Letters to the Prison - Week 103

Hello!  We’re hoping you’ll join our study of the Gospel of John.  We’re beginning John 10 this week.  Last week, we suggested that you read through Ezekiel 34 to prepare for what Jesus is about to say to the people gathered around him in Jerusalem --the same people he was speaking to at the close of chapter 9.  Jesus begins with the 15th “truly truly” statement recorded by John:
•“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.-John 10:1-3a
When Jesus says “truly, truly” it’s time to pay attention because Jesus is about to discuss a profound truth.  In this case, he is beginning a long comparison between a true, good shepherd and false ones.  One immediate difference is their method of entering the sheepfold… and their true intentions.  As the comparison continues, we see that another key difference is how the sheep respond to a true shepherd or a false one:
•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.”-John 10:3b-5
At this point, in case anyone is wondering, it becomes clear that Jesus is not speaking about literal sheep or shepherds.  Look what John says:
•This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.-John 10:6
Jesus is using a familiar image to teach a profound lesson, as he often does.  Sheep herding was a common practice among the Jewish people and so the methods and concepts behind the practice were easily accessible and common knowledge to the people listening to Jesus.   But the people listening weren’t getting it because they weren’t yet making the connection between literal sheep and shepherds and the people of Israel and their leaders.  To begin to make the connection plain, Jesus lays out his 16th “truly truly” statement:
•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. -John 10:7-8
We see this same connection made in Ezekiel 34, also:
•And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”-Ezekiel 34:30-31
So, in both cases, the sheep are God’s people, the good shepherd is God himself, and the bad or false shepherds are the leaders of the people who have not led or cared for them properly.  We will continue to examine this next week.  Until then, ask yourself:  Do you hear Jesus calling?

Dean A.

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