Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
We really have two distinct sections in this portion. The first five verses constitute a complete parable in themselves, and then in verses 6-16 we have added instruction and a fuller opening up of the truth of the Shepherd character of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is emphatically the Good Shepherd. It is a rather significant thing that the word good here is one that really means “beautiful.” “I am the beautiful Shepherd.” Of course, it refers to beauty of character—the shepherd who is absolutely unselfish and devoted to the will of the Father. He presented Himself to Israel as their Shepherd and this was in accordance with many Old Testament messianic Scripture passages.
In Genesis 49, when by divine inspiration Jacob is speaking of Joseph, he concludes with these words, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel)” (vv. 22-24), that is, the Shepherd is from the mighty God of Jacob. He brings this in here because the experiences that the true Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, was destined to pass through were so nearly akin to those that Joseph had to endure, rejected and spurned as he was, by his own brethren.
Then we have the Messiah spoken of as Jehovah’s Shepherd in Psalm 23, that beautiful gem which we love so much. Somebody has said that it is more loved and less believed than any other portion of Holy Scripture. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We love to repeat the words, but how many believe them? How often we get panicky when the purse is empty and we are out of employment! There is one thing to do, and that is turn to Him and leave all with Him. “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (v. 1).
Then in Psalm 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.” The Shepherd of Israel was God Himself, who was watching over His people and who some day was to come into the world in human form in order to guide them into blessing. Isaiah portrays Him in this way. In Isaiah 40:10-11, “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” This was the prophecy of the coming to this scene of the Lord’s Anointed, Israel’s Messiah.
Then in Jeremiah 31—that great chapter that tells of God’s everlasting interest in His people Israel—in verses 10-11 we read, “Hear the word of the LORD,
0 ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” It was given to Ezekiel to confirm this, when in 34:12-15 he says: “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.”
We might turn to many other passages that depict the Lord as a shepherd— passages that were destined to have their fulfillment in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. So when He stood in the midst of Israel and declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, they should have understood at once, for they were familiar with the Old Testament. These passages had been in their hearts and minds down through the centuries. They were looking for the coming of Jehovah’s Shepherd, and now Jesus appeared and said, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). We noticed sometime ago, when speaking on the “I Ams” of Christ, that that expression is really a definite, divine title. Jesus takes that incommunicable name of God and says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
He puts Himself in contrast with false shepherds who had appeared from time to time: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (vv. 1-2).
1 think these words are generally misapplied or given a wrong application. I do not mean that they are made to teach something that is false, but they are used contrary to what is taught in this particular verse. How often you hear people say, “If anyone tries to get into heaven in some other way than through Christ, he is a thief and a robber.” But that is not what the Lord is speaking about here, at all. It is perfectly true that if you try to enter heaven by some other way than trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be like a thief trying to break into a place to which you have no title, “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
But that is not what the Savior is speaking of here. He is not talking about getting into heaven. Heaven is not the sheepfold. Judaism was the sheepfold. In the half-century before the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ there were many who came pretending to be Messiahs, but they did not come in by the door— that is, according to Scripture. They tried to climb up some other way, and He berated them as thieves and robbers.
Then in contrast, He speaks of Himself: “But He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” He came in exact accord with the prophetic Word. His life was in exact accord with the predictions of Old Testament Scriptures. “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:3). John the Baptist was the porter, who had been sent of God to announce the coming of the Messiah. He told of One whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose. To him Jesus came for baptism. John said, “O Master, I am not worthy to baptize You. I need rather to be baptized by You. You are the Sinless One, and I am baptizing sinners. This is a baptism of repentance, and You have nothing of which to repent.” Jesus said, “John, suffer it to be so now.” And in His baptism He pledged Himself to fulfill every righteous demand of the throne of God, to meet the need of sinners. As He came forth from the waters, a voice from the heavens declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
He had entered in by the door into the sheepfold. The porter had opened the way. And the Spirit of God, descending like a dove, abode upon Him, anointing Him as Messiah. That is what the word Messiah implies, “the Anointed One.” He was anointed that day by the Spirit of God as the true Shepherd of the sheep.
So He entered in by the door, and there were those within the sheepfold who received Him. These were those who were really God’s children. They had opened their hearts already to His truth, and when Jesus came they said, “Why, this is the Savior for whom we have been looking!” “The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name.” He did not intend to leave them forever in the fold of Judaism, but He was to lead them into the liberty of grace and blessing of Christianity. He entered into the Jewish sheepfold to lead His church outside of Judaism into the liberty of grace. “When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (v. 4). This is the supreme test. Somebody says, “Well, I think I am a Christian, but I do not see why Christ had to come into the world and die to save sinners. I do not understand.” That proclaims a very sad fact. It says that you do not really know the Shepherds voice. You have never taken your place before God as a repentant sinner and received Christ in simple faith. Those who do are born again, they receive eternal life and with that new life is linked a new nature which causes them to delight in obedience to His voice. They know Him. They know the Shepherd’s voice. They will not follow a stranger.
And so we are told, “This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them” (v. 6). They could not follow; their eyes were blinded; they did not apprehend the meaning of this beautiful little picture that He presented to them, so He went on to open up things more fully. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (vv. 7-9).
Now He seems to change the figure here. Before He said, “I am the Shepherd, and I entered in by the door.” Now He says, “I am the door.” Is it contradictory? Not at all. You may have heard a little incident told by Dr. Piazzi Smith. On one occasion he saw a shepherd leading his flock up the hill. He led them into the fold and made them comfortable. Then Dr. Smith said, “Do you leave the sheep in this fold all night?” “Yes.” “But aren’t there wild beasts around?” “Yes.” “Won’t they try to get the sheep?” “Yes.” “Well, you have no door here. How can you keep the wild beasts out?” But the Arab shepherd lay down on his side, and as he settled himself in that entry way, he looked up and smiled and said, “I am the door.” You see, no wild beast could enter without awakening him, and no sheep would go out over his body.
So Jesus said, “I am the Door. I am the One through whom My sheep enter into blessing, and I am their guard and their guide.” Then He says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Oh, that is what David meant when he said, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Ps. 23:2). The shepherd takes care of the sheep, guides them to proper pastures, where they are refreshed and fed. So our blessed Lord makes Himself responsible for those who put their trust in Him.
Now in contrast to Himself, there were false teachers and prophets who were only concerned about their own welfare. There have been such all down through the centuries and the Lord spoke of them in very strong language. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came to give eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. And if we are walking in fellowship with God we have that abundant life. A great many Christians have life, but they do not seem to have abundant life. I was in a home lately where there were two children. One was sickly and pale, while the other was so lively that he was a constant annoyance to the little sickly one. As I looked at them I thought, “Well, they are like Christians.” There are a lot of Christians who have life. They have trusted Jesus as Savior, but they do not seem to count much for God—no testimony, no witness. And then there are others who are spiritually exuberant, bearing a great witness for the One who has redeemed them, radiant as they live in fellowship with the Lord.
First, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (v. 11). Then He declares, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (v. 14). You see two sides of truth here. As the Good Shepherd He went to Calvary’s cross and there laid down His life. There “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: … and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). Oh, that wonderful Shepherd!
O Thou great all-gracious Shepherd,
Shedding for us Thy life’s blood,
Unto shame and death delivered,
All to bring us nigh to God.
Because, you see, there was no other way. In Gethsemane He prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39). That is, “If it is possible to save sinners by any other means than by My drinking of the cup of judgment, then make it manifest.” But there was no other way, and so the Good Shepherd went out to die.
But He who died lives again. He lives in glory, and He is the Good Shepherd still. He is called elsewhere the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd. “Our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, … make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever” (Heb. 13:21). But this Great Shepherd is the Good Shepherd still, and He knows His sheep. He says, “I am known of Mine.” Does not that comfort your heart, dear child of God? If I am speaking to somebody who is lying on a sickbed—perhaps some of you have not been able to leave your bed for years, and the temptation would be to feel so utterly forsaken, lonely, tired, and weary of it all—O dear, sick one, remember Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep.” He knows your struggles, disappointments, and the cup you have to drink. He drank a more bitter one Himself.
If in thy path some thorns are found,
Oh, think who bore them on His brow!
If grief thy sorrowing heart hath found,
It reached a holier than thou.
In His deep sympathy He enters into all your trials and shares all your griefs. And then—is it not blessed?—He says, “I…know my sheep, and am known of mine.” And we say again with David, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (v. 15). And, of course, He was speaking primarily of the sheep of the Jewish fold. But in the next verse we read, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (v. 16). The word/?/^ here should really be “flock.” You see, Judaism was a fold, a circumference without a center, but Christianity is a flock, where we have a center without a circumference. We have no wall about us, but we are gathered about Him, our Good Shepherd. Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed our Good Shepherd, and “unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10).