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"I Am the Good Shephard, and Know My Sheep, and Am Known of Mine," John 10:1-18

John 10:1-18

This reminder of Christ's Church and how Christ interacts with his faithful disciples has captivated my attentions these past several morning.

There are several characters in the Savior's teachings about the sheep and the shepherd:
  • the good shepherd - the Savior.
  • the sheep - the disciples of Christ.
  • the theif - opposite to the sheep, those that would not use the gate, but would try to come in some other way.
  • the stranger - he who is not familiar to the disciples of Christ.
  • the wolf - possibly the adversary, or others with destructive and malicious intentions.
  • the hireling - paid supervisors or administrators. 
  • the porter - a gate keeper. 
The thief/robber is the first character introduced in this parable. The Savior introduces him as one who is trying to find admittance among the sheep by some other means other than using the door, and then calls him a thief and a robber. 

The shepherd is then introduced by stating he uses the door. (There is only one way back to God, and even the Savior walks in through the same door and has to play by the same rules that He asks us to obey.)

The sheep are introduced in the same verse, but are more fully explained in subsequent verses. It is in their relationship to the shepherd that we learn also what defines a sheep. The sheep recognize and trust the voice of the shepherd. (The scriptures don't explicitly say it this way, but this is the feeling that one gets in reading these verses.) "The sheep hear his voice" and "they know his voice." (see verses 3 & 4) It is this ability of the sheep to discern between the shepherd's voice and the voice of strangers that is perhaps the most insightful part of this account.

What defines a disciple is his/her ability to hear the voice of the Lord. That one point is huge, and is a most significant point. Thieves will come, wolves will threaten, strangers will distract, but the sheep will be safe because they know the voice of the Shepherd.  In our lives, it is through the discerning power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to recognize the Savior's voice. Those that live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost will be guided and kept safe, even as the shepherd protects the sheep.

Later in this passage, the Savior is clarifying the significance of his teachings and he first states two times that he is the door. The second time he says it, he adds "by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."  Then after this, he says twice, "I am the good shepherd." The first time he adds, "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." The second time, he reminds the he knows his sheep, and is known of his own. The feeling that I keep coming back to in these verses is how familiar that relationship is between Christ and his disciples. He knows them, and they know him.
The hireling is an interesting character. I had in times prior misunderstood his purpose in the story as that of a servant, and that bothered me that a servant would be so discounted of the Savior.  In reality, the Savior says that hireling fleeth. Why? Because he is an hireling. Because he was hired to watch the sheep. He was being paid (monetarily compensated) to supervise the sheep. His motives in caring for the sheep were strictly monetary and the hireling did not love the sheep. When trouble appears on the horizon, in the hired supervisor's mind, the pay is not enough (nor will it ever be enough) to endure the challenges, --let alone to put his own life in danger when confronted by a wolf--  and so he bails.  But not so with the Good Shepherd.
Where the hireling fled at the sight of danger, the good shepherd stays, protects, and even lays down his own life for the sheep.  Of this selfless sacrifice, the Savior points out a pivotal point of doctrine: No one is doing this to him, but rather, he is choosing to lay down his life. Christ has within him the power to die and also the power to come back to life.

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