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Jesus is very plain and clear what he says to us. Jesus challenges us listen and hear what he says. We should know his voice when we hear it. Jesus will not deceive us or send us in the wrong direction. Jesus is plain and Jesus is clear.

Jesus, the Messiah (Anointed King), challenges us to act. Our job is to listen to him and then follow him. Jesus will lead us into Godly action. Jesus only does what he hears his father saying to him. Our job is to only do what we hear Jesus saying to us to do.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. [1]

(John 10:1-6)

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The initial, double “Amen [Truly]” emphasizes the truth of Jesus’ figurative language. What this language stands for must wait till the next paragraph, though. Meanwhile some explanation of the language itself:

Low stone walls (and there are plenty of stones in the land of Israel) enclosed sheep pens out in the hills where shepherds pastured their sheep.

  • Apparently, sheep-stealing was as common as cattle-rustling was in the American Wild West.
  • So, shepherds would leave their sheep overnight in a sheep pen under the guard of a gatekeeper—if a gatekeeper was available to give the shepherd some relief.
  • Naturally, then, a thief or a bandit—because he wanted to avoid tangling with the gatekeeper, who was sleeping at the gate—would climb over the wall away from the gate to carry off some sheep.

More than one shepherd might bring their flocks to the sheep pen on a given night. So, sheep belonging to different shepherds mingled with each other overnight. How then did a shepherd retrieve his own sheep the next morning? Well, he had given each of his sheep a name; and they’d grown to recognize his voice and their names. When the gatekeeper opened the gate, the shepherd entered the pen and one by one called out the names of his sheep. They’d come to him when he did. Sheep not belonging to him wouldn’t come to him. (Of course, the gatekeeper wouldn’t open the gate to anyone who wasn’t a shepherd of some sheep inside the pen.) The shepherd would then lead his own sheep out of the pen into pastureland, and they followed.

Shepherds didn’t drive their sheep ahead of them. They led the sheep, because unlike the sheep they knew the location of good pasture. But “leads out” in 10:3 changes to “thrusts out” in 10:4. “Thrusts out” is unrealistic and at a literal level of meaning contradicts both “leads out,” “proceeds ahead of them,” and the sheep’s “following” the shepherd.

  • Why then does this verb appear here? Actually, “thrusts out” translates the same verb that we have seen before, where the Jews “threw out” the ex-blind man from their synagogue.
  • So, this verb helps link together the story of Jesus and the blind man and the figurative language of the gate, the shepherd, and the sheep. But what a contrast between these thrusting out!
  • The ex-blind man was thrust out to be abandoned.
  • The shepherd thrusts out his sheep, so to speak, to go ahead of them as they follow. And he thrusts out all his own sheep.
  • None are left behind.
  • The shepherd won’t lose one of his own.

The shepherd’s proceeding ahead of the sheep wouldn’t necessarily guarantee they’d follow. But they do because they know his voice. So Jesus adds knowing his voice as a complement to hearing his voice. Later we’ll learn that the shepherd knows his sheep—naturally, since he calls each one by name—so that there’s mutual recognition between shepherd and sheep.

In contrast with following their shepherd, the sheep not only won’t follow a stranger. They’ll flee from strangers, whether other shepherds or thieves and bandits, because they don’t recognize the voice of a stranger. This behavior of the sheep stresses the exclusivity of the relation between sheep and their shepherd. But the Jews don’t know, don’t understand, what Jesus has been saying. Apparently, they don’t know, don’t recognize, his voice. They’re not his sheep.[2]

Here are some additional thoughts on “the” good Sheperd. Please subscribe to the channel if you like the content.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 10:1–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 404–405). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.