John 10 Talking In Your Sheep

Questions: How can we recognize God? How is His voice different? What kind of sheep trust Him — and don’t trust thieves and robbers? How can we tell if someone is crazy versus inspired* How do we know if we are His sheep? How can anyone know if Jesus truly is the Christ, the Son of God?

Click “Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

John 10:1-42

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

After chastising the Pharisees for their lack of visual perception, Jesus now turns to an auditory metaphor:

To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

This really seems to be a major theme in John: how could — or should — people recognize who Jesus is? It is important enough that John appears to have deliberately selected some of the most confusing sayings of Jesus just to highlight this point:

This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

Fortunately, this time we get a bit of explanation — even if it is another metaphor:

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.

And if that wasn’t enough, he throws in yet another metaphor:

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.

Well, maybe that is the same metaphor; Jesus is not just a shepherd with a familiar voice, but a good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

So, what can we make of all this? I’m picking up two strong themes.

1. Jesus comes to us in the power of legitimate authority — the reasons for trusting him are the right reasons for trust, not the result of deceptive manipulation.
2. Jesus loves us enough to willingly lay down his life, as commanded by His Father.

There’s probably a lot more, but even that is a lot to digest. I must say, I sympathize with his hearers, who don’t have two thousand years of context and commentary to help them parse all this:

There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings

Given all that’s gone before, I’m not surprised that there is a schism, but I am intrigued by what divides them:

And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

The former focus on the improbability of what he says, and choose an easy interpretation that absolves them of the obligation to wrestle with what he might mean. The latter focus on the “brute facts” of what Jesus did, and hold out for a deeper explanation.

And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

Given the above, I wonder if at least some of his inquisitors are actually asking sincerely. Jesus, however, puts the blame squarely on their shoulders for not knowing the answer:

Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

Ouch. He’s implying that if they were the right sheep — which I suspect means “having the right attitude towards God” — then it would be obvious to them that the works he has done prove whom he is. He doesn’t need to talk about being the Christ since he’s already proved he is the Christ — to those who have ears to hear:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand.

An audacious claim, but nothing compared to what he says next:

My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand. I and [my] Father are one.

Of course, now that he tells them plainly, they’re still not happy. 😉

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

Jesus response is a bit surprising, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s, well, poking fun at them:

Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

Now, I’m sure he knows good and well why they are stoning him, but even here he seems to be pushing at the boundaries of their assumptions. After all blasphemy like that surely outweighs any possible good works — right?

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

Jesus is really pushing their buttons here. He and they both know that it is inappropriate for a mere mortal to claim equivalence to God. But, unlike them, Jesus understands why it is inappropriate, and thus when it might be appropriate. Like most (all?) systematic theologies, they had ignored the one verse that contradicted their rigid, legalistic interpretations — which, if that had faced up to it, would have forced them to humbly admit their limited understanding, and leave themselves open to God’s deeper revelation.

Specifically, the evidence of their own eyes:

If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father [is] in me, and I in him.

Unfortunately, they were far more wedded to their beliefs about Scripture than to Scripture itself, so his plea falls on deaf ears:

Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,

Though perhaps not entirely:

And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.

Perhaps because John’s sheep had been trained to hear the True Voice.


God, I confess that like a lost sheep I often wander away from your voice. Yet Father, you know that I long to hear your voice of truth and love, and dwell within your Kingdom. Bring me back into your fold, that I may know the truth — and be set free. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is a (lame) pun on Talking In Your Sleep.