So, if you have several flocks in there, one shepherd will call and his own sheep will follow him and the others will remain. There is all this imagery here. Knowing the voice of that shepherd is very important. I want you to also notice the reciprocal imagery here. There is tremendous personal devotion. A good shepherd would be devoted to the well being of his sheep. He doesn’t drive them along and the symbol that Jesus uses to describe it, for example in verse six, “This figure of Speech Jesus spoke to them,” this figure of speech of the shepherd to the sheep, and ‘paroimia’ is the word used here and it refers to a figure of speech usually applied, in the Synoptics, to the Kingdom of God, but in John’s Gospel, these figures of speech refer to the identity of Jesus. “Truly, truly,” starting now with verse one, “I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.”
So, immediately we have this idea here of a legitimate shepherd versus one who does not enter by the one door. “He who enters by the one door is a shepherd of the sheep,” because he would be recognized as such. “To him, the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” This is just as I described it to you before. This is exactly what you see, even now, in the ancient Near East. I have seen this happen on youtube. I have seen flocks in abundance and sometimes you will see a shepherd there in the wilderness and he will call and his own sheep will follow. It is quite remarkable to see. They know him, he knows them, and he knows every one of them.
So, there is this mutual understanding between them. They follow him and the wiser sheep follow closer to him. Now the problem with sheep is that there are different sorts.
Some follow the shepherd. Others follow the sheep that are following the shepherd. They follow the followers and that is the dangerous thing. Others are on the perimeter and define what it means to be in that particular flock. Those are the ones who are not wise because they are the ones who can be picked off by predators. They can get lost and they can get downcast if they fall into a ditch and they can’t turn themselves over, in a matter of a few hours their abdomen will fill with gas and they will actually die, especially on a hot day.
So, when a shepherd realizes one of his sheep is missing, it is a dangerous situation and he will go to find him. Again, they are not very bright, and they get themselves on their back and they can not get up again. This is the imagery that we have, but I want you to notice the tremendous love and devotion and care that evolves in this. “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” This is the picture we see. “’A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers’. This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which he had been saying to them.” Now, He is going to amplify that in just a moment.
There is this imagery here and there is a portrait of one who is a shepherd in the doorway to the sheep. We see, in verse seven, when He says, “I am the door for the gate of the sheep,” He is now emphasizing something, something that is so narrow that only one person can go through and it is the door of prophesy. The more you discover about Old Testament prophesy, in the Messianic texts, the more specific you find it to be. In fact, when you really read the text concerning Messiah’s first advent, you discover a remarkable specificity about the thirty pieces of silver, piercing His hands and His feet, not a bone of Him will be broken and they will pierce His side and so forth. Now I know that 99.9% of the people on this planet will never read these words, but for the .1% that do, you will learn and be able to take forward for eternity the true love that Christ has for us!
There is enough imagery there, and Isaiah 53 is particularly explicit about this, where His grave would be assigned to be with the robbers and then with a rich man in His death and all these things were remarkably and surprisingly fulfilled. Many of them fulfilled in one day. And so, we see a tremendous degree of specificity. We know that the Messiah had to come from the House of David, we know that He would be born in Bethlehem, and Micah 5:2 makes that very clear. The more you put together these prophecies, what do you discover? The door gets smaller and smaller and finally, there is only one person who can fit through. He had to be born at the right time and at the right place and in the right household and all those other details as well.
So, I use the door of prophecy as a metaphor as well. As the ‘door’, then, He delivers us from bondage and leads us into freedom.
So, if we take a look at verse seven when He says, “I am the door of the sheep, all who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” He may be referring to false Messiahs or false leaders that they have had before. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” I suspect He is referring a lot to the Pharisaical side of things because of the conflicts He has had, again and again, with the Pharisees who had, in their legalism, had elevated human tradition above the Law of God.
So, we have that constant conflict, that they are out to kill Him and on more than one occasion.
So, He says, then, “I am the door, if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.” There is this idea here of the abundance that this sheep will provide. It is an image of a flock of sheep in a very threatening environment, a threatening desert, and that they are vulnerable. These, though, are well-fed sheep; they go in and out and find pasture. They are well fed and well watered as long as they are with the true shepherd. And, I see the picture of Psalm 23, which so beautifully illustrates this. When we think about the idea that “The Lord is my shepherd,” all the needs of the sheep are provided in that Psalm and it is a very comforting Psalm, because even there, in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, I will not have to fear because He is going to take me through and that valley of the shadow of death is an image of How He will bring them through the canyons in order to bring them to the high table.
There would be predators on the two sides, but if you followed hard on the shepherd you would be safe and He would carry you through to the right place and the right land and there you would be constantly taken care of and, really, He would give His life for the benefit of those whom He was protecting. There is intimacy. Psalm 18:20 also describes this gate. “This is the gate of the Lord, which the righteous may enter.” So, He is the gate, or the door, of the sheep, and so we see the wonderful picture here of the Good Shepherd and that word ‘good’, or ‘kalos’, refers to the quality of His character that is utterly trustworthy. He lays down His life for the sheep. And we see in verse 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Once again, in this image, He is speaking of having Zoë, or eternal life. It is the idea of the life that God offers here, and it is not the life we are all born with, He is offering not biological life that we are all born with, but Zoë, or spiritual life. He is saying that He is going to give them life, but also an “abundance,” a quality of spiritual life, and He is going to be the wellspring of life that flows in us and through us.
So, Christ now becomes our life. And so, He goes on to say, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” So, He is not only the door but also the fourth ‘I am’ statement shows that He is the good shepherd. He is the door of the sheep but He is also the good shepherd. This good shepherd does a variety of good things for us. Unlike the false shepherds who do not love the sheep, and exploit them and use them, like the shepherds we saw in Ezekiel 34, this good shepherd dies for the sheep.
So, if you look with me at verses 11 through 13, He “lays down His life for the sheep.” The word ‘for’ is important. ‘Huper’ is a word that appears 13 times in John’s Gospel and 11 of them refer or imply sacrificial death. ‘For’, ‘on behalf of’, He lays down His life. This is a very explicit description of that. He says, “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep,” so He is saying He is the owner of the sheep, by virtue of the fact that He lay down His for them, but the one who is just hired, who is not committed to them, “Sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.” In contrast, He is saying He will never be indifferent, He will care for My own. “I am the good shepherd and I know My own and My own know Me.” Now we have an extra dimension here. We have this idea of mutuality. Before, they recognized his voice. Now it says, “I know My own and My own know Me,” so there is a picture of tremendous intimacy’ a profound relationship that is reminiscent of Matthew chapter 11. This is one of my favorite texts of Scripture, Matthew 11, particularly verse 27, reveals something about this. When Jesus, having said that it is a good thing, and pleasing to God, that He conceals things from the wise and the intelligent and reveals them to infants, He then says, and this is a very profound verse, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
I’ll let you think about that verse, but the implications are nothing less than astounding. These are not the words just some ordinary teacher, or ordinary prophet could make. These are not just the words of a humble carpenter from Nazareth. They are incredible in their implications. The implications are that He has been given divine authority and He is the One who reveals the Father. In addition to that, unless the Father reveals Him, no one will know the Son except the Father and so there is this mutuality. You are not going to recognize Me unless it has been granted that you recognize Me. As also witnessed in Peter’s Confession of Christ. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.
They are still culpable if they choose to reject Him because there is a choice that is being made. The Scriptures never eradicate or eliminate human responsibility and free will that He gave all of His creation. That is why, in verse 28, He gives this offer, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” So, He describes in Matthew the fact that He offers them rest and in this metaphor, He describes the fact that He offers them guidance and provision and protection and care and intimacy. There is a portrait of that intimacy that He enjoyed with His Father and that He is offering to us. Jumping ahead for a minute, turn to John 17:21 and there we will see something of that; His prayer on our behalf is “That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” One of the deepest mysteries in all of Scripture is that Jesus is desiring that we will enjoy, somehow, the fellowship that is already being enjoyed among the persons of the Trinity. Just as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, but they are not each other, so Christ, the Son, is in us and we are in the Son, but we are not each other. There is that mystery, and so it is also, that the Father makes His dwelling in us, and so does the Spirit of God, as we see in John 16 which is what the House of the Nazarene is based on in name and in practice.
Let me take a moment to clarify some questions that have arisen because there is a denomination called Nazarene, and our churches name is, The House of The Nazarene. so, the question was ‘are we of the denomination Nazarene?’ The simple answer is no, however there are many teachings from the Nazarene’s as well as the Baptist’s and Pentecostals that we adhere to, so, since we adhere to the teachings originally taught by Jesus, Paul and the rest of the Apostles, we are considered non-denominational because there isn’t one set of teachings that would set us in a denomination, I hope that makes not only sense but also answers the question. Now, so why the name? Mentioning this part of the deepest mysterious Scripture and remembering that Jesus was considered a Nazarene, and so Christ, the Son, is in us and we are in the Son. The Lord gave me the name of our church as we know it today: The House of The Nazarene. Paul called our body a tent or a house and the Nazarene lives in us. So, we are that are born again are houses of the Nazarene! So, there is a deep and abiding and profound intimacy that we as the church, or the bride of Christ are invited to enjoy!