John 10 and A Door of Self-Sacrifice

Posted: March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Reading Jesus can be challenging.  His words require you to dig deep and think hard.  But, when the King of the Universe opens His mouth and speaks, we are wise to listen and seek understanding.

At the moment I am reading through and teaching the Gospel of John on Wednesday nights to our students.  For several months we have been walking through various parts of John.  At times we spend more than one week dealing with the same passage.  Every passage could yield multiple big truths to keep us thinking for weeks, months, and years.  John 10, where we are now, is such as passage.

When you read John 10 you have to realize that chapter 9 runs right into it.  When the New Testament was originally written there were no chapter or verse divisions (the first English Bible to contain numbered verse divisions was the Geneva Bible which was produced by William Whittingham in 1560).  So this section in John is part of one long discourse and scene.  It goes back into chapter 9 and the miracle Jesus performs on the blind man.  But the Pharisee’s reject the miracle and Jesus.  By the end of chapter 9 some of them challenge Jesus with a question about their own ability to see (9:40).  Jesus responds to them in verse 40 and then takes the chance to address the Pharisee’s as shepherds in general.

As chapter 10 opens, Jesus grabs attention by saying “Truly, truly”, (amen, amen).  This calls the hearers to pay close attention to what is about to follow because it is of the upmost importance.  Jesus then begins to tell the Pharisee’s that the true shepherd of the people is the one who comes through the door and not by another way (10:1).  The shepherd comes in by the door and the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd when he calls them (10:2-3).  The sheep follow the shepherd out of the gate “for they know his voice” (10:4).  They will not follow one they do not know.  They will only follow their shepherd.

Now chapter 10 continues in a similar vein all the way to verse 18.  But as early as verse 6 we see that the Pharisee’s did not understand what Jesus was saying (10:6).  He had confused them and they were unable to discern these spiritual matters.  This is not surprising since the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14).  Personally, it took me a number of times through the text to begin to see some things emerge.  And as of now, I still do not have a full grasp on all that is being communicated.  However, there are a couple of things that I want to draw out.

First, the picture of a shepherd coming for his sheep is consistent with what Jesus is coming to do.  He has come to the people of Israel.  The God of Israel is identified as a Shepherd (Ps 23:11) and the promise of a coming Shepherd fills the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 11:2, Jeremiah 31:10, Micah 5:4, etc.).  Jesus has come to Shepherd His people.  He comes to gather His flock to Himself.

This is why Jesus comes the first time.  His incarnation was meant to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) and give His sheep “eternal life” (10:28).  Jesus comes as the Great Shepherd who will be the shepherd to Israel.  The kings who came in the OT were meant to lead, care for, and protect Gods people.  They were to be shepherds.  But each king that ruled over Israel fell short of the ideal.  The OT continued to cast the eyes of God’s people forward as they waited for a king, a shepherd, who would fulfill this role perfectly.  This is the line that Jesus comes in.  Jesus comes and fulfills texts such as Micah 5:4.

“And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.  And they shall be great to the ends of the earth.  And he shall be their peace.”

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jewish people.  They were to be the shepherds of God’s people.  But they fail.  They cared for themselves, looked out for their own interests, and were faithless in terms of their responsibilities.  They did not enter by the door but climbed in another way (John 10:1-2).  Now that needs a little unpacking.

What does Jesus mean that the “shepherd of the sheep” comes in the door while others climb over, or under, the fence?  I take it to mean that the true shepherd comes through the door of self-sacrifice while the false shepherds come in by climbing up the fence of self-exaltation.  Let me explain.

First, the false shepherds.  Remember who Jesus is speaking to.  The Pharisees were to shepherd the Israelite people.  But they had not been faithful to do this.  The religious body at this point was corrupt and self-centered.  They would immediately get the connotations.  They had not come after the sheep through the door.

What door?  Well that takes us back to the true Shepherd…to Jesus Himself.  How does Jesus come for the sheep?  He comes by way of suffering and shame.  He abandons His life so that the sheep may have abundant life (John 10:10).  Jesus comes into the world and the iniquity of us all is laid upon Him (Is 53:6).  He lays down His life for His sheep (10:17).  Jesus does not come in pride and self-service, He comes to serve in humility.  And He serves by enduring humiliation at the hands of His own people.

This is the door that the true Shepherd comes through.  He comes through the door of self-sacrifice.  This is antithetical to how the Pharisee’s wanted to lead the flock of Israel.  They were self-centered and worried about their stature and their own glory.  They were not self-sacrificing servants but were self-centered task masters.

So Jesus tells us some amazing things in these short verses.  He tells us that He has come to gather His sheep.  His sheep hear the Shepherd and follow.  And the door that Jesus comes through to get His sheep is the door of self-sacrifice.  He abandons His life so the sheep can have abundant life (thanks to John Piper for this particular phrase).

And that is the gospel.

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