Thieves, Robbers, and Abundant Joy

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

John 10:1-10 | March 24 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
March 24
Thieves, Robbers, and Abundant Joy | John 10:1-10
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

O Lord, we come once again asking for Your help. We have many passions in life, but we are often lacking in zeal for godliness. So forgive our complacency, our love of cheap grace, and have mercy on us, Your sheep. Seek and save even this morning those that are lost. Gather in Your arms those that are hurting. Call us by name, Good Shepherd, and give us ears that we may come. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

Our text this morning is from John’s Gospel, chapter 10, John 10, verses 1 through 10. Follow along as I read from John’s Gospel, chapter 10, beginning at verse 1, these words from Jesus.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

I’ll tell you one of my favorite movies, and it’s not the one that you have in mind. Yes, I do like the standard Christian movies like Lord of the Rings, Chariots of Fire, Princess Bride [laughter]. It’s true. But, right up there with those movies in my book, think, you’re thinking “what is it, what is it, Pastor?” Babe. I love that movie. It’s not based on a true story, as far as I know, since it has talking animals, but it is a story about a pig that thinks it’s a sheepdog.

Now, I won’t tell you the whole story, that’s basically it. You have animals and they talk and there’s a pig that thinks he’s a sheepdog and he learns the secret to herding the sheep and he enters a sheepherding contest in Australia against all the other dogs and the pig wins and the man at the end says, “That’ll do, pig.” It’s just great, okay? [laughter] It’s great. Talking animals, they’re cute.

Now you could think of the story as about not being content or complacent with the role that you are assigned in life, and you could sort of take that view on things because he is, after all, a pig, but he wants to be a sheepdog. But more than that, I think it is a story about the power of optimism and unrelenting kindness. Sort of a reverse Animal Farm in what would things look like if this one animal, rather than lording dominion over others, were unrelentingly optimistic, innocent, and kind. That’s Babe, the pig. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know he is successful as a sheepdog because he knows the sheep, he speaks to the sheep, he deals gently with the sheep, and so when I watch it, I like to think of it as a visual illustration of John chapter 10. That’s how pastors think.

Now it’s hard for us to understand personally some of what Jesus is speaking of, because most of us do not have anything to do with sheep. But we’ve seen sheep, we maybe have seen movies with sheep, we understand the basic metaphor, and everyone is ancient Israel would have understood the special bond that ought to take place between a sheep and the shepherd. It was the perfect illustration of trust, of protection, of loyalty. That’s why the imagery of a sheep and shepherds is so common throughout the Bible and why Jesus uses it here to depict His unique relationship with His people, with His followers, those that ought to be loyal to Him and listen to Him and those that He has been given and entrusted care to provide and to protect and to lead.

A lot of the commentators struggle with the placement of chapter 10, wondering, “Well, we just finished with this sort of Feast of Tabernacles and related scenes discourse and we have a man born blind and now all of a sudden out of nowhere we have Jesus giving these two amen, amen statements.” That’s verse 1, “truly, truly,” again verse 7, “truly, truly,” and they think “Well, maybe this is out of place or maybe things have gotten rearranged, and it is true that we don’t know when exactly Jesus gave these speeches. There’s no timestamp to say it happened immediately afterward or might have happened sometime later, or even that it could have happened in a different chronological order. That doesn’t undermine the truth of God’s Word.

But, if we pay attention, we ought to recognize that chapter 10 comes on the heels of chapter 9 for a very good reason. Think of what we have seen over the last several chapters in John’s Gospel. Jesus says, in effect, “You want manna from heaven? You want to be fed like the 5000 in that miraculous feeding? You want food? Then come to Me.” He says “I am the true manna, I am lasting food, I am the bread of life.”

And then transitioning to the scene with the Feast of Tabernacles, it’s as if Jesus is saying, “You want burning torches like they have at the Feast of Tabernacles? You want a pillar of fire in the desert? Then come to Me, I am the light of the world. I will make you shine like stars in the heaven, and I will lead you out of darkness.”

And then surely it’s no coincidence that on the heels of announcing that He is the light of the world, what miracle do we see in chapter 9? He gives light to the man who was born in darkness. He not only says it, but then he demonstrates that He is the light of the world. And as we saw last week, the Pharisees, as often happens, got upset, and so Jesus, like any good messiah, when some people are upset, what does He do? He makes them more upset. And He says at the end of chapter 9, “For judgment I have come into the world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin. But now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” In other words, if you knew you were helpless, you could get help. So long as you think you can see without Me, you remain blind.

And then we come to chapter 10. That He might explain now with a different figure of speech what it is, not so much with sight and blindness, but now with ears to hear and to follow and to listen. John says in chapter 6 this figure of speech Jesus used with them, paroimia. It can mean a parable, a proverb, a simile, an allegory, a fable… Translated here figure of speech. What it means is Jesus is giving an analogy between a shepherd and his sheep, between Jesus and His followers. And has happens so often the case when Jesus tries to give a figure of speech, the people say, “Huh?”

We think of parables as, “Well, Jesus was a master storyteller and He could give parables and everyone would really understand it.” No, you follow the Gospels, after almost all the parables, people say, “We don’t get it,” and Jesus has to go privately to explain it. Same here with the figure of speech. They don’t understand what He’s saying, and so in response to this, Jesus utters two more of these “I am” statements. Verse 7, “I am the gate for the sheep,” and then as we will see next week in verse 11, though it’s implied here in verses 1 through 10, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

These two “I am” statements are meant to unpack and to help them understand the figure of speech that they didn’t understand. But we need to understand that it’s not a precise, one-to-one explanation, that when Jesus tells a story like He does with the parables, it isn’t that every little thing stands for something else, but often these similes, these metaphors, have a central point that they’re trying to communicate.

And so, when He begins in verse 7 with “truly, truly,” He is explaining what this little parable means, but don’t over-interpret it or you’re bound to get very confused, because in the first story Jesus is a shepherd, but then in the explanation He’s a gate, but then He’s also a shepherd. Jesus is the opposite of thieves and robbers in the story, but then verse 12 we have hired hands and we have wolves. So if we press the story too far, we have to figure out how can Jesus, He’s a shepherd and He’s a gate, and some commentators go to great lengths to say, “Well, sometimes the shepherds would lay down in front of the, and they actually were gates and they were moving,” and okay, time out, time out. Let’s not over-interpret this.

It’s better simply to understand these two “I am” statements as a variation on the same theme within the same general metaphor. He’s speaking about something they would understand, the life of sheep.

So let’s look at this figure of speech as two distinct but overlapping analogies. First, Jesus as a shepherd for the sheep, and second Jesus as a gate for the sheep.

First, Jesus as a shepherd for the sheep. This was very clear, He compares Himself to a shepherd. This was some of the most familiar imagery in the Old Testament and throughout the ancient world. Shepherding would have been familiar to all of Jesus’ listeners.

Now we may have a very pastoral sort of idyllic picture, on some faraway hills as the morning mist and fog rolls over and there’s some sheep that are quietly grazing and there’s a young man, his staff, looking out, weatherbeaten across his flock, but it was all much more mundane if you lived with it day after day. Most families would have had a sheep pen close to or adjoining their house. They probably would have shared the pen with other neighbors, so the sheep wouldn’t necessarily all belong to the same person, which is why it was important that your sheep would hear your voice, your sheep would know their master to whom they would belong. There would have been a stone wall topped with briars surrounding the pen. And the pen typically would have a single gate guarded by a hired gatekeeper, or a portal with a porter, a gatekeeper. And then there would have been a shepherd in charge of the flock.

So there’s a shepherd over the flock, perhaps a shepherd for the individual sheep, or perhaps a family, a group of families would come together and say “we’re going to hire this one shepherd to oversee our mutual sheep together”. There’s a gatekeeper, particularly in the watches of the night, and there’s a shepherd to tend to this flock.

Now you can understand, anyone who climbs over the fence instead of using the gate is a thief and robber. If you’ve ever had the occasion where you’ve locked yourself out of your house, as I have, then you go and you just hope that the children forgot to lock the doors or that you forgot to latch one of the windows, and if you’ve ever had to do that very unsightly thing of trying to shimmy up or climb up your roof or go around to the back and put open a door and try to climb, it doesn’t look like your house when you do that. [laughter] That’s not typically how you enter your own house. Somebody who’s going in from the roof, someone who’s climbing in through a window… Well, same here. You have a fence. If these are your sheep, you use the door. The shepherd enters by the gate, the gatekeeper lets him in. He calls the sheep by name, leads them out, because they know his voice. They do not follow the voice of a stranger. That’s the basic story.

At least it seems basic. But Jesus is saying an awful lot here. He is saying, first of all, quite an unflattering comment about His opponents. By implication He’s saying “My opponents here are sheep rustlers who sneak in over fences and steal sheep.” In other words, they are false shepherds.

Jeremiah 23: “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture,’ declares the Lord. ‘Because you have scattered My flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you,’ declares the Lord. ‘I myself well gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them and they will no longer be afraid or terrified nor will any be missing.'”

Throughout the Old Testament, one of the greatest blessings that God’s people could ever know was to have faithful shepherds, good shepherds, who thought of the welfare of the flock above their own comfort, those who were courageous, who were dauntless, who were compassionate.

And one of the worst things that could be said about any of Israel’s princes or kings or prophets is that they were false shepherds, they cared only about their own safety, or they gorged upon the meat of the flock, or they fleece the flock for their own prosperity. Jesus here compares many of the Jewish leaders of His day to strangers, to thieves, sneaking in, leading the people astray, teaching them what was false. They were not good for the sheep. And so He says, “You must be on guard against sheep rustlers who would injure you with fine sounding words, lure you with attractive calls, but in the end, will only turn your attention away from Me.”

And in our day, we have to be on guard against false teachers. False teachers don’t come in and announce “I’m a false teacher, buy my book. Come to my conference.” That would be easy. No, they, they come as these men did, and they look very impressive, and they have a following, and they have credentials, and they say many fine-sounding things, and perhaps they can draw a crowd. Or maybe they have big churches. Or maybe they write books. Or maybe they have degrees. And none of that matters, unless they truly speak for Jesus.

Now for many of us, if you’re discerning, perhaps you think “That’s good, that’s right, there’s bad books out there, bad stuff. But were Presbyterians, for crying out loud. We don’t have bad books. We don’t listen to bad people. They gotta go through five committees before they come to us.” [laughter]

But let’s be honest. Thieves and robbers are not only false teachers, thieves and robbers are anyone and anything that turns your attention away from Jesus. Anything or anyone that turns your attention away from Jesus. So even if you fancy yourself quite a student of the Bible, quite astute, quite theologically discerning, is there anything in your life leading you away from Jesus?

Perhaps good things, like science that get put in a place of supremacy that where they don’t belong. Or fun things like sports, that take over and dictate what you’ll do on your Sundays. Or perhaps it’s simply the prosperity that some many of us enjoy in this part of the country and in this part of the city. Remember what Jesus said about the seed sown among the thorns, it was the worries of life that choked it out, when it was beginning to grow, when God was beginning to do something in your life, you know, when there was that sermon, when there was that Bible study and He seemed to get ahold of you and you were ready to get really serious about Jesus, and then you remembered, “oh, that’s right, I got some cars to take care of and I’ve got a mortgage to pay and I have a report to do and I have a vacation home to maintain and I’ve got my boat to check out,” and all these things that can be very good blessings from the Lord until they lead you away from Jesus. Until they choke out the work of the Word in your life.

Jesus makes some unflattering statements about these sheep-stealing robbers, but He also has something to say, not just about these false shepherds but about the sheep. About you, about us. There is an assumed intimacy between the sheep and the shepherd, that the sheep trust the shepherd, listen to him.

This is where we have to get out of mind some of our pictures in the western world of how you tend sheep. And again, you think of, if you’ve seen the movie Babe, it’s about a pig that thinks it’s a sheepdog because there, and that movie was made in Australia, you tend the sheep by having dogs that come and bark and yelp and snap and get the sheep to go where they want to go, to corral them into the pen, to keep them into safety.

The shepherd uses not a well-trained sheepdog to corral the sheep and move them where they need to go, but in the Mediterranean world in the first century they typically called for the sheep. There’s evidence that some would even come up with nicknames or other unique calls so that the sheep would know the voice of their own shepherd. That’s the way the sheep relate to the shepherd in Jesus’ story. They’re not wrestled, they’re not barked at, they’re not bitten, they’re not driven with anger… They’re called. And when they hear their shepherd call them by name, they come. Because they recognize his voice.

Now you know what this is like. Just this past week some people were out on spring break. We were helping to walk the dog for some neighbors of ours. Happy to do so, got all the family involved. I tried to avoid it. I figure I’d need to be just home for moral support, but I did have to go once or twice, take the dog. The dog was, was about this, this big. [laughter] And it barked at me like I had all powers of evil within me at my disposal. And so it became clear that send the kids, don’t send dad. When I would call for the dog, “Come out, outside, do your doggie business. Okay? Let’s get this over with” I said in a very nice, gentle tone. Whatever. The dog understood, “This is not the person who should tell me what to do. [laughter] I do not know this person. I do not have reason to trust this person around dogs,” and the dog was probably right.

And you know that if you have a dog, or perhaps some other animal. They know who you are, they know what you look like. They understand the sound of your voice.

And so it is with the Good Shepherd. The sheep know His voice. Now, now here Jesus is speaking of His immediately context and speaking to those whom He had called to Himself, the disciples, but all the commentators understand that there is also an appropriate application for our own lives, and the sovereign work of the Spirit. For God called not only there, but He continues to call sinners to Himself.

Now I wonder, do you know, have you heard, do you recognize the voice of Jesus? It’s one of the great mysteries of preaching. It’s one of the things that the preacher, no matter how much he studies, no matter how good he is, he cannot manufacture it, he can only pray for it. And you can pray for it. That moment when the sermon becomes not just a talk, or a lecture, or a man explaining something about the ancient world, but mysteriously, but undeniably, Jesus is speaking to you. And the sheep know the voice of their shepherd. And it no longer becomes just fine-sounding words, no longer becomes how many more minutes do we have, but Jesus is speaking. And you listen.

Do you ever have that when you hear the preaching of God’s Word? Do you ever have that when you’re reading through the Scriptures? Pray for it.

We listen sometimes and week after week after week you want, you want to know the best way for your preacher to get better sermons? Pray for your own ears. It’s not to say we don’t work, or we don’t pray, we certainly do. We all want to improve and grow. But the best way for the preaching to get instantly better is for your ears to hear and listen for the voice of Jesus. Not just theology, not just the preacher, not just an argument, not just two points or three points or four points, but Jesus.

Do you hear Him calling?

I always thought that this hymn was a little bit saccharine, can sound a little sappy, but when you picture Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calling to His sheep, calling them out by name, it becomes one of my favorite hymns. [singing] “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.” Sing if you know this first verse. “See on the portals He’s watching and waiting, waiting for you and for me. Come home, come home, you who are weary come home. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling O sinner, come home.”

Do you hear Him calling? Do you picture the Shepherd calling to the sheep? You’re in danger! You’re wandering! You’re far away from my protection, from my food, from the green pastures! Come home! Come home.

The shepherd knows his sheep, and the sheep know their shepherd. That’s the most important element of this story. Jesus is hinting very strongly at His own messianic identity. He is the long-awaited Shepherd and He is calling the sinners home. Will you listen?

And we’ll see this next week when we get to verse 11 where He states unequivocally “I am the Good Shepherd.” But this is steeped in Old Testament prophetic language. Most plainly it’s a reference to Ezekiel 34, where the Lord gives a word of rebuke to the leaders of Israel, and a word of promise about a better Shepherd to come. He says in Ezekiel 34, “Son of Man, prophesy against the shepherds. Woe to the shepherds of Israel who take care only of themselves. Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, you clothe yourself with the wool, and you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not care for the flock.” And then later He says “I will save my flock. They will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one Shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them. He will tend them and be their shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God and my servant David will be prince among them, I the Lord have spoken.”

So here comes Jesus, the son of David. He’s the shepherd that Ezekiel announced to replace all the false shepherds who were looking only for their care and their own comfort. “And He will be the anointed One to tend to God’s people.” And so from this New Testament moment onward, the ultimate defining characteristic of a true sheep is one thing: They follow Jesus. That’s what determines whether you are a sheep or you are a goat. Because now Ezekiel says there is one Shepherd. Not kings, not prophets, not priests… One Prophet, Priest, and King, and if you are a true sheep, you hear the voice of your one true Shepherd.

Let me just add a parentheses here about the importance then of under that one Shepherd those who are to serve as under-shepherds. 1 Peter 5 says “to the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, being examples to the flock, and then the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

Your teaching elders and your ruling elders, they do many different things, they wear many different hats, but fundamentally they are this: They are, we are, to be shepherds. And our great model is Jesus, the Chief Shepherd.

And if you listen there to Ezekiel 34, you get a pretty good picture of what bad shepherds look like. What would it look like to have bad pastors, to have bad elders? Well, they wouldn’t strengthen the weak. They would never visit the sick. They would never bind up the injured. They’d never bring back the strays; they would never search for the lost. They would rule harshly and brutally. They would never warn of danger. They would care for themselves at the expense of the flock. They would feed themselves upon the flock. Those are bad shepherds.

And conversely we see what it means to be a good shepherd. And what, by God’s grace, I think we have here, but what you should pray for, for your elders, your pastors. Yes, there’s lots of things that we do. We go to meetings; those are necessary. We serve on committees; that’s how the church works. There’s no shame in that. We must have vision and strategy and write reports and get things done, all of the elders understand that. But here the great call, the singular summons upon the life of an elder or a pastor: It is to care for the sheep, to know the sheep, to protect the sheep, to look after the sheep.

And I hope when you first think of your elders and your pastors in this congregation, that though they may be men who are leaders in the community or though they may be men of education or not, or though they may come and wear suits and administer the sacraments, though you may think of them who have a lot of other responsibilities and departments and meetings, I hope that first and foremost when you think of your elders and your pastors, you will think those are my shepherds, and they love their sheep. Under our Chief Shepherd, those are the men that Christ has appointed to care for me, to lead me, to protect me, to warn me, to guide me, to know me.

And my prayer is that God would stir up more men to be committed, faithful under-shepherds, for on that last day our Good Shepherd will hold us accountable for how we have tended to this flock, so I’ve no desire to have more people at this church unless there are more people at this church who are well cared for by our shepherds, because we will be held accountable for each and every member in this congregation.

And Christ is our example and our guide and our Chief Shepherd.

So that’s the first big theme, Jesus as our Shepherd.

More quickly, the second theme, which is Jesus as the gate for the sheep. He’s the Shepherd for the sheep and He is the gate. He makes this loud point: “I am the gate.” That is to say, “I am the way in and there is no other. If you want to be counted among God’s people, if you want to be included in God’s flock, you must enter by Me.”

Jesus may have been thinking of Genesis 28 where Jacob has his dream at Bethel and he says upon awakening from his dream, “Surely the Lord is in the place and I was not aware of it. How awesome is this place? This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” Jesus is that gate. He is that entry point. He is that portal.

Or, Jesus may have been thinking of Exodus 12. We’ve already seen that John is filled with Exodus imagery: You have Jesus as the manna, He’s the pillar of fire, He’s the water from the rock. So could it be here that Jesus is alluding to the Passover? Remember, when the angel of death was passing through, to kill the first born males, he passed over the sons of Israel provided what? They had blood of the lamb on the sides and the top of their doors. In other words, God’s people in Passover were saved by blood and a door, or blood and a gate. Might Jesus have this imagery in mind? It would certainly fit with all the other Exodus imagery. “I am the Passover door, and only when you enter through Me, the gate that is My life, My blood shed for you, will you be safe from the angel of destruction.”

Whatever He may have in mind from the Old Testament, the meaning is clear: I am the entryway, and you cannot enter into the sheepfold by any other means.

This was scandalous. Is scandalous. Always will be scandalous, to say that the only way to be counted among God’s people is to enter in through faith in Christ. We don’t like that.

We like options. You’ve been to a grocery store? We like options.

Get some, uh, my wife sent me on a task that she shouldn’t have done. Can you get us an area rug? [sound effect] I was sending so many pictures back on my phone, texting pictures has saved many a forlorn husband from making colossal home furnishing mistakes. It turns out there’s a lot of rugs. [laughter] And you can’t just say, “Well, you want a big blue one?” There’s different shades of blue. Different sizes.

You ever go to a grocery store? Try to get a bag of chips? I saw potato chips that advertise in big letters: “Now with less salt.” Who wants those chips? [laughter] I know some of you have got a heart condition or you need low sodium or something, but really, that’s not why you get chips. Buy potatoes if you want chips with less salt. [laughter] But somebody wants it, somebody wants it. And I go and I look and I like that there’s, you know, twelve different kinds of tortilla chips. That’s like twelve meals for me. [laughter] That’s like two weeks. This chip is different than this chip.

We like options. We wouldn’t know what to do without options. So when it comes to religion, we think “Options!” Salvation? Options! God’s people? There’s gotta be options.

Only one. There’s only one begotten Son. There’s only one Shepherd for the sheep. There’s only one name given among men whereby we must be saved, only Jesus.

We like options. The grace of God is that He gives us even one.

We like to think that the path is very side, leads to life, and the road that leads to God is very broad. Sure, maybe there’s a hell for, there’s gotta be something for, for Hitler, and Stalin, but really, it, it, you know, you get there if you just don’t really, really mess up your life, if you’re a pretty good person, you don’t do really really bad things.

We think the road is wide and broad on the way to the kingdom, and the road to hell is very narrow. You really have to work hard to mess up your life, to do down that path.

That doesn’t sound like Jesus, does it? Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.

So kids, the next time you say “But everybody else… ” and your parents want to say “if everyone else jumped off a bridge… ” “well, I would jump off a bridge, I’d like to bungee jump and you won’t let me” and you get them down that whole road? Don’t do that. Go to Jesus.

Wide is the gate, broad is the road, and many find it.

Perhaps if you have found the small gate and the narrow road, perhaps you’re listening to the voice of Jesus.

It’s amazing what Jesus says here. “All who came before me,” He’s thinking of false teachers, messianic pretenders, He’s not thinking Abraham, Moses, the prophets. But He’s saying all these, these false leaders, they were thieves and robbers. Strong language. We don’t even use this language for thieves and robbers. We’d say someone has a, someone has a possession problem, someone has a sort of learning edge determining which things belong to them. We don’t call thieves thieves, robbers robbers—they’re misunderstood, they’re confuse, delinquent.

But Jesus uses this language and He’s talking not even about out and out criminals, but He’s referencing good, upstanding, moral teachers. But these good, moral, intelligent teachers fall and fail on one fundamental account: They do not use the door.

So this is now Jesus’ definition of spiritual thieves and robbers: Anyone who does not use the door and does not point you to the door is a thief and robber.

If you try to lead the sheep, drive the sheep, move the sheep without going through the one gate, you’re a sheep rustler. And it doesn’t matter your personality or academic degree or good intentions or friendly disposition or humanitarian spirit or the number of people following you, if you do not go through the door, you are a thief. This is a tremendously extravagant claim that Jesus is making.

Here’s what Jesus is saying: Every religious leader that comes along and does not lead people through Me, direct people to Me, and bring glory for Me, is a bandit, and a ruffian.

And then look at verse 10, don’t forget verse 10. Jesus is not simply asserting His authority to lead the sheep, though He has every right to do so. He is the prophetic fulfillment of all that they were waiting for. No, not only that, He has the best interest of the sheep at heart. This is what you have to remember.

Friends, if you struggle with this uniqueness of Christ or you have friends or family members that say “well, I just don’t, I don’t like that there’s only one savior.” Say “yes, but He can save even you.”

There are many so-called saviors, that’s absolutely true; but there is only one Savior who can really save. There’s only one Savior who can give you this life.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Yes, Christianity is a narrow door. We cannot sneak into the pen in any old way we want. And yes, there are fences. We cannot roam around, ethically and theologically, wherever we want to roam. But God did not make a narrow door, and He did not make a high fence, in order to steal our joy, but to make it full.

Listen, the devil’s lie from the very beginning has been this: Don’t trust God. He’s got rules, He’s got commands. He wants to hem you in. He’s hiding things from you. You don’t listen to this God. He’s keeping you from good stuff.

It’s a lie from the pit of hell.

God’s rules, God’s commands, are to protect us precisely because He wants what is best for us.

Imagine if you and your family were given this magnificent vacation holiday on some exotic island and even better than that, you were on this tremendous precipice overlooking this gorgeous array of mountains and streams and volcanoes and oceans and you’re on top of this plateau. It’s maybe a football field wide and a football field long, and it’s like the cliffs of Dover, if you’ve ever seen those pictures, and it’s just a shear face down, or it’s the Grand Canyon on the edge, and here you are, on this island paradise, high above everything. But there’s danger. You walk over there, you die. Danger, danger, danger, Will Robinson.

But beauty, and the best weather, the best food, the best everything you can imagine. Now what would you think if someone put a fence around there? Would you think that person hated you? “Trying to keep me from, from things.” “Yeah? Like dying.”

The fence is to protect your joy. The boundaries are not to keep you from abundant life, but to ensure your abundant life.

There’s one door to enter into this sheep pen. And it’s a narrow door. But when you get in, oh my, what you enjoy when you’re in there.

It isn’t that Christianity is an easy life, it often makes our life harder. But it is the best life, it is the good life. It is the only life where we can know peace, where our conscience can be at rest, and in the life to come where we will live forever and ever. All of the fence, the gate, is to guard your joy. Because the Shepherd desires not just to give the sheep enough, but to give them plenty.

Do you believe that?

We talked last week of the man born blind, and we talked two weeks ago about the problem of pain, and some of you are in intense seasons of pain. So we don’t mitigate that, we don’t pretend that doesn’t exist. But can you believe this about your Good Shepherd?

You know, we can probably believe He’s the Messiah. Okay, that doesn’t cost us too much. Maybe we can believe He’s the Son of God, He’s the Word made flesh. All right, He’s divine. Maybe even we can believe that He’s the only gate of the sheep. All right, we’re here at church. Sure, He’s the only way.

But will you believe that He’s a Good Shepherd? And that all that He has you going through, all of the commands for your life, all of the providential blessings of prosperity and adversity are all because He wants you not to have less, but to have more. More of life that is truly life.

He’s a Good Shepherd.

Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we thank You for sending us Your Son, the Lord Jesus, who takes care of us. We thank You that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Your rod and Your staff they comfort us. We don’t like the rod on our back, but we need it. We don’t like the staff to pull us back from our wandering, but we need it. For we know that you want to lead us in green pastures, not picked over, barren fields. You want us to rest by the still waters, not in the desert. And so we pray that You would lead, You would protect, You would guide, and that we would follow. In Jesus we pray. Amen.