John 10:11 – 21
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
19 When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. 20 Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” 21 Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
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In our last study, we saw the interesting paradoxes that Jesus was both the Shepherd for the sheep, as well as the Gate for the sheep through which they must pass in order to be safe. We touched on another Biblical paradox in our last article as we suggested that Jesus was both the Savior and Mediator as well as the Sacrifice of this covenant of love and forgiveness from which we benefit eternally.
In verse 6 of this chapter, his listeners had asked Jesus what all his figurative language meant. But we see in this next passage of the story here that Jesus continued using metaphorical language as he went on to talk more about sheep and shepherds, and the sacrifices that shepherds would make on behalf of their sheep. So it may look like Jesus still had not answered their questions. Or perhaps he did.
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Actually, I believe that Jesus’ opening words in verse 11 would have spoken quite loudly to his audience that day. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were often portrayed in poetic and prophetic material as being sheep. And the leaders of the Jewish people were portrayed as shepherds who were to watch over and care for the flock, God’s people.
But as is so true in any human organization or institution, it does not take very long before those who are supposed to act as humble servants of God, caring for His people, start to become dominating overlords who look out for their own interests first. So when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” He was contrasting himself against the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees and Sadducees.
These leaders were very self-righteous and exercised great influence over the people of Israel. But they did not really care about the people, other than that they would obey all the rules and rituals that they had created and imposed upon the people. When Jesus came on to the scene and started to preach and teach and even heal people, rather than rejoice at the power of God being displayed among them, they became very jealous and threatened by Him. That is the primary reason why Jesus was accused, convicted and then killed on a cross.
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Jesus clearly marked out the difference between them and himself. He said he was the “good” shepherd, who was so devoted to his sheep (the people) that he was willing to sacrifice his life in order to save them. The religious leaders though were afraid of the Roman government which had control over Palestine back then.
If there was even the hint of a rebellion or a disturbance of the peace, there was the threat of the Romans coming back in and not only squelching the uprising, but also of destroying and dispersing the entire Jewish nation. That is why Caiaphus, the high priest back then said in John 11:49-50, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
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Jesus was not caught up in all this political religious intrigue by accident though. He knew that He would die, but even here in chapter 10, He says that he would sacrifice himself “voluntarily”. And not only for the lost sheep (people) of Israel, Jesus said He would do this for those who were “outside the sheepfold”. Jesus considered people who were not Jewish to also be part of His flock, and He would die to save them spiritually too.
And thank goodness for that! Because you and I (who are not Jewish by birth) are able to be included within the family of God. We are the “other sheep” whom Jesus wanted to bring inside of His sheepfold. You see, God’s love is so big that it could never be contained within one cultural group.
And that is why I and my wife and many others are working diligently at translating the Bible into these remote minority languages around the world. Because Jesus loves them too, and gave His life for them as well. Our work is to bring this message to them in a language that they can truly understand, so that all who accept Him, will become part of His great flock. Praise God!