One way the Gospel of John is unique from the other three synoptic Gospels is that it contains no parables. In this chapter, Jesus says that He is the good shepherd and uses analogies pertaining to sheep. This is as close as a parable we get, but it’s not quite a parable.
Today, I will focus exclusively on the portion where Jesus talks about being the good shepherd. The text is very rich and I will break it down verse by verse.
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.John 10:1-2
The sheepfold is a sheep pen. Think of fences that wrap around the sheep so the sheep stays within the boundaries and are protected. Anyone who tries to enter illegally is a thief and a robber. Only the shepherd is allowed to enter.
To relate this to normal life, just think of a house or a building. You have the door, which is the main way to enter. The door is intended to only allow those with permission to enter. Of course, technically the door is not the only way to enter―you could break in through the window to enter. But the owner of the house or building did not intend for these people to enter.
This passage contains the following characters:
- The Sheep
- The Shepherd
- The Thief
- The Hired Hand
The sheep represents us humans; the shepherd represents the object of worship, specifically, Jesus; the thief represents those who take advantage of the sheep; the hired hand represents the risk-averse servants who are not motivated by love.
Below, I dive deeper into what each represents and why.
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.John 10:4-5
The sheep represents us humans.
For the most part, sheep are pretty stupid and helpless. They completely rely on the shepherd for their source of food and for safety. Without protection, they are pure food before the wolves.
In this world, we humans are truly sheep. We do stupid things and are helpless by ourselves.
Let’s just talk about food. Without nature and its abundance of food supply (provided by God), we wouldn’t even be able to eat. Sure we may claim that human industry can keep humanity fed. But even that is exploited from nature―if nature were to run out of food and resources, we would truly be helpless for food.
Humans naturally yield an object to worship (even if it is science). Sounds a lot like sheep to me.
The question is―who is your shepherd?
Jesus is the Good Shepherd
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.John 10:11
The shepherd represents the object of worship. However, only Jesus is the good shepherd. All other shepherds are false idols.
Jesus is the shepherd that will lay down the life for His sheep. This is referring to Jesus dying on the cross to save our lives. All His sheep were in danger of facing judgment from the Father. Jesus literally lays His life down for us so that we may live.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.John 10:10
The thief represents those who take advantage of the sheep. In this context along with John 9, Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leaders.
Jesus calls the Jewish leaders thieves who take advantage of the flock (His people) for their own gain.
Thieves are only motivated by personal profit. They care nothing for the consequences of their actions on others. The reason Jesus calls the Jewish leaders thieves is because they are not fulfilling their original intended purpose anymore―to serve God. Unfortunately, they only serve themselves.
Because Jesus has become inconvenient for them, they now seek to arrest and kill Jesus.
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. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.John 10:12-13
The hired hand represents the risk-averse servants who are not motivated by love.
Hired hands will stick around while the times are good―in other words, when things are safe. However, as soon as there’s risk, they scatter.
They might be motivated by shallow love, but they aren’t willing to perform the deepest act of love―self-sacrifice. That means they don’t truly believe the sheep are worth protecting over their own lives.
Two Reflection Points
1. Who Do You Follow?
Jesus offers 3 comparisons:
- The Good Shepherd
- The Thief
- The Hired Hand
Jesus’s love is true and uncompromising.
Who do we worship? Are we conned by liars and thieves? Or are we led astray by false prophets and hired hands who don’t truly care about us?
2. How Dedicated Are You?
Jesus is willing to go all the way and lay down His life.
But what about you? Are you only here to exploit like the thief? Or are you only willing to serve while times are good?
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