Teaching series from John

Jesus Makes Two Unique Claims

John 10:1-30

Teaching t22484


In the first half of John’s gospel, John records 7 “I am” statements made by Jesus. Through these statements, Jesus makes unique claims for Himself as the Messiah (“I and I alone”) and explains the nature of His Messiahship. So far, we have heard two of these claims: “I am the bread of life,” and “I am the light of the world.”

In Jn.10, Jesus makes two more unique claims—two more “I am” statements. Both of them are related to a parable He tells about shepherds and sheep (read 10:1-5).

Shepherding in the Mid-East was and is very different than in this country. We have huge herds, but they had small flocks. We utilize sheep mainly(?) for their meat, but they utilized sheep mainly for their wool and milk. We see sheep impersonally, (as a nameless herd), but their shepherds viewed sheep more like pets, with names to which they answered (explain 10:3). We drive sheep herds with dogs or jeeps, but their shepherds personally led their flocks to pasture and water.

But Jesus is not lecturing on first-century shepherding (read 10:6). He is giving an illustration that sets the stage for two claims about who He is—claims which call for decisions from us.

“I am the door”

Read 10:7-10. In big grazing areas, there were large pens to protect multiple flocks from predators and thieves. These large pens had a literal gate with a gatekeeper. But in outlying mountainous or ravine areas, there was only a space in the rock walls, and the shepherd was the door, sitting or lying in the space. In both cases, the door represents the one and only way to safety from enemies and to nourishment.

Twice Jesus claims: “I am the door.” This is both an exclusive claim and an inclusive offer—and both the claim and the offer are offensive to some people, but good news to others.

The exclusive claim is that Jesus is the only way (“I and I alone”) to be saved from death and ruin, the only way to experience the abundant life of a love-relationship with God (“ONE WAY” SIGN DURING THE JESUS MOVEMENT). To make this crystal clear, Jesus states the antithesis—that all other religious teachers or systems that claim to be ways to salvation are false and dangerous (regardless of their motives). Jn.14:6 says the same thing in the same way (read).

This claim is offensive if you are convinced that you have another way to God—whether religious absolutism (e.g., PHARISEES; ISLAM) or religious pluralism (ROMAN EMPIRE SMORGASBORD & 21ST-CENTURY AMERICAN RELATIVISM). But it is good news if you sense that your religion or your relativism have not satisfied your heart’s longing to know God and the security of His love.

The inclusive offer is that anyone who enters through Jesus will be saved and find abundant life. Jesus obliterates all of the walls that traditional religions erect to exclude people (race; ethnicity; morality; etc.). He declares that none of these things matter as long as you come through Him, that everyone is equally welcome if they come through Him.

This offer is offensive if think your race, ethnicity, morality, etc. make you superior to others and/or acceptable to God. But it is good news if you know you are messed up, but you want to know God.

This is Jesus’ first claim. A door is only worthwhile if there is something good on the other side of it, and if you actually open it and go in. Jesus says there is salvation and abundant life on the other side of Him. I’m here to tell you that He is right. But the only way you will know is by opening the door and going in. Just tell Him: “Jesus, I want this abundant life. Please admit me into Your kingdom so I can have it.”

“I am the good shepherd”

Jesus not only claims to be the door for all who want to be saved; He also claims to be the good shepherd for those who have entered by Him as the door (read 10:11-14). In other words, Jesus claims to be the only rightful Leader of your life. Once you enter by the door, this is the next claim you have to decide how to respond to. This raises the question: “Why should I entrust the direction of my life to Jesus?” Jesus gives six reasons.

First, because I am like a sheep, so I need a shepherd. If you have ever been around sheep for long, you know this analogy is not a compliment! Sheep are stupid, prone to wander, stubborn, timid, and defenseless. One theologian said of sheep (tongue in cheek): “They are prima facie evidence against the theory of evolution” because sheep never could have survived in a survival-of-the fittest-world. They are designed to need a shepherd—someone who will protect them from their enemies and from their own foolishness, and direct them to food and water and shelter. Have you admitted this about yourself? Or do you still believe that you are capable of being your own shepherd?

Second, because Jesus loves me enough to die for me (read 10:11,12,15). This is the ultimate proof of love according to Jesus (quote Jn.15:13). Jesus is not a hired hand. You are not just a job or a means to a paycheck so He can pursue His own goals. You are the object of His love which is so deep that He voluntarily laid His life down to save you even while you were a rebellious sheep (Rom.5:6-11). This has nothing to do with your intrinsic value; it has wholly to do with His intrinsic love. And if Jesus loves you so much that He willingly paid the ultimate price to rescue you, He will certainly also give you whatever you need to flourish (paraphrase Rom.8:31).

Third, because Jesus knows me better than I know myself (read 10:3,14). Jesus never treats you as a faceless number or statistic; He always relates to you personally as the person He created you to be, the person He died to re-create. He relates to you as the person He knows you are—not the person you erroneously think you are (over-negative or over-positive), not the person others have told you you were (“You’re a failure;” “You’re the greatest”). Because Jesus knows you better than you know yourself, and because He loves you enough to die for you, doesn’t it make sense that He can do a better job leading your life than you can?

Fourth, because living in Jesus’ flock is good for me (read 10:16). You are a sheep, and sheep needs both a good shepherd and other sheep. When sheep wander away from other sheep, they wander into danger. So Jesus never leads you into isolation. He retrieves you from isolation, and He always leads you into life in the flock. He has already placed you among the other sheep of His choosing. Will you let Him tend you in His flock, or will you resist this part of His shepherding?

Fifth, because Jesus guarantees to get me home (read 10:27,28). The Greek is very emphatic here, something like: “They shall not, repeat, shall not, ever perish in the slightest.” Jesus never promises to spare His sheep from trouble in this world. In fact, He promised that because we belong to Him, we will have trouble in this world (16:33). But He does promise to pursue us with His goodness and mercy, and to bring us safely to His house (quote Ps.23:6).

And that brings us to the sixth reason why you should entrust the direction your life to Jesus—because He is God. “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Ps.23), and Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He is the Lord (read 10:29,30). He is the Son of His Father, and He and His Father are one (in nature and purpose). This is why He can guarantee to get you home—because He has infinite authority. This is why His death can pay for all of your sins—because it has infinite value. This is why He can know all of His sheep personally—because He is the infinite-personal God.

So what do you say? If you have come through Jesus as the door, you are saved. But you also you need Jesus as your shepherd because He is the only truly good and utterly competent shepherd. Will you resign from being your own shepherd and entrust the direction of your life to Him? This is a conscious decision, just like entering through the door.

“I call you to be My under-shepherd”

If you have made this decision, you need to know one more implication of this decision. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who never stops caring for us as His sheep—this is always our primary identity. But part of following Him as the Good Shepherd is answering His call to be His under-shepherd—to allow Him to work through us to shepherd His sheep.

This is implicit in the passage because Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees for being bad under-shepherds (9:41; “thieves and robbers” in 10:1,8). Jesus makes this explicit in Matt.9:36-38 (read; switches the metaphor in 9:37,38). Whether we believe it or not, whether we think it wise or not, Jesus has decided to shepherd His flock (in part) through under-shepherds. It is His will for every one of His sheep to become an under-shepherd in some capacity, even if we don’t hold an official leadership position.

The strength of this church has always been the large percentage of people who have not only entered through the door, but who have also entrusted the direction of their lives to the good shepherd and answered His call to be under-shepherds (e.g. home group leaders & workers; ministry team leaders & workers). And this part of our church needs more under-shepherds! God is adding more young sheep to this flock, and young sheep need under-shepherds! “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

God is adding young sheep to many of our home groups, and younger sheep are flourishing under the care of under-shepherds. But these little flocks will need to divide so that others can have the opportunity to join and flourish. Where will the additional under-shepherds come from so this can happen? They must come from the sheep within the home groups!

God is reaching people for Christ through ministries like Renegade, the Clinic, Hope, IFI, etc. The existing workers are doing a great job—but they need help! Who will help with the shepherding of these people? Most of them must come from the sheep within the home groups!

You may say: “But I am unworthy because I am so sinful!” Join the club—who could ever be worthy of this? I know I am unworthy. Paul knew that he was unworthy (quote 1Cor.15:9,10). But the grace of God makes us worthy! You may say: “But I am inadequate because I am so weak and limited!” Join the club—who could ever be adequate for this? I know I am inadequate for this. Paul knew that he was inadequate (quote 2Cor.2:17; 3:5,6). But the power of God will make us adequate! These things do not disqualify us; only our unwillingness prevents us from being Jesus’ under-shepherds.

What one step can you take to answer Jesus’ call? Maybe it is to join a home group. Maybe it is to open your life up to one or two people in your home group. Maybe it is to start taking classes to learn God’s Word better. Maybe it is to start meeting with someone in your home group to study the Word with him/her. Maybe it is to let Jesus change your character in a certain area so you can better reflect Him to others. Maybe it is to volunteer in one of the ministries mentioned above. Maybe it is to jump in over your head and help to lead. Ask Him what the one step is, and if you are willing to take it, He will tell you.

It is a great privilege to be one of Jesus’ under-shepherds! Will you get in on this privilege?

“Presenting myself to God implies a recognition that I am altogether His. This giving of myself is a definite thing, just as definite as (receiving Christ). There must be a day when I pass out of my own hands into His, and from that day forward I belong to Him and no longer to myself...If we give ourselves unreservedly to God, many adjustments may have to be made: in family, or business, or relationships, or in the matter of our personal views...His finger will touch, point by point, everything that is not of Him, and He will say 'That must go.' Are you willing?...It is always foolish to resist His will, but it is a blessed thing to just hand ourselves over to Him and let Him have His way with us...My giving of myself to Him must be an initial fundamental act. Then, day by day, I must go on giving (myself) to Him, not finding fault with His use of me, but accepting with praise even what the flesh finds hard. That way (leads to) true enrichment… I do not consecrate myself to be a missionary or a preacher; I consecrate myself to God to do His will where I am, be it in school, office or kitchen or wherever He may, in His wisdom, send me. Whatever He ordains for me is sure to be the very best, for nothing but good can come to those who are wholly His.” Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (Christian Literature Crusade, 1961), pp.72,75.