Gospel: John 10:1-10
Epistle: 1 Peter 2:19-25
Lesson: Acts 2:42-47
Psalm: Psalm 23
CLB Commentary – Dr. David Veum
The proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd has encouraged God’s children through the centuries. The metaphor brings to mind the Psalmist’s testimony who said, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” Most of us can still find a picture of the Shepherd carrying a sheep over his shoulder or surrounded by the sheep in his care. The Good Shepherd pictures for us the One who calls us by name, who leads us out to places of rest, and who speaks so intimately to us that we recognize his voice.
Stepping into that role of Good Shepherd required that he enter through the door (v 2). Entering through the door meant for Jesus the incarnation, a perfect life, his vicarious atonement, his resurrection, and acceptance at the right hand of God. He is the only acceptable shepherd. The Keeper of the Door opens to him.
Jesus expands the metaphor of the door in verse 7. In the previous paragraph entrance by the door designated the true shepherd in contrast to the false teachers who climbed over the fence. Now he speaks of the door in relationship to the sheep. He is himself the Door for the sheep. Whoever enters through him will be saved. The one who enters through the door will be cared for by the Good Shepherd. “They will go in and out and find pasture.”
Ultimately they will receive life. Life in the Gospel of John is a key word and an important concept. It means the eternal life which comes through the gospel. It includes the beginning of that life in the here and now. “I have come that they might have life and that they might have it abundantly.”
One can meditate on and study the metaphors of the Good Shepherd and the Door and write many sermons. Yet, their message has even more impact when considering the context of the parable. It immediately follows the healing of the blind man with its graphic illustration of the “hired hand” tactics of the Pharisees. They cast the blind man out of the synagogue because he refused to reject Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. In the story they are the ones who are blind because they say, “We see.” In the parable they are the thieves and robbers who don’t enter in through the door.
So how does this apply to John’s readers and to our listeners? Faced with persecution John’s readers were being put out of the synagogues for embracing Christ and they were suffering for following him. The parable, especially in relationship to the blind man who was persecuted for believing in Christ, proclaims amazing promises to those who are tempted to give up. Christ has entered through the door. The Doorkeeper opens to him. He is the door. Those who enter his sheep pen through him will be saved.
They will be nourished and protected. They will have life and life eternal even in the face of the thief who steals, kills, and destroys through his agents.
Our listeners may not be tempted by persecution to turn from what is truly life. More likely they are tempted by false promises of life, false promises which the thief uses to steal, kill, and destroy. They need to remember that real life is found in the One who, according to the next paragraph, lays down his life for the sheep. They need help in recognizing the sound of his voice. That recognition does not result from replaying voice recordings or from descriptors of pitch and tone, but rather it results from the very words which he speaks: “Your sins are forgiven.” “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of me.” “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.
Finally, any summary of this parable would be remiss without noting that it begins with the words of verity: “Truly, truly” or “I tell you the truth.” The phrase precedes some of the most important sayings of Jesus. They introduce the statement that he is the Good Shepherd. They are repeated in verse 7 when Jesus asserts that he is also the Door for the sheep. We can trust him to keep us and give us life now and for eternity.