One of the most popular chapters in the Gospels is the 10th chapter in the Gospel of John. John himself tells us why he even wrote: ... that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by faith you may have life in his name (John 20:31). In faith John sees the decisive, the life-giving process, in faith in Jesus' person and being, which we naturally grasp in his word and in his works. And this is the sitemap of faith: "Jesus is Lord, is the Christ, the Son of God!" (Joh. 8:21-24). So the whole gospel of John is a gospel of faith based on the love of God and Jesus (John 3:16).
In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus once again struggles quite openly for his people, to whom he was sent, confesses himself as the Christ in the image of the door and the shepherd. Nevertheless, he speaks clear words, so that in the end the Jews even want to seize him and stone him. He begins his speech in this chapter with a harsh and unmistakable sentence: He who does not go in through the door into the sheep's yard, but climbs over elsewhere, he is a thief and a robber". (Verse 1). Although Jesus brings his pictures here from the world of shepherds well known to his listeners, he does not describe an idyll, but continues the confrontation with the Pharisees begun earlier than the »shepherds« of the Jews.
Now he talks about his mission, authority and greatness; this leads to the decision of the attitude towards his person, then as now with us! Is Jesus only a great teacher and man or is he the Lord, the Christ, the Son of God?
Jesus presents Himself to the hearers as the shepherd who knows His sheep and loves them, and whose voice knows His sheep; but first His listeners did not understand what He wanted to say to them (verses 2-6). In the Hebrew Scriptures the image of the shepherd was often spoken of, such as in Psalm 23, and it was the Pharisees and scribes who should have understood him as the leader of the people. But as can also be seen from the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John, then as now our hearing and understanding did not depend on our general understanding, on our understanding, but largely on our inner attitude, on our »I«; and here this »I« the Pharisee felt already attacked in the first sentence.
You, the highly respected leaders and guardians of the people, should be thieves and robbers? That was outrageous; they closed their hearts. They thought they had entered through the door of thorough training in the law and official authority to the sheep of God, quite unlike this Jesus himself. Now this same Jesus came and said: "I am the door of the sheep ... I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved ... (verses 7-9). Jesus is the only rightful and real, also the only possible access to the farm where the flock of God is gathered. Only through Jesus can one really and rightly come to God's people. Whoever tries another approach or offers another approach must be a thief or robber!
It is a terrible fact that zealous people like these Pharisees and scribes, who wanted to enter through the door of the law to the sheep, worked with much dedication for God's people, felt like shepherds and yet could be thieves and robbers. Only through Jesus can one truly and rightly come to the sheep.
But not »a true teaching« about Jesus is the door, but in Jesus himself, in his person, in his being, in his love, to find the door. One must come into Jesus Himself, live in Jesus, eat from Him (Chap. 6:57) and drink (Chap. 4:14; 7:37) in order to really get through the door to the sheep. Jesus also decides who is a right shepherd.
Could this have been so in the 2000 years since Jesus? Certainly! There were always people who led the sheep not to the Lord, to Jesus, but to themselves and their own interests. They did not let the sheep see Jesus (Hebrews 12:2); He was not the foundation for them (L.Cor. 2:2; 3:11). They thought they could determine where to find the door or what the door was.
So there were people who said: Outside the church there is no salvation; they made the church, as it were, the door, a kind of ark, although this means something else according to 1 Peter 3:21. And many who came later have portrayed themselves or their groupings as the door; but Jesus is the door, he alone! If a teacher leads you again and again to Christ: good! But if Christ has only a minor, subordinate position with him, plays a minor role, then remember: Jesus is the door. Only he is the right entrance. Jesus did not simply determine this; it is the will of the Father! Jesus did not seek his own glory; the Father seeks the glory of the Son (John 8:50).
Continuing his speech after John 10, Jesus now said that the sheep had not listened to the other shepherds (verse 8); but in what way? The Jews, after all, followed the Pharisees, as did people later on the so-called Christian leaders. But such leaders, though they may be popular, never reach the true sheep in their innermost being, never do people really open themselves to them in their real needs and questions. People will never feel as happy as when they hear the voice of the good shepherd Jesus, for with him they hear the voice of life and salvation.
In this way one can really recognize the voices of the teachers and also hear the voice of Jesus.
Listen to his voice!
For only through him will we be saved (verse 9). We come to the multitude of the saved only through the only door of salvation, which is Jesus Himself. There may be many ways for a person to come to the door, many different words and teachings, events and occurrences that drew our attention to Jesus in our lives, every Christian has his own personal life story and God walks with us very different ways when he draws us to Jesus. But there is only one door!
Whoever enters through Jesus will enter and go out and find pasture (verse 9). Jesus is always with his sheep, all his life! Finding pasture is only possible through Jesus! This is the will of Jehovah the Father! Jesus' work is only giving; and what he gives is life! Life in abundance. For he says in the Father's authority: "I am the good shepherd!" (verse 11). God had promised this good shepherd for a long time; now he had sent him and since then he has been there for everyone who listens to his voice!
And there was a license plate number: The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep! Actually, the Greek text is called: He uses his soul (psyche) for the sheep; Jesus really did this, because not only did he give his life for the people when he was executed, but he also used his soul, himself, completely for the sheep during his whole activity. He was always the good shepherd!
After the comparison with the hired labourer, Jesus repeats again: "I am the good shepherd" (verse 14). The good shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know him as he knows the Father and the Father knows him. Jesus knows us, in all our weaknesses, mistakes and sins; we need not hide anything from him – neither can we; but we need not fear that he abhors us because of our qualities and deeds, because of our corrupt nature; he had already promised that he would not expel anyone who comes to him (chapter 6:37).
He who becomes one of his own in faith knows him in a way that is unimaginable for us, in his love that will one day bring everything right. And because he knows us, even has recognized us, we now also know him and hear his voice, not only the sheep from the hurdle of Israel who were mentioned at that time, but also all the sheep of the whole world who will come in later times (verse 16-17 and 27).
He uses his life, his soul for his sheep; everything rests on his sacrifice; he saves the sheep from the wolf; his whole life, work, suffering and dying is struggle with the wolf Satan and the victory over him. And once again he makes it clear that all this is truly the will of the Father, Jehovah: "I have received this commandment from my Father (verses 17-18).
Here Jesus also announces his resurrection; he has the authority to take his soul again. We see clearly that Jesus' first and constant gaze is always on the Father, however much He loves people and gives everything for them; but that in everything God is glorified, that is what matters! And precisely because he always stood up for God's glory and glorification, Jesus has authority to stand up for sinners and God's enemies and to reconcile them with God without impairing God's glory and right.
Jesus the good shepherd, sent by God! And he could say in authority: "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they will certainly not perish for eternity" (verses 27-28). It is a unique process that continues to happen today when we truly hear the word of Jesus and recognize in it the voice of our Lord, the voice of the true shepherd.
In the world, and also in our own hearts, there are countless voices that court us. Nevertheless! Disciples of Jesus hear the voice of the good shepherd in their purity and love! And how comforting is his promise! There is no »perhaps, probably or possibly» here. Here is his word in the authority of the Father! And why can Jesus say this? Because no one – no one, no one – will rip the sheep out of his hand and because no one is able to rip them out of the Father's hand! (verses 28-29). The two most powerful hands, that of the Father and that of the Son, hold the sheep, protect them! No one can tear them out of it! However, this warning must be said: They are not holding us against our will! We could – may God prevent this – free ourselves from these hands of our own will, to perdition. We are not held mechanically.
Here again the unity between father and son is emphasized and made clear. We are not actually in two hands; we are in the hand of the true shepherd; but the hand of the Father has placed us in this hand, and this hand of the Father does not snatch it from us, because the Father is greater than everything. The Father's giving and the Son's doing are united actions which serve our eternal salvation. How without any doubt, how bold and undaunted may we believe! Jesus said yes: "I and the Father are one". He did not say »One«, for they do not coincide in one person; they remain two persons, Father and Son, but who are one in perfect fellowship, the Father being the end of the territory, the leader and the giver, the Son the taker, the obeying and the executive.
Jesus in the words reported in John 10 has now openly presented himself as Christ, the Son of God; he is the water of life and the light of the world, the door and the good and true shepherd. But how did his contemporaries, his people to whom he had come, react? As teachers and miracle workers, as outstandingly good people, they would have accepted him – as many people do today; but he had said the greatest thing about himself that was possible; he had said it without any presumption, but rather under the authority of the Father, for he possessed this authority, and his works testified to it.
Yet his claim and words led most listeners to reject him – as they do today – because they were not his sheep (verse 26). But this does not mean an excuse for such people; for they are not his sheep because they do not believe; they have been repeatedly called to faith by Jesus; but they have freely refused this faith, as most do today. That is why their responsibility remained and still remains with them.
Some who first manifested faith later tried – perhaps unconsciously – to make it unclear that he alone is the door, by describing other things, such as circumcision or other precepts – works – as necessary for salvation and thus burdening other people. But with such doctrine and attitude they fell out of grace (Galatians 5:4; Ephesians 2:8). Remember: Jesus alone is the door; he alone is the good shepherd! There is no other door and no additional gate of any kind, there is no other shepherd! People who serve as shepherds, as they did among the early Christians, must be guided by this shepherd, and their actions and speeches must be guided by him.
Therefore listen again and again whether you can hear the voice of the good shepherd, whether you can hear it wherever you hear voices that want to influence you; check whether your eye and your ear, your heart and your mind are directed towards him! Thank our heavenly Father for this door and for this shepherd, for his son, our Saviour!