Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Good Shepherd

I love John 10. I love the imagery of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Redeemer's old logo depicted this. I never get tired reading this portion of John's gospel-

John 10:1-6 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.2 “But he who enters by the door is the 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 “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.5 “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

He is drawing from the very well known profession of shepherding to describe His relationship to the Father and His saving work. He breaks it down more simply for us-

John 10:7-15 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.8 “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Jesus is the shepherd of a flock. He protects and preserves His flock with His very life. Jesus compares His devotion to the flock with that of a mere hireling, one who has no vested interest in the well being of the flock. Further we can see there are no other true shepherds who could do what Jesus does for His flock. In actuality, those who come claiming to be shepherds are really thieves and robbers who desire only to do the sheep violence. To this point Jesus still remains somewhat vague. But what He says next gives clarity to the illustration. Look at verse 16 and following-

John 10:16-18 16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.18 “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

The imagery of the first 18 verses is wonderful:

The sheepfold- the initial group of people from which the sheep of Christ would be drawn was the nation of Israel. The picture is Jesus calling to a sheepfold, who were made up of Israelites. He takes from that fold His Sheep.

The door- Jesus first identifies Himself as the door or the way to salvation. Any other attempt to gain access to the flock was an indicator of being a thief, robber, or stranger. Only through Christ can a person enter his flock.

The Shepherd- At first Jesus speaks in general terms referring to the shepherd who keeps the flock. Then He labels himself the “good shepherd” who lays his life down for the flock. Jesus is the way to salvation and He is the securer of salvation.

The Doorkeeper- There is a brief mention of the doorkeeper. This is a subtle reference to God the Father who is responsible for giving particular sheep to the good shepherd.

The Sheep- The sheep are those who belong to the shepherd. The sheep are those who are under the shepherd's care. In the shepherd they receive freedom, security, and sustenance. The sheep are identified as those who know (trust) in the Shepherd.

Thieves, robbers, hirelings- There are those who attempt to pose as true shepherds, but in reality they are thieves and robbers. The inference here is to the religious leaders, the supposed shepherds of Israel- the Pharisees. Jesus draws a picture of fakers who try to look the part but all the while have ulterior motives that promise only harm to the sheep. Again, there is only one Good Shepherd.

Other sheep from a different fold- Jesus makes a very startling revelation, at least to the Jewish audience who relished their ethnicity as a means of right standing before God. He says that there is another fold from which He will draw His sheep from. The nations or the Gentiles, the non-Jews, they represent another fold. From that fold he will add to his flock many men women and children.

The imagery is powerful isn’t it? Think of what a shepherd did in antiquity and put it alongside the saving work of Christ. The Father appoints His Son as the Shepherd over a flock. The flock would first be drawn from a large fold called Israel . Those who new the Shepherd would hear His voice and come to Him and follow Him. Then, Jesus turns to another fold, the nations, and draws sheep from their who will be part of His flock. In essence there is one flock, that is, all those who trust Christ. And the Shepherd will lay His life down for those chosen sheep. The Good Shepherd will give life, freedom, security, and sustenance to His flock.

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

I have always wondered how, “those who attempt to pose as true shepherds” can read this chapter and conclude, “Jesus is the way, but there are other ways?” There can be no clearer declaration, and no misinterpretation of the example Christ has portrayed. In our times, we may not be entirely acquainted to the concepts of a Shepherd, or the door to a sheepfold, or why or how the sheep will only follow the voice of the Master Shepherd, or who or what should be considered a hireling, but believe me, those whom Jesus was addressing certainly knew what He was talking about.
Jesus controls the door to salvation; He controls who enters’ He gives liberty, protection, grace, mercy and freedom to His chosen, and most radically, and most of all, He promises life, HIS abundant “ZOE” kind of life to all who follow Him and feed on His Word and rest in His pasture.