Table of content
The Shepherd as a Leader v. 1-10
The Shepherd at the Gate
The Thief or Stranger at the Gate
The Shepherd as a Security v. 7-13
The Shepherd as a searcher for the lost v. 14-18
Jesus Christ presented the qualities and responsibilities of the good shepherd in John 10:1-18. These was in a way to address the Pharisees who were literary the shepherds of the people by pointing to them their responsibilities which they neglected and were acting as the bad shepherds or hirelings do act during the biblical times. This chapter is an expositional analysis of John 10:1-18.
The Shepherd as a Leader v. 1-10
Jesus gave a contrast between the shepherd who provides security and safety for the sheep and a thief who breeches security and pose danger to the sheep by the gate of the sheepfold. Jesus expounded the relationship that exists between the sheep and the shepherd which is evident in the positive reaction of the sheep to the shepherd’s leadership against the negative reaction of the sheep to a thief or stranger’s leadership or intrusion into the sheepfold.
Shepherds were always together with their flocks both day and night. The shepherd’s responsibility of providing the basic necessity and needs of the sheep (food, shelter, security) establishes a bond between the sheep and the shepherd. This has led the sheep to know their shepherd very well even with his voice and the shepherd on the other hand to know his flocks very well even by their names. Samuel Ngewa in his book The Gospel of John: A Commentary for Pastors, Teachers and Preachers submits that “shepherd lived with their sheep day and night. During the day they accompanied them and made sure that they had food, drink and security. At night they often slept next to their sheep in order to protect them. At times, shepherds might herd several flocks together for the night and take turns watching them, but each shepherd was still near his own flock of sheep. This closeness led to great familiarity between sheep and their shepherd…” (Ngewa, 2003: 188).
The Shepherd at the Gate
The shepherd’s leadership role to the sheep is displayed in two ways: leading the sheep in and out of the sheepfold and leading the sheep into the fields for grazing.
In leading the sheep in and out of the sheepfold, the shepherd is always the last person that leads the sheep into the sheepfold in the evening or night and always the first person that leads the sheep out of the sheepfold in the morning. So each morning, the sheep waits eagerly for the shepherd to lead them out to graze. Verse 2 and 3 states: “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” NIV These verses states the four ways that the sheep recognize their shepherd. These include: entering the sheepfold through the gate, the watchman of the sheepfold opening the gate for him, his voice and his calling the sheep by name.
The sheep recognize their shepherd when he enters the sheepfold through the gate. Ngewa states that “in the morning, the sheep would be restless; anxious to be let out to graze… their eyes would be fixed on the gate through which they would expect him [their shepherd] to come.” (Ngewa, 2003: 188).
The sheep also recognizes their shepherd when the watchman of the sheepfold opens the gate for him. During the biblical times, Owners of sheep in a village employs a shepherd or shepherds depending on the size of the flock to tend the flocks for the entire village. As such, the sheepfolds of the village is either built in one place or groups of owners of sheep builds sheepfolds and hires a watchman to watch over sheepfolds at night. Though there were owners of sheep that shepherd their flocks themselves and also watch over the sheepfold at night. So each morning, as the shepherd comes to lead the sheep out of the sheepfold, the shepherd exchange greetings with the watchman or watchmen of the sheepfold and the gate to the sheepfold is open for the shepherd to enter.
Another way that the sheep recognize their shepherd is through his voice. While in the fields, the shepherd always and constantly talks to his sheep which results in the sheep knowing the voice of their shepherd. Ngewa observed that “voices are different. Sheep can tell their own shepherd’s voice from that of others in the same way as a dog can distinguish between people by smell… the sheep knew their shepherd’s voice intimately.” (Ngewa, 2003: 189).
The last way the sheep recognize their shepherd is through his calling the sheep by name. Each shepherd had a code name by which he calls his sheep. In instances that the sheep of the whole village are kept in the same sheepfold, or the sheep are mixed in the grazing field or by the well, each shepherd will go to different place and call out the sheep through their code name. Ngewa commends that “each shepherd had his own special call, which his own sheep would recognize. When he appeared and made that particular sound, his own sheep would come to him and be led out of the pen (10:3b).” (Ngewa, 2003: 188).
The shepherd’s second leadership role to the sheep is in his leading the sheep into the fields for grazing. Due to the dependant nature of sheep, the sheep totally rely on the leadership of their shepherd for direction and guidance to access their basic needs. The sheep only submits to their shepherd for leadership. This implies that, as Jesus stated in this parable, the sheep will literary refuse to follow a stranger and will run away whenever a thief or stranger tries to lead them out of the sheepfold.
As the sheep are led out of the sheepfold, they wait for the shepherd to finish leading the whole flock out of the sheepfold in order to give the direction for where to go for grazing. The shepherd normally goes ahead of the sheep and they follow him. Ngewa submits that “in Palestine the shepherd generally led the way and the sheep followed. This was especially true when the sheep were being taken to an unknown destination. When the sheep were being taken back to the fold and knew the way already, the shepherd might choose to follow behind them in order to help any that were tired or straggling.” (Ngewa, 2003: 189).
The Thief or Stranger at the Gate
Just as the sheep do recognize their shepherd, so also there are ways that the sheep also recognize a stranger or thief to the sheepfold. John 10:1 and 5 states “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber… But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice” NIV The sheep recognizes a thief or through two ways: his avoiding the gate of the sheepfold and his voice.
A thief enters into the sheepfold through other means and ways other than the gate. The sheep always expects their shepherd through the door. When they see someone coming into the sheepfold through other means, they believe him not to be their shepherd. Ngewa posits that “a thief or robber would want to avoid being seen by the watchman and would try to find some other way into the sheepfold, usually by climbing over the wall or fence.” (Ngewa, 2003: 188).
The second way the sheep would recognize a thief is through his voice. Since the sheep are usually acquainted with their shepherd’s voice and call, if they hear a different voice from that which they are used to, the sheep will know that it is a thief or stranger that is calling them. Ngewa admits that “sheep cannot be deceived by a stranger pretending to be their shepherd… even if he attempts to use their shepherd’s own call; the sheep will recognize that this is not the voice they know. Nobody else can have the same voice as the shepherd.” (Ngewa, 2003: 189).
The sheep usually react in two ways whenever a thief or stranger enters the sheepfold and calls them: they will refuse to follow him and they will flee from him. Beyreuther stated that “the shepherd enters through the door; his sheep know him and follow him willingly.” (Brown, 1986: 567). But when someone enters the sheepfold through the fence, however hard he tries to lead the sheep out of the gate; the sheep will refuse to be led out. In fact there will be chaos and noise in the sheepfold that will attract the attention of the watchman of the sheepfold or any observer who might be passing through the sheepfold. Ngewa submits that “instead of heading towards the gate to be led out (as they would do when they heard their shepherd’s voice), they would run away from the stranger (often running in circles in the pen to avoid the stranger coming near them)” (Ngewa, 2003: 189).
Jesus used the shepherd imagery figuratively in John 10:1-5 to explain His role as the way to salvation. He used the shepherd imagery from everyday life to explain to the people what they do not know about Him and His mission on earth. He used what was familiar and known to the people to explain the unfamiliar and the unknown. But it was rather unfortunate as stated in verse 6, that the Pharisees did not understand the spiritual and figurative meaning behind his usage of the shepherd imagery. Leon Morris in his book The Gospel according to John explains that “Jesus begins with an allegory in which He sets forth the main facts of herding sheep in ancient Palestine. His audience no doubt is familiar enough with the general pastoral picture, but it does not discern the spiritual meaning behind the words.” (Morris, 1974: 500)
John 10:1-5 is actually a contrast between the attitudes of Jesus and the Pharisees towards the people. The reaction of the Pharisees after Jesus healed the man born blind showed that the Pharisees have failed in their responsibilities as shepherd of the people. They have rather become thieves and strangers to the people and were thus spiritually blind to their responsibilities. Commenting on John 10:1-4, D. H. Johnson in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels stated that “in its present context the sheepfold is the nation of Israel (Ps. 95:7; 100:3). The thief represents the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day.” (Johnson, 1992: 752).
- Quote paper
- Longji Ayuba Dachal (Author), 2017, The biblical model of the good shepherd, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/454683