John 10:7-11 New International Version
(7)”Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. (8)All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. (9) I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.(10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (11)“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Note in this passage Jesus uses two comparisons to shepherding to enlighten His listeners as to His character.
I have never lived on a farm nor spent any time around sheep, so my knowledge of them and of shepherding is very limited. In order to understand what Jesus meant by His words, I chose to spend time learning about sheep and their habits. My research revealed some interesting facts.
“I am the gate”
I learned that in biblical times there were two types of sheep pens. Shepherds constructed a permanent pen of stones with one entrance so narrow that only one sheep could enter at a time. This allowed the shepherd to easily count the sheep as well as to assess their physical condition as they passed through into the pen.
The second type of pen was a rather makeshift one constructed out in the field with whatever the shepherd could find to piece together. He would then lie down across the opening to create a “human” gate of sorts to keep predators at bay.
What images of Jesus does this conjure up in your mind? To me, as the “gate” in the permanent pen, He keeps track of us and monitors our condition. On the flip side, as the temporary gate, He protects us with His life and body.
“I am the Good Shepherd”
As well as proclaiming that He is a gate for the sheep, Jesus calls himself the “Good Shepherd.” He enumerates some of the characteristics of a good shepherd as someone…
- who knows his sheep and calls them by name,
- whose voice the sheep recognize
- who would lay down his life for his flock.
In the passage in John, the word “good” is translated from the Greek word kalos which has a connotation of noble, honorable, and worthy. What better words can you find than these to describe Jesus!
We can look to the Greek language again for the definition of two words that can translate into our word “know:” eidos which means to know, appreciate or remember implying “head” knowledge and ginosko meaning to know from experience and implies more of a “heart” knowledge. Think of it as the difference between knowing a co-worker vs knowing a sibling or a best friend.
As part of knowing us, Jesus the Good Shepherd, calls us by name and was willing to lay down His life for us, His flock. In John 10: 28 (NIV) we read “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Take some time to ponder the depth of that kind of love.
The 23rd Psalm is a beautiful reflection of Jesus as our shepherd. Click here and take a moment to listen to these heartfelt words of David put to music: Psalm 23