The Gospel of John: A True Shepherd, Part Three.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1-6)

What are some of the characteristics of a true and faithful shepherd? The qualities which a literal shepherd of sheep in ancient and present Israel certainly apply to the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to his followers or disciples. In the immediate aftermath of healing a man born blind in John 9, and the dialogue which followed with the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees, Jesus shared a parable in John 10:1-21 regarding a typical or faithful shepherd and his relationship to his sheep. One of the most significant characteristics of the shepherd was being a guardian and protector of the sheep.

First, true shepherd enters by the gate to the sheepfold and not by another way, as would a thief or a robber. Jesus said, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.” Jesus is the true shepherd of believing sinners.

Second, the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” We follow and hear the voice of the Lord when we obey His Word.

Third, the shepherd knows each sheep by name. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” It is commonly said that shepherds customarily knew each of their sheep by name. In the Old Testament, God called his special ones, his closest servants, “by name” (Exodus 33:12, 17; cf. Isaiah 43:1).”

Fourth, the shepherds leads (Numbers 27:15-17; 2 Samuel 5:1-2) the sheep by being in front of the sheep rather than driving the sheep from behind. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

What is true of literal shepherds is also true of our spiritual shepherd: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true Shepherd and Savior of our souls. His voice, or word, we are to follow and obey. He knows each of us by name as indicative of a personal Lord and Savior. Jesus also leads us and we are called by God to follow Him.

How ironic that the religious leaders display that Jesus is not their shepherd, and they conversely are not His sheep, by the Apostle John’s comment in John 10:6: “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

Pastor Burk Parsons concludes by explaining that, “The full biblical picture the Lord paints for us is that of a Shepherd-Warrior who cares for His sheep, lovingly disciplines His sheep, rescues His sheep, and protects His sheep from themselves and from their enemies. This is why Jesus calls Himself the Great Shepherd, and He does not drive His sheep with a whip from behind but calls His sheep by name and leads them into green pastures. For He is the author, the pioneer, and the captain of our faith who goes before us, even laying down His life for His sheep, and He is the finisher of our faith who protects and preserves us to the end.”

The hymn, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, is most appropriate to remember at this time. Based on John 10:2-4, it was written in 1836 by Dorothy A. Thrupp.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and pow’r to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.

Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

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