What did Jesus really say to the Jewish people that caused them to want to crucify Him? People today think Jesus was just misunderstood. They think he only talked about love and peace -- a Ghandi of sorts. But John 10 tells us the real story. Jesus was killed not because he was misunderstood . . . but because he was clearly understood.
Up Close and Personal
One of the warmest, most personal, touching sections in the biography of Jesus Christ appears in the 10th chapter of John's Gospel.
Let's pick up our study at John 10:1. This, by the way, is the last recorded public sermon in John's Gospel. 1. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. 4. When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him becuase they know his voice. 5. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, becuase they do not know the voice of strangers."
Now notice the crowds response. . .6. This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
The translation "figure of speech" comes from an original word which means, "to communicate spiritual truths by a story of illustration."
Now what's interesting is that this original audience understood the symbols Jesus used, but not the spiritual truths. And for us today, it is exactly the reverse - we understand the spiritual truths, but no longer understand the symbols of "shepherd, door and sheep."
So what I want to do this morning is open up, not just Jesus' spiritual truths but reasons why Jesus used the symbols he did.
For us who are unfamiliar with the shepherding scene; we never grew up around shepherds and flocks of sheep - we may think sheep are white and fluffy and go baaaa. . .the shepherd stands around leaning on his staff. . .that's about it.
There are some incredibly wonderful truths wrapped up in the shepherd, sheep relationship and so this morning I am going to tie John 10 together with Psalm 23 to try to uncover some of these gems.
Now in John 10:7, Jesus amplifies and expands his explanation by actually claiming to play the role of two things he mentioned in His story: "Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
Jesus is taking us to an outdoor scene where the shepherd is coralling his sheep for the night. He would make a simple enclosure by piling rocks to make a simple, circular wall. Then, becuase there wasn't any door to this makeshift pen, the shepherd would acutally lie down in the opening and thus become the door. Nothing can come in or out, except by going, as it were, through him. If you want to join the flock, He's the only way in!
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 - "through Him we have access unto the Father."
Look further - 10:8. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
Now the church in every age has had to deal with those who try to crawl over the fence to take over the flock, claiming to be the door. In our age of anxiety and confusion, we're confronting everything from eastern mysticism, spirit channeling, centering, thought control, cultic religions. . .false prophets who promise life, but in the end bring death.
Look down at verse 10. The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life. . ."
There is the obvious implication in Jesus' words to the theiving religous leader of this day.
-The leaders were covetous (Luke 16)
-They took advantage of the poor widows (Mark 12)
-They turned the temple into a den of thieves (Matt. 21)
They had no interest in the well being of the sheep.
The word translated thief in verse 10 is the word kleptes from which we get our word kleptomaniac - that refers to someone who steals cunningly or by stealth. These theifs are not stupid, they are strategic in their planning.
The word "kill" here is a rather sinister word which literally means to "kill for food".
That is, these false religions and leaders give off the appearance of wanting to help the flock but in reality they only want to live off the flock.
I turned on an am station this week and listened to 2/3 unbelievable minutes of a well known radio personality literally begging for money. I just happened to turn on his program when the phones were'nt ringing and he had actually begun to berate his listeners. . ."Where are you out there" he shouted. "I need that ten dollar gift, that 100 dollar gift, that 500 dollar gift. . .don't you people know that I'm fighting the forces of Satan - don't you care enough to call - why arent' those phones ringing - isn't there anybody in the country interested in fighting the good fight?"
I turned it off in disgust - he isn't trying to fight Satan, he's trying to fleece the sheep.
Jesus said, "The false shepherds only want to get, get, get.
The true shepherd and all the genuine undershepherds will want to give, give, give.
There is a vast difference between fleecing the sheep and feeding...
Now before we leave the analogy of the doorway...
Look on to verse 9. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved."
James Montgomery Boice made an interesting point - Had Jesus compared Himself to a wall, we would have to climb over it to be saved - that would be hard work and some of us might not be able to do it. . .If He had compared Himself to a long, dark passageway, we would have to feel along it; some might be afraid to try. But He is not a wall or a passageway. He is a door, and a door can be entered easily and instantly.
Jesus says, "If you enter through me, you will be saved." Modern thinking and religion don't like the word, "saved". Jesus evidently liked it for He uses it here - it literally means, "delivered, safe and sound".
By the way, a door is not only a means of entrance, it's a means of exclusion.
To be on the one side of a closed door means to be separated or cut off from those on the other side.
There is a huge difference between being on the inside and being on the outside.
For now, the door is open and available - like the door leading into the ark of Noah and his family. The invitation existed for decades, "Whosoever will may come". But before the rain began to fall, the Lord shut the door and all those on the outside died and all those on the inside lived.
1) So Jesus is offering the invitation to personal salvation.
And He's saying in effect, I am the true Messiah - the one capable of offering salvation to Israel and the world.
Recently, a large group of Jews gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to celebrate the birthday of their leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson; the man they have been claiming for 40 years to be the true Messiah. The reason Rabbi Schneerson wasn't present at the festivities was becuase this 92 year old man lies paralyed by a second stroke, in a New York hosptial.
One of their leaders said they have believed for 40 years that Schneerson is the messiah, but the rabbi has had to wait for a divine command to reveal himself. Now, he said, they expect him to recover from his stroke, come to Israel, and rebuild the Temple.
The True Shepherd of the sheep has already been slain and ressurrected. . .nearly 2000 years ago.
2) But there's more here. . .he's also offering the joy of personal satisfaction look at verse 9 again, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out. . .
What does it mean, "He will go in and out. . ."
In Jesus day, when an army fought against a city, the city would shut it's massive doors and lock them - you couldn't go in or out becuase the land was not at peace - there was a war going on.
But what happens when you are saved - the war against God stops. And we who were enemies of God, fighting against His control and authority over us ceases and there is peace. Paul has this in mind when he writes, Romans 5:1, "There, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Now notice what the immediate benefit is, John 10:9b. "we shall go in and out and find pasture." That is, we finally can find something to eat that satisfies us...look at verse 10b. "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly."
Our English word "abundance" comes from two Latin word combined. The first latin word means to "rise in waves." The second latin word means "to overflow".
My family and I went to the coast a few weeks ago. We heard the roar of the crashing waves - You've seen the constant wave after wave come rolling onto the shore, you know that you could never hold it back! My children ran into the water and turned their backs on the waves. . .they couldn no more stop the crashing waves than an adult. . .so also, you can never stop the flow - the crashing waves of God's grace. . .now there is an ebb and flow...
Turn to Psalm 23 where David writes, "The Lord is my shepherd" He announces in 1, "Everybody, look who my shepherd is - it's the Lord.
Now it's important to understand what David isn't saying:
"The Lord is my parents shepherd, or my children's shepherd, or my best friends shepherd. . .No, this is personal, it's possessive - The Lord is my shepherd.
It's also present tense! David is not saying, "The Lord will be..."
NO, this is personal salvation.
last part of verse 1 Becuase the Lord is my Shepherd, I will never want, or lack anything I need!"
If you can say, "The Lord is my shepherd, then there will also the joy of personal satisfaction!
Now go back in John 10 Jesus changes the analogy and refers to himself, not as the door, but. . .11. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Notice the difference between a good shepherd and a false shepherd - 12. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the worl coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the worl snatches them, and scatters them. 13. he flees becuase he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.
So far, Jesus has talked about the security of personal salvation; he spoken of the joy of personal satisfaction; now He is announcing (3) the promise of personal safety.
Go back to Psalm 23:2 - He makes me like down in green pastures."
You could translate this "He makes it possible to lie down in green pastures." Why? Becuase a sheep is so timid that as long as there seems to be some threat to his life, he will remain standing -his only recourse if a wolf or lion should appear is to run.
UNLESS! The shepherd is willing to fight and protect. Remember David himself killed a lion and a bear who had come to kill his sheep.
So David says, "I can lie down in green pastures..." Why? Becuase the Lord is my shepherd and He is gauranteeing safety; we can add, "That greater is He that is within me (the shepherd), than he that is within the world (the roaring lion)."
Look down at verse 4 (Ps. 23). Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."
The rod was a short stick, often having bits of rock or metal embedded in the end to do severe damage to invading predators. The staff was a long stick with a crook on the end to pull the straying sheep close to the shepherd.
Now this verse is most often used to provide comfort to those who are dying - certainly, it's true that God is with us when we are experiencing death.
BUT!!! David isn't talking here about dying, he's talking about living.
Look again - you're not dying in the valley - you're walking through the valley!
You don't need the rod and staff for protection when you're dying, you need them when you're living!
So, what's David talking about here.
I'm so glad you asked.
Philip Keller, a former shepherd turned author helps us understand that this verse refers to the movement of the sheep through the valley during the winter months, on their way to the high pasture land where they spend their summer.
The valley is the place of rich pasture and abundant water. It provided protection from the icy winter blasts of the high land.
BUT!!! The valley was also the place of greatest danger. Wild animals luked in the broken canyon walls on either side. Sudden floods could overwhelm them. . .the sun doesn't shine so well into the valleys and there are deep shadows and dark places.
What is the hope of the sheep - well, look again, 4b. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me; Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. . .not the absence of enemies but in the presence of...NOW YOU KNOW that the last thing you can do when you're terrified is eat...
I shared several years ago what I've considered to be the most terrifying moment of my life: we rented a house...heard a crash...light on over the window - to let the burglars see their way in...
NOW I USUALLY STOP AND open the frig! Not then!
Now look back at John 10:14.
I want you to notice (4) the intimate touch of personal supervision. "I am the good shepherd"; (by the way, you ought to underline the ilittle article, "The" "I am the Good Shepherd. He's claiming exclusive right. He is not a good shepherd among many - He is The good shepherd; let's go on - "and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
Jesus says, "I know who my sheep are, and they know me." This is a reference to an intimate knowledge (ginosko) - a personal knowledge that comes from a relationship.
Now with the Lord, the knowledge of his sheep is immediate and complete - He knows our name, our nature, our needs,
For us it is a journey - we're always learning.
Remember men and women when you first got married. Perhaps you dated your wife or husband to be for a month or a year or several years. You were fairly confident that you knew that person well?! Then what happened about 2 or 3 months into your marriage - you threw your hands into the air and asked God the question - "Who in the world is this man - or this woman." How many of you fellas had that experience - if you're smart you won't raise your hand. . .and over lunch today if your wife asks you about it you'll say, "Not me - I never asked God that."
The truth is, I've read Christian counselors and I would have to agree from my own experience, the majority of marital challenges for life are discovered in the first 3 months of marriage. The amount of time you dated before hand really doesn't seem to affect the learning experience that is necessary after marriage.
For those of you who have children, you've begun a life long journey of trying to get to know them. There's always something new! Now with our baby girl there's not a lot to go on - she basically, eats, sleeps and spits up. But we are still learning more and more about our human relationships.
And our relationship with Jesus Christ - Listen to Paul as he passionately shares his desire - "That I may know him, (ginosko - knowledge gained through personal intimacy
Flip back to Psalm 23 verse 5b. "Thou has anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows."
That doesn't mean anything to us - we'd never want someone to pour oil on our heads! BUT it meant everything to sheep!
Sheep, in particular, are plagued by nasal flies and ticks. From what I have read, they will find some rock to scratch their heads on or the trunk of a tree. If they go unaided, the sheep will actually become so distracted that they will cause damage to themselves by constant rubbing, scratching and, as one author said, "If severly afflicted, they will butt their head against a rock or tree trunk, desparate for relief.
The shepherd of Christ's day was constantly on the lookout for troubled sheep. When they noticed a sheep in trouble they would take their staff, pull the sheep close, remove the flask of oil from their belt and gently rub this medicinal substance in and around their ears, eyes and nose. The oil also served as a repellent.
You can imagine the relief and comfort as that one on one experience took place.
There is the larger picture where I am part of the flock, but there is also the intimate picture that Jesus Christ knows your name and whenver He sees you have need of a personal intimate touch - He pulls you close and administers whatever you need.
No wonder David finished this verse "My cup runneth over" - It's as if he said, "It just doesn't get any better than this"
One more thought from John 10. There is the announcement of a: (5) personal substitution
16. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold (there are Gentile who will be saved, not of the fold of the Jewish nation); I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. 17. For this reason the Father loves Me, becuase I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I recieved from My Father.
Jesus wants to make very clear that He will not die as a martyr, killed by men; He will die as a personal substitute for the sins of the whole world.
In the Old Testament, sheep were sacrificed for the sins of the shepherds; at the dawn of this new age of grace, The shepherd was sacrificed for the sins of the sheep.
This past week I read in William Barclays commentary the story of a young French soldier who was terribly wounded during the First World War. His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated. He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he would now have to go through life maimed. So he personally waited beside the soldiers bedside to tell him the bad news. When the young man opened his eyes the surgeon was there and he said to him: "I am so sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm." After a moments of silence, after the news sank in, the young soldier said, "Sir, I did not lose my arm - I gave it - for France."
And so Jesus gave his life - so that he could take it back again and as our shepherd offer us:
Hey everybody, look who my shepherd is? He is the Lord!
Is He yours?!