The Third and Fourth "I am" Statements
151. Jesus is the Good Shepherd: John 10:1-21
The picture of a shepherd and his sheep was a perfect metaphor in Middle Eastern culture. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David were all shepherds in a literal and metaphorical sense. Kings, priests, and leaders were often referred to as shepherds of their sheep (Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 1 Chronicles 11:2; Psalm 78:71-78; Jeremiah 3:15) The Lord is referred to as our shepherd (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11). Throughout the book of Jeremiah (see especially 23:1-4), God condemns the shepherds of Israel, and Jesus is tying the good shepherd discourse in with the spiritually blind shepherds of Israel in John 9. The false shepherds had cast out the once blind man, but the good shepherd would take him in to His flock through His door!
In order to protect sheep from thieves, bad weather, and wild animals, the shepherd would put them in pens. These pens were in caves or sheds or in open areas surrounded by stones or branches with an opening for the door. With this backdrop Jesus made three declarations about Himself.
1) "I am the Door"
In the sheep pen, the shepherd functioned as a door or gate for the sheep as they went in for protection. Jesus is the only way (door) into salvation. He was specifically stating that the sheep of Israel who were cast out of the synagogue (like the once blind man) would be able to come in through His door. The thieves and robbers were leaders of the nations who only cared for themselves. Jesus would protect His flock from enemies (saved or "kept safe") and provide for everything they needed giving them a "full/abundant" life (10:10).
2) "I am the Good Shepherd"
A hired man did not have the same care for the sheep like the shepherd who owned the sheep and had a personal interest in their welfare. The false prophets and ungodly kings of Israel were like those hired hands. The flock of God suffered under them throughout the Old Testament (Jeremiah 10:21-22; 12:10; Zechariah 11:4-17). Jesus was the good shepherd who would very soon lay down His life for these sheep (10:11, 15, 17-18) as a substitutionary sacrifice (Romans 5:8, 10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18) for their sins. In this passage He predicts both his death and resurrection (10:17-18).
The "other sheep . . . not of this flock" that Jesus refers to in verse 16 are the Gentiles. I have been saying throughout the Bible Book Club that God's plan was that the nations would be blessed through Abraham's seed (Genesis 12:1-3 - another essential passage to memorize), and that seed is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for ALL peoples from different sheep pens and who hear His voice and become part of one fold (Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:6)!
152. Religious leaders question Jesus at the Temple: John 10:22-42
These claims divided the people. Was Jesus divine or demon possessed? This resulted in a final confrontation with the crowd (10:22-39) during the Feast of Dedication also called Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights. It is December, A.D. 29.
(Hanukkah is the only feast not recorded in the Old Testament because it occurred during the time between the Old and New Testaments. It commemorates the reconsecration of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 165 B.C. after Antiochus Epiphanes of the Hellenistic Syrians defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the altar of burnt offering in 168 B.C.)
The Jews wanted to know if Jesus was the Christ. Jesus responded that the miracles He had performed were clear evidence (Isaiah 35:3-6; John 3:2; 9:32-33). They did not understand because they were not His sheep. If they were His sheep, they would know His voice, and they would have eternal life and never perish (10:27-28).
Jesus claimed that He was one with the Father's purpose and nature. This infuriated the crowds, and they wanted to stone Him because He was claiming to be God. He responded in a way common in Rabbinical discussions by quoting Psalm 82:6 where the Israelite rulers and judges were called "gods" (See Exodus 4:16; 7:1) because they were agents of God's revelation. Jesus wondered how He could be blaspheming if He was merely fulfilling God's orders. The miracles were testimony enough that Jesus was fulfilling God's purposes, and the Father was in Jesus and Jesus was in the Father (John 3:2).
This causes more hostility. Consequently, He escapes to Perea where John the Baptist had baptized (Bethebara) and prepared the people's hearts to be more receptive to Jesus. It is January, A.D. 30, and the beginning of His third and final year of ministry.
I am so glad we have a Good Shepherd! My husband grew up in a farming community and has many funny stories about sheep. They can't even get up after falling down. They REALLY need a shepherd. So do we!!!
In her beautifully illustrated book All We Like Sheep, Mary Glynn Peeples gives a "practical guide for living the Christian life" by telling us about sheep who need full-time supervision because:
- they are not trainable
- they are afraid to drink from running water
- they are led, not driven
- when they are on their backs they cannot right themselves
- they are not burden bearing animals
- they must be sheared at the right time in the right season
- their vision is impaired when they are not sheared
- they are defenseless
- they need his daily touch
That sounds a lot like us, but some of us don't want to admit that we are like sheep (Isaiah 53:6). The sooner we can realize it, the better!
Isaiah 53:6, Romans 5:8, and 1 Peter 3:18 are essential verses for memorization and relate to this passage.
All We Like Sheep is an excellent book to read!
Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us this day. We follow You as Your sheep. Amen.