John 10 teaches that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Three times Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd in this chapter. This would’ve primarily been an understood role in the Jewish culture based on their agricultural background. The people would’ve understood the job of a normal shepherd but didn’t understand Jesus when he explained himself to be the Good Shepherd. Maybe you’re like the people in verse 6 who heard Jesus use this illustration and don’t understand what it means.
Today we’re going to look at the different statements Jesus makes about being the Good Shepherd and what it means for us today.
Jesus starts his explanation with saying, “I am the gate”. Now I’m no farmer, but research explains that herding sheep is a difficult task due to sheep’s natural tendency to stray away from the herd. When Jesus says, “I am the gate," it teaches us that there is only one way to true salvation, and that’s through faith in Jesus Christ. Just like the sheep must enter their pasture through the gate, believers in Christ only enter faith through Jesus.
John 10:10 is a famously quoted scripture that says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. It’s worth noting that many people believe that coming to faith in Christ means living a boring, unsatisfying life where God is only concerned about do’s and don’ts. But what we see here is Jesus says that he came so believers will have life to the full. The New Living Translation says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life”. I love the idea that Jesus’ purpose is to give us a full life. This verse gives us a contrast between Satan and Christ’s purposes. Satan’s purpose is to serve himself by destroying people’s faith in Christ. But by accepting Christ’s forgiveness and new life, we can find and fulfill the highest purpose that God has created us for.
In verse 11, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” At this statement, Jesus declares himself to be the promised good shepherd prophesied about throughout the Old Testament. The primary characteristic of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is that he loves to the point of death. Jesus goes on to explain the difference between him as the Good Shepherd and a hired hand. He says that a hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming because the sheep don’t belong to him. That a hired hand is only working for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. We can take comfort knowing that Jesus as the Good Shepherd loves us to the point of death.
In verse 14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father.” What I love about this statement is that each one of us who believe in Jesus are known. Every one of us are personally known and loved by a Savior that laid down his life for us. Even when our enemy tries to tell you that you don’t matter or that you’re not important, you can remember that Jesus as the Good Shepherd knows you and loves you.
Earlier in John 10, Jesus says that the sheep know their shepherd’s voice, that he calls them by name and leads them out. The question we’re left with today is do we know our shepherd’s voice? So often we think that God’s voice is a far-off, distant challenge that is only for the select few. But the truth is, God speaks to us through His word, through His people, and through life’s circumstances. The question isn’t whether God is speaking or not, it’s whether we know His voice. Our responsibility is to know God’s voice.
At the close of Jesus’ statements, the people who heard him were divided in their opinions about him. Verse 20 says that “Some said, ‘He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?’ Others said, ‘This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’” This points to the decision and responsibility each one of us have to know the voice of our Good Shepherd. Today you and I can take comfort when we choose to believe and put our hope and trust in our Good Shepherd.