When Jesus speaks about a shepherd and his flock, he uses an image
that was quite common in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God
was considered to be the shepherd of his people Israel. Like a takes care of his sheep, so God takes care of his people’s
every need. He finds the ones who are lost, helps the weak ones,
gives medical treatment to those who are sick, and ensures that they
always have good pastures (Ezk 34:11-16). They are his sheep.
The Jewish religious teachers of Jesus’ day should have acted like
undershepherds to the great shepherd, taking care of the needs of the
people of Israel. Yet, they were more like robbers than shepherds.
They took from the people, but failed to give what was needed.
Figuratively speaking, they killed and ate the sheep and used the wool
for their clothes (John 10:3).
Ironically, the religious leaders failed to understand the words that
Jesus spoke against them, because they were not his sheep. Jesus then
uses two more shepherd/sheep metaphors to further explain the his
relationship with his people.
The first metaphor helps us to understand that Jesus is not just a
good undershepherd. He is the “door” that allows men to enter into
the . Robbers by nature avoid doors,
preferring to sneak into a sheepfold by climbing the wall. Thus, the
religious leaders show themselves to be robbers when they deny that
Jesus is the way to God. The religious leaders kill the sheep, but
Jesus gives life to the sheep.
The second metaphor helps us to understand how Jesus provides
salvation for his sheep. A good shepherd would have been responsible
for making sure that the sheep were safe from wild animals. Jesus is
a good shepherd, indeed better than the best shepherd, since he
accepts death so that his sheep will not have to die. Remarkably, the
sheep that Jesus died to save are not only to be found in Israel, but
throughout the earth.