The good shepherd

In the story of the good shepherd, Jesus was continuing the teaching he had begun after healing the blind man. Among his hearers were the Pharisees (see John 9:40), but they could not see that he was contrasting their treatment of the blind man with his. They acted like thieves and robbers, but Jesus acted like a good shepherd. As a result the man rejected the leadership of the Pharisees, but he clearly recognized Jesus as the shepherd-saviour and gladly followed him (John 10:1-6).

To explain further, Jesus likened himself to a door, by which people could come to God and so find life, freedom, protection and provision. But the Jewish leaders, instead of leading people to God, exploited and oppressed them (John 10:7-10).

Jesus was the true shepherd and spiritual leader of the people, but the scribes and Pharisees fought against him, setting themselves up as leaders. By teaching human traditions instead of God’s commandments, they enslaved the Jewish people and strengthened their own power. Like thieves they robbed the flock, like wolves they destroyed it, and like hired labourers they worked for their own profit without any real concern for the flock. By contrast, Jesus sacrificed everything for his flock, even being prepared to die for it so that his sheep might be saved (John 10:11-13).

The flock of Jesus consists not merely of those in the sheepfold of Israel, but includes people of all nations and languages. They are drawn together as one flock under the shepherd Jesus. The understanding between the shepherd and the sheep is the same as the understanding between the Father and the Son (John 10:14-16). The basis of the relationship between Jesus and his flock is his death and resurrection.

He has complete authority over life and death, and his enemies are powerless to take his life from him. Yet he willingly lays down that life so that he might save his people (John 10:17-18; cf. Acts 20:28).

Those who heard Jesus responded in strikingly different ways. Some said he was mad, but others accepted his words as being consistent with his work in healing the blind man. The opposite reactions that people had to Jesus determined their opposite destinies (John 10:19-21; cf. 9:39).

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