The Parables of Jesus, Part Two
I. First Lesson
The Good Shepherd
John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
The tenderness of Jesus is clear from this parable. The Gospel of John emphasizes love, and Jesus is shown as the loving Good Shepherd in this chapter. Love does not mean giving in to demands. Loving parents do not give their children candy and chocolate and money whenever they ask. (Grandparents are a different story!) Parents provide for their children and protect their children from harm and bad influences.
This parable is based upon one of the main activities of Jesus’ people – raising sheep. Sheep provide meat, fat, and wool. When sheep were kept in a common pen, the porter or doorman slept across the door to protect the sheep. A thief had to climb over the wall to steal a sheep. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice, and the shepherd gave each one a nickname, such as Black-nose or Long-ears. Then, as now, the shepherd walked in front of the sheep and they followed him to their pasture. He used his wooden staff as a weapon against wolves and other wild animals.
Shepherd in the Old Testament
The 23rd Psalm is the only Psalm told from the point of view of a sheep. It helps us realize our relationship with Jesus, Our Shepherd. We lack nothing. He provides for our food, water, protection, and spiritual needs. Trusting in Him takes away all our fear, because we know He watches over us.
The youngest children can memorize the 23rd Psalm and they should know it. The Psalm is all Gospel, giving us comfort and peace. The words of the Psalm are so gentle that we feel attracted to God. He sent His Son as a gentle Shepherd to lead us. Like sheep, we often go astray, so He guides us back to green pastures and still waters, to forgiveness and the life of the Christian.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
or thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
God shows us His love by revealing the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd in another passage. Perhaps no other passage shows the gentleness of God so well.
1. He will feed His flock, that is, take care of all their needs.
2. He will hold the lambs tenderly in His arms, protecting them and showing them affection. “Carry them in the bosom” means close to His heart. Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me and do not forbid them.” He held the children in His arms and blessed them.
3. He gently leads the mothers-to-be, because He knows how frail they are.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Why do we need a Good Shepherd?
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Questions for Children
1. Can you hear your parents in a crowd, when they call out your name?
2. Do you realize that your first name is your Christian name, given to you at your baptism? (We are all born with a last name.)
3. Do you parents say, “That’s my child. I can tell from three blocks away!”?
4. How does God provide for children, in giving them parents, teachers, and ministers?
5. Can you picture yourself being led by Christ? Protected by Christ?
Who are the thieves who sneak over the wall?
Jeremiah 23:2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd, so ministers are often called “Pastor” because of their role in guiding the congregation. Sometimes they are called “under-shepherds,” since Christ alone is the Good Shepherd.
The false shepherds are all those who teach against the Word of God. They can be identified because they:
1) Work in a sneaky and dishonest way;
2) Do not respect the flock or the divinely called pastor of the congregation;
3) Steal and destroy rather than feed and build up;
4) Attack and undermine God’s Word while pretending to be very pious;
5) Talk about their work and not about God’s work in Christ.
II. Second Lesson
John 10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
The Gospel of John repeats short phrases, especially in the sermons of Jesus. These phrases are easy to memorize because they are poetic, much like the Psalms. This part of the parable is a warning against false teachers.
Jesus is the only way to salvation, not just one way.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Jesus is not a way, a truth, a life. The second part of the verse rejects the notion of any savior except Christ. He is the only door to heaven, to eternal life. However, anyone who enters through Christ receives what God has promised: forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
God’s love is shown in Jesus telling us that we receive more than forgiveness and eternal life. We receive from Him:
1) Pasture – all of our bodily and spiritual needs;
2) Abundant life – far more blessings than we can ever imagine.
How God Shows His Love:
The Shepherd Gives Up His Life
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Shepherds in the Old Testament guarded their sheep, but they never, never gave up their lives for animals. Here we see how Jesus is the Shepherd of all Shepherds, the Ultimate Shepherd. Only He would give up His life for us sinners.
The cross of Christ is not mentioned by name here, but Jesus is speaking about His atoning death. He is both the Good Shepherd and the sacrificial lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) By dying on the cross, He paid for the sins of the world.
The hired-hand, the unfaithful minister, does not sacrifice for the sheep. He runs away from the wolves, the false teachers. He may do this by being silent, by compromising, or by agreeing with falsehood to make more money for himself.
We do not doubt Jesus’ love for us. We belong to Him and He belongs to us. He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. That means that we are listening to God the Father whenever we hear Jesus speaking to us through the Scriptures.
The repetitions in the Bible help us to see the most important teachings of God in the clearest possible way. We see that just in terms of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The Word of God reveals Jesus as the Shepherd in many different passages.
John’s Gospel is especially clear because the sermons of Jesus repeat the same simple terms in many different ways: the bread of life, the true vine, the Good Shepherd. It reminds us of an eagle, soaring higher and higher in the sky.
John 10: 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Quotations for Teachers to Study
"No false dogma has ever been spread in the church which was not put forth with some plausible show, for sheep's clothing is the show of false religion (says Chrysostom). Indeed, the weaker and more ruinous the cause is, the more arguments it needs, sought everywhere and in every way possible, as though to cover it over with paint or to swathe it with medicine. For Pindar [famous Greek lyric poet, 518-438 B.C.] says, 'For a just cause three words are sufficient.' Therefore the papalists have gathered very many and varied arguments in order to establish purgatory."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, III, p. 325.
"It is not enough that we preach correctly, which the hireling can also do; but we must watch over the sheep, that the wolves, false teachers, may not break in, and we must contend for the sheep against the wolves, with the Word of God, even to the sacrifice of our lives. Such are good shepherds, of whom few are found."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 34. John 10:11-16.
"For nothing can feed or give life to the soul, which is not the doctrine of Christ. Although the hireling does not himself slay and destroy he does not restrain the wolf. Therefore, because you neither point out nor teach this shepherd, you shall not and ought not to be heard, but you shall be shunned as a wolf."
Sermons of Martin Luther, III, p. 58f. Second Sunday after Easter. John 10:11-16.
"Thus too, if our confidence is to begin, and we become strengthened and comforted, we must well learn the voice of our Shepherd, and let all other voices go, who only lead us astray, and chase and drive us hither and thither. We must hear and grasp only that article which presents Christ to us in the most friendly and comforting manner possible. So that we can say with all confidence: My Lord Jesus Christ is truly the only Shepherd, and I, alas, the lost sheep, which has strayed into the wilderness, and I am anxious and fearful, and would gladly be good, and have a gracious God and peace of conscience, but here I am told that He is as anxious for me as I am for Him."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 86. Luke 15:1-10.
"Children are the most delightful pledges of a loving marriage. They are the best wool on the sheep."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 137.
(1) "Dearest Jesus, we are here, Gladly Thy command obeying; With this child we now draw near In accord with Thin own saying That to Thee it shall be given As a child and heir of heaven.
(2) Yea, Thy word is clear and plain, And we would obey it duly: 'He who is not born again, Heart and life renewing truly, Born of water and the Spirit, Can My kingdom not inherit.'
(3) Therefore hasten we to Thee, In our arms this infant bearing; Let us here Thy glory see, Let this child, Thy mercy sharing In Thine arms be shielded ever, Thine on earth and Thine forever.
(4) Gracious Head, Thy member own; Shepherd, take Thy lamb and feed it; Prince of Peace, make here Thy throne; Way of Life, to heaven lead it; Precious Vine, let nothing sever From Thy side this branch forever."
Benjamin Schmolck, 1704, "Dearest Jesus, We Are Here" The Lutheran Hymnal, trans., Catherine Winkworth, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941, Hymn #300. Mark 10:13-16.