But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.John 20:31
In this chapter Jesus calls Himself both the Door and the Good Shepherd. These two entities are one and the same, and it’s a beautiful picture of the safety and security of His sheep.
I am the Door (vv.7, 9).
Jesus first says, “I am the door of the sheep.” A few minutes later He says, “I am the good Shepherd.” At a glance, these appear to be two different word pictures, but actually they are the same. Often the shepherd would corral his sheep for the night in a holding place, which had only one door. He would stand there and count each sheep as they passed him to enter into the corral. When he was certain all the sheep were inside, he himself would lie down in the opening. That way no predator could enter nor sheep leave without his knowledge.
Jesus is the Door. He’s the only way in to the presence of the Father, and He only allows His own sheep to enter. No thieves allowed here, nor wolves, nor lions, nor any enemy of the flock of Christ. Again, in verse 9, He repeats: “I am the Door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” This was a common expression used in reference to sheep. It means that He as the Good Shepherd will give His sheep liberty to enjoy good, He will provide all their needs, and He will protect them so that they have no need to fear. That’s the freedom we have in Christ—not the freedom to do whatever we please (which often gets us into trouble), but the freedom to enjoy His blessings, provisions, and protection under His leadership.
I am the Good Shepherd (v. 11).
What does a shepherd do for his flock?
- He calls them all by name. He may have a hundred sheep, but he knows each one of them individually (Isaiah 43:1).
- He leads them by the sound of his voice. They know his voice, and they follow him because they trust him implicitly (vv. 4, 14).
- He finds safe passage to green pastures and still waters, for a sheep will not drink from turbulent water (Psalm 23).
- He corrects them when they stray away from him (Job 5:17).
- He rescues them and heals their wounds when they become injured (Psalm 147:3).
- He defends them against predators and thieves, to the point of death if need be (v. 15).
The following extract from The Land and the Book (William McClure Thomson) presents a stunning picture of a day in the life of a Palestinian shepherd, as he remarks on the accuracy of Jesus’ illustration as He compared Himself to a shepherd:
This is true to the letter. They are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. He leads them forth from the fold, or from their houses in the villages, just where he pleases. As there are many flocks in such a place as this, each one takes a different path, and it is his business to find pasture for them. It is necessary, therefore, that they should be taught to follow, and not to stray away into the unfenced fields of corn which lie so temptingly on either side. Any one that thus wanders is sure to get into trouble. The shepherd calls sharply from time to time to remind them of his presence. They know his voice and follow on; but if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and, if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger. This is not the fanciful costume of a parable; it is simple fact. I have made the experiment repeatedly. The shepherd goes before, not merely to point out the way, but to see that it is practicable and safe. He is armed in order to defend his charge, and in this he is very courageous. Many adventures with wild beasts occur not unlike that recounted by David, and in these very mountains; for, though there are now no lions here, there are wolves in abundance; and leopards and panthers, exceedingly fierce, prowl about these wild wadies. They not unfrequently attack the flock in the very presence of the shepherd, and he must be ready to do battle at a moment’s warning. I have listened with intense interest to their graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with these savage beasts. And when the thief and the robber come (and come they do), the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend his flock. I have known more than one case in which he had literally to lay it down in the contest. A poor faithful fellow last spring, between Tiberias and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending.
Every analogy has its weak spot, and the weak spot here is that when the shepherd finally succumbed to the Bedouin robbers, his sheep were left unprotected, and most likely the thieves made off with them. Like the shepherd in the account above, Jesus gave His life for us. But unlike that unfortunate shepherd, Jesus did not lose any of His sheep (John 18:9). And unlike that poor shepherd, Jesus did not stay dead. Right here in this discourse, He told them, “No man takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (v. 18). He was in complete control of both His life and His death. None of us can say the same. And if Jesus can control His own life and death, you may rest assured that He is in complete control of yours and mine too. Nothing happens to us by accident. Nothing can happen without His knowledge or His permission. We learned in the book of Job that sometimes God allows the devil limited access to us, in order to show Himself faithful and to test our faith. He also purifies us through hardship. But everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is for our good and God’s glory. I’m not painting a picture of roses here for the person who would follow Christ, unless I also include the thorns. Yes, we’ll go through tests and trials. We’ll be punished for our sins. But we will never be forsaken by the God who chose us—the Good Shepherd who gave His life for us.
Other Sheep (v. 16)
Jesus also said in this chapter, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Those sheep currently belong to a wicked shepherd, but Jesus, the Good Shepherd, desires to purchase them from their cruel master and give them new life. Are you one of those sheep? If not, there is only one door that opens to God and the righteousness available in Him. Today is the day, and He’s calling you. Will you come through the Door?
This week’s reading:
This week’s memory verse
Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?”John 11:25-26
Photo taken at Princess Beach in Destin, Florida, 2019