The Shepherd, the Sheepfold, and the Sheep: The Door

John 10:7‑16  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
After the break indicated by the sixth verse, the Lord resumes His discourse concerning the sheep and their relationship to the Shepherd. In the previous verses He had spoken in a general way of His own advent into the sheepfold. He now proceeds to reveal what a bountiful provision there is in Himself for the poor of the flock who welcome Him. In Him the sheep would find their all.
He was indeed the Shepherd, but He was also the Door of the sheep (verse 7). And it cannot but be noticed that the Lord, here and in ver. 9, abstains from saying that He is the Door of the fold. There is however no need to resort to hazardous conjectures as to the significance of the omission. The context shows that the Israelitish fold with its legal system and fleshly ordinances was virtually abandoned. The Shepherd leadeth His sheep out. But not a word is heard of a rival fold. The truth is that a new order of things was at hand, into which the sheep might enter through the Door, that is, Christ. But the hour had not then come to make this known. Neither were the hearers able to bear such an announcement. Hence the general terms employed which allowed fully for the future revelation of the wide display of the grace of God to Jew and Gentile alike.
Even here, in verse 9, it is intimated that the blessing was not to be restricted to Israel. He had announced Himself as the Door of the Jewish sheep; but the gracious truth is repeated with unlimited scope. “I am the Door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture.”
Thus the Lord calls the faithful in Israel, nay in every place, to find their sufficiency in Himself. He definitely substitutes Himself for the ancient earthly fold. He does not proclaim Himself as the Door to another earthly system,1 but says “I am the Door “; and if curiosity inquire of what He is the Door, love rightly surmises there is naught beyond the Door besides Himself.
In Christ alone the sheep would find suited salvation. They had suffered from false shepherds who pillaged the sheep, from the thief who came to steal and to kill and to destroy, and from the wolf who ravaged and scattered the flock. But they needed to be saved from more than these. They had inward faults as well as outward foes. They had all gone astray. Everyone had turned to his own way. And upon the One then speaking to them Jehovah would lay the iniquities of them all. As the Shepherd, so soon to be smitten by the sword of divine judgment on account of the flock, He guarantees salvation to any who seek it at His hands. “If any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
Further, in contrast with the bondage gendered at Mount Sinai, they should be brought into the liberty wherewith Christ maketh free. Sin and Satan held men in hard and bitter slavery, and the law of Moses could remove the masterful power of neither the one nor the other. But at the cross the Lord Jesus annulled the power, not of one only, but of both. This emancipating fact, after its accomplishment is fully unfolded by the Spirit in the Epistles. Here the Lord only says they shall “go in and out “; for it was the Spirit's office to chronicle the glorious effects of redemption, it was the Son's mission to perform the gracious work.
Moreover, He promises they shall find pasture. It was a special charge of Jehovah against those who, of old, professed to be shepherds of Israel, that they fed themselves and not the flock. But not so the Good Shepherd. Now that He had come, the sheep should no longer want. He would make them lie down in green pastures, and lead them beside the still waters. According to Ezekiel's prophecy He was Himself that “Plant of Renown” which God had promised to raise up for His sheep, so that they might no more be consumed with hunger in the land (Ezek. 34:2929And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. (Ezekiel 34:29)). Thus the Lord Jesus is Shepherd and Door and Pasture and All.
By means of a single epithet of the simplest character, the Lord contrasts Himself with all the false and unworthy hirelings who had gone before. He is the Good Shepherd, and “good,” in that absolute sense which applies to God alone (Luke 18:1919And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. (Luke 18:19)). Among men there is none good, no, not one. But the goodness of the Shepherd of Israel was such as would undergo the supremest test. No love could exceed His. He would lay down His life for the sheep.
But while Paul and John use the same unparalleled fact to demonstrate that truth which would otherwise be beyond human conception, the difference in their standpoint is plainly observable. The apostle of divine righteousness emphasizes the sin and guilt of man. He points out that it was when we were “ungodly,” “sinners,” “enemies,” that Christ died for us. He thus displays the beauty of God's grace upon the dark background of human guilt. But the apostle of divine love dilates upon the Person of the One Who thus died. He enforces his words by the consideration of Who He is and not so much of what man is. The Holy Ghost by Paul sums up what we were in a few pregnant words; but the main theme of John's Gospel throughout is the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father Who laid down His life for us. Paul often discourses from the brazen altar, and we weep with shame at ourselves as we consider that He died for such as we. But John leads us into the holy place, and there, before the veil, effulgent with the Shechinah from the throne beyond, we worship with reverent joy as we learn that such an, One died for us. We cannot afford to neglect either the one or the other aspect of this blessed truth. In yielding up His life for the sheep, the Lord showed Himself the very reverse of the menial shepherds before or since. Their slender interest in the flock vanished at the first roar of the lion or growl of the bear. Such pastors as they were bargained for wages not for wolves. Their care was only for themselves and not at all for their charge. Indeed this was the general character of those of old who were set up to feed God's sheep. Even David through his folly caused 70,000 of Israel to fall of a pestilence (1 Chron. 21.). On account of Solomon's sin, the kingdom was rent in twain in the days of his son Rehoboam. Hoshea filled up the measure of iniquity until Ephraim was carried captive by the Assyrian to the uttermost parts of the earth. Under king Zedekiah the people of Judah were removed from their own land to serve seventy years in Babylon. Of such rulers, Jehovah said “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer. 23:11Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:1).) But the Good Shepherd had now come. The sheep were His own; He loved them and laid down His life for them. MUTUAL KNOWLEDGE. “I know mine own and mine own know me, even as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father.” So the Revised Version reads, showing the true connection between verses 14 and 15, which is not so apparent in the A. V. It is perhaps a matter of little surprise to learn that the Lord knoweth them that are His: but it is a matter of great wonder and of greater thankfulness that the sheep should know the Shepherd. And it is upon this particular manifestation of divine life in the soul that John is inspired to dwell in an especial manner. Of the world the Holy Ghost says, that it “knew Him not” (John 1:1010He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (John 1:10), 1 John 3:22Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)); and in that which is most properly described as the “Lord's prayer,” the Son declared “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee” (John 17:2525O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. (John 17:25); compare 16:3). So of the Pharisees in this chapter. “They understood (lit. knew) not what things they were which he spake unto them” (John 10:66This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. (John 10:6)). But when speaking of those who are “not of the world,” we read “The Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true” (1 John 5:2020And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)). This knowledge characterizes the babes as well as the fathers (1 John 2:13, 1413I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:13‑14)). And it was exemplified in the case of Simon Peter, when he said “We have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God” (John 6:6969And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (John 6:69). R. V).
This reciprocal knowledge of the Good Shepherd and His sheep is here most strikingly compared” even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father.” Without pretending to say whether this refers to the measure or the manner of our knowledge, or to theorize in any way with regard to that which seems a fitter subject for meditation than for exposition, one remark may be permitted by the way. We may surely gather from this analogy that the knowledge of Christ's sheep in this respect is neither uncertain nor obscure; for it is the knowledge of a Person, not about Him. Knowledge concerning the Lord is undoubtedly progressive; but knowing Him is that which marks the veriest lamb of the flock, as not being of the world which knows Him not. One of the robbers at Calvary recognized his Lord in the One crucified at his side; and said, “Lord [Jesus], remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.” Herein was he distinguished from his fellow malefactor, both in this world and the next. Verily, it is not so much what we know as Whom we know. W. J. H.