John 10 Part 1: Sheep And Shepherds: Israel’s True Leader Vs The False Leaders

We come into this world far from God, ignorant and confused about the most basic and the most important things. It’s natural for people to gravitate to those who have more knowledge or experience in various areas of human endeavor. It’s absolutely crucial to choose the right leaders, especially in the most important area of human endeavor – seeking God. Good leaders bring blessing to us in this world. Good spiritual leaders bring blessings to us in this world followed by eternal blessing in the World To Come. Bad leaders, especially bad religious leaders, can be devastating to your life in this world and damning on the Day of Judgment.

John 10 follows the great miracle of the healing of the man who was born blind, and continues Yeshua’s interaction with some Pharisees, who were part of Israel’s religious leadership. Most of these spiritual elites of the Chosen People had already decided that Yeshua was a false prophet. And they wanted to kill Him. They wanted the Jewish people to follow them, not Yeshua. A true friend will confront you when you are wrong. Deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. For His part, Yeshua was a friend to these men, and so He warned them, using illustrations taken from sheep and shepherding, that they were very wrong and needed to reconsider their thinking about Him and about themselves.

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

Picture a pen with sheep in it. It’s an outdoor area enclosed by a wall. It has a gate. A gatekeeper guards the gate. The shepherd enters the pen by going to the gate. The gatekeeper knows him and opens the gate and allows the shepherd to enter the enclosure. The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know their shepherd. When he calls to them, they follow him. This is a good shepherd and takes his sheep out of the pen, leading them to food and water. He leads them by going ahead of them. He does not lead them from behind.

In contrast to the good shepherd, who is the legitimate leader of the sheep, are other men who are illegitimate shepherds. They want access to the sheep, but because they are not legitimate leaders, they don’t go to the gate. They avoid the gatekeeper. They climb over the wall of the enclosure. Because they are not legitimate leaders, the sheep are unfamiliar with them and don’t follow them. In fact, the sheep do the opposite – they run away from the illegitimate shepherds.

Throughout the centuries, even though we are the Chosen People, and blessed with many spiritual blessings, and should have had the best leaders, we had many awful leaders – false prophets, rotten priests and wicked kings. The Pharisees, and the other religious and political leaders who opposed Yeshua, were more of the same. They were not Israel’s legitimate spiritual leaders.

Who is Israel’s true spiritual leader in this illustration? Yeshua. Who are the illegitimate leaders? The Pharisees and others who opposed Him. But, as happened so frequently, the people He was speaking to didn’t understand Yeshua’s illustration. Yeshua used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. Because they didn’t understand, and because it was so important for their well-being for them to understand, even though they were persecuting Yeshua and wanted to kill Him, Yeshua graciously explained the meaning of to them.

Therefore Yeshua said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to 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 authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.

In His explanation of the sheep and the shepherds, Yeshua made some amazing claims about Himself:

He is the gate for the sheep. That means that only those human beings who go through Him can experience spiritual life and be saved. The only way that anyone can become part of God’s redeemed people is by going through Yeshua – recognizing that He is the Son of God who came into this world through the incarnation, lived a perfect life and died a sacrificial, atoning death. Then He rose from the dead and is alive know, the living Lord and Savior.

He is not only the gate, He is the good shepherd, the true leader of the Jewish People. What makes Him our true leader?

He is recognized by the gatekeeper – God the Father. God the Father knows Yeshua and approves of Yeshua and Yeshua’s leadership and gives Him access to the sheep. The Father’s approval of Yeshua gives Him the right and the authority to be the leader of God’s people.

Not only is He approved by God, He is recognized by God’s people. When He says something, those who really are God’s people know that what Yeshua is saying is true. They know that He is who He claims He is. They know everything He says is true. The sheep recognize their shepherd.

Have you ever seen a mother give her toddler to someone the child doesn’t know, and the toddler gets scared and begins to cry? That happens with Logan here at Shema. Elli and Aliza will be holding Logan, and someone wants to hold him, and so they hand him to someone who is not part of the family, and Logan scrunches up his face and starts crying. Just as toddlers know their parents, and dogs know their humans, and humans know their dogs, Yeshua knows His people, and His people know Him. It’s a kind of knowing that is based on a close, personal relationship. That’s the kind of relationship Yeshua wants to have with us.

What else makes Yeshua the leader of God’s people? He’s loyal to His followers. He doesn’t abandon them when things become dangerous, and since we live in a fallen world that is satanically controlled and is in rebellion against God and is under a curse, it’s normal for danger to come to God’s people. Whenever it is dangerous, Yeshua will always be there, protecting us and surrounding us with His wisdom, grace and peace.

What makes Yeshua the good shepherd? He’s not motivated by self-interest. He is motivated by the desire to serve and protect His followers, so much so that He puts the needs of His followers before His own needs. He is a giver, not a taker. He doesn’t take from His people, He gives to them.

He comes to enhance their life, to give them life, abundant life, successful life in this world followed by eternal life in the World To Come.

He is so much of a giver, and not a taker, that He is willing to suffer for His people, and even sacrifice His life for His people.

There are many reasons why the Father loves His Son. One of them is because of Yeshua’s willingness to sacrifice Himself in order to help fallen human beings where we need help the most. There’s something that God has placed in us that admires those who are willing to suffer for a good cause. The Father feels the same way about His Son. He appreciates Messiah’s willingness to sacrifice Himself to redeem those who are in rebellion against God, and He loves Him for it.

What makes Yeshua the legitimate leader of God’s people? His resurrection from the dead. Yeshua knew He needed to die to reconcile us to God, and He also knew that He would not remain dead. He was willing to lay His life down for us – and He knew that He would come back to life. Yeshua knew death could not keep Him under death’s control, because it is sin that gives death authority, and Yeshua knew that He was without sin.

Yeshua knew that no human being had the authority to kill Him. He had authority over His own death. It was only His willingness to sacrifice Himself as a perfect offering to atone for our sins that made His death possible.

While it’s true that corrupt Jewish and Roman leaders arrested Him, gave Him unfair trials, beat and tortured Him, and then crucified Him, that’s only part of the story. The other part of the story is that these evil men were only able to kill Yeshua because He allowed it to happen.

And, just as He had the authority to allow Himself to be killed, He had the authority to come back to life – and Yeshua knew it.

Yeshua’s resurrection proves He is the true leader of Israel and the rest of the nations of the world. None of the Pharisees who ever lived; none of the other leaders of Israel, bad or good; none of the leaders of any other religion or ideology rose from the dead like Yeshua did.

Buddha, Confucius and Mohammed are still in their tombs. Darwin is dead and is not evolving. Marx, Lenin, Freud and Einstein are dead and buried. Of all the great leaders of the world’s religions and ideologies, only Yeshua has died and overcome death.

Yeshua’s resurrection is God’s seal of approval on everything Yeshua did and said. Yeshua’s resurrection is God’s declaration that Messiah is perfect, flawless, blameless, sinless and only spoke the truth, since God would not allow a sinner, a liar, a false prophet or a false Messiah to be resurrected.

Yeshua’s resurrection validates His claims about Himself. Yeshua’s resurrection is God’s declaration that Yeshua is the Messiah. He is the Lord. He is the Son of God. He is Immanuel, God With Us. He is the one and only Savior of the world.

Yeshua’s resurrection means that His words are true and will outlast the universe. “Heaven and Earth will pass away”, Yeshua claimed, “but My words will never pass away.” Our lives are safe, secure and blessed; and our lives will outlast the universe – if they are built on Yeshua’s teachings.

Yeshua’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of those who follow him. When He rose from the dead, He defeated Satan and the demons. He conquered sin. He defeated death! If we confess with our mouth that Yeshua is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved – and be resurrected and live forever!

We come into this world far from God, with a sinful nature. We need to be transformed. We must rise to a new life that is pure and holy and dedicated to God. We must get a new nature that is devoted to God and is able to please God. We must be born again. We must receive the Holy Spirit. Only Yeshua’s resurrection makes these things possible.

Yeshua’s resurrection proves He is the God-ordained, true and legitimate leader of Israel and the nations.

In contrast to Yeshua, the good shepherd, are the illegitimate leaders. What characterizes them?

They are not known by the gatekeeper. Because God has not authorized them to be leaders, or given them legitimate spiritual authority, they climb over the wall. They create their own ways of getting influence among people, primarily through false religious and ideological teachings.

They are motivated by self-interest. They care more about themselves than the people they lead.

Because they care more about themselves than those they lead, they are takers, not givers. They are more like hired hands who need to be paid. The are more like thieves and robbers.

Because they care more about themselves than the people they lead, they are not loyal. They may abandon their followers when it becomes dangerous and they are needed the most.

Yeshua was the true spiritual leader of Israel, and He knew who the true followers of God were, and who weren’t. And the faithful remnant knew who their real leader was, and those who weren’t.

The reason why more and more people were rejecting the Pharisees and following Yeshua was because they knew He was their true leader.

Just as Yeshua knew God and was close to His Father, there is a sense of closeness, connectedness, a sense of intimate personal relationship and sharing and fellowship between Yeshua and His followers.

What makes Yeshua the true spiritual leader of Israel? His vision. Good leaders inspire their following with their vision, and Yeshua had a vision. He understood what none of the other leaders of Israel knew. He knew that it was too small a thing for Him to only be the leader of the faithful remnant of the Chosen People. He knew that God had a greater plan for Him.

Yeshua understood that He had other sheep that were not of the Jewish sheep pen. Who are these people? They include Messianic Jews of future generations; and the faithful remnant from the other nations.

Yeshua knew that He would become their leader and bring them into His Community – through the ministry of His disciples. These too will hear His voice speaking to them – through His disciples, and they too will follow Messiah and there will be one great community of salvation – one flock with one shepherd.

Yeshua had a vision of one new man, a new united humanity made up of Jews and Gentiles under the leadership of the Son of God.

Yeshua’s illustration and explanation of the sheep and the shepherds was coherent and profound. There was the ring of truth to it. And, His criticism of the leaders who opposed Him and His claims about Himself followed a singular miracle – the healing of the man who was born blind.

But in spite of Yeshua’s powerful statements, accompanied by the great miracle of the healing of the man who was born blind, most of the leaders there continued to reject Yeshua – most, but some weren’t so sure they should continue to reject Him. The Jewish leaders who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

The world is still divided about Yeshua. It’s now 2,000 years since He arrived, and Yeshua has more followers than ever. Many of those other sheep have become part of Yeshua’s new united humanity. But, the majority of the Jewish people and the majority of people from the nations continue to reject Yeshua – in spite of His tens of millions of followers and the tremendous impact Yeshua has had on the world, changing the course of history.

Which side of the divide are you on? Who do you say Yeshua is? A false prophet? Someone who is demon-possessed, evil and raving mad? Just a man – whom you can ignore? Or a true prophet, the ultimate leader of Israel and the nations, the Son of God who came into this world, lived a perfect life, died and came back to life to give us abundant and eternal life?

If you do reject Yeshua, I urge you to reconsider your rejection.

Let’s pray:

Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, thank You for sending Yeshua into this dark, fallen world.

Thank You for making it clear to us that He is who He claimed to be.

In a world full of competing claims to truth, help us know and believe and stand on the truth that Yeshua is the gate, and that only those human beings who go through Him can be saved.

Help us to really know Yeshua and be so close to Him that we are able to hear His voice. Help us to have the kind of personal relationship with Him that results in wisdom and understanding and life.

Thank You that Yeshua is loyal to His followers, that He will never abandon us, that He always be there, protecting us and surrounding us with His wisdom, grace and peace.

Thank You that Yeshua came to give us abundant life, successful life in this world followed by eternal life in the World To Come.

Thank You for Yeshua’s willingness to suffer for His people, and even sacrifice His life for His people.

Thank You for Yeshua’s resurrection, and all that it means for us and does for us – proving that He is the true leader of Israel and the nations – the Messiah and the Son of God and the Savior of the world. His resurrection lets us know that everything Yeshua did and said was right and true. His resurrection enables us to receive Your Spirit, and receive a new, godly nature that is able to live for You and please You. Yeshua’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection.

We acknowledge that Yeshua has Your approval, which gives Him the right and the authority to be our leader. Thank You for meeting our need for leadership, and sending us the best leader ever!