Sheep Listen: John 10
John 10 gives us the last pure teaching section of the Gospel of John. John 11 goes into the story of Lazarus, and after that the Passion Week begins. While there are other teaching and preaching moments in the life of Jesus, I am sure, that happen between these chapters, this is the last one from John.
I think that’s important to consider. Think about this: probably John wrote his Gospel after Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. It is possible that John was aware of the other three, and had perhaps read them. He then writes an account that builds on those accounts. I accept the theory that puts John’s authorship somewhere in the 80-90 AD range, meaning he wrote not only with the other Gospels written, but with a long lifetime of reflection on the life of Jesus. John, then, has thought about what needs to be told. A great deal.
Jesus teaches throughout this chapter about His followers as sheep. Now, I’ve heard for many years that sheep are not the brightest critters and various other negatives about sheep. There is, however, nothing negative given about sheep in this passage. Jesus does not bring us up as sheep to degrade His followers. He points us out as sheep for a couple of other purposes.
The first is this: Jesus highlights people as sheep because sheep have keepers, and keepers can be good or bad. And He is drawing the comparison not between people as sheep versus people as something smarter, but between good shepherds and bad shepherds. He is highlighting the failure of those who claim religious authority over others and then exercise it without compassion. Those who claim to be for God’s people but who live only to honor themselves.
This is the contrast in John 10. Between caring shepherds and wicked ones. Jesus is not speaking about how clueless we can be, not that we are not clueless at times, but that we must seek only to follow those shepherds who echo the voice of our True Shepherd. Not those whose voices call us to themselves.
Which brings us to the second point: who do the sheep listen to? Jesus highlights not the foolishness of sheep here, but the learning capacity of sheep. Sheep learn to hear their shepherd’s voice. Sheep know who leads them, follow familiar voices, and feed where they are led.
So here lies our question today: are we learning to hear the voice of the True Shepherd?
We are, likely, listening to to someone. Is it the One who created us, saved us, redeemed us, and sustains us?
Or is it someone who claims to speak on His behalf, but sounds nothing like Him? If we want to know the voice of God, we start with His Word. If another is out of congruence with Him, then we abandon that voice and focus on the voice of God Himself.
The question is this: will we learn and react? Jesus says that His sheep know His voice and follow Him—are you following another voice, just because a few others have the wool pulled over their eyes? Are you following another voice because you know you can always go back? Turn back to the one true Voice: the voice of Jesus.
Today’s Nerd Note: John 10:16. Aliens?
Believe it or not, that has been proposed as the “other sheep” of John 10:16. Another religion claims that the “other sheep” were Jews who had sailed to the Americas and founded a new society.
Personally, I’ll give you the answer: it is people that are not Jews. John’s Gospel is very centered in the life of Roman Israel. However, John is writing from the Roman world. He likely now lives in, or has lived, in Ephesus. He has traveled and seen Jew, Greek, Gentile, Scythian, Barbarian, and more come to be part of the Flock of God.
These are the other sheep. It’s important to John to remind his readers of this, that Jesus Himself referred to that time coming. Let us remember it as well: not all believers look like us in the mirror.
Who knows, they may even have weird hair and believe in aliens.