The Door, The Shepherd, & All His Blood-Bought Sheep
Passage: John 10:1–10:18
Sermon from John 10:1-18 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on Sunday, March 23, 2014
Two Reasons John 10 Is Precious to Me
This passage of Scripture is precious to me in a couple of ways. One way is that I was asked to write a paper in Seminary on Jesus being the good shepherd from John 10, and that writing assignment started the week prior to Rachel, my wife, experiencing her second miscarriage. The loss was painful for us and there were many questions swimming through our mind about why this would happen; but the Lord used this passage to bring great comfort to my soul, knowing that our loss hadn’t changed the fact that Jesus is the good shepherd. That in the midst of pain and the affliction of our souls and the late-night questions from a brokenhearted wife—Jesus was still the good Shepherd for us. And in addition to that message, Jesus also became a great teacher to me as a husband, revealing to me what it looks like to shepherd my wife in the midst of suffering. I wasn’t without answers when it came to how to care for her, because I had a great self-sacrificial picture of care in the person of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Another way this passage is precious to me is that I love God’s global purposes in Jesus Christ to win for himself a people from every tribe and tongue and language and people (Rev 5:9)—namely, frontier missions. I love the rock-solid assurance in Jesus’ words that he must bring other sheep into his fold (John 10:16); and I love how he guarantees those sheep coming into the fold by purchasing them with his blood and rising from the dead to gather them (John 10:15). I love the confidence that when we prayed last week for Tim and Erin to move to Oklahoma for ministry, and when we commission Max and Laura this morning to South Asia, we’re not sending them out in vain, but sending them out as agents in the care of the Good Shepherd who will gather his blood-bought sheep from all over the world. If he gave his life for them, he will see to it that he gathers them to himself. So, I’m thankful that by his sweet providence, God has landed us here in the Gospel of John today. John 10 is the biblical context in which we should see all our work as a church and as missionaries. So, I like this passage, and I hope many of you will be strengthened by it this morning. Let’s read it together. Jesus says…
1“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
A Word of Judgment and Salvation
Our passage begins with what John calls a “figure of speech” in verse 6. Jesus uses a metaphor, a word picture of sorts, to reveal something about himself in relation to the situation at hand. If you recall, Jesus just healed a man born blind in chapter 9; and the Pharisees get really perturbed by this miracle on the Sabbath and refuse to believe Jesus is sent from God. Despite what the man born blind says about Jesus restoring his physical sight, despite what is blatantly clear about Jesus being the Light of the world, the Pharisees reject it and oust this man from the temple. The only people the Pharisees want in the temple are those who fear them and bring them glory and support their agenda against Jesus. That’s frightening: “The only people allowed in this place of worship are those who approach God on our terms, not on Jesus’ terms.”
And then in comes Jesus with a “figure of speech” that compares thieves and robbers to the care of a true shepherd. The thief and robber climbs into the sheepfold by another way; but the true shepherd enters the sheepfold rightly. The thief and robber is a stranger to the sheep, not really knowing them; but the true shepherd knows the sheep well, even calling each one of them by name. The thief and robber speak things that only confuse the sheep—his voice sounds strange to their ears—but the true shepherd speaks only for the flock’s well-being and so the sheep follow him. What is Jesus doing in the presence of these Jews and their religious leaders, the Pharisees? His “figure of speech” is meant to accomplish two things simultaneously: on the one hand, it’s a word of judgment against the Pharisees who are discouraging the people from following God’s ways as he reveals them in the coming of his promised Son; on the other hand, it’s a word of salvation spoken for his sheep, that they might learn to follow the only true Shepherd in Israel.
We’ve heard of this happening before, haven’t we? When we read our Old Testament, there are several instances when God’s prophets come to Israel with the same message—the same figure of speech, which indicts the false shepherds in Israel and commends to the people the true Shepherd in Israel, namely, Yahweh. We see this, for example, in places like Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Ezekiel 34:1-16 and Zechariah 10-11. And in each case, the leaders over Israel are cursed by the Lord for not reflecting the Lord’s care for his own people. Unlike the Lord who faithfully feeds and attends his flock, the false shepherds feed themselves while Israel starves. Unlike the Lord who protects and pursues and gathers his sheep, the false shepherds scatter God’s people without care to search for them. So the Lord curses them: “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!…You have scattered my flock and have driven them away…Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds,’ declares the Lord” (Jer 23:1-2).
But it’s in the word of judgment against the evil leaders in Israel that we also get further revelation of the true Shepherd, the Lord himself: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered…I will feed them on the mountains of Israel…with good pasture…rich pasture…I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak…I will feed them in justice” (Ezek 34:16). In fact, in those same places, the Lord also reveals that part of his plan would be to send a unique shepherd in Israel, unlike any other, who would lead the flock as Yahweh himself leads his flock. He would even be like David when he shepherded God’s people as king, but far superior in authority and care and leadership and power over Israel and the nations (Ezek 34:23-34; 37:24-28). This particular Shepherd’s name would even be called, “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer 23:6; cf. 1 Cor 1:30).
So a word revealing the Lord’s judgment against the wicked, while simultaneously revealing the Lord’s salvation for the sheep—that’s how we find this figure of speech used in the Old Testament. Jesus is doing the same thing in the passage before us—the major difference is that he speaks the familiar word-picture again while embodying its ultimate fulfillment. It wasn’t the case anymore that Yahweh would send a shepherd, because the true Shepherd in Israel, God’s own Son, was standing before them in the flesh. Yahweh had sent him. The people don’t understand this, of course, as verse 6 points out. But that doesn’t keep Jesus from speaking for the benefit of his sheep; and as he does, we see four things revealed about the good Shepherd.
1. The Life the Shepherd Gives to His Sheep
First of all, we see the life the shepherd gives to his sheep. Verse 7, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Now, wait just a second. I was expecting more talk about Jesus as shepherd, weren’t you? And yet all of a sudden we get, “I am the door.” Which are you, Jesus? The shepherd guiding the sheep or the door through which the sheep enter? The answer is, “Yes!” This is part of what makes him the good Shepherd. “Good” doesn’t merely signify that he’s a morally upright shepherd, though he certainly is that; but we should also see that his goodness is bound up with what he is for his people. Jesus’ good-shepherd-ness is revealed in the fact that he is also the door, the gateway, into the flock. So, he’s the Shepherd who is also the door.
This makes him way different from all the other leaders who are thieves and robbers. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus comes that we “may have life and have it abundantly.” He ties this abundant life to salvation in verse 9: “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved,” which he then illustrates with going in and out to find pasture. And then later on, in 10:28, Jesus will refer to this abundant life as “eternal life” he gives to the sheep. So the thief and the robber basically amounts to anyone seeking to rob us of salvation and eternal life through Jesus—whether that’s a teacher who is a child of the devil—as Jesus calls the Jewish authorities in 8:44—or another leader or author or spiritual counselor that’s pretending to solve all the world’s problems with his Christ-less philosophy of life, or even the spiritual powers of darkness themselves, who stand behind the false leaders and idols in this world (1 Cor 10:20; Eph 2:3). Anyone or anything that steers you away from entering life through Jesus is a thief.
Let’s name some of them: Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Hitler, Karl Marx, Oprah, Joel Osteen, Tom Cruise and Scientology, the New Atheist movement, fitness instructors who promise more than just health but “a new you,” pastors and teachers in seminaries that neglect pointing people to the gospel, self-righteous organizations not captivated by the love of God in Christ, even the many idols we face in the world. Anyone or anything that steers you away from entering life through Jesus alone is a thief. Jesus alone comes that we “may have life and have it abundantly.”
But what does this abundant life include? We already know Jesus isn’t talking about “how to live your best life now.” The abundant life he’s talking about has nothing to do with obtaining health, wealth, and prosperity in this life. Rather, it has everything to do with our fellowship with God, both in this life and the next. The abundant life Jesus is talking about is salvation. And—as we’ve learned from John—that comes with incalculable spiritual riches, doesn’t it, especially when we’re talking about salvation in terms of a relationship with God?
For example, we know from 1:4 that in Jesus is life and this life was the light of men. To have life is to experience a vibrant relationship with the eternal Son of God, who created the world and gives life to everything in the world not from some other source outside himself, but from himself (1:1-3). He is the source of life, period. We also know from 3:15-17, 36 that true life is bound up with escaping God’s wrath—the just punishment for our sins—and then enjoying God’s life—a right relationship with God himself, the eternal one. Or from 4:14 and 7:38-39 we find that Jesus is the one who nourishes us with living water coming from the well of the Holy Spirit himself, who never runs dry of eternal life. All the life of the kingdom of God that he will empower for eternity is available for our experience now as he dwells in the hearts of believers in Christ. All these places in John speak to the sort of life Jesus has in mind—the life of communion with God, the Fountain of life (Ps 36:9).
And the Lord isn’t stingy with what he offers you of himself either; Jesus says that if you come to God through him, the door, you will have all the pleasures of the eternal God that you could ever dream of. The pastures in which he leads his sheep are the pastures of hi kingdom, his salvation (cf. Ps 95:7; Isa 65:10; Ezek 34:14). The idea is that when you come to Jesus as the door, every day he’ll lead you into pastures of knowing God, of tasting of God’s goodness, of gazing upon God’s holiness, of experiencing the riches of God’s kingdom, of taking in God’s nourishing food, of enjoying the security of a well-kept farmland that never disappoints you. That doesn’t mean the difficult days will never come or the afflictions of this life won’t tempt your soul and make it weary, but it does mean you will always have more than enough when you have God. Was it not David who said of the Lord his Shepherd, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil [why?], for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps 23:4)?
The problem with the thieves and robbers in this world is that when you follow them, you never get enough—all you get is temporary thrill after temporary rest after temporary security after temporary riches after temporary satisfaction and so on and so forth. Not so with Jesus. He leads you into fellowship with God—who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, love, justice, goodness, and truth. By giving you God, he gives you more than you could ever dream or will ever be able to comprehend fully. That’s what it means for finite beings like ourselves to relate to the infinite God of the universe through Jesus—he’s more than enough for us, infinitely.
2. The Death the Shepherd Dies for His Sheep
But that raises a question in a universe where God is so holy: how is it that Jesus as the door can lead sinful people into such fellowship with God? If God is rightly angry with sinners, how can anyone enter his presence and experience abundant life? That brings us to the second thing revealed about the Shepherd’s goodness, namely, we see the death the Shepherd dies for his sheep. Verse 10, “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 does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” A few things come together here.
The hired hand is brought into the picture to contrast his kind of ownership of the sheep with that of the shepherd—he’s hired out; the shepherd owns—as well as to contrast the extent he’s willing to care for the sheep with that of the shepherd—he flees; the shepherd protects, even at the cost of his life. So Jesus’ ownership of the sheep and his extent-of-care for the sheep come together to reveal something marvelous. But we’ll only see it rightly and fully if we understand Jesus’ relationship with his Father, because Jesus’ relationship to his Father underlies his ownership of the sheep and the extent he’s willing to go to care for the sheep (instead of “just as,” verse 15 can begin with “insofar as” showing the relationship with verse 14 is more than a mere comparison; verse 15 is the causal grounds for verse 14).
Here’s what we’re essentially left with. In terms of ownership Jesus is explaining why he knows the sheep as well as he does: he knows the sheep precisely because the Father and the Son know each other. Since the Father knows the Son’s complete, unwavering devotion to his will, he entrusts him with the sheep (cf. 10:27-29). He gives him a people out of the sinful world (6:37; 17:2, 9). And since the Son knows the Father and his will for the sheep completely, he not only knows the sheep his Father has loved and entrusted to his care, but also what he needs to do on their behalf—he must come and give his life for them. This is where we meet the extent of Jesus’ care for the sheep: he must die a death that both pleases his Father and benefits the sheep.
Jesus’ knowledge of his Father’s love for the sheep—despite the wrath they deserved—and Jesus’ knowledge of what the sheep need to be with God—that wrath absorbed and taken away—drives him to the cross, where he dies as a substitute for the sheep. The penalty we owed the Father for our sins, he paid; the punishment we deserved for rebelling, he absorbed in his body on the tree; the condemnation that hung over us for being law-breakers, Jesus suffered—and all of this so that we would never have to endure it ourselves and so that we could experience the brilliant intimacy known between the Father and his Son.
The cross is where God’s ownership of the sheep and the extent of God’s care for the sheep is demonstrated most clearly, because at the cross we see how far the Father was willing to go to possess his sheep—he sent his own Son—and how extensive the Father’s care for his sheep really is—he poured out his wrath on Jesus as our substitute that he might give them himself. Whatever dark days you might be suffering now, whatever worldly afflictions come upon you, if you come to God through Jesus, never do you have to question the extent of his care for you, ever! What greater care, what greater love can you fathom that even comes even remotely close to the eternally precious Son of God dying as your substitute? Yes, the pains of this life are real; but without the cross, they would never go away for you, but only get worse when Judgment Day comes. And the cross reverses that dilemma for those who believe, so that you not only have God now in your momentary afflictions, but they are preparing for you an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Why? Because you have God and will only know him more for eternity!
3. The Nations the Shepherd Gathers as His Sheep
Number three: we see the nations the shepherd gathers as his sheep. This is where Jesus’ substitutionary death comes together with global missions. Verse 16 tells us what kind of death Jesus died. He didn’t die for nothing or merely to secure possibilities; he died to secure a people, his Father’s sheep, that every one of them might come to God and experience life (cf. 11:50-52; 12:33). So, coming off the assertion that he lays down his life for the sheep, he says this in verse 16: “and I have other sheep that are not of this fold [that is, of this Jewish fold I’m speaking to].” Jesus has Gentile sheep to rescue as well; his Father has Gentile sheep that Jesus knows he’s going to die for as well. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Don’t miss that, Max and Laura, or Tim and Erin, or Dan and Amy, or Jansen. Don’t miss that rock-solid assurance that all Jesus’ blood-bought sheep will be found by the Shepherd of all shepherds. “I have other sheep…I must bring them…they will listen to my voice…there will be one flock.” That’s a word that will keep you laboring hard in the task of ministry and missions—he has blood-bought sheep that need to hear his voice, and you’re his agents in ensuring they get his message. His death procured everything necessary for more people to be saved in South Asia and in Holdenville. The idea is not that Jesus died for them and some of them might come. No, if Jesus died for them, then all of them will come, because he’s bringing them and he’s calling them and God intends to set Jesus over them as one flock. The good shepherd’s death doesn’t result in wandering sheep ultimately. Rather, because of his death, the sheep will be gathered from all nations, just like Revelation 5:9 says: “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
If there was ever an allusion to Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament promises of God gathering the nations through his special Shepherd—so many that the land of Israel couldn’t contain them and the tents of Jacob would be bursting at the seems—it’s here (cf. Isa 54:1-3; Zech 10:8-10). With Jesus’ words, we see that the Messiah’s time to rule the nations has dawned. Yahweh is gathering his people under his chief Shepherd, Jesus, and the sheep are not only from the fold of ethnic Israel, but from all the Gentile nations as well (John 11:49-53; 12:20-23, 32; 17:20-21); and nothing will stop him. “This is the will of him who sent me,” Jesus said, “that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). Church, knowing this truth ought to make us preach the gospel like crazy to everybody and pray for God to save his sheep. That Jesus bought them with his blood doesn’t mean they will come apart from hearing about him or apart from our praying for their salvation—“faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word of Christ”—but it does mean that our labors in preaching and praying is never in vain. The Lord’s sheep will come when they hear his voice in the gospel. So keep preaching and keep praying. God’s will for saving his sheep cannot be thwarted.
If that lofty truth sits on you this morning as irrelevant for your daily life, let me just add that Jesus’ words are always relevant for those who obey his will. If we come to Jesus words to give us therapeutic comfort for a life we would have lived anyway without Jesus, then we will certainly find his words irrelevant. But if we engage in the very things he’s talking about—like his global mission to gather the sheep, and then later on, our participation in that mission—then these words become very relevant as we deal with the hardened hearts of our lost neighbors and the lost peoples of the world. These words are a rock when missions is our main business. Nothing can stop Jesus from gathering his blood-bought sheep.
4. The Authority the Shepherd Exercises for His Sheep
That leads us right in to the last revelation of the Shepherd’s goodness, namely, we see the authority the Shepherd exercises for his sheep. Verse 17, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” What kind of authority do we see in these words? What we see is that when Jesus dies, he does not die as a mere victim, but as a Son accomplishing the sovereign will of his Father. The cross has been designed, even commanded, by his Father (cf. Isa 53:10; Acts 4:27-28). He has authority to undergo Roman crucifixion, and authority to raise himself from the dead; and in these events, his death brings atonement, and his resurrection brings triumph, so that all the sheep given him by the Father will be gathered as one flock, under one shepherd. A flock cannot be gathered by a dead shepherd.
What kind of shepherd are we talking about then? We’re talking about a Shepherd that has authority not only over the circumstances leading up to his death, not only over the Jews who will hand him over and the Romans who will crucify him, not only over the days that are passing as his hour draws near to die, but also authority over death itself that will not be able to hold him in the grave except for the amount of time he commands it to. Since Adam fell into sin and death fell upon the human race because of sin, no man has had authority over death. Jesus does. The very purpose of his death is also to be raised. His death and resurrection are a joint venture in the design of his mission to save the world. He is controlling this story according to his Father’s will, not death.
And that should give us even greater hope that what it says of the Shepherd in Revelation 7:15-17 will actually happen: the ones who’ve washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb will stand “before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” That’s where the Lord is taking all of us who listen to Jesus’ voice and follow him. If he had authority to lay down his life and take it up again, then he has authority to take up your life as well when you lay it down for him. Death cannot stop him from bringing all his sheep into the Father’s presence; and he’s already proven that for us when he walked out of the tomb alive and appeared to the apostles who’ve written these words for us, that we too might believe (John 20:30-31).
So, Jesus is a good shepherd, folks. If you choose to follow him, then he will give you an abundant life in fellowship with God—let not the thieves and robbers of this world deceive you, but come to Jesus for true living. Jesus can give you this abundant life with God because on the cross he died the death you deserved but which you couldn’t ever pay in full yourself—trust that the death the shepherd died for the sheep is sufficient for you, regardless of the sins you’ve committed. Open your eyes to see that Jesus is gathering the nations to himself, so that all his blood-bought sheep will come under his incomparable care and eternal kindness. And leave today with the confidence that if you belong to Jesus’ fold, there’s nothing that can stop his mission to bring you into the Father’s presence, death itself has been ultimately conquered by him; and if death itself has been conquered—the very death caused by our sin to begin with—then nothing will keep you from him now. Therefore every day you rise, come to Jesus as your good Shepherd. He alone brings us to God.
Invitation for Max to Speak
Now, I won’t go much further, because we will get a perfect illustration of how a text like this one is already playing out in the life of Max and Laura. Max and Laura have finished their training and will be moving to South Asia within the next couple of weeks…So, I’ve asked Max to come and share for a bit, that we might be further equipped to care and pray for them, and then we want to pray for them as we commission them to the field.
More in The Gospel According to John
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May 17, 2015Loving Jesus & Feeding His People at All Costs
May 10, 2015Believing the Apostle's Testimony When Not Seeing Jesus