We are a people who worship Jesus Christ. Let that sink in, for there are places in the world where that will get you killed. We don’t just admire him, or follow him, or swear allegiance to him. We worship Jesus. We worship him as the eternal, uncreated, omnipotent, all-wise, Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the universe. He is God, one with the Father and the Spirit. And we worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit — one God, in three divine persons. We worship Jesus.
This is the context of John 10, and this is what Jesus intends for us to do in response to what he says. As chapter 9 unfolded, the sight of the blind man, whom Jesus had healed, became clearer and clearer. And the blindness of the Pharisees became darker and darker. In John 9:24, the Pharisees tell the healed man, “Give glory to God. We know that this man [Jesus] is a sinner.” But then look at John 9:38: “[The healed man] said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” The division could not be deeper: blasphemy or worship. That’s what it all comes down to. There is no fence-sitting in the end — not there, not where you sit.
From Blindness to Blazing Deity
That’s where Jesus was taking the blind man — from blindness to the blazing deity of Jesus. And that is where he is taking us again in chapter 10. Jesus is either insane in what he is saying here, or he is God. Look at the conclusion in John 10:19–21:
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Is He Insane — or God?
That’s what it all comes down to — again. He is insane or he is God. And the reason I say Jesus brought it down to his insanity or his deity again is because of the way he describes his power in verses 17 and 18. This is either insane or divine. There is no middle way here. Not then. Not now.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (John 10:17)
“Anyone can say, ‘I’ll lay down my life.’ Only Jesus can say, ‘I will take it up again.’”
Now a mere mortal man might be able to say, “I have authority to lay down my life.” I can choose to commit a capital crime. I can choose to jump off a cliff. I can choose to step between you and the bullet. But nobody can say, “I have authority to take it up again.” If you are dead, you don’t have any authority to be undead. You can’t undead yourself. But Jesus said he could. So he’s either insane, or he is not a mere mortal man.
So I say it again, this is where Jesus is taking us again: he is either insane, or he is God. That is where he is taking us in John 10:1–21. So let’s follow him there and listen with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because everything in your life depends on where you end up after listening to him.
Verses 1–18 in Three Parts
John 10:1–18 falls into three parts: verses 1–6, 7–10, and 11–18. Verses 1–6 put the Pharisees to the test again with what John calls (verse 6) a “figure of speech” — a kind of parable, or word picture. It’s very general with a sheepfold, sheep, a door, a shepherd, a gatekeeper, and a stranger. Jesus does not identify himself with any of them explicitly. He leaves that to the Pharisees, and to us.
Then in verses 7–10, he says, “I am the door” (verses 7 and 9), and he unpacks what that means for us. Then in verses 11–18, he says, “I am the good shepherd” (verses 11 and 14), and he unpacks for us what that means for us.
One way to sum put these three parts would be to say that in verses 1–6, Jesus is gathering a flock — a people for himself from the Jewish fold. In verses 7–10, he is explaining why he is gathering this flock — that they might have life and have it abundantly (verse 10). And in verses 11–18 he is explaining how he is gathering and giving Life to this flock — by laying down his life for them, and taking it up again. That’s the summary, but oh, so much more is going on. Let’s follow him and listen carefully.
No Bridge from Chapter 9
Remember, he is talking to the Pharisees. Others are listening too (we know from John 10:21), but he is speaking directly to the Pharisees. Look at the bridge between chapter 9 and 10. No, you can’t, because there isn’t one. You don’t need a bridge where there’s no break. Look at 9:40–41 into chapter 10.
Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. 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.”
There’s no break here. It is unmistakable. The Pharisees are the thieves and robbers. They got to their positions of shepherd-like leadership without the blessing of the Gatekeeper. They are not faithful shepherds. They are the “stranger” in verse 5: “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” The sheep that belong to the true Shepherd (“his own,” verse 3) will not be controlled by the Pharisees.
The Legitimate Shepherd
The legitimate shepherd comes into the fold with the blessing of the Gatekeeper, and when he speaks he knows his own sheep and calls them by name, and they recognize his voice and they follow him out. Verses 2–4:
But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Even though Jesus never says in these verses that he is the shepherd, it is plain from the context of what just happened in chapter 9. Jesus just called the blind man to himself and made a worshiper out of him. But the Pharisees are heartless toward the man. They claim authority, but have no care for this sheep. John 10:1–6 is a word picture of what has happened in chapter 9.
Gathering a Flock
So the point of verses 1–6 is that Jesus is gathering a flock, a people, out from the fold of Israel. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (verse 3). That’s what Jesus was doing then. That is what Jesus is doing today. That is what is happening in the room where you sit — listening. You either hear the voice of an insane man or the voice of God.
“Jesus was gathering a flock and he is still doing it today.”
In verse 6, John calls this word picture in verses 1–5 a “figure of speech.” Why did Jesus tell this to the Pharisees? He was testing them. Giving them another chance to show if they were really blind or not. Chapter 9 ended with Jesus saying to the Pharisees, “You say, ‘We see.’ Do you? Here, I’ll draw you a picture with words. Tell me what you see.”
Do they see? Are they blind? Verse 6: “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” They did not know what he was saying. This picture carried no meaning for them, because they were blind and guilty. Are you, right now? What do you see?
Making Things Clearer — and More Offensive
How does Jesus respond to this blindness? Looked at one way, you could say, he keeps explaining. Looked at another way, he makes himself sound foolish (insane). He’s done this before in chapter 6. When he called himself the bread of life (John 6:35) and they murmured: How can he be bread from heaven? His words meant nothing to them, as here. He went on and made himself look utterly grotesque: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me” (John 6:56). And when they gagged on this saying (John 6:60–61) he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65).
In one sense, Jesus was making things clearer, and in another sense, he was making things more offensive. And that’s what he does here.
The Crowd Divides
You don’t grasp my figure of speech about the sheep and door and shepherd and strangers and thieves? Well try this: I am the door and I am the shepherd. And the crowd divides. They have always divided. They are dividing where you sit.
“To the those who are desperate to see, Jesus offers hope.”
One group says, “That’s foolish. You can’t be a door and a shepherd.” And another group says, “Oh Jesus tell us, tell us how you are a door and what it means for us. And tell us, tell us how you are a shepherd and what it means for us.” To the willfully blind, he offers foolishness. To the those who are desperate to see, he offers hope.
So what does he say about his doorness and his shepherdness? First, his doorness. Tell us, Jesus, what does it mean for us that you are a door for us? Verses 7–10:
Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers [there have been many who claimed to give what only I can give], but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus is saying the same thing he will say in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I am the door. If you believe in me, and trust me to be the only path to God, I promise you two things (John 10:9): You will be saved; and you will go in and out and find pasture.
Saved and Safe
Particularly, you are saved from wolves and thieves that come to kill and destroy (John 10:10). Safe from every enemy that would destroy you. Enter by me and you will be forever safe. Saved.
But none of us wants to be merely safe. We were not created merely to be safe. The human heart wants infinitely more than safety. Oh yes, safety is basic and necessary. We want to be protected from what can destroy us. We want life. Life. But we want more than mere life. We want abundant life. Overflowing life. Deep life. Weighty life. Joyful life. We don’t just want to survive. We want to thrive at every level of our human being. We were made for this.
And so Jesus says more: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved [yes, and more, so much more] and will go in and out and find pasture.” The point of saying this is that the sheepfold itself represents safety and protection. But sheep don’t want to stay there. In fact they will die if they stay in the safety of the fold. They want green pastures and still waters.
Thank You, Jesus
“Abundant life is not about having stuff. It’s about having God.”
And I think that when Jesus says in verse 10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” he means, “I came that they might be saved and go out and come and find pasture” — protection and plenty, solid safety and deep soul satisfaction. Abundant life is not about having stuff. It’s about having peace, having Joy, having God.
So thank you, Jesus, for being a door for us. We believe you are the only door to eternal safety. The only door to soul-satisfying pastures. The only door to God. We enter. Thank you.
That’s what the doorness of Jesus means. Now what about his shepherdness? That’s the why? Now what about the how? How are you gathering a flock of sinful sheep who have eternal, abundant life? Tell us, Jesus, tell us how you are a shepherd and what it means for us.
There is too much here in verses 11–18 to cover in the time that remains. So I planned to focus next week on these verses again. What I want to do in the few minutes that remain is simply follow Jesus quickly to the end. We will leave some of the steps for next time, especially verse 16, which is the verse that is written on the tombstone of the famous explorer and missionary, David Livingstone, in Westminster Abbey (in the KJV): “Other sheep I have, which are not of this Fold: Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my Voice.” The verse is enormously important for world missions and the sovereignty of God. It deserves a sermon to itself.
The Shepherd Who Lays Down His Life
But the short answer to the question what it means for Jesus to be our shepherd — and the answer to the question how is he gathering a people who have abundant life — is that he lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:14–15: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
He is bound to his sheep, as he is bound to his Father. He can no more lose them than he can lose the Father. And to save them he lays down his life. But God knows, and Jesus knows, and you know that if a shepherd dies, the sheep are at the mercy of the wolves. They will be scattered and they will die.
Why We Have Protection and Pasture
This is why Jesus says in verse 18: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” The Father sent him to die for his sheep. And the Father commanded that he not abandon his sheep, but rise from the dead. And he did.
This is why we can go in and out with him. He died for our sins, so that we are forgiven and have access to God. And he was raised to be the great Shepherd of the Sheep (Hebrews 13:20–21). Today. Alive. Leading us again and again to protection and pasture — Life and abundant life.
The Apex of Abundant Life
“The apex of abundant life is the worship of Jesus Christ.”
And the apex of that abundant life is the worship of Jesus Christ. That’s where he has been taking us. When he says I am the door; I am the Shepherd; I have authority to lay my life down, and as a dead man, I have the authority to take it up again, he is either insane or he is God.
And these things are written you may believe. I pray that you will. Come to him as your Door, your Shepherd, your Life.