So, with getting into John chapter 10 today, we’re looking at another of Jesus’ “I Am” statements. Specifically, “I Am the Good Shepherd.” There’s a lot that goes into what it means that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but one of the most important implications of Jesus being the Good Shepherd is that he is the one we listen to and follow. If he is the one who is guiding us like a shepherd, then his voice is the one that we recognize and trust! But, even as Christians who know the Good Shepherd, we struggle with listening to other voices at times, don’t we? We all struggle with this, at least at times.
Instead of listening to the voice of Jesus, and following His teaching, which we find in God’s Word, we listen to other voices. So, what are some of these other voices that we might listen to?
- Our feelings might be one. It is very easy and tempting to listen to our feelings over listening to the voice of Jesus! If you feel good about it, it must be good. Right? Not so much! You can feel good about sin, but that doesn’t make it right. Or even, perhaps a more common one: Do you feel at peace about it, in your heart? Whatever it is! Again, letting your feelings be your guide, your shepherd, can lead you into some messy situations! We know from Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all else. So you can feel peace about something that is not actually what God may want! Think about the Apostle Paul: Do we think Paul felt peace about going to prison and being flogged repeatedly? I doubt it! So, certainly, feelings can be the voice we listen to over the voice of Jesus. Another one:
- What people think of us. We may not want to admit it, but what people think of us matters far too much to us. Some of you may not struggle with this; maybe you truly don’t care what people think. But most of us care deeply. We want to be liked, we want to be impressive, we want someone to be proud of us. And so we listen to this voice in our head that constantly asks the question, “What’s he going to think? What’s she going to think?” Instead of listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
- There are certainly innumerable other examples of voices we can listen to over the voice of Jesus: man-centered advice and popular thinking in pop-culture like Dr. Phil or Oprah, our own logic, whatever makes sense to us. It’s so easy to trust in our own voice and thinking over the voice of Jesus. We could go on and on and on with the different voices in this world trying to get our attention.
My goal this morning is that we wake up to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. That we leave this place so honed in to the voice of Jesus as the only voice worth listening to. Especially if you are a Christian, if you’ve trusted in Jesus alone for salvation, you know the Good Shepherd! And yet, we so often struggle with these other voices! Taking them to heart over the voice of Jesus. So, let’s read about the Good Shepherd. John chapter 10, the first 21 verses. John 10:1-21.
“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. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
So, what makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? What makes Jesus worth listening to and following over other voices? Four things, summarized from this text. Number One:
- He, unlike others, speaks with the authority of God (1-9).
That seems like a pretty good reason to listen to his voice, right?! He has the authority of God. Notice that when Jesus starts speaking, it’s still coming off the heels of clashing with the Pharisees in chapter 9. They didn’t like that he had healed the blind man on the Sabbath, and it ended up that Jesus started calling them blind, the Pharisees, even though they sure thought they could see! So, already we have some pretty blatant clashing between Jesus and the Pharisees. We saw that last week.
So Jesus uses two figures of speech in these first nine verses to compare himself with all these other voices trying to influence his sheep! He first tells them that he enters the sheepfold through the gate, unlike these thieves and robbers who try and into the sheepfold by climbing in another way. A sheepfold was basically a big pen of sorts where a few families would keep all their sheep. So, he’s saying, I enter by the door, because I’m the shepherd. Verse 3: To the shepherd “the gatekeeper opens.”
What’s he getting at? He’s saying I’m the only legitimate shepherd! Others may try and sneak in like these Pharisees who want to take you back to the Law, but I am the shepherd who has come from God himself. I go to the gate, and the gatekeeper opens for me! I don’t have to sneak around, why? Because I have the authority of the owner! The gatekeeper knows that I’m sent by the owner, and so he lets me in. That’s what Jesus is getting at here.
So, Jesus has the authority of God, the authority of the owner, which means he is the True, legitimate, Good Shepherd. And note what this Good Shepherd does. Look at verses 3 and 4, and to me, this is just beautiful: “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.” Do you see how beautiful this is? This Shepherd is a personal shepherd, who knows us inside and out, faults and all, and yet calls us by name! He calls you by name, then brings you out and leads you. And we recognize his voice because it’s the sweet voice of our personal shepherd who loves us. And his voice is sweet because this shepherd is the one who has enabled me to become a child of God.
If there’s one thing we need to hear this morning, this might be it: In Christ—if you have turned from your sin and believed upon Jesus— NO OTHER VOICE IN THE UNIVERSE has the authority to claim for you any identity other than CHILD OF GOD! This Shepherd, who has the authority of God, calls you by name and leads you out. What a sweet, sweet voice this is, the voice of Jesus. He knows me. He knows my name. He knows my faults and sin and shortcomings, and yet he leads me. As Jesus explains, we FLEE any other voice! At least I sure hope we do! No other voice is both this sweet and has this kind of authority.
Now, these Pharisees who were listening, apparently, they did not belong to Jesus. They didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. They didn’t recognize the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. And so Jesus goes on to use a second figure of speech to describe himself. Now, he just says, “You know what, I am the door!” The only way to salvation is by me! In other words, to us, his sheep who belong to him, we know that Jesus has made us his sheep. He has made part of the people of God. But to these Pharisees especially, he wants them to know: I am the door! I am the only way to become part of the people of God! I’m the only way into the sheepfold.
So now, it seems like he’s using the sheepfold in a different way. In verses 1-5, it seems like the sheepfold is Pharisaic Judaism, the Law, and he’s leading his sheep out of that. Now, he’s switching metaphors altogether and saying, I’m the door to get into the good sheepfold, the sheepfold of the people of God. He’s saying to the Pharisees: You may think that by following the law you are the people of God, but the truth is that I am the only way. I am the one with the authority to take people in and out. I am the door that opens and closes.
Again, with these voices we struggle in listening to over the voice of Jesus: Jesus, unlike all these others, speaks with the authority of God. All these other voices may claim to have authority, they might make you promises. But those promises they cannot guarantee keeping like Jesus can guarantee keeping his promises. Because they don’t speak with the authority of God. So, what else makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? What makes Jesus worth listening to and following over other voices? #2:
- He, unlike others, offers his sheep a life of abundance (9-10).
Look again at verses 9 and 10: He says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Jesus came that we may have life abundant! What does that mean? Well, if you’ve read the book of Deuteronomy anytime lately, some of what Jesus just said in verse 9 might just ring a bell. In Deuteronomy chapter 28, Moses is teaching about the blessings of God that come with obedience. Now, don’t misunderstand. Obeying God does not mean your life will be easier and that you’ll just get everything you want and need. That’s not the case at all. But, certainly, there are blessings that can come with obedience! And in Deuteronomy chapter 28, especially right at the beginning, Moses is putting together all these opposites to show just how all-inclusive the blessings of God can be. Let me read verses 1-6 of Deuteronomy 28, just so you get the full picture:
And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
Did you catch that last part, the part that Jesus really seems to be echoing in John 10: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” In other words, no matter where he goes, he will be part of the people of God, one of God’s sheep. He will find pasture!! In other words, he will see God’s provision! Do you see what some of this life of abundance looks like? Not abundance in getting whatever you want, but abundance in having God watch over you as his child! If we have believed in Jesus, and have entered the sheepfold through Jesus, who is the door, that means we are now following him, because he’s also the Good Shepherd. It means, generally speaking, we’re living in obedience and there is this life of blessing and abundance.
Jesus is the only one who offers this, truly. The only voice who is truly leading you toward this joy-filled life is Jesus. Other voices might promise abundance, and happiness, and pleasure. But they are all false promises! True abundance, true, lasting happiness and joy and satisfaction and meaning, I could go on and on here, they are found by following the Good Shepherd.
We’re led to pasture, fields of grass to eat and be satisfied! Finding abundance of food for our souls in Christ! These other voices that we think will make us happy: Just listening and following our feelings; Just listening and following whatever will make people like us; just listening and following whatever the popular, cultural, so-called “authorities” of the day are saying—we think they’re for our good, and for our flourishing. But, ultimately, they do not bring about a life of abundance. And the enemy will use even apparent good parts of those systems of thinking to lead us astray, because the only thing he wants is to destroy us.
But, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He actually cares for his sheep. He genuinely loves us and guards us and feeds us and cares for us and wants what is best for us. And how do we really know that? How do we really know that Jesus, of all the other potential voices to guide us, is the Good Shepherd? Reason #3:
- He, unlike others, lays down his life for the sheep (11-17).
Verse 11, in particular. Don’t miss this. This is how we can really know that he’s the one who cares, that he’s the one worth listening to and following: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Listen to me! Did you know the Devil will certainly never lay down his life for you? None of these other voices we can listen to, and follow, care for us like JESUS cares for us. Jesus is saying these Pharisees don’t care for you! They’re hired hands, that’s what he calls them in verses 12 and following.
Think about this: if it’s your job to watch the sheep—you’re just doing it for a paycheck, in other words. When a wolf comes to attack the sheep in the middle of the night?! You run! Why?! Because you don’t care about the sheep; you’re just watching them because it’s your job! And even a paycheck, no matter how important that a paycheck is, is not worth risking your life over! That’d be like working at Walmart, hearing of the imminent threat of an asteroid destroying that Walmart in the next 5 minutes, and you say, “Nope, I’m staying here to protect the milk.” That wouldn’t happen, would it? That’s what a hired hand thinks of the sheep, just as a means to his paycheck! As an object! The sheep, in a very rough sense, are like gallons of milk to a hired hand! That’s how unimportant they really are. That’s about as much as he really cares for them. He’s not going to stay when an imminent threat is coming.
But Jesus is different!! He is the good shepherd. He actually cares. The sheep aren’t just a means to a paycheck, just an object like milk. He cares, and ultimately he shows that care in laying down his life for his sheep. In verses 14 and 15, he says, “I know my own and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” We know Jesus, and he knows us. He has called us by name, chosen us and rescued us out of depravity, and we follow because we recognize his voice. It’s the voice of our Redeemer, our Savior. And the intimacy we share with Jesus is like the intimacy shared between God the Son and God the Father. That’s what Jesus just said. Anyone else blown away by the extent to which Jesus loves and cares for us?!
This same love and care he shows for us, in this church, he shows for all his sheep all over the world, right? Which makes him an even more remarkable Shepherd. Verse 16: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” In this context, specifically, he’s talking about Gentiles. Not only am I calling my sheep out of the sheepfold of Pharisaic Judaism (which I think is what the sheepfold represents in the first five verses), but I also have sheep not in this sheepfold, meaning Gentiles, those who are not Jews. And all of these sheep make up one flock, with ONE shepherd.
And yet again, Jesus brings up laying down his life for the sheep, in verses 17 and 18 (he just says this over and over, have you noticed that?): “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” In other words, there is a unique love that the Father has for the Son, and the Son has for the Father. Don Carson explains it like this: “This love of the Father for the Son is eternally linked with the unqualified obedience of the Son to the Father, his utter dependence upon him, culminating in this greatest act of obedience now just before him: willingness to bear the shame and ignominy of Golgotha, the isolation and rejection of death, the sin and curse reserved for the Lamb of God.”
There is nothing more loving and caring than for the Good Shepherd to lay down his life for us. And that’s why the voice of Jesus is the only voice worth listening to. Do you read God’s word, the Bible, to hear from Jesus—the one whose laid down his life for you— more than you listen to podcasts, or read self-help books, or follow diet programs, or anything else in the entire world that can guide part of your life? Do you take seriously the voice of Jesus more than any of these other voices? Because this isn’t some merely spiritual experience we’re talking about when we talk about the voice of Jesus. I’m not saying what you think in your mind and heart that Jesus wants you to do. I’m not denying that may be part of listening to the voice of Jesus. I’m saying that the vast majority of what we can KNOW is the voice of Jesus, guess what? It’s written down! Don’t forget that as we talk about listening and following the voice of Jesus. Number 4. What makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? Why should we listen and follow his voice? Number 4:
- He, unlike others, will take up life again (18).
In the language that Jesus has used, it could be misinterpreted that Jesus was willing to lay down his life in this unfortunate tragedy of the sheep being attacked. Oh, it’s awful. We hate that it happened. It was a huge surprise, just one big accident that Jesus died. Well, just in case we’re tempted to misconstrue what he’s saying, he makes it as clear as can be in verse 18. No, no, no: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and [guess what?!] I have authority to take it up again. [In fact,], This is the charge I have received from my Father.”
Listen: Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, is not just some meek, poor soul who was attacked and, unfortunately, had to give us his life to protect the sheep. That is NOT how Jesus would have us understand what it means that he lays down his life. Instead, Jesus is the HERO of the WHOLE story. He’s the hero God planned from the beginning to die for the sheep! Laying down his life wasn’t an accident. He laid it down OF HIS OWN ACCORD. He chose to lay it down, and, unlike any other person or voice or supposed shepherd that we follow, HE WILL NOT STAY DOWN.
This man has the authority, even after willingly dying, to then decide to take up his life again!! Ha! No wonder some of them responded in verse 20 by saying he has a demon, and he’s insane! You’ll take up your life again?! This really goes back to our first answer, right? What makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? He speaks with the authority of God! So much so that death itself will not be able to hold him!!! Death has no authority over him! A death sentence, no matter how permanent for any human being, is NOT permanent for Jesus! I don’t know about you, but I want to follow the Shepherd who can say NO to death. Who can, after dying, take up his own life again. That’s a Shepherd worth following.
Do you see, truly, what makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? Do you see why it’s worth listening to Jesus and letting all other voices just fade away and be drowned out by the authoritative, and yet caring, voice of Jesus?! This KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, this WORD OF GOD who WAS WITH GOD AND WHO WAS GOD, this GOD-MAN whose name at which one day EVERY KNEE WILL BOW. This Shepherd-King calls us by name. This Shepherd-King leads us to pasture. This Shepherd-King offers us a life of abundance. This Shepherd-KING, unfathomably, became our Substitute. He died and rose again for us, as sanctioned by God the Father.
Again, I go back to the question I asked at the beginning. What voices are we listening to? Is it our feelings? Do you listen to your ever-changing feelings more than to Jesus? However you feel in the moment, is that what guides your life? If you feel peace about something, it must be good? Just following your heart and emotions, though they change day to day and even hour by hour?
Or, are you letting what people think of you guide your life? It’s so funny, the way we are as human beings: if you listen and follow what people think of you, you will either become depressed and self-conscious about everything, OR you will become prideful and self-assured about everything. People will either tear you down and make you feel inadequate, or they will build you up and make you feel like you need no one else to be adequate! BOTH are entirely WRONG! LISTEN TO JESUS, who says though you are a wretch in God’s eyes, like every other person, I lay down my life and take it up again that you may become GOD’S CHILD! As God’s child, depraved wretch turned saint, you need not worry about what other people think.
Or, do you listen to whatever is the most popular thinking of the day? Is that who speaks into your life? Who guides your life? Who gives you purpose and identity? My plea for you this morning, my plea for myself this morning: Listen to the Good Shepherd, who knows you by name, cares for you, leads you to pasture and abundance, who ultimately lays down his life for you. FORGET these other voices. NONE OF THEM carry any true weight.
Jesus being our Good Shepherd means that we follow him. We hear his voice and understand that it is the voice of truth, the voice of care, the voice of love. The only voice worth listening to.