The Shepherd, the Sheepfold, and the Sheep: To Him the Porter Openeth

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
In the absence of the owner of the sheep occupying the fold, a porter or watchman was set at the entrance, one of whose duties it was to admit no one but the shepherd. Obviously therefore if he opened the door to anyone, that one must be the shepherd of the sheep.
Now when the Lord came to the fold of Israel, He did not come unannounced. The door was opened for His admittance. The Holy Ghost Who gave the promises of old through the prophets raised up a special testimony at the coming of Him Who was to fulfill those promises. He Who had inspired no prophets since the days of Malachi, after an interval of 400 years, spake by the mouth of Zacharias the priest concerning his infant son John.
“Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:7676And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; (Luke 1:76)). Isaiah had long before foretold the forerunner of the Messiah (Isa. 40:33The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)). That herald was now come. On the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist delivered his message concerning the Christ coming after him Whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose. He plainly told all enquirers that he himself was not the Christ. He had come baptizing with water so that the Sent One might be “made manifest to Israel” (John 1:3131And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. (John 1:31)). And when the Spirit descended like a dove and abode upon Jesus of Nazareth, and the voice from heaven proclaimed the divine Sonship, John testified that this was He Who should baptize with the Holy Ghost.
Thus did the Spirit of God open the door for the Shepherd, by giving an ample testimony to Him by Zacharias immediately previous to His birth, and also by John the Baptist at the commencement of His public ministry.
The recognition of the shepherd by the sheep proves two things:
1.—That He is the Shepherd of the sheep and
2.—That they are the sheep of the Shepherd. Thus in ver. 3 the fact of hearing His voice is used to distinguish the Shepherd from strangers, while in vers. 26-27 it is used to distinguish the true from the false sheep.
In Israel there were some who heard the voice of the Good Shepherd. At His coming there was a little flock expecting Him. These were waiting upon God for the consolation of Israel. They were diligently studying His word. So that when Christ appeared among them, they were not unprepared.
Aged Simeon discerned in the Holy Babe the Salvation of Israel. Anna gave thanks to God at the sight of Him and carried the glad news to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. The guileless Israelite of Cana in Galilee, hearing His voice, said, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.” Others, whom He called, left all and followed Him; for they knew the claims of the One Who called them. He was their Shepherd.
It is of peculiar interest thus to observe that while the Jews generally lapsed into blind rejection of Christ there were a few who received Him. Such are here designated “His own” sheep. This description points to the close and inseparable link between the Shepherd and the sheep. His own people refused their King. For “He came unto His own (things), and His own (people) received Him not” (John 1:1111He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:11)). However His own sheep did not revolt against Him, their Shepherd. They were His own particular property; as the Lord said to His Father, “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me” (John 17:66I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6)). Therefore they heard His voice and they followed Him.
And while the little flock as a whole is His very own, His love and interest are directed toward each individual sheep. He knows the name of every one; for He calleth His own sheep by name. He called Zaccheus by name from his hiding-place in the sycamore tree. He saw Nathaniel secreted under the fig-tree. He knew the past history of the Samaritan stranger. He had compassion on the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, knowing he had been a long time in that case.
But more than this: besides the authority which calls them “His own” and the loving concern which calls them “by name,” He constitutes Himself their Guide. They should no longer be as sheep without a shepherd. He places Himself at their head. He leadeth them out. When He putteth forth all His own, He goeth before them; and they follow Him.
Having beard and recognized the voice of the Good Shepherd, it was now the part of the sheep to keep close to Him. If He led them out from the lifeless forms of Judaism, it was enough for them to be with the Shepherd. The voices of stranger shepherds, such as the Pharisees in chap. 9., might decoy or threaten; but the sheep would neither hear nor heed them. They looked only to Him Who was to prove His love by laying down His life for them.
“This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.” Are there any so blind to-day?