Why did Jesus refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd? What did He mean when He said He was “The Door”? On today’s episode, we explore the rich meaning of what Jesus meant, and ponder the beautiful role He plays in our lives.



John 10:1-21

Jesus just healed a blind man outside one of the gates leading to the temple (Jn. 9:8). Afterwards, the healed man is questioned by the Pharisees and is excommunicated from the synagogue for siding with Jesus (9:18-39). Later that day Jesus finds the healed man; whereby he confesses Jesus as Lord. John 10:1-21 is a message directed to the Pharisees who asked Jesus, “Are we also blind (9:40)?”

“In this context, the healed man is one of the sheep who hears Jesus’ voice; those who expelled him from the synagogue are compared to thieves, robbers and wolves; and Jesus is the good shepherd. By putting the man out of the synagogue, Israel’s leaders treated him as not part of Israel. In light of OT background, however, Jesus as the good shepherd (corresponding to Yahweh in the OT, e.g., Ps. 23:1; 28:9; Isa 40:11) affirms that the man really is one of his sheep, i.e., does belong to God’s people (Ps. 74:1; 78:52; 79:13; 100:3). Meanwhile, Jesus portrays some of Israel’s leaders in his day as being like the leaders of Israel who were condemned as exploitive shepherds in the OT (Jer. 23:1– 2; Eze. 34:2–6, 8).”[1]

  1. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door (gate)but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (1)—Jesus uses the analogy of herding sheep to differentiate between the Pharisees and Himself. In the OT, shepherd and sheep was often used to portray the relationship between God and Israel (Ps. 23; 80:1; Isa. 40:10-11).
    • Jeremiah condemned the rulers (political and spiritual leaders) of Judah for being bad shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:1).
    • The Pharisees were false shepherds. They excommunicated the man healed from blindness because he believed in Jesus (9:24-34).
  2. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper (doorkeeper/undershepherd) The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (2-3)—Shepherds would place their flock in a sheep pin/sheepfold (walled enclosure) with other sheep in the fold overnight. A gatekeeper (or shepherd) would watch over the sheep from the entry point. In the morning, the shepherd would enter through the gate and call out (in their own unique voice) to his sheep by their given name to come to him (see Ps. 147:4; Isa. 20:26).
    • 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. (4-6)—Jesus’ meaning here is that there will be many false Messiahs, but He (the Good Shepherd—Ezek. 34:20-24) is the true Messiah.
  3. 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 (cunning)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 (active living)and find pasture (satisfaction). (7-9)—Jesus isn’t just the Good Shepherd, but He is also “The Door.” Shepherds would lay their body across the entry way, to protect their sheep from wolves and thieves; while offering safety and nourishment (see Ps. 23). The thieves and robbers are the Pharisees and other false teachers that lead the people astray from God.
    • “The Palestinian shepherd commonly slept in the single opening to the fold through which wild animals might attack. As “the door” Jesus protects His own, by placing His body between the sheep and their enemies. The Good Shepherd guides His sheep to pasture, concerned not only that they have life, but that they “have it to the full.”[2]
  4. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (10)—The contrast between false shepherds and good shepherds.
  5. 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. (11-13)—Jesus gives the distinction between a shepherd and a hired hand. No doubt the people understood when Jesus referred Himself as the Good Shepherd. Ezekiel depicted this role as fulfilled by God (34:23). Jesus came with divine leadership to protect and offer life to His sheep.
    • “Israel had many false prophets, selfish kings, and imitation messiahs. The flock of God suffered constantly from their abuse (Jer. 10:21–22; 12:10; Zech. 11:4–17).”[3]
  6. I am the good shepherd. I know (intimate knowledge)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. (14-16)—Jesus alludes to Gentiles in other folds; yet, there is one flock because there is only one true Shepherd. The Good Shepherd not only protects lives—but lays down His own life so that we can live.
    • The Substitutionary Atonement of Christ: Rom. 5:8, 10; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).
    • The church gets to bathe in the beauty and splendor of the Godhead.
  7. 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.” (17-18)—A beautiful description of intimacy within the Godhead and of self-sacrifice.
  8. There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. (19)—Once again, the Jews argued and were divided over who Jesus was.
  9. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (20)—This is what the religious leaders wanted people to believe (see 7:20; 8:48, 52).
  10. Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (21)—Referring back to the healing of the blind man made some realize Jesus couldn’t be demonized if He delivered a man from darkness.


[1]HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[2]Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary(Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 733.

[3]Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 310.