Who is The True Shepherd

This week's posts are related to the previous three, which explore the story of Jesus healing the man born blind.

Each village had a common walled-in pen (sheepfold) where shepherds would bring their sheep each evening. It was usually large enough to house about half a dozen flocks. There was one entrance, which was often just an opening. Before the shepherds could enter, they passed the gatekeeper, which ensured only certain shepherds could use the sheepfold. At night the door would be guarded by the shepherds, who would often lie across the doorway, making sure wild animals and robbers could not enter to harm or steal the sheep.

In the morning each shepherd would come to the sheepfold and call out his own sheep. Each sheep knew its shepherd's voice. They were loyal to that shepherd and would not follow anyone else. This is the picture Jesus used about the encounter between the man who was born blind and the false shepherds, the Pharisees.

Many false shepherds have popped up through the centuries: the Moonies, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, etc. They promise people salvation, and those promises come up empty. There is only one true shepherd. So, who is the true shepherd? How do we know who He is? How do we know Him to be true?

In Jesus's parable we learn the six marks of how to know a True Shepherd of the Sheep.

1. The True Shepherd is the Door
"... he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber" (John 10:1 ESV).

What does Jesus mean by the door? I think He's referring to an actual door. How is it the sheep can enter the sheepfold? Through the door. It's the proper entrance to the large sheep pen. You won't see shepherds jumping the fence. Those are the robbers. Instead, the shepherds go through the expected entrance.

For thousands of years, prophets had been predicting the way the Shepherd would come. Where He would be born, who He would be born to, and the unusual nature of His birth. How He would appear to the nation, how He would be introduced, where He would live, what He would say, and what He would do when He came

This is what Jesus meant in verse 1. The true shepherd comes through the expected entrance. How did Jesus enter Israel? He entered by the door.
  • Micah prophesied He would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
  • Isaiah prophesied He would be born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14)
  • Isaiah prophesied His name would be "Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
  • He is the One who was presented in the temple as an infant and circumcised on the eighth day, as mandated by the Law. (Luke 2:21-39)
  • God declared Jesus to be His Son. (Matthew 3:17)

Jesus came in the accepted way, by the door. Jesus said if anyone comes by any other way, he was not the true shepherd.

2. The True Shepherd is approved by the Gatekeeper
"To him the gatekeeper opens" (John 10:3 ESV).

The gatekeeper would guard the entrance of the sheepfold, ensuring the one coming for the sheep was the true shepherd. So, if Jesus has come and has fulfilled all the prophecies revealing He's the true shepherd, then who's the gatekeeper? Some think the gatekeeper is God or the Holy Spirit or Moses, but I think the evidence points to John the Baptist. He opened the door for Jesus to enter the fold of Judaism as their true shepherd. John 1:23 says he was the "voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord."

And in John that Baptists own words in John 1:29 He looked at Jesus and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! So, Jesus came into Israel through the door, the door of the prophetic Messianic Scripture. And the gatekeeper, John the Baptist, opened the door, so Jesus can call out to His flock.

3. The True Shepherd Calls His Sheep by Name
"The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name" (John 10:3 ESV).

When we look at the ministry of Jesus we always see Him dealing with people on a one-to-one basis: Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the paralyzed man, and the man born blind, etc. So, what Jesus says, is when our salvation occurred Jesus called us in a very personal, intimate way, calling out to us by name, calling us of spiritual deadness.

4. The True Shepherd Leads the Sheep Out
The true shepherd leads out his sheep. (John 10:3)

We can see a parallel between the blind man being cast out of the synagogue, and the true shepherd leads his sheep out. The parallel indicates Jesus is behind the Pharisees' actions to excommunicate the blind man. He willed it to happen, because Jesus was removing the formerly blind man away from false teaching.

This is the same thing Jesus does for every single person who puts their faith, hope, and trust in Him. He leads them out of the darkness of this world and into the Light.

5. The True Shepherd Goes before His sheep:
"When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them" (John 10:4 ESV).

This is an amazing promise. After Jesus leads you out of spiritual darkness, He's saying He'll never leave you alone. He's already gone ahead of you. Every pitfall, every pressure, every danger, every good and bad thing we walk through in this life … Jesus has gone before us. He has a plan for us, and we follow Him because we love Him, we trust Him, and we want no one else other than Him.

This should give every believer hope and peace. It echoes what David wrote in the Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (ESV).

6. The Sheep Trust the Voice of the True Shepherd

"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" (John 10:4-5 ESV).

The sheep trust the shepherd, not the thief or robber mentioned in verse 1. The sheep respond to their shepherd when he calls them out of the sheepfold—they are putting their lives in the hands of the shepherd and they love him.

Jesus is the True Shepherd. His sheep know His voice. They know and follow Him.