As we begin the tenth chapter of John I want us to notice that there is no break in the narrative to warrant the chapter break. In chapter 9 a man who was born blind has been healed. Jesus has come to bring light to the eyes. However, the religious leaders think they can see and therefore remain in their sins. The people who recognize that they are in the darkness and in need of the light will be forgiven by Jesus, the true light. But those who think they see will remain in the darkness and will never see. Jesus transitions into a discussion about sheep and shepherds. But when we read John 10:21 we notice that Jesus’ audience has not changed. The conclusion of the scene is some people declaring that Jesus has a demon and is insane. But some recognize that these are not the words of someone who is demon possessed. “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” Jesus is teaching these people who think they see. They think they believe. They think they are followers of God. They think they are saved. But they are not. So as we read John 10 we are learning from Jesus who truly belong to him and who are truly fooling themselves.
The Sheep Hear His Voice (10:1-6)
Jesus begins with an illustration. What Jesus is doing is describing his role. He is explaining what he is doing and who he is. Verse 1 begins with a statement of truth. Anyone who does not walk through a door but climbs in another way is a thief and a robber. This is true not only of sheep pens but also of anything else. If you drive by a house and see someone trying to get into the house through the window, you know that this is not the owner of the house. It is a thief. It is a robber. So Jesus begins that anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the door is not the right person. But the one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The picture is fairly simple. The shepherd comes and calls his sheep. This is what shepherds do and Jesus is a shepherd. The religious leaders may think that Jesus is crazy but what Jesus is doing is not crazy at all. He is gathering his sheep.
Verse 3 is the key to this first illustration. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” This is an interesting phenomenon in shepherding. The sheep know the voice of their own shepherd. They will not follow another shepherd who is calling sheep. Shepherds would put their sheep with other shepherd’s sheep in the sheep pen. So the sheep are all mixed up in the pen. The shepherd needs to do nothing more than call for his sheep and only those that are his will come out to him. We do not live in a world of shepherding but what Jesus is saying in verse 3 is something that everybody knew in ancient near eastern times. Jesus is the shepherd gathering his sheep by calling them. The sheep know his voice and follow him (10:4).
This is the first way we can know if we are his sheep. We hear the voice of Jesus and we follow him. In John 9 the blind man heard the voice of Jesus, followed what Jesus said to do, and he was healed. The Pharisees and Jewish leaders are not listening to the voice of Jesus and they are not following him. Therefore, they are still in their sins. Do we know the voice of Jesus? Will we follow the voice of strangers? Jesus says that his sheep run away from anyone but Jesus. Jesus is their shepherd and they run from all pretenders. They do not go after false ways. Now remember that Jesus is talking to the religious, not the lost world. It is possible to think you are belong to God and not belong at all! This should cause us to serious question if we truly listen to the voice of Jesus and follow only him. Do you know his teachings? Do you read his words? Do you do exactly what he says? Do you follow him wherever he goes? Eastern shepherds did not and still do not drive sheep. They lead their sheep and their sheep follow him. Jesus does not drive his sheep. He is leading. Are you following him?
There is great value and reward in following Jesus. Listen to verse 3 again. “He calls his own sheep by name.” Jesus knows your name. Jesus knows who you are. Jesus knows who are his sheep. Jesus knows his sheep by name and can call them by name. Do we really need any more than this? Jesus knows you and is calling you by name to follow him. He knows YOU. Such exciting words.
However, notice verse 6. These religious leaders do not know what Jesus is saying. Jesus has made a glorious illustration. He is calling his sheep to him and those who are truly his listen to his voice and follow him. Yet these people do not understand. They think they see but they prove their blindness. They think they see but they are so blind. Is this us? Do we think we are following Jesus and we are walking a path, but Jesus is nowhere near us? Every step a sheep takes must be behind the shepherd.
Why Jesus Is Gathering His Sheep (10:7-10)
Since the audience is still darkened in their understanding, Jesus tries again, using the same theme but changing the illustration. Jesus declares himself to be the door of the sheep. Jesus assumes the role of protector. He is the guardian that provides protection for those who pass through it. The sheep on the outside of the sheep pen are not protected. Only his sheep are protected.
Notice what Jesus says in verse 8. “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” Oh, what a statement! What a serious charge against all the leaders before Jesus. The prophets repeatedly condemned the leaders of Israel for harming God’s sheep (Ezekiel 34; Isaiah 56:9-12; Jeremiah 25:32-38). Notice this example from Jeremiah 23:1-4.
1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1–4 ESV)
The leaders of the people before were selfish. They were self-centered. They did not care for the souls of the people. They hurt the sheep and scattered the flock. Allow me to make a quick aside that there are a great number of “leaders” — preachers, elders, and just people who were looked up to as leaders in a local church — that are going to be called into judgment for hurting the sheep and scattering the flock. There is no room for selfish thinking to be a leader of God’s flock. Now bring this forward to Jesus’ day. Jesus is saying that the true sheep are not listening to these leaders either. This is exactly what we saw in the blind man. He stood up to these blind leaders to the point that he was cast out of the community. Israel’s shepherds had failed regarding this blind man. These religious leaders are the robbers and thieves. They are trying to mislead the sheep away from God while claiming to be their spiritual leaders.
Jesus returns to his role and his purpose. “I am the door.” If you are not going through Christ, you are sinister like a thief and a robber. But Jesus has come and he is gathering his sheep for a glorious purpose. Notice the three things that Jesus is offering for those who come through him. First, whoever enters by Jesus will be saved. If you come to Jesus you will find salvation from your sins. These leaders are remaining in their sins because they will not listen to Jesus and follow him. Following Jesus is the only way to be saved. Second, whoever enters by Jesus will be secure. Jesus said that those who enter by him “will go in and go out.” There is spiritual safety and security with Jesus. When we are with Jesus we are protected. When we are with Jesus we are secure. We are safe. Follow Jesus and you are spiritually safe. Third, whoever enters by Jesus will be satisfied. Whoever enters by Jesus “finds pastures.” You are provided for and satisfied. We are receiving security and joy from the shepherd who is acting for the supreme good of the sheep. We experience the best life with Jesus because he provides full satisfaction and perfect guidance.
Verse 10 sums these blessings up completely. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Listen to this! Abundant life is following Jesus. The abundant life has nothing to do with having stuff! The pasture isn’t stuff. Jesus is offering the full life. Jesus is offering the abundant life. This life is not the full life. Seeking this world will not give you a satisfying life. Following Jesus is to receive abundant life. This is why Jesus came. To give you abundant life. Now think about this: what Jesus is offering is not a restrictive life! Everyone looks at the Christian life as a restrictive life. If that is what you think then you are blind. If that is what you think you are misinformed, misled, and not one of his sheep. This is the abundant, satisfying life. Jesus is calling his sheep to give them life! Jesus gives life to the full.
- Who are you listening to? What are you listening to? True disciples only listen to the voice of Jesus.
- Who are you following? True disciples only follow Jesus.
- What life do you have? True disciples receive salvation, safety, and satisfaction. They have abundant life.