The good shepherd: how to identify the true Messiah

He would defend the flock to the death, if needed.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture.

This section of Scripture is interesting to me on a couple of levels: one, because it is typically used as a “salvation” passage, and two, because it mentions those who have been “saved” going back out into the pasture. If this is a salvation passage, why is it that the sheep go in, but then go back out? If the sheepfold is representative of being saved and in the kingdom, why would those who are saved leave the kingdom?

I believe the difficulty arises when we make this a salvation passage just because the word “saved” is used. The larger context of the parable is not salvation, but the identification of the good shepherd who is contrasted with the thief. Clearly (at least to us in perfect hindsight) we can see that Yeshua is that good shepherd. I think we could benefit from a wider perspective and context to understand some of this in more detail.

In verses one through six, Yeshua had just used the parable of the sheepfold that includes a thief, a gatekeeper and a shepherd. Yeshua mentions the gatekeeper opens the door for the true shepherd, and the sheep recognize his voice and dutifully follow him and will not follow the thief because they don’t recognize his voice. In this parable, Yeshua identifies himself as the shepherd. This is none other than an only slightly veiled reference to himself as the Messiah, and that the true “sheep” would recognize him when he arrived.

However, it is said in verse six that “Yeshua spoke this parable to them, but they didn’t understand what he was telling them.” So, while keeping the same characters in play, he transitions the identification of himself from the good shepherd to the gate or entrance to the sheepfold.

John 10:7-10 Yeshua therefore said to them again, “Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep’s door. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture. The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

In this section, Yeshua positions himself as the authoritative entrance to the sheepfold who keeps the sheep safe while they are in the sheepfold. The gatekeeper opened up to him because he is the good shepherd. Here he identifies as the only passage into the sheepfold; there is no other way into the sheepfold. Thieves may try to climb in some other way (verse 1), but there is a unique and exclusionary emphasis to Yeshua claiming to be the gate. The sheep who would want to be safe must go through him.

John 14:6 – Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

The word for “saved” there can and does mean saved in other contexts, but here it means that the sheep are safe or protected while they are in the sheepfold and the gate is shut; that is the purpose of the gate: to keep the thieves and wolves out.

However, the sheep need to leave the sheepfold in order to eat and survive. They can’t just stay protected in the sheepfold all day. So Yeshua also mentions that he is the good shepherd who will not run away even if wolves come to attack the flock while they are out of the sheepfold and in the pasture. He is not just a hired hand who has no commitment to the sheep, but he would defend the flock to the death, if needed.

Once again, we see Yeshua providing an indication of how he was going to demonstrate to the sheep that he was the true and good shepherd and not just a “hired hand.” He would ultimately give his life for them, and that would be the final authentication of his Messiahship.

So, while this passage is many times used as a salvation proof text, in reality, the meaning of the parable was of Yeshua indicating that he was indeed the Messiah the sheep were waiting for, and he would ultimately give his life to demonstrate his role.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Caring for those who are distressed and scattered

God’s people are a precious possession to him.

Matthew 9:35-38 – Yeshua continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and helplessly dispersed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

The compassion of Yeshua for the condition of his people is a burden that still lays upon the hearts of those who are his followers today. Everywhere one looks today, people who are sincerely trying to follow God’s ways are distressed and scattered among the masses of false teachings, like sheep among so many wolves.

The compassionate heart seeks to encourage and build one another up in the the common things of the faith once for all delivered to God’s holy ones, not to tear down the feeble faith that they may have. In Matthew’s gospel, quoting the prophet Isaiah, it is said of Yeshua:

Matthew 12:20 – He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick, until he has led justice to victory.

Yeshua did not desire to further damage the bruised reeds nor snuff out a wick that was at least smoldering with the remnants of faith. His care and concern for the lost was evident in his tireless teaching and healings throughout the crowds of people.

Matthew 15:29-32 – …Yeshua passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”

Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the people because of their lost condition. Those who cannot help themselves deserve our compassion, as well.

However, those who should know better, the leaders of the people, are the ones whom Yeshua confronted.

Matthew 23:13 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

In this extended passage in Matthew 23, Yeshua delivers a scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In this way, he demonstrated that the recipients of doctrinal debate are deserved to be those false shepherds who are continuing to deceive and lead astray, but not the flock members themselves.

When encountering individuals who may be sincere but are not fully conveying the truth of the Way of God, we should privately encourage them and gently offer correction, as Priscilla and Aquila demonstrated with Apollos.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Following the example of Yeshua, we should demonstrate compassion by praying to the Lord of the harvest for the safety and care of his people, that they would have their eyes opened and come out from under the overbearing error of hypocritical and false teaching. We should likewise reach out by offering assistance where we can to meet the needs of those who are unable to help themselves in those situations. God’s people are a precious possession to him, and we should show the same respect and care for them as he does.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.