Context of John 10: Jesus’ discourse on Himself as the “Good Shepherd” flowed directly from chap9, as Jesus continued to talk to the very same group - the Pharisees. The problem in John 9 was that Israel had been led by false shepherds who drew them astray from the true knowledge and kingdom of Messiah (John 9:39-41). In chap10, Jesus declared Himself to be the “Good Shepherd”. The occasion for this lesson was the excommunication of the beggar from the synagogue (John 9:34). The false shepherds did not care for this man; instead, they mistreated him and threw him out. But Jesus, the Shepherd, came to him and took him in (John 9:35–38).
John 10:1 "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.
A middle Eastern sheepfold was very simple: stone wall up to 10 feet high surrounding an enclosure open to the sky, with an opening as the door. The shepherds in the village would drive their sheep into the fold at nightfall and leave the porter or watchman to stand guard. In the morning each shepherd would call his own sheep, which would recognize their shepherd’s voice and come out of the fold. The porter (or one of the shepherds) would sleep at the opening of the fold and actually become “the door.” Nothing could enter or leave the fold without passing over the shepherd. In the picture of the "fold of the sheep" (sheepfold) note only one door and (although it is difficult to see) there are thorny branches on the top of the walls to impede predators and thieves. Thus the "sheepfold" clearly pictures a place where the sheep were to experience safety and security. Jesus' description ("thief" and "robber") was a clear rebuke to the Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees in the audience. Compare the Old Testament parallels in Ezekiel 34 and Jer 23:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 where "the shepherds (were) destroying and scattering the sheep (metaphor for Israel)". (cf God's warning about false prophets in Jer 23:16ff, cf Mt 7:15, et al)
Martin Luther comments on shepherds and the responsibility of the sheep...
I am one of God's sheep. I want to have and accept His Word. If you will give me His word, I will regard you as my shepherd. But if you set up another doctrine and do not offer me the pure Gospel, I do not wish to regard you as shepherds or to accept your voice. For the ministry of which you boast does not extend any further than the Word does. If someone is a shepherd we must accept him; if he is not, we must depose him from office. For the sheep must judge the voice of the shepherds.
John 10:2 "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.
Shepherds tend, care, lead, guide, cherish, feed and protect their flock. The word "Shepherd" carries with it the thought of tenderness, gentleness, security and provision and yet means nothing as long as we cannot say "The Lord is MY shepherd." It's only meaningful if we can say from our heart that "The Lord is my shepherd." Martin Luther observed that faith is a matter of personal pronouns: My Lord and my God. This is the faith that saves.
John 10:3 To him the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
Often several shepherds' flocks were kept together in one sheepfold and in the night they intermingled with sheep from other flocks. In the morning, when the shepherd was ready to lead his flock to green pastures, he would call his own sheep. As the sheep heard the familiar and trusted voice of their shepherd, they would go to him and follow as he lead into the field. Sheep do not trust their shepherd on the basis of sight alone for looks can deceive. The deciding factor for the sheep is the sound of the shepherd's voice. The following excerpt is a firsthand account of the "phenomenon" of sheep hearing their shepherd's voice and following Him:
"As we sat the silent hillsides around us were in a moment filled with life and sound. The shepherds led their flocks forth from the gates of the city. They were in full view, and we watched them and listened to them with no little interest. Thousands of sheep and goats were there, grouped in dense, confused masses. The shepherds stood together until all came out. Then they separated, each shepherd taking a different path, and uttering as he advanced a shrill peculiar call. The sheep heard them. At first the masses swayed and moved, as if shaken by some internal convulsion; then points struck out in the direction taken by the shepherds; these became longer and longer until the confused masses were resolved into long, living streams, flowing after their leaders. Such a sight was not new to me, still it had lost none of its interest. It was perhaps one of the most vivid illustrations which human eyes could witness of that beautiful discourse of our Lord recorded by Jn10:3-5. The shepherds themselves had none of that peaceful and placid aspect which is generally associated with pastoral life and habits. They looked more like warriors marching to the battle-field--a long gun slung from the shoulder, a dagger and heavy pistols in the belt, a light battle-axe or ironheaded club in the hand. Such were the equipments; and their fierce flashing eyes and scowling countenances showed but too plainly that they were prepared to use their weapons at any moment." From J. L. Porter, A.M. "The Giant Cities of Bashan," 1867.
D. L. Moody gives this illustration
A friend, who was traveling in the East, heard that there was a shepherd who still kept up the custom of calling his sheep by name. He went to the man, and said: “Let me put on your clothes, and take your crook, and I will call them, and see if they will come to me.” And so he did, and he called one sheep, “Mina, Mina,” but the whole flock ran away from him. Then he said to the shepherd: “Will none of them follow me when I call them” The shepherd replied: “Yes, sir, some of them will; the sick sheep will follow anybody." (Bible.org Sermon Illustrations)
D. J. DeHaan writes in Our Daily Bread
Whenever I visit the Korean Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, I notice that the people seldom refer to one another by their first name. They speak formally of each other and to each other--Mr. Kim, Mr. Pyen, Mrs. Hugh. One day I asked Mr. Pyen about this custom. He replied, "Only when we know people intimately do we use their first name." Jesus calls us by name because He knows us so well. That's the picture we get in John 10. When an oriental shepherd was with the same flock for many years, he developed a close relationship with each animal. He would give them descriptive names like "Brown-leg" or "Black-ear." And when he called them, they responded to his voice. So too, when Jesus asks us to follow and obey Him, His call comes with the promise of the protection, guidance, sustenance, and rest that we need at that time in our lives. His call is suited to our needs because He knows us intimately. He knows us on a first-name basis. You're not just a number computers can trace; Christ knows your need, your name and your face.
John 10:4 "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
The sheep in the Orient are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. Although Oriental shepherds usually go ahead of the flock and lead their sheep, whereas in many countries the sheep are driven ahead of the shepherd.
"The practice of Eastern shepherds should be described. Travelers have told us how various flocks may be sheltering in a common fold, and when a particular shepherd comes to the gate and calls, a shivering movement can be seen here and there among the sheep; in little groups of two or three they turn toward the gate and edge their way through the other herds. No sheep of another flock will move; but these know the voice and straight make answer. Later one may see them journeying, with the shepherd in the van; they following in his train. First they lift their heads in the fold and listen. Is it his voice or not? Then they hear; they have verified his tones. Then they move obediently behind him, and 'follow whithersoever he goeth.' Only so can one say, 'The Lord is my shepherd;' only so can one be confident, 'I shall not want.' Now observe more closely the word 'shepherd,' i.e., the guardian of the flock. It is true that he watches over each separate sheep. Shepherds declare that they can recognize their sheep individually, as we recognize each other's faces, and thus 'know' their sheep. Certainly the Good Shepherd knows his. Nevertheless he is guarding his flock as a whole, and each sheep is safer if it stays with its comrades and if together they move homeward."
A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master. (Bible.org Sermon Illustrations)
John 10:5 A stranger they simply will not follow but will flee from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.
So true is it that when a traveler has changed dress with the shepherd for an experiment, they still have followed the disguised shepherd’s voice and refused to listen to the voice of a stranger in the garb of their own shepherd. The following story is a great illustration of this truth...
During World War I, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem. The shepherd, who had been sleeping, suddenly awakened to see his sheep being driven off on the other side of the ravine. He could not hope to recapture his flock by force single-handedly, but suddenly he had a thought. Standing up on his side of the ravine, he put his hands to his mouth and gave his own peculiar call, which he used each day to gather his sheep to him. The sheep heard the familiar sound. For a moment they listened and then, hearing it again, they turned and rushed down one side of the ravine and up the other toward their shepherd. It was quite impossible for the soldiers to stop the animals. The shepherd was away with them to a place of safety before the soldiers could make up their minds to pursue them—and all because his sheep knew their master’s voice. (Green, M. P. Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Baker Book House)
John 10:6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
John 10:7 So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly I say to you I AM THE DOOR of the sheep.
As the “door of the sheep” Jesus is the One through Whom eternal life is received (cf Jn 14:6; see notes Matthew 7:13; 14). There is no other way in, for “there is salvation in no * one else; there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Eva Watts says that as she traveled with a friend though the land where Jesus lived,
“We reached a high ridge overlooking the village of Bethlehem. There we found a sheepfold, and went right in to inspect. It was not long before the owner appeared—a veteran, like Moses, with a long beard. ‘This is your sheepfold?’ my friend asked. ‘Aye.’ he answered. ‘And is this where the sheep sleep,’ pointing to a rough shelter thrown up against the rock in a corner. He nodded again. ‘But you’ve no gate to the fold; how do you close them up at night?’ The old man looked at us as if we ought to have known better. ‘I am the door,’ he said with emphasis; and, gathering his loose robe tight about his ankles, he was down in a moment, squatting in the doorway, back against one post, feet against the other, his knees drawn up and clasped by his weather-beaten old hands. Gently he bowed his head and closed his eyes, as many a time he had closed them to catch a few hours’ sleep under the starlight. ‘I am the door,’ he repeated. ‘I keep watch here at night. If thieves or wild beasts attempt to enter, they have to tackle me first. I have never lost a lamb from the fold yet.” (Bible.org Sermon Illustrations)
John 10:8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
Jesus is referring primarily to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day.
John 10:9 I AM THE DOOR. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
This guarantees that salvation is given to those who trust in Christ (see notes Acts 16:31 Romans 10:9; 10:10). In (Jn 14:6), it is made plain that only these are saved. Christ is necessary and sufficient for salvation (Jn 3:36). The sheep would come into the fold for peace and safety and go out under their shepherd’s guidance for pasture.
B. W. Johnson writes
Christ is at once the door, the shepherd and the pasture. His pasture is the bread of life and the water of life.
The Greek word for saved is sozo (word study) and means delivered safe and sound, rescued and described a person who had recovered from severe illness (healed or been restored to health), come through a bad storm, survived a war or was acquitted at court.
"Jesus is our Door - Nothing can touch our lives without touching Him first. This is a perfect picture of the shepherd. He literally becomes the living door of the sheepfold. He curls up in the door or in the entrance of a cave. He puts his body between the sleeping sheep and ravenous animals or thieves." (From Hayford's Bible Handbook Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
As the "sheep" went "in and out” they would enjoy abundant life in the rich pastures of the Good Shepherd, experiencing fullness and freedom. Jesus not only gave His life for us, but He gives us eternal life right now and that life is in Him (see notes Colossians 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:1)
Abundantly is the Greek word perissos which pictures LIFE IN CHRIST which is over and above, more than enough, superabundant (in quantity), superior (in quality), overflowing, extraordinary, more than sufficient. Are you experiencing the quality and quantity of life that the Good Shepherd desires for His sheep?
John 10:11 I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
[See more on God's attribute of goodness] Since the beginning of time, religions have decreed that a lamb should give up its life for the shepherd. The shepherd would bring his lamb to the sanctuary, lean with all his weight on the lamb's head, and confess his sin. The lamb would be slain and its blood would flow out--a life for a life. What irony! Now the Shepherd gives up His life for His lamb.
Isaiah 53:5, 6 But He was pierced through FOR our transgressions. He was crushed FOR our iniquities. The chastening FOR our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him "
That's why Jesus is the Good Shepherd. This truth is pictured in John the Baptist's declaration of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29) and also in many statements made by Jesus Himself (Jn 2:19; 3:14; 6:51).
Good (see word study kalos) means intrinsically good, beautiful, fair and describes that which is the ideal, the model that others may safely imitate.
The word for is the Greek word "huper" which means here "in place of" or "on behalf of" and thus speaks of the substitutionary atonement, Jesus death in the place of sinners. While His blood is sufficient for the salvation of the world, it is efficient only for those who will truly believe.
F. B. Meyer wrote the following description of our Good Shepherd...
He has a shepherd's heart, beating with pure and generous love that counted not His own life-blood too dear a price to pay down as our ransom. He has a shepherd's eye, that takes in the whole flock and misses not even the poor sheep wandering away on the mountains cold. He has a shepherd's faithfulness, which will never fail or forsake, leave us comfortless, nor flee when He sees the wolf coming. He has a shepherd's strength, so that He is well able to deliver us from the jaw of the lion or the paw of the bear. He has a shepherd's tenderness; no lamb so tiny that He will not carry it; no saint so weak that He will not gently lead; no soul so faint that He will not give it rest...His gentleness makes great.
John 10:12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
John 10:13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.
The Good Shepherd, in contrast to the hireling, protects the sheep from wolves, that is, the "spiritual enemies" of the sheep. In the ordinary life of a shepherd caring for his sheep, this was one of the great hazards as wolves would attack the sheep if there was the slightest carelessness on the part of the shepherd. Sheep by their nature are not able to protect themselves from wolves, and this is where the shepherd by his rod and staff came in. Likewise, in the spiritual relationship of the believer to Christ, the attacks of the evil one, whether human or demonic, require the protecting care of the Shepherd for all those who follow Him. Obviously, the place of greatest security and greatest blessing is to be near the Shepherd.
Since savage wolves, consumed with greed,
Seek simple sheep on which to feed,
Wise are those wary lambs who graze
Close by their Shepherd's watchful gaze. --Gustafson
John 10:14 I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD and I know My own and My own know Me,
The Good Shepherd purchased the sheep, paying the redemption price of His precious blood (1Peter 1:19; 20-see notes 1Pe 1:19; 20) and thus they are His own possession because He gave Himself for them (Titus 2:14 see notes Titus 2:13; 14; 15). In the Gospel of John, the word know means much more than intellectual awareness but includes the idea of an intimate relationship between God and His people (Jn 17:3). The Eastern shepherd knows his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to minister to each one individually. In the same way our Good Shepherd knows each of our names and meets each of our needs (Ps 23:1). But don't stop reading here. How does Jesus compare our relationship with Him in the next verse?
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Having had my attention directed last night to the words in John 10:3, I asked...if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep, I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then bade him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that 'a stranger will they not follow but will flee from him.' The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them."
John 10:15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father and I lay down My life for the sheep.
This is an incredible statement...Jesus likens the relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep to the relationship He enjoyed from all eternity with His Father. Now do you doubt that you are special to the LORD? This incredible truth has a practical application, for as someone has well said "To renew your love for the Good Shepherd, review His love for you!"
The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever. (Baker)
John 10:16 And I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will hear My voice and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
In answer to the Jews asking Him if He were the Messiah:
Jesus answered them, "I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give eternal life to them and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father Who has given them to Me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)