Tag Archives: Sheep

Jesus’ Seven ‘I AM’ Statements in John (3)

sheepfold

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

This third “I AM” statement directly follows Jesus’ healing of the man who was blind from birth (John 9). That event was the sixth of seven signs highlighted in John’s gospel, which I will cover later. Jesus charges the religious leaders with incurable blindness because, in their blindness, they do not recognize their own blind condition. “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:41, emphasis mine). It is true that before it is resolved, a problem must first be acknowledged. The alcoholic must acknowledge his alcoholism before he can work on the cure. The drug addict must recognize her addiction before she will submit to rehabilitation. A couple must admit their marriage is in trouble before they seek counselling. The blind must “see” their darkened condition before they will seek the light. The sinner must admit he is a sinner before he will seek the Savior.

To make His point, Jesus offers these spiritually self-blinded Pharisees a simple illustration obvious only to a spiritually sighted person. He draws a word picture of a sheepfold. This was a low-wall stone enclosure with only one entrance constructed for the protection of the flock from predators. After a long day of grazing in the pasture, the shepherd led the sheep to the sheepfold for the night. There, a gatekeeper or, “porter” (John 10:3), guarded the entrance where only the shepherd could gain access to the sheep. Jesus points out that a thief jumps the wall (John 10:1), but the shepherd enters by way of the door. The sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice and follow him, and he knows his sheep by name (John 10:3); but a stranger they will not follow (John 10:5).

As we read the account of Jesus healing the blind man in Chapter Nine, we find that the religious leaders, i.e. the false shepherds, aka “thieves,” harassed the healed blind man and the blind man’s parents to discover the source of his healing – on the Sabbath, no less! In the end, when the healed blind man identifies Jesus as the source of his healing, they excommunicated him for becoming a “sheep” of Jesus. (More on this on the next installment.)

Authorized entry into the sheepfold – the place of safety – comes by way of the only door. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). “Verily” translates the Greek word amēn, meaning “truly” or “certainly.” The fact that Jesus said it twice makes it doubly and emphatically true. Then, unlike a common teacher, Jesus stresses His authority when He says, I say unto you, rather than “Thus saith the Lord.” He is Lord and speaks by His own authority. He then affirms His Lordship with His claim εγω ειμι (ego eimi – I, I AM) – the name of God. He is the door, the only authorized entry. No other way is permissible.

The porter guarded the sheepfold by placing his body across the entrance. Sometimes the shepherd himself was the “porter,” and he slept across the entrance. In effect, he was “the door.” Anyone wanting to get in would have to step over “the door.” Jesus says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9, emphasis mine).

The sheepfold, an allegory of heaven, provides safety and refuge. Jesus places Himself at the entrance where no one can enter without going through Him. Today, many false shepherds – thieves and robbers – steal the sheep by deceiving them into believing that there are other entrances into the sheepfold. “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). In warning young Timothy, the Apostle Paul says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come … evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13). Do not be deceived, little sheep. There is only one entrance into the sheepfold – heaven, and Jesus said, “I AM the door.” There is no other option.

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Shiftless Hired Hand

Brueghel-j_bad-shepherd

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  (John 10:12)

Jesus began this passage in the form of a contrast.  “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (v. 11).  Jesus substantiated this claim by giving His life on the cross for us, His sheep.  In contrast to this is the shiftless hired hand who is more concerned about his wages and his own skin than for the well-being of the flock.

Who is this no account hireling, and how does this illustration apply to us?  A hireling can be compared to a pastor or a teacher who is responsible for the care and nurture of those God has assigned to him.  The New Testament word is “bishop” (episkopos) meaning superintendent or overseer, and it is used only five times.  “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  “A bishop then must be blameless,” (2 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7).  Jesus is compared to a bishop: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

The no account hireling, then, would be the pastor or teacher who neglects the responsibility God has given him.  Sadly, there are some who have taken on the responsibility for reasons of self-aggrandizement rather than to serve the flock assigned to them by the Good Shepherd.  These, when trouble comes, shirk their responsibilities and abandon their post, leaving the flock to fend for themselves, often with devastating outcomes.

As Christians, we are all leaders in one way or another – as teachers, parents, friends, workers – we are all given a sphere of influence.  God has given each of us some “sheep” to nurture and defend.  Let us not be found negligent in the responsibility God has given us.

 

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