The Good Shepherd

Please read John 9:35 – 10:21

Yeshua heard that they had thrown the man out. He found him and said, “Do you trust in the Son of Man?” 
 “Sir,” he answered, “tell me who he is, so that I can trust in him.” 
Yeshua said to him, “You have seen Him. In fact, He’s the one speaking with you now.” 
“Lord, I trust!” he said, and he kneeled down in front of Him.

John 9:35-38 CJB

Yeshua had found this man the first time to display God’s power in healing his blindness. Now, He found the man a second time to restore his soul, to invite this man to believe (trust) in Him. None had ever sort the man born blind to do him good before. He responded wholeheartedly.

Again a crowd was gathering.

 Yeshua said, “It is to judge that I came into this world, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” 
Some of the P’rushim nearby heard this and said to Him, “So we’re blind too, are we?”  
Yeshua answered them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you still say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
John 9:39-41 CJB

The way people responded to Jesus showed their true spiritual condition. Some called themselves teachers and thought they possessed religious insight, but in fact they were spiritually blind. Others knew they were blind and in the darkness of sin, but when they turned to Jesus they saw the light of God. There could be some excuse for those who were blind through ignorance, but there was sharp rebuke for those who claimed to have knowledge but deliberately rejected the plain evidence before them.

Yeshua continued addressing the P’rushim (Pharisees)…

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But He who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep.  To Him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.  And when He brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.  Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  

Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. John 10:1-6 NKJV

Yeshua described His mission in terms they were familiar with from the Hebrew scriptures. He is our shepherd who comes and calls us by name to lead us out to follow Him.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. . . Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Isaiah 40:11 NASB

The day was coming to a close and shepherds were taking their sheep to the safety of the fold for the night. Yeshua had welcomed the man born blind into His fold after he’d been rejected by the false shepherds of Israel. The flocks of sheep spent the night in a fold (αὐλήגְּדֵרָה) surrounded by a wall, at whose gate an under-shepherd (ὁ θυρωρός) kept watch during the night.  There is only one gate, every other attempted means of entering the fold is illegitimate. The Pharisees thought themselves the gatekeepers of Israel, who protected the people from ungodly influences, so they were caught off-guard by this unfolding similitude.

So Yeshua said to them again, “Yes, indeed! I tell you that I am the gate for the sheep. All those who have come before Me have been thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate; if someone enters through Me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure.” John 10:7-10 CJB

Yeshua’s restoration and acceptance into the fold, of the man born blind, demonstrated that He indeed is the true entrance into God’s fold, the gate through which all need to pass if they are to enter. The Pharisees rejection and casting out of this man for speaking truth showed them to be thieves and robbers. Yeshua had come to bring life in its fullest measure where they had brought only destruction.

Yeshua is the gate, the one and only way into the kingdom of God.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  
He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters the flock.  He flees because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep.”  John 10:11-13 NASB

No metaphor can adequately describe the Son of God so Yeshua shifts His self-description from the Gate to the Good Shepherd as He continues to contrast His ministry to that of the Pharisees. Again prophesying His upcoming death, Yeshua presents it as a requirement of the Good Shepherd. It will not be a meaningless tragedy but a necessity for our sake, and another proof that Yeshua is who He says He is.

Again, He was appealing to their knowledge of scripture, both in describing Himself as the good shepherd and in describing the religious leaders who had thrown out the man healed from congenital blindness as hired hands:

The word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:  Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for My sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  …  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
” … “ And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. ” Ezekiel 34:1-17, 23

In declaring Himself to be the good shepherd, Yeshua was revealing His divinity. He is the one who seeks the lost, even as He sort the man born blind.

 I am the good shepherd, and 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.  John 10:14-15 NASB

Those who hear and follow Yeshua belong to Him, are known by Him and know Him. What He invites us to in the call to follow is an intimate knowing, to know and be known by Jesus even as He knows and is known by the Father. There is no greater belonging. No greater acceptance.

 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd. John 10:16 NASB

This unity with God, this belonging to Yeshua, this knowing and being known by Him, is not only offered to the fold of the Jews. Yeshua came to the Jews as the promised Jewish Hamashiach (Messiah). But now He declares that they are not the only ones that He is calling, and dying for. The division between Jews and Gentiles was going to be removed as both would be called and together become one flock under the one shepherd, Yeshua Hamashiach.

 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to 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 authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ John 10:17-18 NIV

Again, Yeshua is preparing His talmidim for His death and resurrection. Although it will appear that He’s a hapless victim of the world’s evil, in reality He will simply be doing the Father’s will in choosing to lay down His life for His sheep, and then taking it up again.

The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, ‘He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?’
But others said, ‘These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
John 10:19-21 NIV

Reference List

1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online]
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

  • This man whom Jesus had healed from blindness was thrown out of his community by the religious leaders. Are people ever thrown out of your community, or disfellowshipped, or excommunicated. If so, what are the reasons for their rejection?
  • Jesus found the man after he had been thrown out of the synagogue and affirmed him as one of His sheep, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. How do you and your church respond to people who are despised and rejected by others?
  • Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and know Him as He knows the Father. How do you encourage people in your congregation to hear and obey the Good Shepherd’s voice?