This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
As we have seen in other parts of our study of John, chapter 10 of this book does not stand alone. It is a continuation of what we learned in chapter 9. In chapter 9, a man born in blindness sees the truth better than those raised and well learned in the scriptures. Undoubtedly, this message from Jesus infuriated the religious leadership class in Jerusalem, but He did not stop there. In His teaching on the Good Shepherd in chapter 10, Jesus explains that there is a right way to approach the good shepherd and a wrong way. The healed blind man in chapter 9 represented the right way, while the religious leaders represented the wrong way. We do not get to call the shots. We must approach Him correctly or miss Him entirely.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. John 10:1 (NKJV)
There is a level of exclusivity when it comes to following Jesus. Later in the gospel of John, we will find Him explaining that “No man comes to the Father except through Me.” The pathway to Christ and with Christ is not a free for all. There is a correct pathway to Him, and those who think they can impose their own rules, standards, priorities, and perspectives upon that pathway are fooling themselves.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)
The religious leaders believed they had a right to access God based upon their knowledge of scripture. I cannot think of better credentials to offer than that. But Jesus confounded them and, in fact, angered them to the point they were trying to kill Him (verses 31-39) when He explained that anyone who tried to find God separate from the specific pathway defined by Him was a thief and a robber.
Conversely, those who approach God through the pathways He has ordained find safety, security, and fulfillment for life.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 (NKJV)
Jesus defined Himself in this passage as both the door for those who seek to follow God and the
Good Shepherd. He is the way and the destination. Knowing Him is key to understanding the right way to approach God.
An Inner Knowing
Although the way of Christ is narrow and sometimes difficult, it is not hidden from those who seek to follow the truth. There is an inner knowing that hears and knows the voice of the one we should follow even if we do not understand the why and the how of the voice that draws us.
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10:3-4 (NKJV)
This is a critical point to grasp for those of us who seek to follow Christ and know the Father. We are not guaranteed all the answers. The sheep follow because there is a familiarity with the shepherd’s presence. That familiarity resides at a level of their core instincts. They know Him. They don’t know His name. They don’t know His family. They are not familiar with His training. But a sheep follows the shepherd because a deep internal instinct instructs them that this is where they will find food and safety.
Likewise, we do not have to understand everything of the ways of God in making our decision to follow the sound of His voice that sparks our deep internal knowing. It has never been and never will be about our level of head knowledge. That inner awareness of the voice of the Good Shepherd is what draws us to Him, and it is what causes us to grow in Him.
Do not minimize the internal knowing of the Good Shepherd’s voice that first drew you to Him. It may seem like a small thing to us. We may want to add knowledge, understanding, experience, and good works to it. But remember, many wise men missed the inner knowing that qualified you to follow Him when they chose a different direction.
A Lack of Self Interest
A distinguishing attribute of the Good Shepherd compared to all false shepherds of this world is the lack of self-interest.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. John 10:11-12 (NKJV)
Many people and voices in this world claim to represent our interests. From politicians to religious leaders, they promise security, prosperity, and a better way of life. However, only the Good Shepherd is willing to lay down His life for us. This lack of self-interest means He does not abandon us when times are tough. He deliberately lays down His life for us.
That posture of self-sacrifice is inherent to the Good Shepherd. He came to us specifically to lay down His life for us. He is, therefore, worthy of our trust.
He Knows Us
Further, not only does the Good Shepherd lay down His interests on our behalf, but He knows us by name.
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know 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 will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:14-16 (NKJV)
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. John 10:27-29 (NKJV)
Since Adam was banished from the garden, mankind, you and I, have been searching for a sense of value, to be known, to be of worth to someone ever since. The Good Shepherd knows our name. He knows our value. He cares for us and makes us His own. When we find the Good Shepherd, we find the fulfillment of that desire to be known and significant again.