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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Good Shepherd, Part 1 (The Doors)

The Good Shepherd, Part 1
(The Doors)
John 10:1-10

The other night, my wife, Terri was reading the 9th and 10th chapters of John… and she asked me, “Is this still the 8th day?”  Now… this might seem like an odd question to some… but I knew exactly what she was asking.

You see… the 8th day she was referring to was the day after the 7 day festival of Tabernacles.  As I mentioned in the “Christ at Tabernacles” series… chapter 8 begins the day after Tabernacles…  The festival is officially over, and everyone is packing up and beginning their journey home.

At the beginning of chapter 8, Christ returns to the Temple in the early morning and begins to teach once again.  He’s interrupted almost immediately by the Pharisees with a woman they caught in adultery.  After dealing with this… He tells the Jews that He is the “Light of the World”… which then led into another lengthy argument with the religious leaders.

The grand finale of this argument is when He declares to them that He is none other than the Yahweh of the OT by saying, “…before Abraham was, I AM.”  The Pharisees, of course, were infuriated and began picking up stones to throw at Him… but as the Scriptures tell us… He “hid Himself” from them and “going through the midst of them”… He “went out of the temple.”

Now… the end of chapter 8 just seems to flow smoothly into chapter 9, where we read...  Joh 9:1 KJV  And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

So it seems to indicate that this is still the same day… That as Jesus left the temple… He saw this man (remember… Bob?), and took a few moments to heal him.  And this healing, of course, being done on a Sabbath, led to a couple more run ins with the Jews. 

The first run in is Bob’s defense of Christ before men… and then his excommunication.  The second is Jesus revealing Himself as the Son of God and then telling the Jews that though they claimed to “see”… they were really “blind”.

Now… in chapter 10, Jesus is still talking to the same Jews of chapter 9…  There’s no pause or break in this confrontation… but He does change His approach by turning away from the direct question and answer and accusation… to the more indirect use of illustration to make His point.

You see, all through His ministry, Jesus has warned against following the Pharisees because they were… Mat 15:14 KJV  … blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

He called them hypocrites and false teachers who… Luk 11:39 KJV  … clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.

And that they would… Mat 23:15 KJV  … compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

These were educated and trained men who claimed to be the “leaders” of the people.  They were “rulers” of the synagogues and temple.  They were the teachers and the shepherds of the sheep

But just as they were actually “blind guides”, and “hypocrites” and “false teachers”… Jesus also makes it clear that they were also false shepherds who forced their way into the fold rather than entering in the proper manner…

Which is through…

I. The Door of the Sheepfold

Joh 10:1-2 KJV  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.  (2)  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

The first door of three doors that we come to in this illustration is the door of the sheepfold”… but before I go any further with that… it might be better if I first explain what a “sheepfold” is. 

Today, in our part of the world, we’d call it a “pen” or a “corral”.  The difference being that the “corrals” we’re familiar with are mainly designed to keep animals in.  They don’t keep thieves or predators out too well.  They usually aren’t too tall for someone to climb over… and they also have large spaces between the crossbars that wolves, coyotes, or others animals can get through.

In contrast to this… the ancient, Middle Eastern “sheepfold”, was designed to have walls that were of a more solid nature… with only one opening that acted as the door.   The walls would be made of whatever the most readily available materials were… wood… or mud brick, and they would stand anywhere between 7 to 10 feet high.    

Each village would have a large communal sheepfold for the shepherds to bring their flocks in for safety at night.  They would leave their sheep in the sheepfold under the care of the porter, who was hired to watch and protect the sheep while the shepherds slept. 

If the sheepfold had a door or gate, the porter would lay on guard, through the night… to protect against thieves or robbers or wild animals that might breech the walls in some way.  If the doorway was just an opening… he’d lay on the ground in the opening… keeping the sheep in… and predators out.

Then, in the morning, the porter would allow each shepherd to enter through the door to call his sheep out to pasture.

Now this illustration is filled with symbolism.  And as an explanation of one of the symbols… Jesus tells us that He’s the “door” of the sheepfold.  The “door” is the rightful… or lawful way for the shepherd to gain access to his sheep.  And as we’ll see… Jesus is not only the door… but as the Shepherd… He’s also the only one who has the right to go through the door.  Any others who climb over the walls… or try to break through… are thieves or robbers.

Some say that the symbolism of the sheepfold is that it’s Heaven… but I don’t think this is the case because thieves and robbers can’t force their way into Heaven.  Others say that the sheepfold is the Church… but I don’t think this is right either because the Shepherd doesn’t lead his sheep out of the Church… as He does from this “fold”.

No, I think that this sheepfold here represents Judaism… which the Shepherd gathers “His sheep” and leads them out of into “green pastures”.

So as the “door of the sheepfold”… Jesus presented himself to the Jews in the rightful and lawful way… demonstrating that He not only fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the Messiah who was to come… but that He also fulfilled the law perfectly.

As the promised Messiah, then, Jesus was… Mat 15:24 KJV  … not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

In other words… as the Messiah, Jesus was sent by his Father to the Jews.  That was His primary ministry.  To bring God’s people… His elect… out of an apostate religion ruled by men and tradition… and into… or rather “back to” the understanding that… Gal 3:11 KJV  …The just shall live by faith.

So… when the Pharisees “cast out” the beggar… the reality was that the Shepherd was leading him out of the barren wasteland of Judaism and into the green pastures of Christianity.

Now… the second door that we see here is…

II. The Door of the Sheep

Joh 10:3-7 KJV  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  (4)  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  (5)  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  (6)  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.  (7)  Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

The Shepherd of the sheep is given entrance into the sheepfold by the porter… and the sheep that He calls out are “His own” and He knows them by “name”.  Now… this is an important distinction to understand, because when the Shepherd entered the sheepfold… His call went out for all to hear.  But only “His own” responded.

And they responded because… Joh 6:37a KJV All that the Father giveth me shall come to me…  And also because they were… Eph 1:4a KJV  … chosen… in him before the foundation of the world

Those who are called, respond because… Joh 10:3-4 KJV … he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  (4)  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.    

An illustration of being called by the Shepherd and recognizing His voice is seen in the apostle, Matthew as he sat at his table, collecting taxes.  The Shepherd saw him, called him… he recognized His voice when He said… Mat 9:9 KJV  …Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

As Jesus passed through Jericho, He saw Zacchaeus and called him by name… Luk 19:5 KJV …Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.  Zacchaeus heard the Shepherd’s voice and responded immediately… Luk 19:6 KJV …he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

In John 1:43-49 we read the story of how Philip heard the Shepherd’s call and responded by not only following Him… but by bringing Nathanael with him… who also recognized the Shepherd’s voice and followed.
In the coming weeks we’ll be reading about Lazarus… who heard the Shepherd’s voice from beyond the tomb.  He heard… he responded... and came forth!
The Scriptures are filled with examples of God’s elect, hearing the call of their Shepherd and then following Him.  But the greatest example we know of isn’t found in the Scriptures at all… but in our own lives.  Every person in here today who trusts in Christ as their Lord and Savior has heard the voice of the Shepherd of their souls… and responded in faith.
And so it goes throughout the ages.  A general call goes out for all to hear and believe the Gospel… Mat 20:16 KJV …for many be called, but few chosen.  But only those who are “His own” will respond.

Not only will they respond to the Shepherd’s voice… but they won’t respond to anyone else’s.  Matter-of-fact… their response to a stranger might be running away.

Joh 10:5 KJV  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 

A mark of being one of Christ’s sheep is that they will not follow the “false” shepherds, or the stranger.  Now this does not mean that they will never be deceived or respond to a false shepherd… because the Devil is highly skilled in mimicking the Master’s voice… But it does mean that if they are of Christ’s flock… when He calls… they will hear… and they will follow.

(I’d like to take a couple minutes and show you a video I found on YouTube…)

(Show YouTube video clip) 

Isn’t that amazing?  I also read a story that during WWI, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem.  The shepherd, who had been sleeping… woke up to find his flock driven off.  He couldn’t recapture them by force… so he called to them from a distance with his distinctive call.  The sheep heard, and came running to their rightful owner…  The soldiers couldn’t do anything to keep them from returning to their shepherd’s voice.

Joh 10:6 KJV This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

Can you see the contrast in this verse to everything else we’ve just been talking about?  While Christ’s sheep recognize His voice and follow… those who aren’t His… don’t understand” the things that are plainly said to them.  To those who are not Christ’s sheep… His voice sounds like the voice of the mother or the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons. (Wah…wah…wah, wah)

They can hear something… Joh 10:6 KJV … but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

So as we’ve seen… Jesus is the “door” and the “door of the sheep” who presented Himself as the only rightful and legal way “His own” can exit their apostate religion.  But now we also see that He is…

III. The Door of Salvation                                        

Joh 10:8-10 KJV  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.  (9)  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.  (10)  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Almost universally throughout the Scriptures… whenever you see the words “thieves” and “robbers”… the words imply deception and violence.  “Thieves” are generally those who use deception to steal things… and “robbers” take from others through violence or threats of violence.

Now we know that people like Moses, Joshua, David and the prophets… just to name a few… can’t be included in the classification as a “thief” or “robber”.  So the word, “all”, that Jesus uses here simply can’t be taken absolutely.

Not every teacher or shepherd of Israel who came before Christ was a “thief” or “robber”… obviously.  And if this is case… then who is He speaking of?  Well, I’m thinking that He’s speaking of the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadduccees… the religious leaders who had perverted the Jewish faith into it’s current, apostate form.

Few things are as despicable to Christ and should be exposed, opposed and rebuked by the Church today… as false teachers of false religion.  Some of the strongest words ever spoken by Jesus and the Apostles, were spoken against false prophets and false shepherds.

For example… Jesus said… Luk 11:52 KJV  Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

The Apostle Paul said… 2Co 11:13 KJV For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

Peter called them… 2Pe 2:17 KJV  … wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

There is never anything good said about false shepherds or false teachers in the Bible.  They try to lead the flock astray through their lies and deception… and they hinder the spreading of God’s truth and the revelation of Jesus Christ.

They are to be exposedopposed… and rebuked by the Church, and there can be “no quarter” given when the souls of men are at stake!

Jesus tells us in verse 9… Joh 10:9 KJV  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 

Earlier He’s revealed to us as the “door” through which “his own” escape false religion.  Now… He says… “if any man enter in, he shall be saved”

Up to this point… He’s been speaking of the “elect” of Israel and leading them out of Judaism…  Now, He’s looking forward to the “elect” among the Gentiles!  He’s no longer only the door out of false religion… but He’s also the door into true religion and salvation.

And that door is thrown wide open to “any man” who will “enter in”.  To the Jew first… and also to the Greek is the way Paul put it.  Jesus is telling us that anyone who enters through Him… will be saved… without exception… and that He will lead them to pasture… He will provide all their needs, wherever they go.

He does this because… Joh 10:10b KJV …I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Folks… this abundant life that Jesus promises to those who “enter in”… has nothing to do with the “health and wealth”, or “name it, claim it” false doctrines that have infected the Church of Jesus Christ.

The abundant life that Jesus promises to those who “enter in” is salvation!  It’s the matchless and free gift of eternal life that exceeds all expectation.  It’s eternal life… right now… with more abundant evidence of it in our lives than was displayed under the previous covenant.  And it means having a stronger faith in it, and a more lively hope of it.

And as I said before… it includes the promise that no matter where we go… or what we do… He will always be there as our Shepherd… providing all our needs and protecting us from any harm that may come our way… as we… “go in and out, and find pasture”

Oh the wonderful and marvelous and infinite grace of God, that’s given to all who hear the Shepherd’s voice and enter into the eternal life that He so freely offers.

And it’s available to all who respond in faith… when they hear the Shepherd call their name.

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