1.  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

In certain months, a shepherd in the land of Israel would have to venture far afield to find proper pasture to feed his sheep.  Sometimes, it was necessary for him to keep his sheep in a dangerous place where there were enemies and things that could hurt the sheep.  In this case, it would be necessary for him to build a sheepfold, or a corral, as we would more commonly call it in our country.  This fold was often made of rocks, and built up so that there was only one door into the sheepfold, just large enough for a man to stand in the gap.  A shepherd would do this when he would call the sheep into the fold.  Then, the sheep would pass between his legs to get into the fold, where he could see that all who entered were his sheep, and where he could stop and care for any who may have cut or scraped themselves during the day.  All he had to do was to close his legs around a sheep to stop him so that he could examine him and minister to him in any way he needed.

The sheepfolds would have a guard who would stand in the doorway at night, allowing the shepherd to take his rest.  This guard would stand in the doorway and not let anything into or out of the sheepfold.  In the morning when the shepherd returned, the guard would let him in through the door, since he was the shepherd and the sheep belonged to him.  A robber, however, would not be permitted into the sheepfold, but would have to try to find some other way to climb up into the fold.

In many cases, this verse is used in evangelistic sermons to try to lead people to Christ.  The Lord is presented as the door of the sheepfold, and people are urged to come to God through Him.  Those who seek to enter another way are said to be those who refuse to come to Him for salvation.  Yet does this interpretation really fit with the facts of the passage?

Christ is not talking about salvation here.  Rather, He is setting forth His Own credentials.  The One Who was to come and be the promised Shepherd of the sheep had to enter the fold by the door.  What was this door?  It was the method for entering that God had set forth in His Word.  It was all the promises and prophecies that the Messiah had to fulfill in order to prove that He was really the promised Shepherd.  He had to fit every prophecy made.  For example, He had to be of the tribe of Judah and the family of David.  He had to be born in Bethlehem, but be called out of Egypt, and yet be called a Nazarene.  He had to work the miracles that God had predicted He would work.  All these things were prophecies that He had to fulfill, and only by fulfilling these prophecies could He prove that He was the true Shepherd of the sheep.

Now there were many who came and claimed to be God’s promised Deliverer.  Yet none of these displayed the characteristics that the Bible declared that the Shepherd should have.  Thus, they did not enter the fold by the door, the way prescribed by the Word.  Instead, they bypassed these prophecies like a thief climbing over the wall.  They made great claims for themselves and sometimes led many people astray after them, but in the end they were proven to be nothing more than thieves and robbers who did not truly care at all for the needs of the sheep.  Yet the Lord Jesus was not this way!

2.  “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

There was only One Who entered the sheepfold by the door, only One Who fulfilled all the prophecies that God had made about the coming Shepherd.  That One was Jesus Christ.  He entered as He was supposed to enter, and thus He could claim to be the true Shepherd of the sheep.

Yet what use is making this passage to talk about a sinner finding salvation?  Even if we bring verse 7 into this verse and claim that Christ is the door, does that then mean that anyone Who enters by Christ is the shepherd of the sheep?  Certainly not!  Those who twist this passage to mean this end up making the illustration to be senseless and confusing.  Those who come to Christ do not become the shepherd of the sheep!  Only One is the Shepherd, and that is Jesus Christ.  This passage is not talking about the sinner and salvation, but about the Lord’s relationship to Israel as their Shepherd.

3.  “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

The true shepherd can easily enter the sheepfold, for the doorkeeper opens to Him.  Then, he speaks to the sheep and they hear his voice.  “Hear” in this case does not mean literally hearing, but the more figurative sense of listening and responding to what is heard.  This is an illustration that would be well known to anyone who knows the art of shepherding as it was practiced in that day.  Often the shepherds would have names for the sheep under their care, and would call the sheep by name.  The sheep, moreover, would learn to recognize the voice of their shepherd, the one who cared for them and led them.  Once they became attached to that shepherd, he was the only one they would follow.  If anyone else came and tried to call them, they would not listen to him, not recognizing his voice.

In the same way, the Lord knew that when He would call His sheep, His true sheep would know His voice and follow Him.  We can see this very thing happening over and over again in the gospels.  We saw that very thing happen in the book of John back in John 1:43, when the Lord found Philip and told him to “Follow Me.”  Philip, like a true sheep, knew his Master’s voice, and followed Him from then on.

4.  “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

He brings His sheep out of the fold into the pasture where they can be fed.  When He does so, He is the leader, going before them to lead them in the way they should go.  Why do His sheep follow Him?  Because they know His voice!  May each one of us come to know the true voice of our Lord and Savior, so that we will ever follow Him to wherever He may lead us.

5.  “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Sheep were skittish animals, and did not like new or disturbing things.  Thus, if a stranger came and tried to call them, not only would they not listen, but they would also flee from him, not recognizing his voice.  In the same way, those who are true sheep of the shepherd do not listen to the voice of strangers who speak contrary to the truth of God.  Rather, they flee from them, knowing instinctively that they are up to no good.  May the Lord grant us the knowledge to likewise flee from all who would lead us astray from our Master!

6.  Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

What the Lord Jesus was speaking here was not a parable, as some versions have it, but an illustration.  The idea in Greek is a “wayside saying.”  This story was using events and generalities common to the everyday experience of the people who heard them.  Indeed, anyone resting by the wayside who heard this saying would know immediately what the Lord was talking about, knowing shepherds and sheep and how the two would interact.  Yet just because they understood the saying does not mean that they understood the meaning that the Lord had behind it.  In fact, in this verse we learn that they did not understand what He was truly driving at.  They may have understood this illustration in regards to shepherds and sheep, but they did not yet understand how it related to the Lord Himself, His relationship to them, and the truth that He was the true Shepherd.

7. Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

Now the Lord, realizing that they did not grasp what He was saying to them, makes Himself even plainer.  He is the door of the sheep.  Back in verses 1-3 He entered by the door, and now He Himself becomes the door.  This is the way it is with illustrations: they are easily changeable, and can be altered in an instant to bring forth different and greater truths.

8.  “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.

Everyone Who came before Christ and claimed to be the way to God were nothing but thieves and robbers, seeking to lure people away from God and to steal their souls away from Him.  Yet those who were truly sheep of the Lord did not listen to any of these false shepherds, no matter how many there were that came.

This is not speaking of men like Moses and the prophets.  These men did not claim to be the Shepherd, but only to point the way to Him.  They were not the thieves and robbers mentioned here: only those who claimed to be the Promised One and yet were not.

9.  “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Again He emphasizes the fact that He is the door by which men must enter the sheepfold.  Moreover, He promises that anyone who enters by Him will go in and out and find pasture.  Going in and out was a figure of speech for just the normal practice of living life.  Those who enter by Him and are saved, then, will live their lives by going in and out of His pasture.  This is a reference to Ezekiel 34, one of the passages we looked at earlier.

10.  “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

This is simply what the other, false shepherds came to do.  They did not come to do good for the sheep.  Instead, they came to steal, to kill, and to destroy.  Their visit did not result in salvation or life, but only in ruin and destruction and death for those foolish enough to follow them.  The Lord, though, came for a far different reason.  He came to give His sheep life, and not just life as we know it today.  Rather, He came to give them a more abundant life.  This is the very life John has talked about so often in the earlier chapters of this book: the eonian life that the Lord promised to all who follow Him.  He came to give His sheep this life.  What a great truth this is!

11.  “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

Now the Lord does not mince words in making His claim.  He Himself is the good shepherd.  By these words, He positively identifies Himself as the Shepherd promised in passages like Ezekiel 34.  He is the fulfillment of these prophecies.  And remember, those prophecies also said that the good Shepherd would be the LORD Yahweh Himself!

Not only does the Good Shepherd not come to steal, kill, and destroy; not only does He come to give His sheep life more abundantly; but He also comes to give His Own life for the sheep.  This was something that the Good Shepherd was going to do, and Christ predicts it, as He did many times, here.  What man in his right mind would give his life for the sheep he was tending unless he truly cared for them?  And so we can see how much the Lord truly cared for the sheep of His fold, the people of the house of Israel.  Let us never, then, allow jealousy to cause us to look down on or belittle this people, for God loves them greatly indeed, and if we are true lovers of God we will love them as well.

The word for “life” here is psuche, the Greek word for soul.  The Lord is saying here that He gives His soul for the sheep.

12.  “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.

The one who does not own the sheep, but who merely tends them for money, would never be willing to give his soul for the sheep.  When he sees the dangerous wolf coming, he in terror runs away to save his own skin, and leaves the wolf to catch and scatter the sheep.  Thank God that the Lord is not this way!

13.  “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

This only makes sense.  One who is merely caring for the sheep for money does not truly care about them like their own shepherd does.  We can see this in our own culture in the prevalence of daycares.  These all claim to have a warm, loving environment for children, but everyone who has ever spent time in such a place knows that one who merely cares for the children for money will never care about them as much as their own parents do.  Alas, the children will soon find this out, sometimes to their own emotional devastation!

14.  “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My Own.

Again, our Lord repeats the truth that He is the Good Shepherd, and that He knows who His sheep are and they know Him.  In the same way, I pray that all of my readers know who their Lord is, and that He knows them as well!

15.  “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Now He declares this truth about His Father, and repeats the promise that He will lay down His life for the sheep.  Notice that He claims equal knowledge with His Father.  His Father knows Him, and He knows His Father.  There is no difference in their knowledge of each other: both know the other equally well.  This is another great reference to the fact that Jesus Christ is God, for who could ever truly know God like God knows him unless he was God Himself?

16.  “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

By trying to interpret this passage in light of the way things are today, many have insisted that this refers to Gentiles, and the fact that they are to be brought into the fold with Israel.  Yet can we really believe that our Lord would ever have called Gentiles “sheep”?  Look with me at Matthew 15:21-28.  In this passage, starting in verse 22, we read,

And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”  But He answered her not a word.

This woman cried to the Lord for help, and yet He wouldn’t even talk to her!  Does this sound like she was a sheep of another fold that He wanted to bring in to be with the other sheep?  Let us continue in verse 23,

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The disciples seem to be so sick of the woman that they want the Lord to just do what she wants so she will go away.  Yet He refuses on the basis that He is not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Did He simply mean that He had not gotten to the lost sheep outside of Israel yet?  Was this woman a lost sheep, just not one of that fold?  I think we can find out for sure if we continue the story in verse 25.

Then she came to Him and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

Consider the import of Christ’s words!  Not only did He not consider this woman to be a lost sheep, He considered her to be a dog, those mangy, thieving, outcast, scavenging creatures that were held in little regard by the Israelites of the day.  Far from man’s best friend, they looked on them as little better than we would look on a blackbird or a vulture.  This was the very opposite of considering these people as sheep.  If this was how our Lord viewed those who were not Jews at this time, as dogs of the Gentiles, then He certainly could not have been talking about Gentiles as “sheep not of this fold” here.

Now some will try to argue against the view I’m setting forth here by pointing out that the Lord in the end granted this woman’s request.  Yet this does not change what he said about her, or the fact that He considered her to be a dog, not a sheep.  It is a desperate grasping at straws to point to Christ’s fulfilling this woman’s request as being a sign that she was not a dog after all.  The Lord stated what she was, and we should believe Him.  She did not talk Him into changing His mind!  It is only in our day, the dispensation of grace, when the mystery is in effect, that God views all nations, not as Gentiles, but as equal in His sight, having equal access to salvation in Christ.

Those who set forth the idea that the Gentiles are the “other sheep” here show total ignorance of the passages we examined earlier from the Old Testament.  That there would be scattered sheep who would have to be gathered and brought back into the fold was something that was clearly revealed in the Old Testament prophecies regarding the LORD as Israel’s shepherd.  These scattered sheep were not Gentiles.  They were the Jews who were scattered to cities throughout the Roman Empire.  There is no “greater sheepfold” here.  The sheep not of the fold are out in the open air, vulnerable and unprotected from the dangers of this world.  Yet though they were cut off from the tender care that God afforded His children in the land of Israel, many of these Jews were still sheep, and we can see multitudes upon multitudes of them coming to Christ through the preaching of the gospel in the Acts period.  Thus, this word of the Lord was proven true, and we can see that He did indeed have other sheep.  And someday in the future, all these sheep will be gathered together into one place, the land of Israel, once again.

17.  “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.

He declares why His Father loves Him.  This is not the only reason, of course, but one of many.  We will often say to one we love, “I love you because of the way you do this or that.”  That doesn’t mean that that is the only reason we love that person, only that that is something that increases our love or is a part of our love.  The same is true of what the Lord is saying here.  This is not the only reason the Father loves Him, but the Father certainly does love Him for this.

The reason the Father loves Him is because He lays down His life.  The Lord gave up His life.  No one took it away from Him.  He could not have died one moment before He wanted to.  Moreover, we learn that He laid down His life, not to stay dead, but rather to take it up again.  When we die, we have no choice about taking our life up again.  Such things are not up to us, for we do not have the power of life in ourselves.  Our Lord, however, had the power of life, and He could and did choose to take His life up again.
18.  “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.”

The Lord emphasizes the fact that no one will take His life from Him.  Indeed, no one could, for He is the source of life itself!  “No one” here means no being.  Those who call the Jews “Christ-killers” have no idea what they are talking about.  Those dramatizations that picture Satan having power over Christ to take His life on the cross are misrepresentations.  No one, no man or demon or any other being, took Christ’s life from Him!  Instead, He laid it down of Himself.  He wanted to die, for this was the only way He could deal with our sins and be the Good Shepherd Who would save His sheep.

The Lord had both the power to lay down His life and He had the power to take it up again.  How did He get such power?  He received it from His Father.  That is the command He received: the authority to lay His life down and to take it up again.  None of us have such authority.  We must wait upon the Lord Jesus to give us life in resurrection.  But the Lord had that authority, and He used it!

19.  Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.

Remember going all the way back to verses 40-41 of the previous chapter that these things were said in the presence of the Pharisees.  Now, there is a division among these Jews because of what He has said.  Indeed, the matter of the Lord’s resurrection causes many a division even today!

20.  And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad.  Why do you listen to Him?”

This was the conclusion of many of the Jews.  Some of them thought He had a demon.  In His glorious words of truth they could see only the lies of the enemy.  Others thought He was mad.  In this great proclamation of the true power He had been given by the Father they could only see the ravings of a lunatic.  Thus, these Jews admonish those who were listening that they should cease to do so, for no good can come of hearing a demon or a crazy person.  This was their estimate of the situation, and their advice to those who heard.

21.  Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon.  Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Others among the Jews made a more honest assessment of the situation.  They realized that the Lord was not talking like one who is demon-possessed.  Surely no demon ever spoke words as eloquent, as powerful, or as full of the truth of God as those the Lord had just spoken!  Moreover, they hearken back to the great event that had touched off this whole conversation regarding Him as the Good Shepherd in the first place: the healing of the blind man as we read about it in chapter 9.  They reason, and quite correctly, that no one who was demon-possessed could ever open the eyes of the blind.  As the blind man himself had pointed out, this was a miracle that not even the Old Testament prophets (who at times had even raised the dead) had been able to accomplish!  This miracle was the most positive sign that the words the Lord spoke were the truth, and that He was indeed the Good Shepherd that He claimed to be.

Now we need to remember the purpose of the book of John: that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His name.  In this example we have seen two kinds of people: those who thought the Lord was demon-possessed or mad, and those who looked at the miracle He had done and admitted that He must have the power of God.  Which kind of person will you be?  Will you believe that what the Lord said was true, or will you scoff at Him and assign His words to madness?  The choice is up to you!