. It helps us to better understand how to tend to the flocks that we are a part of. It helps us to understand how to love on the weak and care for those who wander.
Finally, it helps us to understand the importance of truly knowing our flocks. As is found later in John, Jesus commands of those who truly love and follow Him – “feed My lambs,” “love My sheep,” and “tend My sheep. ” The one true Shepherd offers this for us, and in turn we are to offer it, as He has commanded us, to all. Jesus is our one true Shepherd, and the Shepherd of all.
- The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB 2006. The Gospel of John, pg. 1557
- The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB 2006. The Gospel of John, pg. 1564
- Mattingly, G. L. (2000). Shepherd. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers & A. B. Beck (Eds. , Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers & A. B. Beck, Ed. ) (1208). Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Eze 34:11–12). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Je 23:2–4). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- D. A. Carson (1991) The Gospel According to John, Pg. 382
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jn 10:5). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jn 10:11–12). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 995 (Jn 10:16). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. 10. New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ga 3:26–29). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. -------------------------------------------- [
- . The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB 2006. The Gospel of John, pg. 1557
- . The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB 2006. The Gospel of John, pg. 1564
- . Mattingly, G. L. (2000). Shepherd. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers & A. B. Beck (Eds. ), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers & A. B. Beck, Ed. ) (1208). Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans.
- . New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Eze 34:11–12).
- LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- . New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Je 23:2–4). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. [ 6 ]. D. A. Carson (1991) The Gospel According to John, Pg. 382
- . New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jn 10:5). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- . New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jn 10:11–12). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- . New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jn 10:16). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ga 3:26–29). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
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