John 10:7-16: December 30—Jesus our shepherd
Dec 16, 2012

Wiley Richards is a retired professor of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Most of us probably have a romanticized notion of what a sheep is like. When I was a pastor of a church in Chilton County, Ala. during my college days, one of my sisters came for a visit. It just so happened that one of the church members owned some sheep. My sister, seeing the sheep, decided she just had to take one home with her. She probably had visions of “Mary had a little lamb.” You fill it in. One of the men gave her a lamb to take home. He must have had a sense of humor, because the lamb was a ram. It was not long before he butted everything in sight, joyously, it seemed. She had to get “shut of the lamb,” as the old folks would say. 

But aren’t we a bit like her sheep, having a tendency to butt anything in our way? We need Jesus, our Shepherd.

In reference to the role of the shepherd for spiritual sheep, Jesus is the only shepherd (vv. 7-8). He does not say He is the door to the fold, but to the sheep. Because of His intimate relation to His flock, thieves and robbers are unable to lure the sheep away, or even steal them. In the Lord’s day, the thieves and robbers allude to the scribes, Pharisees, and other authorities who were attempting to hinder His work. Genuine believers easily recognize the seductive offer of those who wish to undermine the cohesiveness  of our Lord’s flock.

As the Door of the sheep, He is unique (vv. 9-10). Understanding these verses hinges on remembering that Jesus is the Door of the sheep, not the door to the fold, a function of the porter (v. 3). 

This distinction becomes clear as Jesus expounds on His role. Those entering through Him are saved. As to going in and out, He refers to the freedom from all legalism in salvation as believers become free to move about without fearing the loss of salvation. 

We remember other illustrations Jesus used to refer to Himself. He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), the narrow way (John 8:14), the straight gate, and similar ideas, all of which speak of His being the only way to be saved. Thieves and robbers have no impact on the security Jesus provides for believers.

He provides for the abundant life (v. 10). Christians have no reason to walk around with long faces, bemoaning their lack of joy. We have been rescued from Satan’s dark kingdom and translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). We are entitled to the Spirit-filled life (Eph. 5:18). As being proclaimed joint heirs of God’s glory through Christ, eternity in heaven with Christ is ours.

Because Jesus is our shepherd, He guarantees our protection (vv. 11-15). Jesus affirms again He is the “good shepherd” (see v. 10) who lays down His life for the sheep. As the “great shepherd” He arose from the dead, having made the atonement for sin (Heb. 13:26). As the “chief shepherd” He is the coming King who provides a crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Pet. 5:4).

Jesus knew the time would come when hirelings would infiltrate among the believers, who would refuse to stand up for the flock. When wolves came among the flock, the hireling would desert them, trying to save himself. In spite of these set-backs, the shepherd knows His sheep by name, and they know Him. 

The flock will not only survive, but also will prosper.

He next invokes another reason for His sheep not to feel abandoned, God the Father’s involvement (v. 15). He alludes to the harmony between Him and the Father. The death of Jesus was a part of the eternal purpose of the divine Trinity. What the Father willed the Son accomplished on the cross.

Jesus alludes to, but does not explain, His other sheep (v. 6). We know that He was sent first to Israel as the focus of His ministry. Yet, there are intimations of a larger impact He was to exert. He blessed the Syrophoenician woman (Mk. 7:26) as well as some Greeks who approached Him via Philip and Andrew (John 12:18-22). We can take comfort from the words of Jesus because we are a part of His “other sheep.”

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