19 January 2010

John 10 - Shepherds and sheep

< John 9 | Index | John 11 >

In John 10 Yahshua uses shepherds and their flocks as an illustration. He gives an agricultural parable in the first five verses, but his hearers don't understand. A modern flock of sheepHe's not speaking to the disciples and crowds only here, but also to the scribes and Pharisees who were assessing his Messianic claim. (See verses 19-21)

It will help our understanding if we consider the role of a shepherd in 1st century Judaea, sheep didn't live in fields or grassy hill farms as they do in the British Isles. Sheep in fields are securely fenced and can't wander, hill farm sheep wander freely all year and have to be caught and penned for dipping and shearing. Judaean sheep were (and still are) quite different.

The shepherd lives with the sheep and does not use a dog, by day he walks ahead to a place where he knows there will be some greenery and the sheep follow. Much of the landscape is stony and barren. After the rains the countryside turns briefly green and flowers blossom and set seed, at other times the only green things are the leaves of deeply rooted trees and limited amounts of grass and weeds in creek bottoms, along riverbanks, or on dried out riverbeds. The sheep depend for food and water on the knowledge of the shepherd.

At night shepherds lead their sheep to sheepfolds, roughly built out of stones with a single entrance. A number of different flocks spend the night at each sheepfold, the shepherds take turns at keeping watch while the others sleep. The sheep form one, large, mixed flock - there's no attempt to keep them separate.

In the morning, the shepherds head off in different directions, calling their sheep. The sheep recognise the voices and follow their own shepherd. These sheep are not penned in fields, but nor do they wander wherever they like, they follow the shepherd.

Yahshua makes the following five points.
  • Anyone who climbs over the wall is up to no good.
  • Genuine shepherds go through the opening knowing that the one who's on watch will recognise him and let him through.
  • The shepherd calls his sheep and they follow him.
  • They recognise his voice.
  • They run away from people whose voice they don't recognise.
They didn't understand so he explained it for them. He told them that he is the gate, but all others who came were thieves. Everyone who goes in through the gate will be safe and come and go and be fed. Thieves come to destroy, Yahshua comes to give life in full.

He demonstrates that as his people (his sheep) we know him and follow him and he gives his life for us. Furthermore he has other sheep that are not from this fold, but in the future there will be one flock and one shepherd.

As before, some of them thought he was crazy while others were convinced. People today are no different, some think this is madness, delusion. Others are convinced.

How many flocks are there? Are there house church sheep, Anglican sheep, Pentecostal sheep, and evangelical sheep? No, we are all part of one flock.  That is what the Lord said, he made it plain. There is much broken in our thinking that remains to be mended. Our thoughts are not his thoughts. Whoever you are, however you meet, consider yourself to be part of Yahshua's one flock.

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