I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
1. Jesus proclaims Himself to be the good shepherd of His sheep.
2. The Jews are divided over Jesus’ testimony.
3. Jesus teaches in the temple in Jerusalem.
4. The Jews prepare to stone Jesus, but Jesus escapes.
What does this passage teach us?
The chapter we have now begun is closely connected with the preceding one. The parable before us was spoken with direct reference to the blind teachers of the Jewish Church. The Scribes and Pharisees were the people our Lord had in view, when He described the false shepherd. The very men who had just said “We see,” were denounced with holy boldness, as “thieves and robbers.”
We have, for one thing, in these verses, a vivid picture of a false teacher of religion. Our Lord says that he is one who “enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way.”
The “door,” in this sentence, must evidently mean something far more than outward calling and commission. The Jewish teachers, at any rate, were not deficient in this point—they could probably trace up their orders in direct succession to Aaron himself. Ordination is no proof whatever that a man is fit to show others the way to heaven. He may have been regularly set apart by those who have authority to call ministers, and yet all his life may never come near the door, and at last may die nothing better than “a thief and a robber.”
The true sense of the “door” must be sought in our Lord’s own interpretation. It is Christ Himself who is “the door.” The true shepherd of souls is he who enters the ministry with a single eye to Christ, desiring to glorify Christ, doing all in the strength of Christ, preaching Christ’s doctrine, walking in Christ’s steps, and laboring to bring men and women to Christ. The false shepherd of souls is he who enters the ministerial office with little or no thought about Christ, from worldly and self-exalting motives, but from no desire to exalt Jesus, and the great salvation that is in Him. Christ, in one word, is the grand touchstone of the minister of religion. The man who makes much of Christ is a pastor after God’s own heart, whom God delights to honor. The minister who makes little of Christ is one whom God regards as an impostor—as one who has climbed up to his holy office not by the door, but by “some other way.”
The sentence before us is a sorrowful and humbling one. That it condemns the Jewish teachers of our Lord’s time all men can see. There was no “door” in their ministry. They taught nothing rightly about Messiah. They rejected Christ Himself when He appeared—but all men do not see that the sentence condemns thousands of so-called Christian teachers, quite as much as the leaders and teachers of the Jews. Thousands of ordained men in the present day know nothing whatever about Christ, except His name. They have not entered “the door” themselves, and they are unable to show it to others. Well would it be for Christendom if this were more widely known, and more seriously considered! Unconverted ministers are the dry-rot of the Church. “When the blind lead the blind” both must fall into the ditch. If we would know the value of a man’s ministry, we must never fail to ask, where is the Lamb? Where is the Door? Does he bring forward Christ, and give Him His rightful place?
We have, for another thing, in these verses, a peculiar picture of true Christians. Our Lord describes them as sheep who “hear the voice of a true Shepherd and know His voice;” and as “sheep who will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.”
The thing taught in these words is a very curious one and may seem “foolishness” to the world. There is a spiritual instinct in most true believers, which generally enables them to distinguish between true and false teaching. When they hear unsound religious instruction, there is something within them that says, “This is wrong.” When they hear the real truth as it is in Jesus, there is something in their hearts which responds, “This is right.” The careless man of the world may see no difference whatever between minister and minister, sermon and sermon. The poorest sheep of Christ, as a general rule, will “distinguish things that differ,” though he may sometimes be unable to explain why.
Let us beware of despising this spiritual instinct. Whatever a sneering world may please to say, it is one of the peculiar marks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As such, it is specially mentioned by John, when he says, “You have an annointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (1 John 2:20). Let us rather pray for it daily, in order that we may be kept from the influence of false shepherds. To lose all power of distinguishing between bitter and sweet is one of the worst symptoms of bodily disease. To be unable to see any difference between law and gospel, truth and error, Protestantism and Popery, the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of man, is a sure proof that we are yet dead in heart and need conversion.
We have, lastly, in these verses, a most instructive picture of Christ Himself. He utters one of those golden sayings which ought to be dear to all true Christians. They apply to people as well as to ministers. “I am the door—by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” We are all by nature separate and far off from God. Sin, like a great barrier-wall, rises between us and our Maker. The sense of guilt makes us afraid of Him. The sense of His holiness keeps us at a distance from Him.
Born with a heart at enmity with God, we become more and more alienated from Him, by practice, the longer we live. The very first questions in religion that must be answered, are these—“How can I draw near to God? How can I be justified? How can a sinner like me be reconciled to my Maker?”
The Lord Jesus Christ has provided an answer to these mighty questions. By His sacrifice for us on the cross, He has opened a way through the great barrier, and provided pardon and peace for sinners. He has “suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” He has opened a way into the holiest, through His blood, by which we may draw near to God with boldness, and approach God without fear. And now He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. In the highest sense He is “the door.” No one “can come to the Father” but by Him.
Let us take heed that we use this door, and do not merely stand outside looking at it. It is a door free and open to the chief of sinners—“If any man enter in by it, he shall be saved.” It is a door within which we shall find a full and constant supply for every need of our souls. We shall find that we can “go in and out,” and enjoy liberty and peace. The day comes when this door will be shut forever, and men shall strive to enter in, but not be able. Then let us make sure work of our own salvation. Let us not stand tarrying outside and halting between two opinions. Let us enter in and be saved.
1. What are the themes of chapters 1-10?
2. What are the characteristics of a true shepherd of souls?
3. What is characteristic of Christ’s followers according to Jesus’ imagery in this passage?
4. What does it mean that “Christ is the door?”
1. How do we grow in discerning Christ’s voice and distinguishing it from the voice of strangers?
2. Spend some time praying for the elders (the under-shepherds) of your church, asking that the Lord would grow them in grace. Pray that these men would shepherd more like Jesus Christ.