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The tenth chapter of John gives us the final commentary on the sixth sign that Jesus performed to manifest His glory. Whereas the end of chapter 9 focused upon His authority as the Son of Man to judge the world, chapter 10 sets forth the responsibilities inherent in that authority. Authority without responsibility is tyranny. Conversely, to hold someone accountable without having an equal measure of authority brings injustice. They must go in equal measures.
In the sixth sign itself, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Healing blindness brings light to the eyes and revelation to one’s spirit. In chapter 10 there are two other metaphors that Jesus presents as “light” to those who are able to receive His revelation. John 10:7 says, “I am the door of the sheep.” John 10:11 adds, “I am the good shepherd.”
Each is a “figure of speech” (John 10:6) that sets forth revelation concerning our relationship with Christ.
John 10:1-3 begins,
1 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls out his own sheep by name and leads them out.
If sheep—or any other man or animal—were to climb over the wall, their actions would show that they are not sheep but thieves and robbers who are not friends of the shepherd or the sheep. The doorkeeper, the door, and the shepherd all represent Christ Himself in different ways. Being the doorkeeper is explained in John 14:6,
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
In this metaphor, the sheepfold itself is the place of rest and safety in the presence of the Father. Jesus is the doorkeeper, and no one is allowed to come to the Father except through Christ. He alone is the One who has paid the penalty for the sin of the world by His death on the cross. No other man could do this, because no one else was an unblemished lamb. Who else was born of a virgin in order to avoid the curse from Adam’s sin? Jesus is unique in all of history.
So also, Peter testified in Acts 4:12,
12 And there is salvation [yeshua] in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
While competing religions do not believe this, they all have one element in common: they present a blemished lamb in their attempt to attain salvation, whether this lamb is their founder or the flocks of people who follow him. Hence, they try to enter the sheepfold in an unlawful manner by climbing over the wall without going through the door provided to them by the Father Himself.
The doorkeeper also opens the door to all who are his sheep. Jesus knows the names of all His sheep, and His sheep know His voice when He calls them. Only those sheep which belong to others and who listen to the voice of others are forbidden from entering the door of Christ’s sheepfold. John 10:4, 5 continues,
4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.
When they arrive at the sheepfold, the shepherd becomes the doorkeeper. Sheep from many flocks may be mixed together outside the sheepfold, but when they arrive at the door, each follows the voice of his master and enters into his sheepfold.
In a largely pastoral society, everyone knew how sheep acted and interacted with their shepherd. The people were supposed to be “the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Knowing His voice is the main characteristic of God’s sheep. With so many competing voices from other shepherds, this is what distinguishes Christ’s sheep from all others.
John 10:6 concludes,
6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
Those who “did not understand” were those who followed the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other religious leaders or rabbis. These “sheep” had been trained to hear these other voices, and when Christ spoke, His voice was unfamiliar to most of them, and they could receive His revelation.
Thieves and Robbers
John 10:7-10 says,
7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All [other messiahs] who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”
Up to that time, no one, it seems, had actually claimed to be a messiah. Those who coveted such recognition organized insurrections against the Romans that failed. No doubt they hoped to achieve their goal of casting off the Roman yoke and thereby earn recognition as the messiah.
Perhaps Jesus had Barabbas in mind, an insurrectionist who was later captured and condemned to be crucified at the same time that Jesus Himself was condemned. Barabbas was released and thereby escaped death, because it was customary for the Roman Procurator to release a prisoner at the time of Passover. The people chose Barabbas over Jesus.
Barabbas’ full name was Jesus Bar-abbas. So the people were given a choice: Which “Jesus” would they choose? They chose Jesus Bar-abbas, the “robber” (John 18:40), because they heard the voice of their shepherds, who urged them to make that choice. Matthew 27:20 says,
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.
It appears that Jesus was prophesying covertly about Barabbas, the “robber” who was an alternate Jesus, whose name means “salvation.” In doing so, the sheep heard the voice of their shepherds—in this case, “the chief priests and the elders.”
Jesus Barabbas wanted to overthrow the Romans by violence and force. He came “to steal and kill and destroy,” not understanding that because of the sin of Judah and Jerusalem, God had given the “sheep” to the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:6). Then, after 70 years, God gave the sheep to the Persians who conquered Babylon. After two more centuries, the sheep passed into the hands of Alexander the Great and the Grecian empire. Then 250 years later, the sheep were given to Rome.
All of the so-called “messiah’s” tried to steal those sheep from these empires, not realizing that this was theft. God had given authority to these empires to rule the sheep for a specified amount of time—“seven times.” They rose up to “kill and destroy” the rightful owners of the sheep, hoping to receive authority over the sheep as their shepherd, or messiah.
If the people had been able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, they would not have responded to the voice of false shepherds whose motive was to “kill and destroy.” Ultimately, these false shepherds brought the nation and the city into destruction. The people who followed them paid a heavy price, losing the abundant life offered to them by the true Shepherd.
The Door of the Sheep
The doorkeeper is also the door. Both represent Christ, though in different ways. The door theme is rooted in the law of voluntary servants found in Exodus 21:2-6,
2 If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment…. 5 But if the slave plainly says, “I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,” 6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.
Biblical slavery was not like the world’s concept of slavery. The world has enslaved men, giving masters the right of life and death over their slaves, as well as the right to abuse them at will. God’s slavery was predicated on the fact that God Himself owns the people by right of creation and that they are all God’s slaves (or servants).
Biblical slavery is also based on the concept that all authority comes with an equal level of responsibility, which brings accountability. Thus, God holds masters responsible to teach their slaves the principles of righteousness and to manifest the love of God to all. Slavery does not relieve men of their responsibility to show forth the love of God.
Hence, if a man has been a thief and has been sold into slavery according to Exodus 22:3, the new master, who has redeemed the thief’s debt note, represents Christ our Redeemer and is responsible to teach his slave the righteous ways of God.
For this reason, the law contemplates the possibility that a slave may actually love his master and may want to remain a servant in his house, rather than returning to his own inheritance. After such slaves have served their sentence, they have the option of returning to their former master and dedicating themselves as permanent slaves.
If they decided to do this, they were to have their earlobe nailed to the door or doorpost, signifying the opening of the ear, i.e., hearing the master’s voice. David understood this spiritual principle when he wrote in Psalm 40:6-8,
6 Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears you have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; your Law is within my heart.”
David read “the scroll of the book” where Exodus 21:6 set forth the principle of the perpetual slave. In hearing God’s voice and receiving the revelation of the law, David applied it to Himself, returning to God and having his ear nailed to the door, which is Christ. He came as a voluntary slave, not because his Master’s will was oppressive or contrary to that which he wanted to do, but because the Master’s law was written on his heart. He agreed with it.
So is it with all who truly hear Christ’s voice—those whose ears have been opened. Like the Apostle Paul, we are His bond-servants (Romans 1:1), not out of compulsion through the law, but because we are in agreement with His will, His purposes, and His plans. And even if we do not fully understand what He is doing, we trust Him, knowing that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:28).