The Good Shepherd
Read John 10:25-33 (ESV)
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
What was it about Jesus’ words that angered the Jews so much?
Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages of Scripture. King David penned the famous words, “The LORD is my shepherd” and described how God cares for us, guides us, and protects us like a good shepherd cares for His sheep. It is an incredibly comforting Scripture.
It is interesting then that approximately one thousand years later, Jesus calls Himself the “Good Shepherd” in John 10. He describes how no one can enter the sheepfold except by the door and He Himself is the door. Anyone who tries to enter by another way is a thief and a robber.
In order to understand John 10, it is helpful to understand shepherding practices of that time. Sheepfolds would have been penned in, maybe by stone walls or by caves or other natural formations. But there was only one gate or door. Sometimes many different flocks would have been fenced in the same fold and a watchman would be hired to guard the door at night. When the shepherd was ready to take his flock out to graze, he would enter by the gate and call for his sheep. The sheep would recognize the particular call of their own shepherd and would allow themselves to be led out to pasture and the sheep that didn’t recognize the call would stay put and wait for their shepherd.
In today’s passage, Jesus said that like the sheep know the voice of their shepherd, so His followers know His voice and follow Him. Just as Psalm 23 is a great comfort, I find John 10:28 to be extremely comforting because it says that those of us who belong to Him will have eternal life, we’ll never perish, and we can never be snatched out of His hand. Doesn’t a wave of peace wash over you when you read those words?
But there were some Jews listening to Jesus preach these words who were not comforted by His message. They were actually angered and offended by it. Why? Because they understood what Jesus was saying. They had read the Scriptures. They knew that by claiming to be the Good Shepherd and the Door that Jesus was equating Himself with God, but they didn’t believe that He was. They wanted Jesus to come out and say, “I am the Messiah” because they wanted to be justified in attacking Him for blasphemy.
Instead, He said that all of the works that He had done were the evidence pointing to His identity and yet they still didn’t believe. And then came the zinger. He said the reason they didn’t believe and didn’t respond to His call was because they were not His sheep. If they were, they would have rightly interpreted His works and followed Him. But even though they were Jews, the very people of God, He was not their shepherd because they had rejected Him. Therefore, they were outside the fold of God. They knew exactly what He was saying and were so angry that they picked up stones to stone Him.
Today’s passage tends to elicit one of two responses. It is incredibly comforting to those of us who belong to Christ. He is our Good Shepherd so we hear His voice and follow Him. We are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). We’ll never perish but have eternal life. Others find this passage incredibly offensive because they have rejected Jesus and are therefore, outside of the fold of God. They think this is too exclusive. But friends, the offer of salvation and eternal life is offered to everyone. Everyone is welcome in the fold, but they must come in via Jesus, the gate. Is Jesus your Good Shepherd? Have you entered into the fold by way of the gate? If you have, you can be at perfect peace. Nothing can ever snatch you from His hand.
Jesus, thank You for shepherding me. Thank You for Your eternal care, provision, and protection. I pray for those who are “outside of the fold.” I pray that they would place saving faith in You, the only way to the Father. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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