We really have two distinct sections in this portion. The first five verses constitute a complete parable in themselves, and then in verses six to sixteen we have added instruction and a fuller opening up of the truth of the Shepherd character of our Lord Jesus Christ. He presented Himself to Israel as their Shepherd and this was in accordance with many Old Testament Messianic Scriptures (see Genesis 49:22-24; Psalm 23; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 40:10,11; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:12-15). We might turn to many other passages that depict the Lord as a Shepherd; passages that were destined to have their fulfillment in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. So when He stood in the midst of Israel and declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, they should have understood at once, for they were familiar with the Old Testament. These passages had been in their hearts and minds down through the centuries. They were looking for the coming of Jehovah’s Shepherd, and now Jesus appeared and said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
He puts Himself in contrast with false shepherds who had appeared from time to time: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1,2). I think these words are generally misapplied or given a wrong application. How often do you hear people say, “If anyone tries to get into heaven some other way than through Christ, he is a thief and a robber.” It is perfectly true that if you try to enter heaven by some other way than trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be like a thief trying to break into a place to which you have no title, “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
But that is not what the Saviour is speaking of here. He is not talking about getting into heaven. Heaven is not the sheepfold. Judaism was the sheepfold, and in the half-century before the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ there were many who came pretending to be messiahs, but they did not come in by the door—that is, according to the Scripture. They tried to climb up some other way, and He berated them as thieves and robbers. Then in contrast, He speaks of Himself: “But He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” He came in exact accord with the prophetic Word. His life was in perfect harmony with the predictions of the Old Testament Scriptures.
So He entered in by the door, and there were those within the sheepfold who received Him. These were those who were really God’s children. They had opened their hearts already to His truth, and when Jesus came they said, “Why, this is the Saviour for whom we have been looking!” “The sheep hear His voice: and He calleth His own sheep by name” (John 10:3). He did not intend to leave them forever in the fold of Judaism, but He was to lead them into the liberty of grace and blessing of Christianity. He entered into the Jewish sheepfold to lead His Church outside of Judaism into the liberty of grace. “When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice” (John 10:4). This is the supreme test. Somebody says, “Well, I think I am a Christian, but I do not see why Christ had to come into the world and die to save sinners. I do not understand.” That proclaims a very sad fact. It says that you do not really know the Shepherd’s voice. You have never taken your place before God as a repentant sinner and received Christ in simple faith. Those who do are born again, they receive eternal life, and with that new life is linked a new nature which causes them to delight in obedience to His voice. They know Him. They know the Shepherd’s voice. They will not follow a stranger.
And so we are told, “This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them” (John 10:6). They could not follow; their eyes were blinded; they did not apprehend the meaning of this beautiful little picture that He presented to them, so He went on to open things up more fully. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the Door of the sheep. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10:7,8).
Now He seems to change the figure here. Before He said, “I am the Shepherd, and I entered in by the door.” Now He says, “I am the Door.” Is it contradictory? Not at all. You may have heard a story told by Dr. Piazzi Smith. On one occasion he saw a shepherd leading his flock up the hill. He led them into the fold and made them comfortable, and then Dr. Smith said, “Do you leave the sheep in this fold all night?” “Yes.” “But aren’t there wild beasts around?” “Yes.” “Won’t they try to get the sheep?” “Yes.” “Well, you have no door here; how can you keep the wild beasts out?” But the Arab shepherd lay down on his side, and as he settled himself in that entry way, he looked up and smiled and said, “I am the door.” You see, no wild beast could enter without awakening him, and no sheep would go out over his body.
So Jesus said, “I am the Door. I am the One through whom My sheep enter into blessing and I am their guard and guide.” Then He 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). Oh, that is what David meant when he said, “He leadeth me beside the still waters, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” The shepherd takes care of the sheep, so our blessed Lord makes Himself responsible for those who put their trust in Him.
Now, in contrast to Himself, there were false teachers and prophets, who were only concerned about their own welfare. There have been such all down through the centuries and the Lord spoke of them in very strong language. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came to give eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. And if we are walking in fellowship with God we have that abundant life.
—Condensed from Addresses on the Gospel of John by H.A. Ironside. Used by permission of Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.
Our blessed Lord makes Himself responsible for those who put their trust in Him.