The Good Shepherd – John 10:1-21

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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 20, 2017

The Good Shepherd
John 10:1-21


This morning we already read Psalm 23 in which David views God as his shepherd. The analogy of shepherd and sheep is used throughout the Old Testament for it was a common scene in ancient Israel and thus an easy way to illustrate a point. Since we are not in an agrarian society, we do not easily understand the analogy used of God as shepherd and His people as sheep, but those of ancient Israel should have, but even they, as we shall see this morning, could miss the point.

In order for you to understand the passage we will be looking at today in John 10, I need to give you a little background about sheep and shepherds. First, you need to understand that sheep are not very intelligent. It is reported that Dr. Bob Smith, retired professor of philosophy at Bethel College one said that sheep were prima facie evidence against the theory of evolution, for there is no way that sheep could have survived! I once said that sheep were dumb, and a lady that had sheep objected saying that they were just helpless. The truth is that they are both. Philip Keller, in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, describes the nature of sheep. They are creatures of habit that will follow a path through a desolate place and ignore excellent forage even though it is not far away. They are given to listless wandering. They have even been known to walk into an open fire. They can be timid and stubborn. At times they can be frightened by silly things and at other times they cannot be moved. They can be quite helpless. If a sheep accidently rolls on its back, it will be stuck there with its feet in the air. Someone has to roll it back over. Sheep are also defenseless and have no way of protecting themselves.

Sheep need a shepherd. Someone who will lead them to food and water, who will protect them and will care for them when sick or injured. In many ways sheep can be a lot like humans. At times we prove to be helpless, defenseless and a bit stupid. That is why the analogy of sheep is often used for us. We are in need of a shepherd and that is why that analogy is often used for God.

The shepherd of ancient Israel was very different from his modern counterpart in America. Sheep farming is big business with large flocks, modern equipment and different practices. Modern shepherds use sheep dogs to drive their flocks in front of them. The ancient shepherds had smaller flocks and knew each of his sheep and often named each one. The sheep knew their shepherd too and would follow him wherever he lead.

When the shepherd was in the field, he could protect his sheep at night by putting them in a pen. The pen would be a round enclosure made up a fence of rocks, much like the rock wall on the west side of the church. There would be one opening to this enclosure. The shepherd himself would become the gate. He would sleep in this opening so that no sheep could get out without passing over him, and no dangerous animal could enter without encountering him.

If the shepherd was in a more populated area, there would be a community pen with a door into the pen guarded by a gatekeeper. There could be several different flocks all kept in the same pen, yet this did not cause a problem when the shepherd’s needed to separate the flocks, because the sheep would recognize the voice of their shepherd and would come when he called. With this in mind, let us now look at John 10.


John 10:1, “Truly, truly, 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. 2 “But he who enters by the door is a 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 “When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 “And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

Jesus is speaking to the same people he had been dealing with in John 9. Jesus had performed an unprecedented miracle in healing a man who had been born blind. The people were astonished, but the Pharisees refused to believe the story. Even after questioning the man and his parents they were still striving to find some other explanation for what had occurred. When the man still insisted that Jesus had healed him and thus must be from God since God had heard His prayer, they reviled him and put him out (9:1-34). Jesus then found the man and revealed Himself to him. Some Pharisees were present when Jesus talked with the man and when Jesus commented in John 9:39 “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” They then questioned Jesus what this meant asking Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” (vs. 40). Jesus answered them in verse 41, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. (See: Receiving Sight & Exposing Blindness)

It is immediately after this that Jesus gives this analogy to give further explanation to their blind condition. They should have readily understood what Jesus was talking about since similar analogies were used throughout the Old Testament, but they do not understand at all, thus illustrating the blindness as Jesus had commented in 9:39.

It can be safely assumed that they understood what Jesus was talking about in terms of caring for sheep. They would have understood that someone that climbs over the wall to get into the sheep pen would be a thief and robber. Such a person does not want to be recognized by the guard at the gate. A shepherd uses the door to the fold and the doorkeeper opens to him. They would have understood that the sheep would know the voice of their shepherd and that in a community sheep-fold the sheep will come to their shepherd while the rest of the sheep will flee because he is a stranger to them. They would have understood about the care of the sheep, but what they did not understand was the application of the analogy to themselves. If they had thought through what they should have known from the Old Testament analogies of shepherds and sheep and God and Israel, they should have also understood the metaphor Jesus was making. But the reality of Jesus’ comments at the end of chapter 9 kept them from understanding. They claimed to be those who could see and lead people in the ways of God, but they were in fact blind to the truth of God.

God as Shepherd

The Lord God is often referred to as the shepherd and His people as a flock of sheep. We saw that earlier in our worship service when we read Psalm 23. In Psalm 80:1, the Lord God is addressed as “O Shepherd of Israel,” and in Psalm 79:13 the people of God call themselves His sheep – So we Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture Will give thanks to Thee forever; To all generations we will tell of Thy praise. In Ezekiel 34, the Lord God uses this analogy of Himself as the Shepherd of Israel, His flock of sheep. Verses 11 & 12 state, For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. Verse 15 adds, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God.

These passages also speak of the Lord being a good, tender-hearted and loving shepherd who cares for His sheep. Isaiah 40:11 would be another typical passage. Like a shepherd, He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry [them] in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing [ewes.]

Warnings of Evil Shepherds

The Old Testament also warned of evil and worthless shepherds. The first part of Ezekiel 34 is the Lord’s condemnation of the priests who were supposed to shepherd the people, but were instead exploiting them – ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? 3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat [sheep] without feeding the flock. It was the same theme in Jeremiah 23:1 – “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord.

Zechariah denounced them in a similar manner (11:17), “Woe to the worthless shepherd Who leaves the flock! But also added here is their evil in abandoning the flock instead of protecting it. We will see Jesus bring this out in John 10:12-13. In Numbers 27:16-17, Moses prays for the Lord to appoint a man over the congregation to lead them so that they may not be like sheep which have no shepherd. Israel often had good shepherds, but they also had many false ones like those mentioned above and in Zechariah 10:2 who “see lying visions, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd.”

Messiah as Shepherd

The ultimate fulfillment of Moses prayer was to be the greater son of David, the Messiah, who would shepherd the flock. Ezekiel 34:23 “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. David was already dead when this was prophesied. Jeremiah 23:5 explains it, “Behold, [the] days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.

These are all things the Pharisees listening to Jesus should have known, but they did not understand and could not apply the analogy because they were blind to the truth. Jesus explains it to them further in verse 7-18. In this section Jesus will make multiple metaphors of Himself in explaining His own nature and fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah as the shepherd. The first metaphor is in verses 7 – 10

The Door of the Sheep – John 10:7-10

John 10:7 (NASB) Jesus therefore said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have [it] abundantly.

I mentioned earlier how a shepherd would lay down in the doorway to keep the sheep in and the predatory animals out. Here Jesus alludes to the Old Testament prophecies of God protecting His people and providing good pasture for them. Jesus is clearly talking about a spiritual idea in that He offers salvation to all who enter through Him in verse 9 and that is the means to becoming one of His sheep for whom He will care. Jesus contrasts Himself with the evil shepherds who, like those in the Old Testament, were in reality thieves and robbers. This is Jesus’ charge against the Pharisees. They are the thieves and robbers. Notice in verse 8 that the “all who came before Me” are, not were, thieves and robbers. Jesus is dealing with both past and present reality. In addition Jesus makes this charge against the Pharisees and other religious leaders of that day.

In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces a series of “woes” upon the scribes and Pharisees including the following: they would travel extensively to make a proselyte and when they succeeded they would make him “twice as much a son of hell” as themselves (vs. 15). They were trying to steal God’s sheep. They were careful to keep minute points of the Mosaic law but “neglected the weightier provision of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (vs 23). Mark 12:40 adds they sought to devour widow’s houses. They sought to destroy. In verses 29-35 Jesus pronounces a woe upon them for the prophets, wise men and scribes they would murder. Jesus had recently accused them of seeking to murder Him. They sought to kill. By contrast, Jesus sought to provide, build and give life. He protected the sheep as the door. He provides pasture for them, and He came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.

The Abundant Life – John 10:10

This idea of abundant life is not in any sense materialistic or a promise for an easy life, even though there are evangelists that imply that. Jesus’ teachings are clear that in following Him the world will give you tribulation and that you should expect to be lied about and persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12; John 16:33). Many teach a health, wealth, prosperity gospel, but that is not the good news of Jesus Christ. We are to be content if all we have is food and covering (1 Timothy 6:8). Jesus’ own example is that He did not even have a place of His own to lay His head even though the birds had nests and the foxes had holes (Matthew 8:20).

The abundance is in reference with the life itself. It is a quality of life brought about because of the relationship with the Savior. The salvation that Jesus offers is not about the extension of either physical life or spiritual life, for Christians die physically and the souls of non-Christians will live eternally. The salvation Jesus offers is from sin and its spiritual consequences both eternal and temporal. It is a person’s sin that brings him or her under God’s just condemnation, and every human has broken God’s commandments and sinned. There are no exceptions except Jesus Christ Himself. Sin results in a broken relationship with God in the present and in the future it results in judgment and punishment shut out from the presence of God and eternally existing in the torment of Hell. Salvation from sin brings you into a personal relationship with your Creator that will continue throughout eternity. The abundant life is about the quality of life that is brought about when you live in a personal, loving relationship with the Lord God. It is a life filled with the abundance of God’s grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. It is a life filled with the abundance of eternal purpose and meaning. It is a life filled with love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit regardless of temporal circumstances.

Jesus is the door of the sheep. The Pharisees were thieves and robbers. They steal, but Jesus provides. They destroy, but Jesus builds. They kill, but Jesus gives abundant life. Jesus is the only door to that abundant life. He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Anyone among the sheep that entered by another means is false and will be separated from the sheep and cast out in judgment (Matthew 13:36-43; 47-50).

The Good Shepherd – John 10:11-15

Jesus’ next metaphor is verse 11. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 “He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters [them.] 13 [“He flees] because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.

Jesus is the good shepherd. The word “good” here is kaloV (kalos) used here with the sense of excellence and it contrasts Him with the hirelings who are evil shepherds. The true shepherd loves and cares for his sheep. The hireling loves and cares for himself. When danger approaches, the true shepherd will defend while the hireling will run away.

What is true here about Jesus as a shepherd should also be true of His undershepherds. Pastors are called to care for, feed and defend the flock of God that is entrusted to them (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The tragedy is that many men who are called pastors are no different from these evil hirelings of so long ago. They seek their own comfort and fleece the flock instead of feed the flock. They protect themselves and run away from trouble instead of defending and warning the flock of danger. They do not want to cause controversy, so they preach what people want to hear instead of what God has declared. May the Lord quickly remove me from this Earth should I ever act as a hireling instead of a shepherd.

Jesus expands on this same theme in verse 14. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. As I have already pointed out, a true shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. He knows each one individually and calls them by name. In turn, his sheep know his voice and respond to him. So also it is with Jesus and His sheep. He knows them and they know Him. Jesus reveals here that His relationship with God the Father is the same way. They intimately know each other. What a wonderful thought that Jesus knows us so well and still loves us! In fact, He loves us so much that He lays down His life for us.

Other Sheep – John 10:16

Jesus is speaking to Jewish people, but He adds something in verse 16 that would have been a shock to many of them, but it is wonderful news to we who are Gentiles. 16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock [with] one shepherd.

The Gentiles were always included in the blessing of Abraham, but the self-centered nature of people soon eliminated much thought of that from the average Jewish mind. They considered themselves superior to everyone else, and certainly they have a superior heritage and blessing through Abraham even to this day (Romans 9f), but the blessing was to come and be shared with all people (Genesis 12:3). We Gentiles are the other sheep that He also brought and added us to the flock so that we are one flock with one shepherd. Paul describes this in Romans 11 as being grafted in. We, who were not a people, can through Jesus Christ also become the people of God (1 Peter 2:10). Jesus accomplished this through His own death on our behalf on the cross, and this is why the Father loves Him.

Jesus’ Authority – John 10:17-18

17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

Please take note that Jesus would not be a victim. In less than six months the crowd would become a mob demanding His crucifixion, but Jesus would still be in complete control. Nothing would happen by chance. It would be according to God’s plan. Jesus would willingly lay down His life with the express purpose of taking it up again. This phrase alone should have had all of those listening taking notice. No human can do that.

Jesus is proclaiming His authority here. He is not just human. He is much more. He has authority over His own life. People who plan to commit suicide want to think that in doing so they are controlling their life and destiny, but they are not. First, they could die before they planned. Death comes unexpectedly to many people through such things as natural disasters, accidents, and murder. Second, and more importantly, mere mortals do not have any ability to decide what will happen after they are dead. Jesus has authority to decide when He would die and He has authority to take His life up again. He can raise Himself from the dead! This was not something He was saying based on Himself, but from the command of God the Father. This deepened the divisions among them.

Divided Pharisees – John 10:19-21

John 10:19, There arose a division again among the Jews because of these words. 20 And many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”

It would appear that they still did not understand the implications of what Jesus was saying to them. Some conclude that Jesus is insane because a demon is controlling Him. Claiming authority over your own life including being able to take your life back after you have died was not in the realm of their experience. Even if they had considered Elisha raising the Shulamite’s son from the dead or similar miracles Jesus had already done, it was someone else acting upon the dead. No one had ever raised themselves from the dead. They reasoned this proved Jesus was insane and demonized and therefore not worth listening to.

Yet others pointed out that no one had ever before opened the eyes of a man born blind either. They may not have understood all of what Jesus meant, but they went back to the fact of the miracle He had just done to conclude that there was something different about Jesus. His ability to perform such miracles proved He must be from God. In addition, what Jesus was saying was not the kind of thing a demon possessed person would say. Jesus did not glorify Himself or anyone else other than God. That is opposite of what a demonized person would do. In addition, what Jesus was saying was consistent with the Old Testament prophecies. From their observation, the charge that Jesus was demonized and insane did not fit even if they did not understand all Jesus was saying.


That brings us back to the point Jesus was making in this section of Scripture. Those who claim to see are in a worse position than those that know they are blind. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). God’s sheep are able to hear Jesus’ voice and through Him become part of His flock because they are humble enough to recognize their need and yield themselves to the commands of the shepherd. The Pharisees did not understand because they were spiritually blind and could not recognize the shepherd’s voice.

But what about you? Do you know the shepherd? Does He know you? Do you hear the Shepherd’s voice? If so, are you following Him? That is the demonstration of being one of His sheep. Jesus’ sheep will follow Him.

Or does this all still sound confusing? Some of these Pharisees were confused at this point. They did not understand everything, but they did understand a little and they acted upon it. They started to defend Jesus. We are told in Acts that a number of Pharisees did come to salvation in Jesus Christ. They became His sheep. If it still seems confusing to you, let me encourage you to continue your pursuit. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that the one who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Jeremiah 29:13-14 adds that you will find the Lord if you seek Him with all your heart. Do not become lax in your search. There can be nothing more important in your life than being forgiven of your sin and having a personal relationship with your creator.

If all this sounds like nonsense to you, then I implore you to humble yourself before God and cry out to Him to be merciful and remove the blindness of sin that is keeping you from understanding the truth of God’s word. If you harden your heart, you will seal your own doom for God will resist you. If you humble yourself, you will find God’s grace.

Jesus is the door. You cannot have the bondage of your sin broken except through Him. Only Jesus can give you the abundant life of having your sin forgiven and a personal relationship with God for now and eternity.

Jesus is the good shepherd. He protects and provides for His sheep. He has proven His love for His sheep by laying down His life for them. He has proven the truth of His promise by taking up His life again and rising from the dead. Jesus is the good shepherd. Is He your shepherd? Do you follow Him?

Sermon Notes – 8/20/2017
The Good Shepherd – John 10:1-21


Sheep are not very _______________ creatures of habit that can be helpless, timid and stubborn

Sheep need a ____________ to lead and protect them

Ancient shepherds of Israel had ________ flocks, and the sheep knew their shepherd

A sheep-pen had _________opening in which the shepherd or a gatekeeper would sleep to protect the sheep

Context – John 9 & 10:1-6

Jesus is speaking to the _________ people present when talking to the man He had healed from blindness

This analogy gives further explanation the spiritually ________condition of the Pharisees that opposed Him

They would have ___________the description of the sheep and the shepherd, but not its application to them

God as Shepherd – Psalm 23; 79:13; 80:1; Ezekiel 34:11-15; Isaiah 40:11

____________________________________________________    These passages speak of the _____being a good, tender-hearted and loving shepherd who cares for His sheep

Warnings of Evil Shepherds – Ezekiel 34:2-3; Jeremiah 23:1; Zechariah 11:17  _____________________________________________________

Numbers 27:16-17 – Moses prays for the Lord to appoint a _____________for His people

Messiah as Shepherd – Numbers 27:16-17; Ezekiel 34:23f; Jeremiah 23:5


The Pharisees should have known all these things, but they were ________ to its application to them

The Door of the Sheep – John 10:7-10

Jesus is the shepherd at the door that __________ His sheep. Jesus offers salvation

The _____________ are thieves and robbers – See Matthew 23

The Abundant Life – John 10:10

This is not _____________ or an easy life for those that follow Jesus will have tribulation (John 16:33)

The abundance is in reference with the _________of life because of a right relationship with the Savior

The abundant life is filled with _______ grace, mercy & loving-kindness; eternal purpose, love, joy & peace

The Good Shepherd – John 10:11-15

“Good” in the sense of ________in caring for the sheep and contrasted with the hirelings and evil shepherds

The good shepherd __________His sheep and they know Him, and He lays His life down for them

Other Sheep – John 10:16

God’s blessings on Abraham were always to extend to the __________(Genesis 12:3)

Jesus’ Authority – John 10:17-18

Jesus was not a victim for He was in complete ____________even when dying on the cross

The ability to lay down His life and take it up again ___________Jesus is more than human

Divided Pharisees – John 10:19-21

Jesus’ claim was _________their realm of experience and so some considered Him insane or demonized

Jesus’ __________of the man born blind and His teachings convinced others that He must be from God


Being _________but claiming to see puts you in a worse position because you will not receive any help

Jesus’ sheep are identified by hearing Him and ________________Him

If you are confused, then continue the pursuit of ___________and God will reward you (Hebrews 11:6)

If  you think this is nonsense, then __________yourself before God and plead to have the blindness removed

Jesus is the _________________to the abundant life of being forgiven and walking with God

Jesus ________He is the good shepherd by His death providing redemption and resurrection providing hope

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the words “sheep” and “shepherd” are said. 2) Discuss with your parents what it means that Jesus is the good shepherd.

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the nature of a sheep in terms of intelligence and ability to survive on their own? What was the purpose of a shepherd? What were shepherds like in ancient Israel? What was a sheep pen? What was it used for? How did it work? What is the connection between John 9 and 10? To whom was Jesus talking to? What do the following passages reveal about God as a shepherd: Psalm 23; 79:13; 80:1; Ezekiel 34:11-15; Isaiah 40:11. What warnings are given in the following passages concerning evil shepherds: Ezekiel 34:2-3; Jeremiah 23; Zechariah 17:11. What do the following passages reveal about the Messiah as a shepherd: Numbers 27:16-17; Ezekiel 34:23f; Jeremiah 23:5. What is the importance of Jesus describing Himself as the “door of the sheep”? How did the Pharisees demonstrate themselves to be thieves and robbers? Why is it wrong to claim that the “abundant life” of John 10:10 includes material prosperity and good health? What should we expect as followers of Jesus Christ? Explain. What is the “abundant life” that Jesus is describing? Contrast the Pharisees as shepherds and Jesus as the good shepherd. What is the nature of a hireling compared to a true shepherd? What is the relationship between sheep and their shepherd? What does Jesus reveal about His relationship with the Father in vs. 15? Who are the “other sheep?” How does this affect you? Why would Jesus have to be more than human in order to claim authority to lay down His life and take it up again? Why did this make some of the Pharisees think Jesus was insane or demonized? Why did some of the Pharisees reject that conclusion? Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? What evidence is there that you are one of Jesus’ sheep? If you are confused about Jesus and His claims, what is your plan of action to pursue truth and follow it? What danger faces those that insist Jesus’ claims are nonsense?

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