10. Good Shepherd

Jesus explains that sheep recognize the voice of the true shepherd and will follow him on the way to pasture (10:1-6).

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but sneaks in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The true shepherd enters through the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls them by name and they follow him out.

"When all his sheep are out of the fold, the shepherd walks ahead of the sheep on the way to pasture. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger but will run way, because they do not recognize his voice."

Jesus told the people this parable, but they did not understand what he meant.

Jesus explains the parable. He is the gate that leads to the abundant life. He is also the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (10:7-21).

Jesus explained what he had said as follows: "I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. All who enter the sheepfold through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture -- safety and nourishment will be theirs. The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy the flock. I have come that you may have life in all its fullness.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not like the shepherd who owns the sheep. When the hired hand sees a wolf coming he runs for his life, leaving the sheep at risk. So the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. The hired hand works for wages; he doesn't really care about the sheep.

"I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep, and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me. I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. They too will recognize my voice and I will bring them in. There is to be but one flock, with one shepherd.

"The Father loves me for laying down my life -- and I will take it back again. No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own free will. The authority to lay it down and take it back is mine. It was given to me by my Father."

Once again the words of Jesus caused a sharp division among the people. Many said, "He is demon-possessed, raving mad. Don't listen to a man like that!"

But others said, "How could anyone possessed by a demon say what he has been saying? Surely, demons can't open the eyes of a blind man!"

Model of Solomon's Porch

In the face of opposition, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders they are not his sheep, that God protects Jesus' sheep, and then claims to be one with God (10:22-30).

It was winter and Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication. He was walking around in the section of the temple known as Solomon's Porch when the Jewish leaders cornered him and asked, "How much longer do you intend to provoke us like this? If you are the Messiah, tell us so straight out."

Jesus answered, "I did tell you, and you refused to believe me. The works that I do by my Father's authority make it plain who I am. But you do not believe in me because you are not part of my flock. 

"My sheep recognize my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish, for no one can snatch them out of my hand.

"My Father, who gave them to me, is more powerful than all, so they are absolutely safe in his hands. And I and the Father are one."

Jewish hostility toward Jesus increases while Jesus again insists that he is God (10:31-42).

Again the Jewish leaders picked up stones intending to kill Jesus. But he said to them, "You have seen me do many gracious and good deeds made possible by the Father. For which one of them are you about to stone me?"

They answered, "It is not for some gracious and good deed that we are going to stone you. It is because you, a mere man, are claiming to be God. That is blasphemy, and for that you must die!"

Students standing at the corners of an ancient house

Jesus answered, "In your Scriptures doesn't God say, 'You are gods?' We know that Scripture cannot be in error, so if God called those people 'gods,' why do you say that I am guilty of blaspheming for saying, 'I am the Son of God?" After all, it was God who set me apart for this role and sent me into the world.

"If I am not doing what my Father does, then you should not believe me. But if I am, you should believe me for that reason, even though you do not believe me for who I claim to be. Then you will come to know for certain that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father."

Once again they tried to arrest Jesus, but he escaped out of their grasp and crossed the Jordan River to the place where John used to baptize. There he remained for a while.  People flocked to him, saying that although John was not a miracle-worker, everything he said about Jesus was true! A considerable number of those people came to believe in Jesus.