the door, the sheep, and the shepherd | John 10.1-6
“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. 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. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. John 10.1-6 | ESV
And without missing a beat or stopping for a breath, Jesus seized upon this moment with the crowd that had gathered for some ambitious word painting: “I am going to say this twice and mean it! – when you’ve got someone breaking and entering into the sheep-keep rather than just using the door (exchanging glances with the sightless Strict Sect types, he was), clearly we’re dealing with a thief, or worse, a violent bandit. Ah, but when you see someone walking right through the door into the sheep-keep, we’re talking shepherd of the sheep, aren’t we? Anyone manning the door opens right up for him, and the sheep run right to him because it’s his voice they hear and recognize as he calls his own sheep in his own way, calling them one after another by name, leading them on out. And when they’re all out he’s right there in front of them, leading them forward, the sheep following him just because they recognize his voice and trust him. Not so much with strangers and posers no matter how clever an imitation they might offer – no, they don’t follow they flee from such a poser for the simple reason there’s no voice recognition and hence no trust.”
This was Jesus’ bold word-picture for them, painted right before their eyes, but the crowd was clueless as to his meaning – all they saw were random lines and pretty colors. MAV
The care of eastern shepherds is proverbial.
Their sheep are names to them, not numbers.
They can recognize them by touch and by smell.
They don’t drive their sheep, no spurs or goads are applied.
They walk before them.
Multiple flocks can be mingled at the same watering hole, but a shepherd’s unique voice and call immediately summons her sheep – and only her sheep – to her side.
Multiple shepherds can call simultaneously, and the sheep will sort themselves out as they trot over to their respective shepherds.
The shepherd leads his sheep into a safe sheepfold for the night that he has carefully constructed, and then he lies down at the opening, becoming, literally, the door for the sheep.
The shepherd’s very presence communicates rest and ease to the sheep.
And she has a big stick that communicates lethal pain to any and all predators.
And he’s really good with rocks.
So proverbial that one tourist while traveling in the Holy Land was shocked to see a bunch of sheep being driven by a fierce looking nomad who was yelling at them and beating them with a stick. Confused, the tourist asked the tour guide how this could possibly be the “good shepherd” he had read about all these years. “Oh,” the guide responded, “that’s not the shepherd, it’s the butcher!”
There’s a mournful undertone to Jesus’ words, if we are listening carefully. He looked out at Israel and saw “sheep without a shepherd,” sheep in distress, uncared for, and exploited by shepherds who devoured widows’ income – and who had just thrown a precious formerly blind ewe lamb to the wolves.
Thieves and bandits.
Perhaps the biggest revelation for us to soak in this week: God is not that.
We tend to understand this about as well as the folks hearing Jesus that day.
We are more than a number to him.
He doesn’t merely take our count he calls our name – he has his own name for us.
He knows us by touch, by our smell.
He doesn’t drive us with a stick shouting curses at us because of our ponderous pace.
And when we wander off for the umpteenth time, he doesn’t write us off as a loss to be recouped at the next sheep market.
He leaves the rest secure in that sheepfold and he tracks us down, lifting our weary body onto his shoulders when he finds us, and singing his song of love over us with every step back as he brings us home.
God is not the big bad wolf huffing and puffing. He’s the good shepherd.
Yes, let’s soak in that bit of revelation this week.
Do you see God as the big, bad wolf or as the loving, good shepherd? Which view is primary in your view of God? Why?
Good Shepherd, rinse my eyes that I may see you as you are and not as I fear you may be. Let me see in your face the reality of the Shepherd who lays down his life for me, who carries me, who leads me, who loves me. Through Jesus.