The Gospel of John now moves to the early ministry of Jesus, both in demonstrating his authority as from God, and reaching out to all beyond Israel alone. The message of Jesus has gone out from now from multiple witnesses, not just Jesus. From John the Baptist, following on the predictions and words of the Old Testament and of Moses. And even so: I know you do not have the love of God in your hearts (5:42), how are you going to believe what I say (5:47). And the challenge has been: No fence sitting now about the person of Jesus. The miraculous signs of John’s gospels now speak to the identity and authority of Jesus as the Son of God:
- Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11);
- Healing the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46-54);
- Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (Jn 5:1-15);
- Feeding the 5,000 (Jn 6:5-14);
- Walking on water (Jn 6:16-21);
- Healing the man born blind (Jn 9:1-7); and
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-45).
The enemies of Jesus now begin to show their true colors – and not only have they rejected both Jesus as one who healed the man born blind, determined to stay in their unbelief, but they, with the allegory and imagery of the shepherd and his sheep, one of the oldest occupations in the world – they now refuse to acknowledge the comparative work of Jesus as the Good Shepherd to the false teachers, called thieves, robbers and wolves.
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice…I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 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 10:1-4; 11; 14-18.
1. The Kingdom of God is Like A Shepherd and His Sheep. Whom He leads, and He knows them, and they know him and follow him. From the tender imagery of the sheepherder who tends, herds, feed and guards his flock, this pastoral animal husbandry presents Jesus as the One who tenderly seeks out, cares for and leads his sheet – without losing any of them. This would have been immediately identified by the disciples of Jesus as fitting the Old Testament model and predictions of the coming of the Messiah as the Great Shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Ps 23:1).
2. And by Contrast, the Evil Enemies of Jesus are Evil Shepherds. Refusing to care for or protect others, these religious leaders are exposed as phonies, as charlatans, as ones who know nothing of the purposes of God for His people. Woe to the worthless shepherds that leave the flock! (Zech 11:17). No wonder the critics said ‘He is demon possessed, and raving mad. Why listen to him? (John 10:20).
3. But True Spiritual Security Comes Only from Jesus. In the midst of the festival for the dedication of the Jewish temple, Jesus reaffirms that His follows are eternally secure and sheltered within the Very hands of God. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[a]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30.
Jesus will use common settings familiar to his disciples to teach about God and the Kingdom and His redemptive work. From the pastoral settings of sheepherding to the common vineyards in Israel, to fields of grain and harvest festivals, the message is clear: God has sent his Son Jesus into the world to provide redemption to those who believe, and an eternal reward to those who follow Him.
The Shepherd King David knew this well and wrote of it in the Psalms:
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows he leads me beside peaceful streams.3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23.