As we have been going through the New Testament, we have be reading about the life and ministry of Jesus, of Nazareth. Jesus was about 30 to 33 years old during this time, with real flesh and blood. He was a real person who really walked on the earth.
And he was doing many amazing things. He was teaching with authority the correct interpretation of the Hebrew Tanakh which is the Old Testament part of your Bible. He was correcting the Pharisees, who were the leading Jewish sect during that time.
And these Pharisees are presented in the gospels as hypocritical and proud opponents of Jesus. The Lord Jesus straightly charged them saying: “They do not practice what they preach”. As a general rule, the Pharisees were self-righteousness and prideful in their delusion that they were pleasing to God.
They thought they were keeping the Law. But as Jesus points out to them, however careful they were in following the rigors of their traditions, they failed to measure up to God’s standard of holiness: Jesus said to them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
Of course, not every Pharisee was opposed to Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who rightly considered Jesus “a teacher who has come from God” and honestly sought answers from Him. Through their discussion, Jesus revealed an important spiritual truth.
Jesus said, “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus didn’t quite understand, so Jesus clarifies: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Along with Jesus’ teachings, Jesus had also been confirming the authority with which he had been teaching by, by performing many miracles. At this point in our reading, Jesus has healed a man born blind, He has raised the dead, He has forgiven sin (which is only something God can do), and Jesus has cast out demons from people possessed with demons. Jesus has fed 5,000 families by miraculously multiplying 2 fish and 5 barley loaves.
And then Jesus proceeds to teach them, how their Fathers in the wilderness, during the Exodus, how they did eat bread that came down from heaven, and how they still died. Then Jesus encourages the crowd, but if you eat the true bread that has come down from Heaven, that if you eat Jesus’ flesh, and drink his blood, then you will receive real spiritual nourishment, and live forever. Jesus is alluding to what He told Nicodemus, that you must be born again. You must be born of water, and of the Spirit, or you can not inherit eternal life, and live forever in the Kingdom of God.
This eating of Jesus’ flesh, and drinking His blood, is a symbolic act of worship, and humility, acknowledging and trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. This is easy for us to understand looking back now with 2,000 years of history and a completed Bible. But during Jesus’ time, these were hard words, difficult to understand. And so there was a division among the people.
So Jesus proceeds to ask his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” The disciples replied: “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, others said Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
“Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed one” or “chosen one.” This is the Greek equivalent of a Hebrew word meaning “Messiah.” So “Christ” is a title. And Peter was signifying that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Savior of the world, specially sent from God to be a King and a Deliverer, whom the Scriptures prophecy will one day set up an eternal Kingdom here on earth.
And to further prove that Jesus was who He said He was, He allowed Peter, James, and John, to witness His majesty during His transfiguration. He took Peter, James, and John up to a mountain to pray. And while praying, His personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Standing to the right and to the left of Jesus was Moses and Elijah.
The purpose of the transfiguration was so that Jesus could give his “inner circle” of disciples a greater understanding of who He really was. Jesus underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Jesus in His glory.
The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ. They still couldn’t fully understand Christ’s nature, specifically that when you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. But their understanding was increasing.
So Peter, James, and John are beholding Jesus in his glory, in his majesty. And Moses and Elijah are standing to the left and to the right of Jesus. And this is significant because Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets. For the Hebrews, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, the words in their Scripture, was the ultimate source of God’s authority. And then we read, that God’s voice came out from heaven, and said: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
The Law and the Prophets are important. But God’s statement here, coming from the clouds of heaven, clearly shows that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus. Remember, Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. The Old Testament Scriptures testify about Jesus being the Christ. Jesus even rebuked the Pharisees, telling them: “if you believed Moses, you would have believe Me, for Moses wrote about Me. But if you do not believe the writings of Moses, how will you then believe My words?”
So Jesus is the Christ. And God says speaking from Heaven, “This is my Son, Listen to Him!”
God is telling the disciples, and even you and me, to listen to Jesus. Listen to his words. And that is what we are going to do right now. We are going to listen to some of the words spoken by Jesus, which the disciples heard and wrote down for us to read. So let’s open up our Bibles, and let’s read John, Chapter 10, starting at verse 1.
1 “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.
2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Now let me provide a little cultural background:
A sheepfold is a large enclosed or fenced-in area where sheep can spend the night. The sheep enter and leave by a single gate or door. And during the night a guard watches the sheep in the sheepfold and protects them. After an evening’s rest, the shepherd will arise, eat his breakfast, and eventually come and call his sheep to himself.
It is important to note that a sheepfold will usually provide shelter for many flocks belonging to different shepherds. Yet, the sheep will know the voice of their shepherd and follow only their own shepherd.
Now the crowd was not understanding Jesus’ parable here. We read in verse 6:
6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
12 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.
13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
Now the challenge for you and me today, is to hear and obey the words spoken by God from heaven during the transfiguration, where God says, “Listen to Him!”, “Listen to Jesus!”. So what has Jesus said in our text just now? Jesus declares “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus doesn’t say, I am “a” good shepherd, as if there could be others. Jesus says, he is “the” good shepherd.
Jesus is unique in character. There is no other person like him. Jesus could stand up in front of a group of self-righteous Pharisees, who were strict with the law of Moses, and challenge them, saying, “which one of you can convict Me of sin?”
I could never give such a challenge to a group of people. My wife is right here. She would be first to raise her hand, and call me out. But Jesus could do this. “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is referring to His own inherent goodness and His own righteousness.
Imagine if Jesus was selected for a supreme court nomination. Any political leader opposed to him would be working overtime right now trying to find some kind of dirt, or something scandalous, about his character. But they wouldn’t be able to find anything.
In fact, they would probably do exactly what the Pharisees did during his time, and try to manufacture a fault against Jesus. For example, Jesus healed a man that was born blind. And then when the Pharisees heard of it, they said “this man Jesus is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath law”. All because Jesus healed on a Sabbath day. Jesus corrected the Pharisees, telling them: “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
In Matthew 22:15, The Bible says the Pharisees went and took counsel how they might trap Jesus in His own words. You know, Trump yesterday just picked a nominee for the Supreme Court. Her name is Amy Barrett. And I guarantee, political opponents are going to do the exact same thing to Amy Barrett, as the Pharisees did to Jesus. They are taking counsel right now, and are going to try and trap this nominee in her own words, and try to manufacture some kind of fault with her. If you remember, they did this recently to Brett Kavanaugh. So you make sure to pray for this supreme court nominee, Amy Barrett, during her senate hearing. It could get ugly. But nothing is new under the sun.
The Pharisees did this also to Jesus. But Jesus is God. And how can you trap God. Aristotle wrote a book called “The Art of Rhetoric”. But Jesus is the author of Rhetoric. He is the Word. And the Word was made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
In fact, the Pharisees would try and trap Jesus, and Jesus would turn their reproach back on them. He was a master at it. That’s one of my favorite parts of the Bible, actually. I love reading how Jesus could dissect any trap, and disarm a tense situation, and even turn it back on the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Pharisees for three years worked hard to try and manufacture a fault against Jesus. But they could not find one. And ultimately, what Jesus was charged with, and what got him on the cross, was that He claimed to be God. So when Jesus said to the Pharisees, which one of you can convict me of sin? The Pharisees had no response to His challenge. Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Now let’s remember again, God is calling us to “listen to Him!”, “listen to Jesus!”. So what else did Jesus say? Jesus declared in verse 7 that He is “the door of the sheep”. Jesus is making a contrast between Himself and the Pharisees.
Jesus compares the Pharisees to a “hireling” or a “hired hand”, like an employee, who doesn’t really care about the sheep like the owner does. He who is a “hireling” works for a wage, works for pay, and that’s his main concern. Employees of a business do not work long unpaid hours like the owner of the business does. Daycare workers, or babysitters, do not sacrifice for kids the same way parents do. And a hired shepherd does not take care of another persons flock like the owner does.
To better understand this “Good Shepherd” parable, it’s helpful to understand some characteristics of sheep. Sheep are utterly defenseless animals, and are totally dependent upon the shepherd for survival. Sheep are always subject to danger and must always be under a watchful eye.
Rushing waters down the valleys from sudden, heavy rainfalls may sweep them away, or robbers may steal them, or wolves may attack. King David tells how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy. Usually though, when a wolf appeared, which was the most common threat to sheep in that day, the hired shepherd would abandon the flock and flee, leaving the sheep to be scattered or killed.
But the Good Shepherd does not flee. The Good Shepherd does not abandon His flock. The message of this parable is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who was willing to, and did, die for his sheep. Any other person who claims to be the true shepherd is a robber, a thief, or a hireling. They are not the good shepherd. This was a powerful message to the Jewish religious leaders during that time who considered themselves to be the true shepherds of God’s flock.
Then we read Jesus talking about how “a stranger the sheep will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the stranger.”
A stranger cannot lead the sheep to green pastures because the doorkeeper (which is a picture of God) will not allow a stranger into the sheepfold. (The sheepfold here is a picture of the world). Now, if the stranger should climb into the sheepfold by some other way besides the door, the sheep will not follow him because they do not recognize the strangers voice. There may be other sheep from other flocks that will follow the stranger. But not Jesus’ flock.
A stranger’s voice is a picture of a false teacher. So when you hear Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses or health wealth gospel preachers or some other religion preaching their own gospel, that’s a stranger’s voice you hear. Jesus’ sheep do not know the strangers and do not trust them.
Jesus calls the stranger, “a thief and a robber”. There were false teachers before Jesus came. And Jesus also predicted that there would continue to be false teachers after He left. Jesus said in Matthew 24:11, “Many false prophets will arise and mislead many people.”
Now A hireling is neither a stranger nor a thief. He is a legitimate carer. But he is in it only for the money. He is not the shepherd, and does not own the sheep, therefore they are not his life. He puts his own life ahead of them. If a wolf comes, the hireling runs away to protect himself. He is not willing to endanger his life for the sake of the sheep.
Jesus is here making reference to the Jewish religious leaders who had some legitimacy since they were appointed by the law to shepherd their people. They however did not have their hearts in the right place and put their own lives ahead of the welfare of the people that they served. The people were consequently, according to Mark 6:34, they were “like sheep without a shepherd”.
Jesus is both the shepherd and the door. And God is the gatekeeper. And the gatekeeper, God, only allows the true shepherd to come in by the door. And just like there was only one door in Noah’s ark, there is only one door, one gate, that leads to the green pasture fields for feeding. And these green pastures is a picture of eternal life. Jesus is saying, He is the door. Enter by him and you will be saved. Enter by some other door or go over the fence, and you will become lost.
Remember what God said during the transfiguration. “This is my beloved son. Listen to Him!” Jesus makes it very plain for us to understand. I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. The Apostles make it even more clear: We read in Acts, that there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. The Apostle Paul writes: For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.
Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus’ sheep is anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus knows his believers, and the believers know Jesus. And the gatekeeper in charge, which is God, only allows the Good Shepherd to take his sheep to green pastures.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus has most plainly told us that the only way you can enter the green pastures of eternal life, is by following Jesus Christ through that one door in the sheepfold. The gatekeeper is only going to allow Jesus Christ to come and take you into eternity. If you are trying to obtain eternal life by some other means, through good works, or by following some false religion, or you stay in the sheepfold, or you wander outside aimlessly, you will become lost. You will never find those green pastures of eternal life.
And being vulnerable like a sheep, you will be targeted by strangers, and robbers and thieves. Even by wolves. And as a sheep, you will be no match to overcome them. You will be succumbed by temptation. You will be convinced of false teachings. You will believe the lie.
And I assure you if Satan sees you walking, not closely and attentively by the good Shepherd, following after Jesus, but instead if you wander away from the fold, or if you follow after some other shepherd that is a hireling, Satan will totally destroy you. You can’t possibly survive in your own strength against the prince of darkness. You are after all, just a sheep. And Satan is a wolf.
So you must put on the Lord Jesus Christ. You must hear His voice, and follow Him. You must regularly read your Bible and pray! And His voice is found right here in the Bible. Jesus says, anyone who is of the truth, hears my voice. Are you of the truth? Do you follow the truth no matter where it takes you. Following truth leads you to following Jesus, because Jesus is the truth. Jesus says: I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
I encourage you today, give weight to the words that God spoke through the clouds of heaven, when he said, “this is my beloved son, listen to him!”. Listen to the words of Jesus. Believe in them. When Jesus speaks, he speaks with authority, because He came from God, and is God. So follow the Good Shepherd to the green pastures of eternal life. Jesus has said, he is the only one that can take us there. All other ways leads to death, and destruction. But eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.