Greetings, everybody! Grace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ, and welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS. I’m thankful to be with you for another day in God’s Word, and I’m especially excited to begin our look at the 10th chapter of the gospel according to John. My prayer is that this great chapter on Jesus as the Good Shepherd will serve to strengthen your faith, build you up in your Christian confidence, and equip you to boldly share the message of Christ with those around you. Thanks for coming along; let’s pray and get to it.
Heavenly Father, thank you for another day, one that you have given us as a gift and one in which you have provided us with many opportunities to live in your love and give witness to your holy name. We ask as always for your blessing on our time together, and we ask finally that you would help us to fix our eyes on our risen Savior Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. In His name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Jesus begins speaking to those around Him with some new picture language. Our focus: a Shepherd and His sheep.
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
When I lived in the Ozarks back in the early days of EDiBS, I always wanted to add some sheep to my hobby farm, but I never did. Why? I just had trouble committing. Of all the animals in our area subject to attack from things that would want to kill and eat them, sheep seemed to be among the worst. Sheep, as most of you know, don’t have any natural defenses against things like coyotes and mountain lions. They get confused easily. And when they’re spooked, it’s just that much easier for their attackers to corner them and turn them into a snack. If I had made the decision to get sheep, I would have needed to upgrade my fencing and my gates to keep predators out, and I also would have had to invest in a llama or a donkey as a livestock guardian. In the end, it just seemed easier not to pull the trigger, so sheep-less I came on to the farm, and sheep-less I left it.
As we move into the tenth chapter of John this week and continue to follow the teachings of our Lord, we now come to a section where Jesus employs some new and very scripturally significant imagery about who He is and what He has come to do. Chapter 10 is all about the picture of a shepherd, his flock of sheep, and the manner in which he cares for them. It’s also another chapter with some important “I AM” statements being made by our Savior. The reason I say that Jesus’ descriptive language here is significant in a scriptural sense is that when it comes to the way God describes Himself throughout the Old Testament, He very often casts Himself as the Great Shepherd who takes care of His sheep. For most of you, Psalm 23 will immediately come to mind, as well as several passages in Isaiah...but Ezekiel is another one of the prophets through whom God dispenses this kind of imagery, and you’ll find it elsewhere too. The point is, when Jesus starts referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd, and that with the words “I AM” immediately preceding it, it’s yet another way that He is declaring Himself to be One with the Father; another way to assert His divine, eternal nature as the God of the universe even as He describes what it is that He does for His creation. That explicit claim will be presented to us when we get to verse 11 in tomorrow’s study, but in our time together today Jesus very definitely introduces the concept and also declares Himself to be something else as well: not just the Shepherd of the sheep, but the Gate for the sheep.
Verses 1-3: Notice the way Jesus begins in verses 1-3: First the Lord says “I tell you the truth,” or “Truly, truly, amen, amen.” From previous studies you’ll remember that this is a phrase used to introduce and emphatically present a solemn, take-it-to-heart kind of truth. Here Jesus uses it to tell His hearers that when it comes to God’s people, God’s flock, they have but one true Leader: the Shepherd, who enters the sheep pen through the gate to care for them and call them by name and lead them out to pasture. Anyone trying to get to the sheep in any other fashion or through any other entrance is a thief and a robber.
Verses 4-6: In the next three verses Jesus goes on to talk about the fact that not only does the Shepherd call His sheep by name, and not only do the sheep know His voice, but because of those things the sheep also follow Him – which is in stark contrast to the way they would react to a stranger. This figurative language, of course, has a point to it – but interestingly, as clear as it would seem to be, our Bible says that the people don’t understand what Jesus is telling them.
Verses 7-10: So it is that Jesus comes at it again in the next section of verses, and the very attention-grabbing thing here in verses 7-10 is that He now spins it just a little bit: He tells the people that He Himself is...the what? The Shepherd? No, not yet! Here He says that He is the all-important Gate for the sheep. In other words — and this is a stunning statement — Jesus is saying that anyone coming to the sheep, anyone coming to God’s chosen people by any way other than Him, is a thief intent on stealing, killing, and destroying the flock. Jesus gives examples of who the thieves have been and who they are…the false teachers of the past and present…and then reiterates that He, not anyone else, is the Gate. Only those entering through Him are legitimate, and further, it is only those who enter through Him that will be saved. In contrast to the thief who comes to kill, He has come that the sheep may have life, and have it to the full.
As you can see, there are really two major thoughts being expressed here, and we’ll be talking about them both in the days ahead. On the one hand, Jesus is the Gate for the sheep in the sense that He is the Protector of the flock. He is the filter, as it were, the litmus test, for anything and anyone who wants to be with and among the people of God. If anyone comes to the sheep apart from Jesus and His teaching, they are immediately to be seen as counterfeit. On the other hand, there is also a salvific point being made here: Jesus, as the Gate for the sheep, is also the One through whom the sheep must enter to be saved. He is the gate through which we must enter in order to be part of God’s flock – there is no other way. These are truths to think on with all solemnity as we wrap up for the day, and why? because once again, the words of Jesus are clear, and they allow no room for compromise.
I look forward to seeing you again next time; until then, have a great remainder of your day, and may the joy of the Lord continue to strengthen you and fill you up! God’s peace everyone, and do take care!