Fourth Sunday of Easter (A) April 13, 2008
The Life-Giving Shepherd (John 10:1-10)
The text before us must be seen in its larger context as a continuation of chapter nine. Against that backdrop of the analogy of the shepherd and his sheep, Jesus explained to the Pharisees that He was the way to life, to God , and to salvation. He emphasized the exclusivity of the way to salvation.
Notice the figures of speech in the text:
The fold, the door, the doorkeeper, the thief, the sheep, the shepherd, the hireling, and the wolf. Each of these figures contrasts the reality of Christ as the good shepherd to the hypocritical religious leaders of His day.
Today we live in a pluralistic culture. We live in a culture that doesn’t easily distinguish between the hireling and the true shepherd or the wolf and the sheep. Our culture, just as the one Jesus was addressing, is marked by spiritual blindness and spiritual death. And, like Jesus we must confidently and courageously present the gospel to our world.
The words of Jesus in John 14:6 are still true today: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
I. A Picture of the Good Shepherd (vv.1-10)
The backdrop against which the entire passage is written is that of the shepherd and his sheep. Few images could better express the relationship between our Lord and His people than that of Shepherd and sheep. It is an image introduced to us in the Old Testament and then is beautifully fulfilled in the life of Christ in the New Testament. Notice how the picture develops in the text:
a) He is the shepherd (vv. 1-4). Jesus is the shepherd. Twenty-first century, western world Christians may have difficulty wrapping their minds around the beauty and the power of this metaphor, but in the mind of the first century Jew the imagery danced with meaning. The ancient Jew knew the exactly what it meant to be a shepherd. They saw a person of care and love and intimacy and courage and protection and provision.
b) He is the door (vv. 1 & 7). Kent Hughes records the account of a conversation between G. Campbell Morgan, the great preacher and Sir George Adam Smith, world renowned Old Testament scholar, in which Smith told Morgan of his travels in the Holy Land: “Smith was one day traveling with a guide, and came across a shepherd and his sheep. He fell into conversation with him. The man showed him the fold into which the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls, with a way in. Sir George said to him, ‘That is where they go at night?’ ‘Yes’, said the shepherd, ‘and when they are in there they are perfectly safe.’ ‘But where is the door?’ asked Sir George. ‘I am the door,’ said the shepherd. ‘What do you mean by the door?’ Said the shepherd, ‘When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in the open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf ever comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door.’1”
c) He is the doorkeeper (v. 3). The good shepherd watches over his sheep and they are safe. The Good Shepherd watches over our souls and we are safe.
II. The Person of the Good Shepherd (vv. 3-8)
a) The good shepherd knows his sheep (v.3). He knows each sheep personally. He calls each one by name. F.B. Meyer reminds us that, “The Eastern shepherd knows all the particulars of each of his sheep; its genealogy, defects, temper, and tastes, and embodies some one of these in the name he gives it. Thus did the Father know all about the one Lamb which stood in so peculiar a relationship to Himself.”
b) The good shepherd cares for his sheep (v. 5). The care of the good shepherd for his sheep is demonstrated in his protection of them and his provision for them. They are protected against the threat of death and provided an abundant life.
III. The Purpose of the Good Shepherd (vv. 9-10)
a) The good shepherd’s purpose is seen in Salvation (v. 9). Those who enter by Him will be saved. There will be the fulfillment of his purpose in eternal life.
b) The good shepherd’s purpose is seen in Abundant Life (v.10). The good shepherd came that we might have not only salvation and eternal life, but abundant life and a satisfied life. Do you have the life offered by and provided by the Good Shepherd? It can be yours today if only you will receive it.
1 R. Kent Hughes, John, That You May Believe (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), p. 267