No Intruder: Jesus is the only true and good shepherd of his sheep. Dr. Bruce Baugus preached this sermon on John 10:1-21 in chapel at RTS Jackson.
I want to preach to you today from John 10:1–21, so please turn there.
It’s the famous lesson of Christ about how he is the good shepherd. As you’re turning there, I want to thank you personally for your prayers while I was in China. It was a blessed time. I was sensible of how it was blessed. That’s not always the case. Sometimes you’re especially sensible of these things. And I was, and of the fact that people were praying for me, and I was grateful for it at the time, and I remain grateful today. Thank you very much. I hope to have opportunities to share more with you about what I was doing, but today I’m eager to preach to you. So let’s look at the Word of God together and let’s look at John 10. Here now, the Word of our Lord:
“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. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He 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. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And 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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No 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.”
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane. Why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
The Background: Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind and Shows Him Grace and Love
“Truly, truly,” Jesus opens up this lesson, and it seems to me that each time in the Gospel of John, when he uses the words “truly, truly,” he’s drawing a lesson out of the events that have just transpired. And I don’t think this is any exception. In fact, the verse that we concluded with, verse 21, also makes a reference back to chapter 9. And so I want to begin by thinking about chapter 9 and how chapter 9 informs this lesson that Jesus gives us about the good shepherd.
Now, there is much that Jesus says here, and you could go in many directions. And I’m just going to draw out one aspect. You can revisit this over and over and over again and continue to draw lessons and benefits and edifying comments and thoughts from this. But I want to go back and I want to begin and I want to think about the context out of which this lesson is drawn. And that’s the context of chapter 9. Jesus has just healed a man who was born blind. He was a blind beggar when he and his disciples came across him. And his disciples asked the question, a question that arises naturally from the way they thought about things. But it was not the way Jesus thought about things. And they ask him, “Why is this man blind? Whose sin? Whose fault?”
And Jesus says, “No, no, no. You’ve misunderstood. This is so that God might be glorified for the good work that I’m about to do.” So this is an occasion, and he heals the man. Heals the man in an odd and peculiar way, no doubt, but he heals the man. But he does it on a Sabbath, of course, and the Pharisees are disturbed by this, and the Pharisees call the man in and question the man. And then they question his parents. Then his parents kick it back over to their son. And so they call him back in again and they question him again. And they’re disturbed.
And the man, in the midst of their being quite disturbed and troubled by what Jesus has done and the fact that he’s seeing, knows a good thing has been done here and they ought to be glorifying God. Instead, they come down hard on the man and especially hard on the man because he dare to speak the truth to them. He dared to expose them for their hypocrisy. The fact that they claim not to know when the truth was they knew full well what was going on, and they were unwilling to admit it or to deal with it or to confront it. And the man dares in his humble state, a powerless man and a poor man and a broken man to to call them out on their feigned ignorance. And this just incites them all the more and they drive him out of their presence with much disdain and insult. And although it’s not explicitly said, it appears as though they have perhaps banned him from the synagogue itself.
But Jesus. But Jesus, he heard what had happened, John tells us. And he seeks the man out individually. He comes to him, he looks for him. Jesus in verse 35 of chapter 9 heard that the man had been cast out and having found him, it’s Jesus again who’s taking the initiative. He took the initiative to turn aside to the man in the first place, and now he’s taking the initiative again and seeking the cast out when nobody else seems to care.
We need to think about that for just a minute. This is God himself in the flesh. The one who upholds the universe by the word of his power. The one who has the weight of the world upon his shoulders. The one who knows full well that he is soon to go to Calvary and die a very cruel sort of death and suffer the wrath of God there.
I’m not sure about you, but I know when I have even light burdens in front of me, I can become quite thoughtless and careless. I can become self-consumed and not notice the people around me and not have time and attention for them because I get caught up in my own world and I grow absentminded towards others and the like. But here we have one who has literally everything, the whole universe, riding upon his shoulders. And he takes the time and turns himself aside, as it were, and seeks out the blind beggar who’s been cast out that he might find him, that he might shepherd his soul when nobody else is. And he comes to him and he asks him a single decisive question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Jesus Declares That He Is the Son of Man and Asks for Allegiance
That is no trivial question; it is the decisive question of life, eternal life itself. Our own eternity hangs in the balance of what we answer to that question. Do you believe that this man is the Son of Man, the one who was to come? And he puts the question directly to the man. Truly, if you believe on him, you will be saved. Jesus has made this plain to us. Indeed, if you believe, you’ve already been saved. And if you refuse to believe, if you don’t believe, then you stand condemned, and you will die and you will perish in your sin as Jesus has already told them plainly in the Gospel of John at this point, unless they repent.
That’s what hangs in the balance. And this is this is what hangs, or rides maybe I should say, upon the answer to this question, a true and honest answer from the heart to this question. And Jesus confronts this man directly with the question. And in confronting this man with this question here through the Gospel of John, he is putting it straight to us also: Do we believe in the Son of man? Do you?
As for this man, he is ready to believe and to worship. In a sense, he’s already been believing. He believed enough to go and to obey Jesus, as Jesus sent him, and he went to the pool and he washed in the pool and he has already received his sight. And he’s already testified to Jesus and suffered for that testimony.
And now he stands before Jesus, the Son of Man, but he does so in a peculiar sort of state because he never saw Jesus, he never saw the one who actually healed him. He heard him, he heard the command, and he went and he obeyed the command, and he received the promise that was implied in the command to go wash in the pool. He is now seeing, but he never saw Jesus because Jesus, as you remember, put mud on his eyes, made out of his own saliva, and sent him away to go wash. And he went and he obeyed. And he’s never seen Jesus. And he says, “Who is he that I should believe in him?” He’s ready. He’s ready to believe and to worship and to surrender and to submit himself entirely. But now he’s asking the question and Jesus answers him very, very directly.
You can see this in verse 36. He says, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” And Jesus said to him in verse 37, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”
Isn’t that the way that Jesus always deals with us? Grace precedes us.It’s a powerful answer to a question, isn’t it? Notice how Jesus starts out, “You have seen him.” He points directly to the fact that the man now stands as one who’s already been a recipient of blessing and grace. One who is seeing: this man had never seen anything in his entire life until this day.
And when Jesus answers him, he says, “You are seeing him right now. You are looking at him. You have seen him.” And isn’t that the way that Jesus always deals with us? Grace precedes us. We stand before him when he confronts us with questions as one who has already been a recipient of undeserved blessing, of favor that we had no right or entitlement to, as one who’s already been blessed and upon whom he’s already lavished grace upon.
“You have seen him, and the one who is speaking to you is he.” But don’t overlook that second part either. Not only does this man stand before him as one who has already been a recipient of grace—you know, I can’t help but to be reminded of Sinai, of Israel before Sinai, who comes and meets with God at Sinai. Moses goes up on the mountain, and God meets with his people there. And how does he come to them when he gives them the Decalogue? He comes to them again as one who is already their God, who has already been gracious to them. They are ones who have already received grace and he highlights that and fronts that and points that out to them. It’s always the way God comes and he meets with us. It’s what the good shepherd is doing.
But he also comes and meets with us saying that “I am the Lord, your God.”
And it’s also what he’s saying to this man: “Who is the Son of Man? I am the Son of Man.”
He tells him directly. It’s like the woman at the well. It’s interesting to pay attention in the Gospel of John: who are the ones that Jesus tells, point-blankly, exactly who he is? He doesn’t beat around the bush. He doesn’t hide it. He tells them plainly and straightforward. Well, he’s making it clear all the way through. But here, like the woman at the well, he’s saying to them plainly, “I am. The one who’s speaking to you is the one. I am the Son of Man, the one who now stands before you. It’s me.”
Jesus Is a Better Shepherd Than the Pharisees or the Man’s Parents
And at that, the man confessed his faith, and he fell down at his feet and he worshiped. What else could he do? Well, he could have been like the Pharisees, I suppose, because that’s not how they responded. But the point here is this: this is our God, brothers and sisters, who stands before this blind beggar, having gone and sought him out and confronted him, and he is receiving him and welcoming him into his fold, even as the Pharisees were casting him out of theirs. This is our Lord and our savior. This is the shepherd of your soul that we meet here in chapter 9.
You see how he cares for this man, this blind beggar? He’s not like the others, the Pharisees or even the crowd, or even the man’s own parents. That had to hurt. They weren’t even willing to stand up for him or to take his interests into their hands and to stand with him in the time of his need here. But they simply kicked it back over to them because they feared the Pharisees. And they were willing to sacrifice him to save themselves. But the Pharisees, I think, are the ones who stand out most vividly. And Jesus is not like them. Though he is very God of very God, he cared for this man, and he became his servant, the servant of a blind beggar, and in becoming this man’s servant, he has become ours too.
“I am the good shepherd.” That’s the lesson that he’s drawing out of this as he turns to the people. “I am the good shepherd and my sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” And it’s just that simple. How difficult we tend to make it, don’t we? It’s just that simple. My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.
The Spiritual Gift and Practice of Hearing the Voice of Jesus
There’s a kind of spiritual gift, a spiritual hearing that he has in view here. It’s a gift that others lack. It’s one that his sheep possess. But no, none of the others do. They don’t recognize his voice. His voice to them is even as a stranger. But to his sheep, it’s the voice of their shepherd. His sheep discern the voice of their savior and they know their master and protector and they recognize their shepherd when he speaks to them, the shepherd of their soul.
And it is a gift, to be sure, but we should also notice that it’s one that can be improved with exercise and use. The more you listen, the more you give yourself to following and obeying, the more clear and crisp and certain your hearing is likely to become. It’s a gift that’s given to you to recognize his voice, but the more that you put it into use and to practice it, the more certain and confident you’ll be that when he speaks to you, it is he himself who is speaking and not some stranger. The less confused you’ll be when strangers try to masquerade and pretend to be him and speak to you seductive words, perhaps. Things that sound close and sound similar that would deceive others will not deceive the one who’s been exercised and practiced at hearing and listening to the voice of their shepherd. It’s a gift. His own know him. They know his voice, and they follow him. And knowing his voice and following him is vital to their welfare.
You see, Jesus is telling us here that Christ’s flock is harassed and harried. It’s not going to be. It’s not that it is from time to time. It simply is. It’s a fact of life and we need to get over it. It informs Paul’s instructions, for example, to the Ephesian elders when he last sees them. And it’s a central part of a task of an elder to to be a shepherd under Christ of his sheep and to defend them from the wolves who will come in and seek to devour and destroy. Christ’s flock is harassed and harried. Thieves and robbers will try to slip in, and strangers will try to lead you astray. And wolves and predators will hunt God’s people. And merely hired hands cannot be trusted, for when they see the wolf coming, they will flee to save themselves and leave the sheep to the devil to be devoured and scattered throughout the world.
There are wolves about and they will hunt us as a pack of wolves and try to devour God’s sheep.Our shepherd has real and deadly enemies in this world, and they will try to steal and destroy and to kill his sheep. Ruthlessly so, and all the more that they can’t lay hold of him himself. Brothers and sisters, the Bible’s clear about that, and Jesus here warns us plainly, and we ought not to be surprised when we find that it’s true and discovered in our own lives, in our own churches and in our own ministries. There are wolves about and they will hunt us as a pack of wolves and try to devour God’s sheep. And they’re not ethical in the way they go about it either. They’re not kind. They’re not nice. They don’t play by the rules. And we shouldn’t be surprised when we discover that what Jesus has said and warned us about is absolutely true. Do we believe him or not?
But here’s the point: we must not be anxious about these things. When they come and they speak seductive words to you, their voice will be strange. When they come and try to enslave you through the fear of death and drive you into dead works, you will know that it’s not the gospel of grace. Their teachings will be unsound. They will not conform to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will not be exalting of him. They will come, and they will keep coming. There will be no end of them until Christ returns, but they are liars and false prophets. There is no truth and there is no good in them, and God’s sheep will see through them. “I am the good shepherd,” he says. And he calls his sheep by name and they follow him.
God Will Shepherd His Own People and Put Down the False Shepherds
But he has a very curious statement here, to me. There’s two very curious statements in this passage that I ponder over. This is one of them: “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” Verse 8 of Chapter 10 here.
Just who does Jesus have in mind when he says “all who came before him”? That’s a pretty, pretty wide category. That’s a kind of universal claim here. And I think it’s obvious that Jesus does not have in view his faithful servants, the prophets who are faithful and true and came as ministers of his own shepherding of his people. But there is no shortage, we can be sure, of those who who claim to be leaders of God’s people, perhaps self-appointed leaders of God’s people, would-be leaders of God’s people, who claim and try to presume to be shepherd over them, to have the rights and the prerogatives. And there are even those who had been entrusted with this vital ministry, and yet they, too, proved to be nothing other than thieves and robbers. Or worse.
Obviously, we have here in view the example of the Pharisees who did not care at all for this blind man. They cared only for themselves and they were willing to destroy God’s people and to throw this man under a bus to save their own privilege and prerogatives and power.
But I cannot help but to think here, and I think we are supposed to be reminded, of Ezekiel and of the Levites. God had sprinkled the Levites, as you remember, throughout his people, to be shepherds over them. In every town and village there’s to be a Levite. And they were to shepherd his people by teaching them Torah, by teaching them the words of God for their welfare and for their benefit. It was a fight to work in ministry for the people, and they twisted and perverted their office into a self-seeking sort of way. And they grew fat off of the people and indulged themselves. And they were not servants, they were not shepherds, they did not serve the people, they did not teach them God’s Word. They were not faithful in their priestly ministries and duties. And they deserved and they earned God’s strong rebuke through the prophet Isaiah [Ezekiel]. And you remember the passage, I trust, but let me read it to you.
“Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought. And with force and harshness, you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or to seek for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God . . . Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so I will seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered. . . . And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. . . . I will feed them with the good pasture, and they shall lie down in good grazing land. And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 34:2–8, 11–15 ESV).
He’s not just a shepherd. He’s not one shepherd among many. He’s the shepherd.I will seek the lost. I will bring back the stray, and I will bind up the injured. And I will strengthen the weak. And now we have Jesus Christ himself standing before us saying, “I am the good shepherd.”
He’s not just a shepherd. He’s not one shepherd among many. He’s the shepherd. He is the Lord God himself come to his people to shepherd them himself and to be for them what no one else was or even could be. He is the good shepherd, and he stands before us, claiming to be this shepherd, Ezekiel’s shepherd, God’s own shepherd, the shepherd who is Almighty God, Yahweh himself come to his people to be their shepherd. This is your shepherd, and this is your God.
The Differences Between the Good Shepherd and the Imposters
The title of the sermon was really not supposed to be, “The Intruder,” but rather “No Imposter.” I’m not sure how I mangled that so badly, but it doesn’t matter because the title doesn’t count. It’s this that counts: that he is no imposter.
And now we can begin to see something of the contrast that Jesus is drawing out here in chapter 10 between himself and between the imposters and the pretenders. And I just have five things I want to observe quickly here as we just think about in a distilled sort of way what Jesus is teaching us here in this lesson.
1. You Can Only Come to God Through Jesus, the True Door
First of all, the imposters and the pretenders, they are the intruders. But Jesus, Jesus is the door. And that always shocks me. I mean, I know where it’s going and I know what he says before I get there, I’ve read it before. But each time I read it, I am just jarred a little bit by the fact that we expect him to say that he’s the shepherd. But he starts out and he says, “I’m the door.” That wasn’t what I was expecting, you know? And he says it twice, so he really does mean it. It wasn’t a mistake. He didn’t misspeak. I am the door. It’s emphatic. I am the door.
The intruders, you see, they try to slip in undetected. The intruders hate the door and they shun the door. They cannot get in by the door. That’s the point. And so they must sneak in. They must try to slip in over the wall and find some other way to enter into the sheepfold. But Jesus, you see, he’s the door itself. That explains a lot about the intruders and how they try to slip in some other way.
It is a bit of a surprise claim, but the only way in, you see, is through Jesus Christ himself. Anyone who would enter this sheepfold must come in, by that way, by the way of Christ. There is only one way to come into the church, and that’s through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
All other ways, whatever you might imagine there to be, they are just so many different ways of trying to slip in like a thief or a robber. Try to sneak in over the wall into some place where the truth is you really don’t belong if you’ve not come in by way of the door. Have you heard his voice and have you followed him? Or were you trying to slip in someplace where you’re trespassing and don’t belong? Only those who come to Christ and come through Christ will be saved and are fit to be ministers in his church, for example, and are fit to be members, are true sheep.
But the thing that we need to see is this isn’t really a threat, it’s more of a promise. And the promise is the promise of the good shepherd himself, who is both shepherd and the door of the sheepfold. And the promise is very plain and put to us in verse 9: “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
And so it’s a call: turn to the shepherd. Come to the door. There’s no reason to have to slip over the wall. There’s no use in it. There’s no reason why you should hate the door and shun the door. You should come to the door, for it stands open to all those who return to him.
And he gives you this encouragement with a promise: that if you if you enter by him, you will be saved. And you will not have to sneak around because you belong. You’re in the right place. But the intruders, they refused to come by the door. They are not only intruders, but they are also usurpers. But Jesus is the owner.
2. The Sheep Belong to Jesus and Jesus Belongs to the Sheep
We belong to him as his sheep and he belongs to us as our shepherd. We belong to each other.The usurpers pretend to belong, but they don’t. Jesus Christ, however, not only belongs, but he is the owner of the sheepfold and of the sheep themselves. He calls his own sheep by name, and he brings out all who are his own. You see, he makes it emphatic. Ownership is being stressed here: “I know my own and my own know me,” he says again in verse 14. Jesus has bought us with a very precious price: the price of his own blood, of his own life. And now we belong to him as his sheep and he belongs to us as our shepherd. We belong to each other. We are owned, we are bought, and we are paid for.
3. Jesus Lays Down His Life for the Sheep
And that brings me to my next point of comparison, the third point here, and that is that when the others flee to save themselves, the owner of the sheep lays down his life for his own. When the wolf comes prowling, the hireling is nowhere to be found. But Jesus does not flee, but he goes out before us and he leads us out and he stands between us and the enemies as our defender and our protector. He’s the one who who fights and defeats every enemy of his sheep. He’s the one who’s disarmed the devil and overthrown the reign of sin and death and thrown open the way of life. “I am the good shepherd,” he declares, “and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
And this is the measure of the shepherd’s love for his own. This is the kind of Lord that we have in Jesus Christ. There is no comparison between him and the intruders and the imposters and the usurpers. There is none like him. We have no shepherd like Jesus. He lays down his life. And he does so, so that we might have life abundantly.
4. Jesus Gives His Sheep Abundant Life
That’s abundant life: to know him, the one who is full of grace and truth, and to enjoy him for ever and ever and ever. What is it to have abundant life anyway? This, too, is kind of curious, isn’t it, isn’t it enough to have life? But how else do you describe the life that God gives us: a life of everlasting joy, of delighting in the glory of God, of being blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, of reigning with him and being joint heirs with him, of being the objects upon which God will delight to show and display the immeasurable riches of his grace towards us and kindness in Jesus Christ. That’s the life that he’s laid down his life to give us. That’s what the shepherd is guiding us into all the steps of our way and to our destiny. That’s abundant life: to know him, the one who is full of grace and truth, and to enjoy him for ever and ever and ever.
5. Jesus Lays Down His Life and Takes It up Again
And this brings me to my fifth point of contrast here. He not only lays down his life of his own accord, but he takes it back up again. Just as no one takes his life from him, but he freely offers it up and lays it down for us and our salvation, so also no one can keep him from taking it back up again. He has authority to do this, and he has done it.
And we do not worship or delight in a dead man, but we serve and we delight in and we worship a living Lord who reigns today in heaven, who intercedes for his people, who is our good shepherd.
And now we know what it is to belong to him and for him to belong to us, and we know what it’s like to turn. And I do ask you to turn with me to Psalm 23, and to take this psalm upon our own lips and this confession upon our own lips and let it be our confession today and our praise and our delight and our worship and our response to the one who came and declared himself and proved and has demonstrated that he is the one and only good shepherd.
Let’s read it together. Join me, starting in verse 1.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Ps. 23 ESV)
I’m going to let that be our closing hymn, and I’m going to just leave you with a benediction. I’ve gone just a little long, but I want to leave you with a word from our shepherd himself at the end of Hebrews. Please stand together and receive now this word, this good word from your shepherd:
Now, may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20–21 ESV)