Ron Graham was called home on March 14, 2013. He began writing this commentary before his death and had asked me, Nathele Graham, to continue his service to our Lord by finishing what he began.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1).
It’s always important to look at context to understand any passage of Scripture, and parables are no exception. In this case we need to back up into the previous chapter and see what happened. Jesus had just healed a man who had been blind from birth and the Pharisees were angry. Oh, they aren’t mad that the man was healed, but they are mad that Jesus did it and that He healed him on the Sabbath.
“And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).
These religious leaders cared nothing about showing God’s love and mercy; they only cared that the letter of the Law and their precious traditions be followed. God ordained the Sabbath as a day for rest and not a day for rules. Don’t think that the inquiry which followed the healing were the Pharisees trying to find truth. No, they were trying to find evidence against Jesus.
When Jesus and His disciples had first encountered this blind man the disciples asked if this man or the man’s parents had sinned and caused the blindness.
“Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3).
Our choice to sin can cause illness and suffering, but that wasn’t the case for this man. This man’s blindness was for a greater reason. Jesus healed this man in order that the power of God would be seen. When the Pharisees learned of the healing they interrogated this poor blind beggar. The man was healed, but the people around him just didn’t share his joy. We can learn much from the dialogue that took place between this once blind man and the still blind Pharisees.
These Pharisees, the esteemed religious leaders only wanted to condemn the miracle and thus condemn Jesus. The Pharisees held a place in society that was respected and feared by the Jews. The blind man was not intimidated by them and answered each of their questions with truth, even if the truth upset those religious legalists. He stood firm on what he knew and was not afraid to speak up, even though the truth resulted in him being kicked out of the synagogue…he was excommunicated.
“They answered and said unto him, “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?” And they cast him out” (John 9:34).
Today we need to answer those who would condemn Jesus and His good works by answering questions honestly and standing on the truth. It may cost us a friendship or get us kicked out of a congregation, but God’s truth is more important than losing a friend or fellowship with those who will not hear truth. Peter and some other apostles were put into prison for teaching about Jesus. An angel set them free and they went right back to teaching about Jesus even though the high priest told them not to speak of Jesus. When caught they were once again brought before the high priest who reminded them they were not to speak about Jesus. Peter makes a statement, which we all need to heed.
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).
How true! It is God we need to follow rather men.
When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees about the healing, He told this parable of the sheepfold. It is directed towards those who claim to have the truth but who are actually false leaders who lead their flock away from God. The Pharisees thought they had truth, but they were blind to the real truth. The Law was given by God, but the Pharisees used it for their own gain. They used their position of leadership to control people and in pride they raised themselves to a position far above the common person.
They held strongly to the Law and the oral traditions and they controlled the people with fear. They left no room for God’s mercy. We see that same attitude today. Many religions have a list of things to do and things not to do. These lists exist in Christian denominations (Catholic, Episcopal, etc.), also in Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, etc. Christ entered His creation to show us what truth is and to give us the only way of salvation, not to give us religion. If a man who has been blind from birth is healed that is a reason to praise God – even if it is on the Sabbath or on Sunday.
Throughout the Old Testament God is referred to as a Shepherd. We all know Psalm 23 but there are many other references. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth” (Psalm 80:1).
This psalm refers to God as “O Shepherd of Israel.” We also see it in Isaiah:
“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10-11).
There is only one true Sheppard, and that is Jesus Christ. Many attempt to stake a claim to those sheep, which belong to Christ but they are claim jumpers.
There were two types of sheepfolds in Jesus’ time, and both are spoken of in this parable. First, there was a public one, usually in a village that was built to hold many flocks. At night the shepherds would lead their sheep into the sheepfold for protection. There was only one-way in or out with a guard stationed at the door by night to guard against predators…two-legged or four-legged.
“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:2-3).
These sheepfolds had only one door, so there was no way to escape through a side door. Anyone wanting the sheep to follow him would have to go through the only door, call his sheep, and then lead them out of the sheepfold. Only his own sheep would recognize their shepherd’s voice and follow him.
“And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5).
This parable was specifically written about the Jews but we can apply it to our world today. There are many flocks in the sheepfold (the world) and many will follow the voice of those who lead to destruction.
“Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up and his right eye shall be utterly darkened” (Zechariah 11:17).
Some say this describes the Antichrist, but certainly this shepherd does not follow truth…he is the idol shepherd and those who follow his lies will be lead to destruction. On the other hand there are some, sheep who hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and follow Him…His true sheep know His voice and they will not follow an idol shepherd.
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10:7-8).
We now learn of a second sheepfold. This one is not for the public but is built for one flock. It still has only one door. That one door is Jesus.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
Only Christians enter in and dwell in this sheepfold. We have heard the voice of Jesus and have followed Him out of the first sheepfold – out of the world and its evils – and now enter in to this second sheepfold only by Him.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Indeed, Jesus gave His life for His sheep.
Because of His sacrifice, we who are His sheep hear His voice and have eternal life.
“I come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).
The Good Shepherd leads His flock and He knows them all by name. This would be an impossible task for a mere man. Jesus is God and He knows each one in His flock by name, and He gives us abundant life.
The question you might ask is how do we know Jesus’ voice? We have the Bible.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This passage was written to a young pastor, Timothy, as instructions from an older pastor, Paul in order for Timothy to better lead his flock. We are also told to search the Scriptures daily.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
The Scripture referred to in these passages is the Old Testament, but we are blessed to have the New Testament today and we also know it is inspired by God. A Christian who does not study the Bible doesn’t know the Shepherd’s voice. Pastors are a subset of the good shepherd concept and need to lead their congregations in the study of Scripture, not a watered down run through of a verse or two, but a deep study. Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd of which He holds exclusive title, but pastors also have a responsibility to their flock.
Like Timothy they are doing what they are called to do by God. It’s not just a preaching job. The title of pastor means he will be as Jesus is, he will sacrifice for his flock; he leads them and cares for them. They know him and he knows them. He will not be a hireling who pleases the world, but one who pleases the Good Shepherd. In a sense, each Christian is a shepherd. We need to care about each other and we need to help our brethren learn to follow the Good Shepherd’s voice more clearly.
Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, the Jews, but more were added to the sheepfold of Christ.
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Gentiles were also added to the fold and we have one Shepherd.
“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
Jesus Christ is the only door into the sheepfold and salvation.
Do you know the Good Shepherd? Do you hear His voice? Hear Him and follow Him out of the sheepfold of the world and into His sheepfold of salvation. If you are following an “idol shepherd” you need to learn the truth and follow the Good Shepherd. Don’t wait another minute to enter the sheepfold where Jesus Christ is the door. If you have questions there is a Christian near you who would love to teach you the truth and bring you into the sheepfold where Jesus is the only door.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
God bless you all,