About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The  Shepherd And His Flock  (ch. 10:1-21)


The first words we see in chapter 10 are, "I tell you the truth" (NIV) or, "verily verily I say unto you" (KJV) are translated from the Greek text, "amen amen."  The word "amen" is actually a Hebrew word, not a Greek word.  The Greek text simply transliterated it from the Hebrew. "Amen" means, faithful, true, trustworthy, or something like that.  In Greek, a sentence never begins with the word "amen", but, as we've seen in John's gospel, over and over again Jesus defies Greek grammar by opening a statement with "amen amen."   It is thus clear that He does so to emphasize a point.         


In chapter 10 Jesus gives an analogy to help make a point.  Remember He is speaking to a variety of people, including His disciples, the Pharisees, and by-standers.  Jesus speaks of a fenced area (sheep pen in NIV) where sheep are kept for the night.  There is only one way into this fenced area and that is a door or a gate.  Outside the gate is a guard or gate keeper.  Shepherds come to the gate keeper in the morning, are let into the sheep pen and call their own sheep by name.  As they are called, the sheep of that particular shepherd comes out to follow their shepherd.   


In verse 1 Jesus says that there are some that try to climb the fence and get at the sheep at night to lead the sheep astray.  He calls these men thieves and robbers.  They are not the real shepherds of the sheep.  They only climb over the fence to steel sheep.


In verse 2 Jesus says that there is a true shepherd of the sheep.  The Greek word translated as "shepherd" here is the word "poimen."  We see this in a number of places in the New Testament in reference to pastors of the church.  We note that God Himself is the ultimate shepherd as seen in Psalm 23:1.      


This is the analogy we have here in John 10.  We have a fenced yard for sheep to spend the night.  We have one door to the yard, and, we have a doorkeeper who lets the shepherd of the sheep into the yard. 


In verse 3 the true shepherd is let into the sheep pen in the morning.  He calls his sheep.  Since his sheep know his voice they follow him out to pasture for the day.


Verse 4 tells us that as the sheep are being led out to the pasture, they follow their shepherd because they know his voice.


In verse 5 Jesus says that the sheep will never follow the voice of a stranger because they do not know His



In verse 6 John states that this was merely a figure of speech but it was not understood by those listening to Him.    


There is a lot to be learned in this analogy.  As Christians, we know what Jesus was saying.  Real Christians both know and hear the voice of Jesus.  We follow Jesus, not some other shepherd.  If you understand Biblical prophecy from a Prophetic Futurist view, you'll probably agree that in the last days many will depart from the faith and follow a false teachers voice.  I believe that is happening in the western world today as I write these words. 


The spiritually blind Pharisees don’t seem to catch on to what Jesus is saying so He clarifies it for them.  In verse 7 Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep."  This is interesting.  The gate, or the door, has multiple uses.  It would keep many robbers out, or at least should.  Thus the door was to help protect the sheep.  The door was also a place of entrance for the real shepherd.


Here in John 10 we see that Jesus is both the door to the sheep pen and He is also the shepherd of the sheep.  This is where the analogy of the sheep pen breaks down.  In human terms being the door and the shepherd makes no sense, but we're not speaking in human terms here.  


In verse 8 Jesus says, "All that ever came before me were thieves and robbers."  What does this mean?  Jesus, who was the door to God’s sheep pen, ha been approached by many over the years claiming to be true shepherds, but were not.  They were thieves and robbers.  The question should be asked; "Who then are the thieves and robbers?  They were the false shepherds that led Israelis in Old Testament times, which would include the very Pharisees Jesus was addressing here in chapter 10.   


Verse 8 also states that the sheep did not listen to these false shepherds.  A quick reading of the Old Testament clearly shows that most Israelis followed the leadership of these false teachers, false prophets, and false shepherds.  So what is Jesus saying here then?  The sheep Jesus is talking about here are real sheep, not false sheep.  The real believers in Old Testament Israel did obey and follow their God, although they were few and far between.   


In verse 9 Jesus states once again that He is the gate.  In other words, in order to be counted among God's true sheep, His true believers, you must go through Jesus.  This is basic to Christian teaching.  There is only one way to God and only one way into the community of God's people and that is through Jesus and Jesus alone.  There is no other way as many are preaching today.   


In verse 10 Jesus says that these false shepherds came to "kill, steel, and destroy."  They came to steel the true sheep away from God.  If they could pull this off, they’d eventually destroy them, leading them to their death. All three of these attributes of the false shepherds can be attributed to the devil, as we see throughout the Bible.  So, in reality, these false teachers are satanic, thus affirming what Jesus said earlier in chapter e that the Pharisees real father was not Abraham but the devil.    


We have to admit that these imposter shepherds were not only in the Jewish system.  We have similar imposters in today’s world of the church.  They try to draw men after themselves to promote their own self interest.  As the days of the end drawer nearer the more false teachers will inflict God's people.  


In verse 10 Jesus distinguished Himself from the robbers by saying that He gives life, even "abundant life" to the sheep, just the opposite to the robber. I think we’ve often misunderstood these words of Jesus.  I don’t believe He is speaking of materialism here as so many Prosperity Gospel teachers preach today.  He is speaking of spiritual life.  If He was speaking of material prosperity here we would have a serious problem.  The Apostle Paul would have been out of the will of God because he was not materially rich.  In fact much of his post conversion life was spent in rat infested prison cells.  As a matter of fact, much of the first century Christians were poor. It's simply bad hermeneutics to suggest that Jesus was talking about material blessing here.    


In verse 11 Jesus gives
additional information to His analogy.  Not only is He the gate to the fenced yard, but He is the Good Shepherd.  Note that He is not "a" Good Shepherd, but "the" Good Shepherd.  This put Him high above all other shepherds, either in Israel of old or the church today. 


I often hear pastors speak of "their flock."  This statement and the thinking behind the statement are utterly unbiblical.  Pastors do not have their own flock.  The flock belongs to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Supreme Shepherd.  Earthly pastors have been appointed to care for, and I emphasize "care for," Jesus' flock.  That is a tremendous responsibility.         


In verse 12 Jesus makes it very clear that the sheep belong to Him and Him alone.  He speaks of the "hired hand."  The hired hands are those earthly shepherds who are to care for His flock, but not all care for His flock in the way Jesus would like.  Some actually skip out of town and run off when things get tough, or as Jesus says here, when the wolf comes to devour the sheep.  I dare say we have some pastors like that today.  They are good weather pastors.  When the bad weather comes on the horizon, they leave the flock they are to care for.   


We are introduced to the wolf in verse12.  We have often heard the term "a wolf in sheep's clothing."  This is what Jesus is talking about here.  We have many wolves in sheep's clothing today in the church.  They are pastors, teachers, and prophets, who are not of God and are leading many astray.  There is something to be learned here.  Good Christian leaders must expose these false leaders.  If they don't, the blood of the church will be on their hands.  God judges leaders more harshly than He judges those being led.  That's just a simple Biblical truth.  Woe to the leaders today who do not protect Jesus' sheep from these wolves.        


Let me put it this way.  If a friend of yours asks you to child sit his five year old boy, you would do so with the utmost care.  I'm sure you would.  That is the way a pastor should care for Jesus' flock.  You would certainly protect the boy from all harm, and so should the pastor today, but that's not always the case today because being a pastor for many is a job and not a calling from God.  As one moves from job to job today, the typical pastoral thing to do is to move from one church to another church these days with little thought for God's flock he is leaving.  Being a pastor is not about the pastor. It's about God's flock.   


Concerning verse 10 and following I now insert an article I wrote to explain the meaning of "abundant life", or, "life to the full" as the NIV puts it.   


In John 10:10 Jesus said the "thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."  In context, "the thief" is those individual Jewish religious leaders who sucked the life out of God's people with an unbiblical and hypocritical rabbinical legalism.  In contrast to these life suckers who robbed the people of their godly inheritance, Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."  The words "life to the full," or "life more abundantly," as the KJV puts it, are often misunderstood to mean an abundance of material wealth, physical health, and social happiness.    


In John 10 Jesus portrays Himself as the shepherd of His sheep.  The word "they" in "I have come that they might have life" refers to His sheep who hear and follow the sound of His voice.  They are real sheep, not false sheep.      


When Jesus said "I have come," the verb "have come" is translated from the aorist active indicative Greek verb "erchomai."  An aorist verb denotes an action that has been completed.  In this verse, the action that has been completed is the coming of Jesus.  Active means that Jesus alone has come.  Indicative means that He in fact did come, and for specific reasons. This verb emphasizes the fact that in no uncertain terms Jesus had once and for all time come to earth for specific reasons, one of which He addressed here.


The Greek word "perissos" is translated as "to the full" in the NIV or "more abundantly" in the KJV.  "Perissos" means "in exceeding measure, or above the ordinary."  So, the full life Jesus offered upon His coming to earth is above and beyond any kind of life that is humanly possible to obtain.  Anything that is attainable by human effort, like the so-called material good life of the western world, isn't the abundant life Jesus was talking about.      


Jesus said that He came so that "they may have life and have it to the full."  The word "have" that is used twice here is translated from the Greek present active subjunctive verb "echo."  This type of verb denotes a continuous action.  It means that the full abundant life is always with the true believer.  It doesn't come or go.  It's not a one time thing. 


This is what we've learned so far.  In contrast to an apostate religious system that sucks the life out of people, Jesus came to offer us a full life that is beyond human ability to obtain.  This life is available to those who hear and obey His voice.  Now let's see what this abundant life is. 


Imagine you're the Apostle Peter who has just heard Jesus tell you that you could have abundant life.  You might be overjoyed, thinking that your fishing business will become a Fortune Five Hundred Corporation.  If you were Simon the zealot, happiness might flood your soul because you think Israel would finally be free from Roman domination without you dying by the sword in the process.  Obviously, abundant life means different things to different people, but it's irrelevant what Peter, Simon, or you and I, think it is.  What's relevant is what Jesus thinks abundant life is since He is the one offering it to us.       


If the disciples understood abundant life to be a life of wealth, health, and happiness, then they would have been disappointed to the point of giving up on Jesus.  For the most part, they never experienced such a life.  They suffered greatly for following the voice of their shepherd.  Some were poverty stricken.  Others were imprisoned, beaten, and executed.  To put it mildly, life for a first century follower of Jesus was very difficult.  If Jesus had promised these disciples the so-called good life, then He deceived them or couldn't fulfill His promise, neither of which was possible for the Son of God.  It's thus clear to me that our western style good life is not what Jesus had in mind when He promised abundant life.  That's simple logic.       


I'm not saying that Jesus would never provide a measure of wealth, health, or happiness, because He can and He has.  I'm saying that those who teach a Prosperity Gospel, as it is called today, should realize that what they teach is not what Jesus promised in John 10:10.  If you read the book of Acts and see the lives of those who lived their lives to the full you'll notice that material wealth, physical health, or outward happiness, often eluded them.  Look at Stephen.  He was a man of great faith and Holy Spirit power.  He experienced life to the full when he fell to the ground in a pool of his own blood.  As rocks were being hurled at his head he glanced upward and saw Jesus standing in heaven, and I suggest with open arms.  Abundant life for Stephen at that exact moment was the anticipation of receiving a huge bear hug from Jesus as he departed this life.  


Here's my amplified paraphrase of John 10:10.  "Hypocritical religious leaders steel, kill, and destroy the life of God from God's people.  I, (Jesus) in no uncertain terms, have once and for all time come to offer you a life that will be continually full of the Holy Spirit, and of meaning and purpose; a life that places you into eternity even as you live in this present mortal world." 


There's no dispute that the Apostle Paul was one very powerful man of God.  He suffered much for his association with Jesus.  On one occasion he said that even though our outward bodies are perishing, our inner nature is experiencing a full life. (2 Corinthians 4:16)  The Abundant life has little to do with the things of this world.  It has everything to do with the things of heaven.  Life to the full has little to do with self seeking pleasure and more to do with serving Jesus and those to whom He has called you.  


I now return to my commentary on John 10.  


Verse 13 says that the hired hand runs away because "he cares nothing for the sheep."  This means that he is simply doing the job for the money.  Again, it is sad to say but there are some church leaders in today’s world that do the same.  Being a pastor is a career choice, not a calling for many today.  Of course, the specific people Jesus had in mind here were not our modern day pastors but the Pharisees of His day and those LEADERS in Old Testament times.   


In verse 14 Jesus once again says that He is the Good Shepherd and that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him.  Of all the people who claim to be a part of what the modern western world calls church, not all are Jesus' sheep, just as not all Israelis who heard Jesus speak belonged to Jesus back then.


Real sheep of Jesus should know Jesus, at least in some limited way.  This is the foundation to the Evangelical Christian message.  It's about knowing Jesus, not knowing about Jesus.     


In verse 15 Jesus brings His Father into the conversation.  He says that just as He knows the Father so those belonging to Him know Him.  Now this is one powerful statement.  Do we really believe we can know Jesus as Jesus knows the Father?  That is a tall order.  I would dare say that very few, if any of us, knows Jesus as Jesus knows God.  That being said, I'm sure we can know Him much more than we presently do, and, I'm sure we will know Jesus much better in the next life.  Until then, it is our responsibility to draw closer to Jesus and get to know Him better each day that passes.  


Also in verse 15 Jesus states that He lays down His life for His sheep. Jesus does whatever is necessary to protect and care for His sheep even if it costs Him His life, which it did.  This is the example for all earthly shepherds to follow today.  A pastor is first and foremost a servant.  He is not a CEO and the church is not his corporation.    


In verse 16 Jesus says that He has other sheep that are not of this sheep pen that He needs to include into His sheep pen.  Who are these other sheep?  Some people today suggest that Jesus has other sheep, meaning, Muslims, Mormons, and all sorts of other religious groups of people.  Jesus is not saying that. 


God has always had only one fenced yard, or, one community of His people.  In Old Testament days this family, this community, was seen in the children of Abraham, Israel.  Even in Old Testament times Gentiles could convert to Judaism if they were willing to embrace and follow the Law of Moses.  Still, there always has been  only one people of God, not two.


Paul makes it clear.  To be a true son of Abraham and part of the community of God now, you had to be a person of faith, that is, trusting in God.  This is what the book of Romans is all about.  This is what Jesus is speaking about here.  There is only one sheep pen, but there are many others that will become a part of this pen that the Pharisees don’t know about or wouldn’t accept anyway.  Simply put, New Testament Gentile Christians are the other sheep that Jesus is talking about here. 


Jesus says that they too will listen to my voice, as in, future tense.  The Gentiles that will come into God’s community of people as seen in the book of Acts will truly be His sheep who hear the voice of Jesus.  That includes you and I today, assuming you are a genuine Christian.    


Those believing in  Replacemet
say the church
 has replaced Israel in the
 mind of God and in terms of prophetic history.  They say Israel lost its special significance when it rejected Jesus.  Those holding to this view reinterpret all Old Testament passages directed to Israel to be directed towards the church.  I do not believe in Replacement Theology because the promises made to Abraham, that we call the Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional.  Israel will have a great future as God promised Abraham, but until that day comes, there is one people of God who consist of both Jewish and Gentile believers.         


In verse 17 Jesus says that the reason why the Father loves Jesus is because He lays down His life, only to take it up again.  Taking His life up again refers to His resurrection.  This was the sole purpose of Jesus coming to earth, that is, to lay down His life in death and His Father is pleased with Him for doing so.


Laying down of one’s life should be the mentality of any church leader; really, of any Christian.  Church leaders should not be superstars but servants.  All Christians are servants.  We are to follow Jesus' example of life while He was on earth.  Some suggest that in this present age we are kings, but that is not so.  We are servants.  We will be kings when the King of all Kings returns to earth to rule.  Until then we are servants.   


Jesus goes on to say that "no one takes it from me."  No one would or could to take Jesus life, not even Pilate.  He would lay it down of His own accord.  The Jews and the Romans may have actually did the killing of Jesus, but in the long run, that could not have happened if Jesus did not agree to it.  Jesus told Pilate that he had no power or authority over Him except that that which God gave him (John 19:11).  Pilate was a tool in the hands of God.


Jesus says that He had authority to lay His life down and to take it up.  God did not send Jesus to earth without any kind of power or authority.  1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that Jesus is Lard and has the final authority over all things until the time comes when all things are under His feet.  When this happens Jesus will hand all things, including Himself, over to His Father.


This section ends in verses 19 through 21 with a divided Jewish leadership.  Some say Jesus is demon-possessed, while others question how one with demons could heal a blind man.  As is always the case when Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders, His very presence divided them.  That's what Jesus does.  He divides people. They are either for Him or against Him.

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