““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 Jesus again 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 am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.” (John 10, ESV)
The sheep metaphor used here was well known to people who worked the land, but it was also familiar to the Jews as a symbol that had often been utilized in the Old Testament. God often used shepherds like Moses, David, and Amos to lead his people. The connection to the Jewish leaders and the statements made would lead to division and accusations about Jesus' identity. A communal sheep pen was sometimes built to accommodate the various shepherds who worked out of that village. The shepherds could sleep while a villager was employed as the night watchman. The next day the watchman would open the gate for the shepherds and they could collect their herd. With all these sheep from separate flocks were mixed together in this village sheep pen but the shepherd would call out each sheep by name and the sheep would recognize his voice and follow after the shepherd.
Jesus was, in essence, criticizing the religious leaders who had rejected him, plotted his death, and had expelled the healed blind man in chapter nine. These leaders were the thieves and robbers who had illegitimately gained control of the sheep. Jesus was also announcing that he was the true shepherd that would gather his own flock of sheep, who are known because they follow his call. Jesus is the true shepherd that is able to provide for and protect the flock, only this time he changes the imagery from that of the shepherd who leads out his flock, to that of the gate of his flock’s sheep pen. The added emphasis here is on safety, security and belonging that the flock experiences with Jesus, compared with those who are led by the destructive religious leaders of Israel and who experience only loss.
The religious leaders of the Jewish community exercised a tremendous amount of control over the Jews. They manipulated the people so that they conformed to the expected rules. However, they didn’t care for the people; they were in it for the money and the power. To the hired hand, it’s only a job and the sheep do not belong to them. For Jesus, his sheep belong to him (v. 12) and he knows them intimately. The good shepherd would go to the cross and suffer in our place. Jesus loves his sheep so much that he gave himself for them.
The story picks up about ten weeks later and Jesus has returned to Jerusalem. They want Jesus to answer their question. Jesus had not explicitly said to them, "I am the Messiah." He had indicated it in many ways, but he had refrained from using that exact expression. Jesus had not come for military and political power, so he resisted using that specific term. Not only could the Jews not hear or understand what Jesus was saying, but they also couldn't see the evidence that was before them. Jesus had confirmed his claims time after time, miracle after miracle. But still, they couldn’t see. The true believer has a sense of belonging and relationship with Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that if you belong to him, you will always belong to him and that he is one with the Father. Jesus gives and sustains eternal life. The Jews know what Jesus is saying and so they sought to take his life and arrest him. Jesus just escapes. How in the midst of a crowd does on just escape? It was not Jesus' time yet and so he left and went to the area where John the Baptist had ministered. Many believed. Do you?