Parables of Jesus for the Modern Pilgrim
Jesus is in the middle of a conversation with the Pharisees about healing a man who had been blind since birth. For full context, read John 9.
Today’s parable is found in John 10:1-21.
The Parable of the Good Shepherd and His Sheep
The context of this parable is important because Jesus is accusing the religious leaders of treachery. Let’s take a look.
The cast of characters:
- Good Shepherd
This parable is about who is taking care of the sheep. Jesus very openly infers that the Pharisees are thieves and robbers because they have snuck over the gate to get to the sheep. Using language they will understand, they immediately get the picture. Jesus is the gate. They have gone around the Lord to put themselves in authority over the sheep, God’s people.
But the shepherd comes in through the gate. He has taken such good care of the sheep that they know and obey his voice. This is an important point because the people didn’t follow the Pharisees out of respect. On the contrary, they feared them. A Pharisee used his power to get rich off of the people. He turned God’s commands into an impossible feat and profited on the sacrifices they needed to make in order to purify themselves. Jesus called them out for the scoundrels they were.
But the people listening – the sheep – weren’t following. Jesus gives the interpretation so there is no confusion.
First of all, Jesus is the gate. He is the way into God’s people. The gate keeps the sheep in and the robbers out. All who came before (or since) Jesus, claiming to be their salvation, were robbers and thieves. The religious leaders where trying to play this role. The true sheep would not follow them.
The people feared the religious leaders. We see this when they are afraid they’d be thrown out of the synagogue. The Pharisees had the power to ostracize anyone from the community and ruin their reputation, ruining their ability to earn a living.
Yes, Jesus says it again. He is the gate where his people can come and go in freedom and be well cared for. The thief wants to kill and destroy – Jesus came to give abundant life!
Now Jesus switches characters to the Good Shepherd. He will sacrifice his life for the sheep – Jesus foretells of the cross here. The hired hands, religious leaders, are only in it for the money and will run when the wolf comes. The wolf is the real enemy of the sheep.
In contrast to the thieves, the Good Shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. Don’t skim over the next phrase: just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. Wow.
I can understand that Jesus can know me completely, but He says here that we can know Him with the same relationship that He has with the Father. That is amazing.
And then He opens the door for me, a gentile woman in 2018. Jesus has more sheep in another sheepfold, and He is thinking of them at this moment too. We are to be one flock with one Good Shepherd.
You can hear the goodness of Jesus’ heart as he carefully explains that those thieves and robbers will not take His life. He will intentionally lay it down as a sacrifice for us, His dearly loved sheep. And He will gloriously take it up again at the resurrection.
And that is exactly what Jesus did. His plan that had been made from the beginning was carried out by a loving Shepherd who cared for His sheep and held nothing back. All this He did in obedience to His Father.
Oh, it is good to be a sheep in the Lord’s flock.