February 2nd, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Jhn 10:1-21 ESV] 1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Two men came tumbling over the wall. The name of the one was Formalist, the other Hypocrisy.
Christian, a Pilgrim progressing towards the celestial city by the power of the Lord, came upon these men and asked them: [Christian]: Gentlemen, whence came you, and whither go you? (or, in English, where did you come from, and where are you going?)
Formalist and Hypocrisy responded, “We were born in the land of Vain-glory, and are going for praise to Mount Zion.”
Christian then asked: [Christian]: Why came you not in at the gate which standeth at the beginning of the way? Know ye not that it is written, “He that cometh not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber?”
To this, Formalist and Hypocrisy said to Christian “To go to the gate for entrance is, according to all our countrymen, too far about; and therefore the usual way we take is to make a short cut of it, and to climb over the wall as we have just done.”
To this Christian responded, “But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the City, whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed will?” [REPEAT: But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the City]
We learned about Pilgrim’s Progress on our Church retreat this last Fall. And in this particular section, we heard about Formalist and Hypocrisy who came in not by the gate, but, choose their own way, and jumped over the fence.
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, clearly wrote this episode with chapter 10 of John’s Gospel in mind.
And it is this text to which we now turn. It is a text that presents an allegory – a story with principle ideas that are described in terms of characters, figures, and events. While this allegory of the Good Shepherd is not quite as complex (or bewildering) as Pilgrim’s Progress, we do find that there are quite a number of elements to identify in this allegory.
I. I AM THE DOOR
Some of these elements can be identified because of the context in the Scriptures, while others are not meant to be central to the allegory and are better passed by than guessed at.
A. Elements of the allegory
If perhaps you feel uneasy about that term allegory when it comes to the Scriptures, I would point out that verse 6 of this very passage explains that we are dealing with a “figure of speech.” It is an allegory, and it tells us of many great truths about the Lord. To understand it better, let’s identify some of its elements:
The sheep – each individual person of God
The sheepfold – the collective people of God (note that there are no loan sheep)
The thief/robber – false leaders (opposite to Jesus who enters by the door) (differently from Bunyan)
The shepherd of sheep – Jesus in gathering and protecting his people
“All who came before me” – These are the Jewish leaders. (not so much the messianic claimaints)
The door – Jesus in his role as the one through whom people are saved through faith in him.
The pasture – the Kingdom of God, and heaven.
The good shepherd – Jesus in his role especially of laying down his life for his people.
The wolf – that which we are being protected from. The world, death, evil, the devil, etc.
Sheep not of this fold – the gentiles
One flock – all of the people of God, Jew and Gentile.
There are a couple persons in the allegory that we shouldn’t put much meaning into. They are incidental.
The gatekeeper – this is just an ordinary gate keeper, not standing for something else.
The hired hand – in contrast to Christ, this is one who a “short-timer” and is not a loving shepherd. But the hired hand is standing for some particular historical person.
The main point of the allegory is that Jesus is THE Good Shepherd. But a secondary point, used to buttress the main point, is that Jesus is the door.
B. Comfort in the assurance of the Lord
Jesus says: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
What a great comfort this is. Surely we enter heaven by Christ, but we also enter in to the Kingdom of God. And that Kingdom is here and now. Coming to Christ, you have the promise “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”
While fences and hedgerows make for all sorts of difficulties to the thief and the robber seeking to get into the pasture, the door of Jesus Christ has hinges! It opens. It opens for His people. There is no climbing, no jumping, no scurrying through the briars. Rather, there is a welcome with an open door.
And when you have gone in through the door, you will not be thrown out like those who have jumped the fence.
C. The exclusivity of the way Christ
And notice that the door (singular) is the ONLY way in to the pasture. There is simply NO OTHER WAY BUT JESUS CHRIST. Jesus and He alone is the savior of sinful men. Calvin says, “in vain do they wander about who leave Christ to go to God, because there is but one open door, and all approach in any other way is prohibited.” All approach in any other way is prohibited. Thus Formalist and Hypocrisy, who have jumped over the gate — and have the Kingdom of God; have seen the benefits of Christ — they will be thrown out of the kingdom. The Lord will say to them “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of iniquity.” See, Formalist and Hypocrisy thought they could choose their OWN WAY into the kingdom. The formalist thinks he can do sufficient good deeds to satisfy the Lord! (Does he not know that these good deeds can never balance out his rotten sinful nature!) And the hypocrite says all the right things, but does not follow the Lord. He has no fruit. He faith is proven to be a false faith, not the genuine article; saving faith. There is but ONE WAY in, and that is through the door; that is through Jesus Christ.
What then is it to enter in through the door? It is to have faith in Jesus Christ as the savior of your sins. [REPEAT: It is to have faith in Jesus Christ at the savior of your sins]
Now, there is a second major metaphor in this story. The first is that Jesus is the door. The second, and the more major point, is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
II. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Not only does he bring us in to the Kingdom of God, once we are there he guards us and keeps us! There we will never be rejected.
A. The Shepherd never rejects his sheep.
I don’t know about you, but for me rejection is my single greatest fear. And, I experience rejection approximately 1,000 times in my early engineering career as I, in a rather weak economic period, applied to job after job. And I realized the “job paradox.” “We will hire you only if you have experience!” I laugh now, because I found that often times the experience a company is looking for is the experience speciic only to their very company! And thus, they are limiting their job hires to people who already work for them, or who have worked for them in the past. This seems rather limiting to me. How then does one get their feet on the ground, in a career such as I had in engineering? Well, somewhere, someday, you need find a company who doesn’t reject your application! A company so desperate that it is willing to hire who hasn’t previously worked there!
Well, in the pasture of the Lord, we need not fear rejection. Those whom God has predestined are the same he has called, and those whom has called by the Holy Spirit he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. If you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are to know the promise that God never reject you. You will be one day in glory with Him, never to be throw out of his kingdom.
So it is important to see that we will never be rejected. But there are many other things we learn about the Good Shepherd in this text.
B. Eight things the Good Shepherd does.
Like many other passages in the Scriptures, this is ultimately a passage about Jesus Christ. HE, and HE ALONE is the good shepherd.
So I want to look at this question: “What does the Good Shepherd do?” [REPEAT: “What does the Good Shepherd do?”] In answering this we can learn much about Jesus.
Now, these bullet points come from the excellent Reformed commentary of William Hendriksen.
He lists 8 answers to the question, “What does the good shepherd do?”
1. The good shepherd calls the sheep by name and knows them thoroughly.
Consider this personally for yourself. The Lord knows you thoroughly. By name. You are of his sheep.
2. The good shepherd leads them out
In contrast to false shepherds, who lead people astray.
3. The good shepherd is recognized and followed by the sheep (they know his voice)
The conscience tells us when we have sinned. But the holy spirit within us makes us to recognize the Word of God. We see it in the Scripture. Its truth is apparent. By many evidences, but even more by the “ inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”
4. The good shepherd furnishes access to every blessing
5. The good shepherd provides life and abundance
We sheep are at the mercy of the elements. We must have absolute dependence on the shepherd.
6. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep
The gospel in a nut shell.
7. The good shepherd guides his sheep, gathering also other sheep, so that all become one flock with one shepherd
Consider the context of our passage. What had just occurred? The man born blind had been healed and thrown out of the synagogue by the Jewish leaders because he confessed Christ. Now, Jesus, the Good Shepherd finds him and gather him up. This is why Jesus is telling this allegory. It is in contrast to the scattering that the Jews have just committed. They scatter, Jesus gathers his people.
8. The good shepherd is loved by the Father
This reference back to God the Father is ever present in John’s Gospel. Jesus does all things for the glory of God.
Again, after Jesus has spoken, we find that there is division over him among the Jews. I find this particular interesting, because you might suppose that the Jews would have been thoroughly against Jesus. And in many places in the New Testament they are. But we know of Nicodemus who came to the faith, and we know in the book of Acts that other pharisees do indeed come to the faith. Even Paul, who was a Pharisee, comes to believe in Jesus. So the Lord was already working on the minds of some of the Pharisees here when Jesus declared that He is the Good Shepherd.
CONCLUSION: At the gate of heaven.
The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon once took up Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress and this episode of Christian meeting Formalist and Hypocrisy. And Spurgeon used this to explain the true way of salvation.
Spurgeon noted: “Christian asked these two men this very important question: ‘Why came you not in at the gate that standeth at the beginning of the way?’”
Spurgeon then continued saying his audience: Now, if there should be anybody here who is saying to himself “I’m alright, I’ve always attended my parish church. Or I’ve always gone to the meeting house. Or if there is anyone here who says I’m alright because I was Christened. Or, I’m alright for I was baptised.” I ask you, “why came you not in at the gate which standeth at the beginning of the way. How is that you did not come as God has bidden you come, by living faith in the living savior, by repentance, by reliance on him alone who is the way, the truth, and the life.”
My friends, the Christian life is not a life of short-cuts. The way to the Lord is the way of His own choosing. The way to the Lord is not your way, it is the Lord’s way. What then is the way to the Lord? It is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
On the subject of gates and doors, I certainly don’t believe that there are literal pearly gates at heaven, nor that St. Peter is employed as border security there. But, I want you to think about that situation … what if Peter (or someone else) asked you “Why should I let you in to heaven?” What would say? [REPEAT: What would you say?] The wrong answer is to say “I have done this, and I have done that. I have done many things for the Lord.” That, my friends, is the wrong answer. The right answer, is, and always must be, “I, sinner though I am, rest solely on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins and for the righteousness of God which he brings to my credit.”
The Lord has brought us in through the door of Jesus Christ who shepherds us each and every moment. Praise be to God for THE Good Shepherd, who is not only a character in a story, but is our very Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Amen.