Jesus was a great teacher, and that’s why He used so many comparisons when He taught. In today’s reading He compared Himself to a gate and a shepherd. Unlike many of us, the people Jesus taught knew all about sheep and shepherds, however, they didn’t initially understand the spiritual truths Jesus was trying to convey. So He explained.
Sheep, like other livestock, are usually confined within fences or walls when they’re not grazing in open pasture. Regardless of what confines them, there must be a gate to let them as well as the shepherd in or out.
Jesus said that He was like the gate to the sheepfold. Those who believe in Him are, of course, the sheep. The only legitimate way to be a part of the sheepfold, or to be a part of God’s true church and kingdom, is to enter through Jesus, believing in Him. Some try to enter without going through Jesus, but that proves they really don’t belong among the sheep. They have an evil motive, usually to harm the sheep and get something for themselves. For example, a thief might climb over a wall to steal a sheep.
Not only is Jesus the gate, He is also the shepherd. When a shepherd wants to lead his sheep out to graze, he comes through the gate and calls his sheep. Even if his sheep are mixed with another flock, only his sheep will follow him out of the gate. Sheep won’t be deceived into following another shepherd because they recognize their shepherd’s voice. They know to whom they belong.
Jesus is like the shepherd who is calling His sheep. Many sheep may hear His voice, but only those who are His, those who believe in Him and love Him, will come out from among the other sheep and follow Him, obeying Him. That is how true Christians are known—they follow Jesus when others don’t. When false prophets and false teachers call out to the masses of sheep, leading many astray, true Christians aren’t deceived because they know their shepherd and they know what He’s said.
Jesus is not comparable to just any shepherd. He’s a good shepherd who is devoted to His own sheep. In fact, He was willing to die for His sheep. He knows them and they know Him. He leads them to green pastures where there is abundant food. He wants them to enjoy His blessings. He cares about each one. There is no better shepherd than Jesus!
Q. Jesus talked about having other sheep that were not “in this sheepfold” (John 10:16), promising to bring them also into His flock. About whom was He talking?
A. Most likely, He was speaking of the Gentiles who would be saved and brought into His kingdom as equal citizens with Jewish believers.
Q. Jesus made it plain that no one could take His life from Him, but that He laid down His life voluntarily. Why is this so important for us to know?
A. Because we otherwise might be tempted to think that Jesus’ death was involuntary. That is, we might think He had no choice but to die, having been the victim of unfortunate circumstances. If that were the case, then it couldn’t be said that Jesus died for our sins according to the preordained plan of God. He would have died just like any other martyr.
Application: David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need” (Psalm 23:1). Before we know Him as Shepherd, we have to know Him as Lord, just like David did. Sheep look to their shepherd, not just as someone to take care of them and lead them, but also as someone to obey and follow. Wandering sheep don’t have a shepherd!