What Do You Believe About
The Good Shepherd? - Part I
A dramatic shift takes place as Jesus continues to present truth in response to the religious who were lost. The “verily, verily” serves as a transition in connecting the previous discourse with this section. The “verily, verily” is characteristically used in John to introduce a shift in argument rather than introducing a new subject. In making this shift in argument, the Lord uses the shepherd - sheep arrangement to clarify the truth that He is presenting. This section should offer comfort to the true sheep but unrest to those not of “His fold.”
Throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, the imagery of the shepherd and his sheep are seen. Joseph H. Mayfield in his John studies makes this observation concerning Ezekiel 34. “In Ezekiel 34 the same figure of shepherd and flock appears. There the rulers are condemned as negligent, tyrannous, careless of their responsibilities (4). They abuse their office (3), and feed themselves rather than the sheep (2:3, 8). As a result the sheep are scattered (5), and have become a prey to every beast of the field (8). Consequently God will judge the unworthy shepherds (10), and will himself gather the scattered sheep (12) and will feed them (14) and give them rest (15). God will appoint one Shepherd, David (Messiah), and He shall feed the flock, and be their Shepherd (23). Then the flock will have peace, enjoy safety (25), and possess the full blessing of the well-watered earth (26). The flock is Israel (v.30) and belongs to the Lord (31).”
This and other passages were used, employing the Shepherd-sheep relationship, because the Jews had historically been a pastoral people with a keen understanding of the shepherd and his sheep. The Lord continues to use simple but yet profound truths to break down the walls of unbelief and to expose the unbeliever to his blindness. In this instance He used a parable. The use of parables is either for the purpose of concealing truth or for the purpose of revealing truth.
In this first section, which has been commonly called “debate # 5 - The discourse on the Good Shepherd,” we would like to consider three thoughts. I. A good shepherd has a relationship to his sheep (vv. 1-5); II. A good shepherd has a reward for his sheep (vv. 6-10); III. A good shepherd has a responsibility to his sheep (vv. 11-18).
I. A GOOD SHEPHERD HAS A RELATIONSHIP TO HIS SHEEP vv. 1-5
As the Lord introduces this parable, be mindful that He is emphasizing the relationship that the shepherd has to his sheep. Recently I was in southern Spain and witnessed several shepherds standing with their flocks. One could travel for miles and see no one nor anything and then raise his eyes and see a lowly shepherd tending his flock. One could only imagine how many hours the shepherd and his sheep would be together. One thing that impressed me, especially, was that in the two or three instances that I saw the sheep with his shepherd, he was always standing. As the shepherd stood faithfully with his flock, I was reminded that my Good Shepherd also stands before me and with me. One of the great qualities of being in His fold, as one of His sheep, is to enjoy the tenderness of that close relationship. Regardless of where I am, and what I am doing, He is near. This is true because He is a Good Shepherd. May we notice some things about the Good Shepherd that qualifies Him in this relationship.
He is the Good Shepherd by right (vv. 1-3). Theologically, there are many aspects of the Good Shepherd that may be considered, but there are many practical considerations, as well. The porter or gatekeeper recognized and allowed the shepherd to come into the sheepfold, which was usually a walled enclosure that was open to the sky. If we could spiritualize who the porter represents in relationship to Christ, the Good Shepherd, it would be the heavenly Father (John 8:16-18). “And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.” Jesus was emphasizing His right to enter in not as a thief or a robber, as the religious crowd wanted to believe, but as the True Shepherd. The heavenly Father had not only sent His Son, but endorsed His ministry as well. This is clearly indicated at Christ’s baptism (Luke 3:21-22). “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” It was not that Christ had to be approved, for He was without fault, but as a public testimony approval was given. Likewise, the lowly shepherd of old had to be approved and given the right to enter the sheepfold as the shepherd. Just as the cobbler, meat cutter, or baker would learn as an apprentice the skills of his trade, so would the shepherd. The shepherd had to be the trusted one as he led his sheep, protected his sheep, and provided for his sheep. As it was with David, the shepherd often learned as a little lad the right to be the shepherd.
He is the Good Shepherd by recognition (vv. 4-5). The Lord is using this pastoral parable to further indict the unbelieving Jew by stating that the true sheep will recognize the true Shepherd. Though the sheep is a dumb animal, it is also a devoted animal. The shepherd’s voice is familiar to his sheep. They know his voice and will not follow another.
I am concerned with the inconsistency, and non commitment that characterizes Christendom today. Reports indicate that many of the cult groups are made up of former Baptists. One of the reasons for this is that a clear presentation of truth concerning the True Shepherd is often lacking. Many are following false shepherds who are only wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
The biblical way for discerning who the True Shepherd is, is by judging him relative to truth. Certainly, the Chief Shepherd is Christ. In our churches we have pastors who are also referred to as under shepherds. The transmitted voice of the True Shepherd should be heard and recognized, in the Pastor’s or the under shepherd’s voice. A clear clarion voice should be heard in agreement with the Bible. Many are departing from truth by embracing untruth. For example, the translations that have made a pronounced departure from truth have as their origin, the corrupt manuscripts instead of the “Received Text” (Textus Receptus) Realizing the values of truth, I embrace, believe, study, and use only the King James Bible. The test for a True Prophet should begin with his position in relationship to having the “right” Bible.
Jesus was illustrating to the unbelieving Jews that they did and could not recognize Him as the True Shepherd because they were not His sheep. Even though He spake to them, they were void of understanding (v. 6).
II. A GOOD SHEPHERD HAS A REWARD FOR HIS SHEEP vv. 6-10
The rewards enjoyed by the sheep are not based upon what, nor upon who the sheep is but on who the shepherd is. The good shepherd rewards the sheep according to his goodness and enjoyed responsibilities to the sheep, not according to the goodness of the sheep. This also pictures the grace operation that exists in our saved relationship to The Good Shepherd.
He rewards His sheep with a place (vv. 6-7). Entrance to that place is gloriously made available through the Good Shepherd, who is the “door of the sheep.” The door allows access into whatever place it represents and is attached. A door is significant for entering and exiting a place. When the analogy of a door is presented in reference to the sheepfold, a visual and mental picture is created. When one visualizes Jesus first going through the door, think of His humanity. He is identifying as the lowly Shepherd with His sheep. When you see Him as the Door, then see Him as divine and as directing. He draws attention to Himself as “the way.” Inside the sheepfold the sheep experienced all the benefits that were available from the shepherd. These benefits come to the sheep who are where they are supposed to be, being in their right place. Only the sheep who know, and are known by their shepherd are led to this place which has been provided for them.
He rewards His sheep with Protection (vv. 8-9). David destroyed the bear and the lion before he would let those beast destroy his sheep. The greater David, Jesus, recognized and identified the enemy in this discourse. He called them thieves and robbers. The religious leaders were thieves and robbers in the sense that they would take and steal the hearts and minds of their followers by the use of false teaching. In the interest of offering protection there, was a warning that the thief had as his purpose, stealing, killing, and destroying. The Good Shepherd offers salvation and protection against this. The devil, who is the roaring lion, can only growl. He is toothless. Dr. Harold Sightler often referred to the devil as being on a leash, with the leash never being long enough to let the devil attack; he could only roar. Sadly, many with their lack of faith are frightened to the point of defeat by even the roar. To withstand the enemy, the shepherd was equipped to protect his sheep by skillfully employing the sling, staff, or club. The good shepherd would protect his sheep from the enemy, from unexpected emergencies, and from the environment. The sheep has many natural enemies. In his helplessness, it was imperative that the sheep had someone to protect him. We, as His sheep, are also so very helpless. Therefore, we must be totally dependent upon His salvation. Verse nine expresses the blessings that are the sheep’s. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” The sheep has the protection and the provision that he can continuously enjoy because of the care given by the good shepherd.
He rewards His sheep with provisions (v. 10). The abundant life is available to all of the sheep who are in His fold. The twenty—third Psalm reminds us in verse five that the Lord provides a prepared table and a cup that runneth over. David knew the meaning of the all sufficient Shepherd, when he said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). God really wants us to enjoy His abundance. We are often satisfied with such a meager supply of God’s blessings when He desires that we should have His all.
One of the blessings of growing older in the faith, is the privilege of learning this truth. The Lord continues to graciously supply all of my needs and many of my wants. The Good Shepherd never wants His sheep to go without the provisions found in the abundant life. An important means of receiving His provisions is through prayer, simply asking and receiving. Many “have not” the promises of God for they “ask not.” If you are “not asking,” that could mean that you are “not having.”
Thought it is important to ask, there are many times that the Good Shepherd recognizes the needs of His sheep and graciously provides that need according to His gracious watch-care even though the sheep may not be aware of his own need. My mother often bought me a pair of shoes or a shirt when I had no idea that I even needed those items. Like a Good Shepherd watching over His sheep, my mother was watching over her son.
III. A GOOD SHEPHERD HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TO HIS SHEEP vv. 11-18
The total welfare of the sheep is dependent upon the watchful care of the shepherd. To have sheep that are well cared for, the shepherd must give himself in every way to keep and protect his sheep. The beloved parable in Luke 15 reminds us that the good shepherd will leave the ninety and nine to find the lost sheep. This is just one of the responsibilities that the shepherd had to his sheep.
Just what is it that makes the shepherd a responsible one? May we consider several reasons that makes the shepherd a responsible one.
He is responsible because He is a Good Shepherd (vv. 11-14). Inherit to the shepherd being responsible is that the shepherd be good. Verse eleven emphasis the kind of shepherd Jesus is. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Notice he is not just a good shepherd; He is the Good Shepherd. One of the “I am” names of Jesus is indicated here, “I am the good shepherd.” The “I am the door” name is also used in this chapter. Notice, again, Jesus referring to himself as both “the door” and “the shepherd.” Some have raised the question how Christ can be both the Door and the Shepherd. Again that does not present a problem, it instead clarifies the dual attributes of Christ. It shows forth His humanity, and His divinity. As the Good Shepherd He lays down his life for His sheep. This act had to be accomplished as a man. To be the Door, He must be God. But in all of this, He is good! Just think how good He really is. The ultimate testimony relative to His goodness is shown in His death on the cross. Think about it; on the cross the Savior was dying as the Good Shepherd, but He also was dying as the Good Sheep. He was the sacrificial Lamb. He was the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. His perfect goodness was at its zenith when He hung on Calvary’s tree. “Alas and did my Saviour bleed and did my Sovereign die …” No wonder the songwriter was enthralled as he penned the words of this beloved song. It was God’s goodness that surely prompted the writer to express the love and goodness of God.
Our text indicates the hireling will not stay with nor show responsibility for the sheep. Verse thirteen says, “The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” God’s care for us is predicated upon His goodness. May we also notice “the giving” of the Good Shepherd.
He is responsible because He is a Giving Shepherd (vv. 15-18). Love gives. “For God so loved that he gave …” “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it …” The love of God makes Him responsible. At least I can understand it in that context. A man who properly loves his family will express that love as he gives himself to his family. He will work long hours to put “food on the table” and “clothes on the back.” A person who does not properly love, will not give.
The giving love of the Shepherd is available to more than one fold. He gave His love to both the Jew and the Gentile. In doing this the Good Shepherd incorporates into one fold the Jew and the Gentile. “There is neither Jew not Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male or female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). He does this in the economy of the church. Likewise, many diverse groups are made common to the fold because of the good shepherd. The rich and the poor, the unknown and the well known, and the doctor and the ditch digger can all become a part of one fold because the Good Shepherd gave Himself for all the sheep. Whosoever will let him come.
With all the efforts and the explanations used to explain to the Jews how Jesus was indeed the Christ, they still choose to refuse Him. But to all who will recognize Him as the Chief Shepherd, who died for His sheep and repent, they can enter into the fold.
Sermon From Dr. Max Alderman