Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 7, 2016
Open you Bibles to John 10. Today is our second week in this chapter, and I plan on spending at least one more week if not two covering all of the massive truths in this text. Hopefully, many of you have taken me up on my encouragement to read John 10 over and over again and think about the implications of what Jesus is saying, because they are eternally massive. Today we are going to read verse 1-30.
John 10:1-30 – “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. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He 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. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And 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. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No 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.” 19There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 22At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
Last week we took a 10,000 foot view of this text, and we examined it through the lens of redemptive history. What I mean by that is that since the beginning of history, God has always had a plan of redeeming a people to himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Prior to Jesus coming in the flesh, God used the nation of Israel to point forward to Christ’s arrival. And we saw how Ezekiel 34 did just that. 500 years before Jesus was born, God declared this in Ezekiel 34:23, “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.” In John 10, Jesus is declaring that he is the fulfillment of God’s promise as stated in Ezekiel 34. Jesus is the servant David, he is the Prince among them. He is the One Shepherd.
Today, we are now going to go deeper into the text to understand how this Shepherding comes about. As I stated last week, to understand what Jesus is saying, we must understand to some degree the art of 1st century shepherding.
Last week we discussed how Shepherds would bring their sheep into a community fold. This fold was a fenced in area that could hold dozens, and perhaps hundreds of sheep. In this fold there would be sheep from different shepherds. If you were to look into the fold, you would see all the sheep intermingled. You would not be able to tell whose sheep were whose. When morning came, the shepherd would approach the front of the fold where there would be a very small doorway. This doorway was no wider than one sheep. The shepherd would then stand in the doorway and call his sheep.
Every sheep in the fold would hear the call of that particular shepherd. However, only the sheep that were his respond to the call. This is different than how we move animals from point A to point B. Today, we are accustomed to driving animals. We use force. This was not so with these sheep. They came because they wanted to.
And why did they choose to come upon the calling of their Shepherd? It was because of the previous relationship with the shepherd that made the call effective. So if the shepherd owned ten sheep, and those ten sheep were inside a fold of 100 sheep, when the shepherd comes to the door and calls out, those ten sheep hear his voice and walk to him out of the midst of the fold. Until the call, you have no clue which sheep is the shepherd's. The shepherd then leads them out of the fold and to the lush green pastures of Israel. This is the picture that Jesus is using to describe who he is and why he came.
The Fold of Israel
With this understanding under our belt, let us now look a little closer at the text. In verse 1 we see Jesus mention the sheepfold. Then in verse 16 we see Jesus say, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” This leads us to the question, what is Jesus referring to in verse 1? What is the sheepfold in verse 1? What is “this fold” in verse 16? Take a moment and think about it.
The fold Jesus is speaking about is the nation of Israel. The biological descendants of Abraham are the “this fold.” When Jesus came in the flesh, he came first for Israel. He was born a Jew, raised a Jew, participated in all of the Jewish festivals and rituals. Above his head on the cross was the sign, “King of the Jews.” Jesus speaks to this reality in Matthew 15:24 when a Gentile women is seeking his help. He states, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This explains why Jesus’ earthly ministry taking place only in Israel. God sent him first to the sheepfold of the Jews.
The Call of the Shepherd
As Jesus walks about Israel, what was he doing? He was teaching and preaching. Jesus says in Mark 1:38-39, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” The Good Shepherd, the Prince among them, was sent by God to the sheep of Israel to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
And what was the result of this teaching and preaching? The result was that some people believed he was the Christ the Son of God and some people did not believe. In fact, this is a reoccurring theme that we have seen chapter after chapter in the book of John. As Jesus stands before the fold of Israel and proclaims who He is, some people swallow it hook, line and sinker. Others do not. But the real question, I want to address this morning is why?
They Know His Voice
Why do some of the Jews believe in Jesus and some do not? They all see the same man, hear the same words, witness the same miracles. Why do some people give up everything to follow Jesus and some people want to kill him?
Look at verse 4, “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” The NIV uses the word “because.” Circle, underline, put a star by the word “for”. This word is the key to understanding why some people believe and some people don’t. Verse 4 has logic to it. It tells us that the reason why people follow Jesus is that they know his voice. When Jesus stands before them and preaches that he is the Light of the World, they recognize his voice and they follow him. His words resonate inside their soul. His words speak to them. Why? Because he already has a relationship with them. And this pre-calling relationship is not a general one, it is specific, it is personal. Look at verse 3, “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Andrew, follow me. Peter, follow me. Philip, follow me. Nathaniel, follow me.
Have you ever wondered why the disciples so easily left everything behind to follow Jesus. I always thought it was strange how easy it was for Jesus to say “Follow me” and the did automatically without any apparent hesitation. John 10 explains why.
Now let us look at the negative side of this. Look at verse 26. Jesus flips it and uses the other side of the coin to explain why some people don’t believe, “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Once again, circle, underline, put a star by the word “because.” The reason why people do not believe in Jesus is because they are not his sheep. If you are not his sheep, no matter what Jesus says or what Jesus does in your presence, you will not believe. It is not possible. Why? Because they are not his sheep. Once again this explains why so many people could see the amazing miracles of Christ, hear him preach like no other person on the planet, and cast out demons and still reject him. They were not his sheep.
Many people, and many Churches believe and proclaim the exact opposite of what Jesus teaches in John 10. Some of you may, in fact, believe the exact opposite of what Jesus is teaching. Many of you think that you are sheep because you believe. That is not correct. The correct understanding is that you believe BECAUSE you are sheep. Sheep first, then belief.
And I would argue that this makes sense when you think about your faith in Jesus. What is the explanation that you believe in Christ? Why do you like reading your Bible, praying, coming to Church, telling people about the Gospel? If we are honest, the story of Jesus, God's Son, coming in the flesh and dying on the cross in our place is somewhat ludicrous, yet we believe it. Why? Because we are his sheep.
The Gift of the Father to the Son
Let us, however, go deeper and ask how. How did the sheep of Jesus become the sheep of Jesus? If sheep are sheep before faith, then by what means do sheep become sheep? Look at verse 29, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The sheep of Jesus are a gift from the Father to the Son. Therefore, before the sheep were Jesus' they were the Fathers. And verse 29 matches what we saw in Ezekiel 34. The sheep are God's and then he sets over them Jesus as the one Shepherd.
This is not the only place we see Jesus says things like this. Listen to what Jesus prays in what is called the High Priestly prayer in John 17. This is the prayer that Jesus prays before he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Verse 6, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” Then again in verse 9, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” I remember wrestling immensely with that text a number of years ago. How is this so? It is so because the sheep of Jesus are a gift of the Father whom Christ has come to rescue.
This reality is not just in the book of John, it is throughout the Bible, and now that some of you have heard this you will see it absolutely everywhere. Romans 8:29-30 is perhaps the most familiar, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Foreknown does not mean informational, it means relational. Before there was an us, God had a relationship with us, and he destined us to become like Christ. The first step of this, is for the sheep to here the call of the Good Shepherd and to come. When we come we are justified by his blood and we are destined for glory. Everyone who is foreknown is destined. Everyone who is destined is called. All who are called (By name) are justified. All who are justified will be glorified. Not one sheep is lost! God's purposes will stand. The gates of hell shall not prevail. The Good Shepherd shall receive and keep his sheep.
Another verse that I love that speaks to this amazing truth is Revelation 13:8. This chapter is talking about the end times and those who will worship a world leader that the Bible calls the beast. Verse 8 says, “and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
So before the world began, there was a book. The name of the book is “The book of life of the Lamb who was Slain” and names were written inside this book. Whose names? The names of the sheep. Those sheep whom Jesus calls by name. And it is because they are in this book that they will not worship the beast. Remember what it says in John 10:5, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” They flee from the beast, for they are not the sheep of the beast, they are the sheep of the Good Shepherd.
According to the Purpose of His Will to the Praise of His Glory
So we have established that people believe because they are the sheep of Jesus, and they are the sheep of Jesus because the Father has given them to him, but can we go even farther than this? How are they God's to begin with? Is there something beyond this, or is God the Father then end?
Ephesians 1:3-6 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
The answer is no. There is nothing beyond God. He is the Alpha. We are God's sheep because he choose us. The all knowing, all powerful God, before time began chose us before there was an us outside the mind of God. This was the purpose of God's will.
And this leaves us with one and only one conclusion. God is sovereign. He is the only free agent in the entire universe. He has the ultimate free will, all other wills flow out of His will. This is what makes God god. This is what distinguishes him from the angels and from us. We are not ultimately free, He is ultimately free. Which leads us to one and only one response, to praise his glorious grace.
Our salvation is 100 percent a gift from God, from beginning to end. As we stand before God on judgment day we will have nothing to brag about. Romans 11:36 - “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”