Having seen the shepherd of this trilogy, it’s time to look at Jesus’ first story.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:1-5).
Not a “Once Upon a Time” Story
Jesus doesn’t begin with “Once upon a time,” He begins with “Truly, truly, I say to you.” This is a solemn introduction, preparing us for a story filled with immense significance.
Jesus is saying, “Stop everything you are doing. Pay attention to what I am about to say. Listen carefully to what I am claiming about Myself.” These are stories we must hear, and understand, and believe.
Significant, Yet Common
And yet, though significant in meaning, Jesus used common, everyday language the people of the day would have easily understood. Important things can be explained simply.
Here is the story: After a day of his sheep roaming and grazing, a shepherd has herded his flock back into the village for the night. He has brought them to a courtyard—usually built alongside a house, enclosed by waist height stone walls, and topped with thorny branches to create a natural barbed wire protection. It was a pen that had only one entrance, a small opening with a locked gate, guarded by a gatekeeper. It was a place of safety, where the shepherd could shelter his sheep, as he slept through the night.
The gatekeeper of the courtyard had one job—to make sure only the shepherd entered the fold. He would lock the gate at night when the shepherd left. He would unlock the gate in the morning when the shepherd returned.
The main point of the story is that only the shepherd was allowed entrance into the sheepfold. “To him the doorkeeper opens.” Only the shepherd could walk through the gate. Robbers weren’t allowed in; thieves were kept out.
A simple word picture. Yet it is masterful, filled with profound meaning.
The Promised Shepherd
We’ve already seen that Jesus is the shepherd of these stories. But here in this first parable, Jesus gets specific, and claims to be the shepherd God promised to one day send to His flock.
This is what the Old Testament is about—a coming shepherd, promised by God.
Ezekiel 34:23 – “I will set over them one shepherd.”
Isaiah 40:11 – “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom.”
Micah 4:3 – “He will arise and shepherd His flock.”
Each prophecy promised a future shepherd, sent by God to care for His people.
God promised a shepherd because sheep are bound to wander. Sheep get themselves into dangerous situations. Sheep leave lush pastures, only to find themselves on rocky cliffs. Sheep are the perfect picture of every one of us. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We have all wandered into sin. We have all left the good shepherd’s pasture.
We needed a shepherd to rescue us from our sins! We needed a shepherd to bring us back to the safety of his fold. That is why God the Father promised to send a shepherd—one who would seek us, rescue us, gather us in his arms, and lead us to eternal safety.
Jesus is claiming to be that shepherd.
The Shepherd’s Credentials
But how would this promised shepherd distinguish Himself? Fulfilled prophecy. The Old Testament was clear, the coming shepherd needed to fulfill certain prophetic promises—prophecies Jesus fulfilled to their very details. Consider five of these prophecies.
- The promised shepherd would be born of a virgin
Old Testament Prophecy – “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Fulfilled by Jesus – “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’ And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus” (Matthew 1:22-25).
- The promised shepherd would be born in the town of Bethlehem
Old Testament Prophecy – “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 4:2).
Fulfilled by Jesus – “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel”’” (Matthew 2:4-6).
- The promised shepherd would come from the line of David
Old Testament Prophecy – “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch’” (Jeremiah 23:5).
Fulfilled by Jesus – “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David” (Matthew 1:1).
- The promised shepherd would perform miracles
Old Testament Prophecy – “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:6).
Fulfilled by Jesus – “And he said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospelpreached to them’” (Matthew 11:3-5).
- The promised shepherd would be crucified
Old Testament Prophecy – “They will look on Me whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).
Fulfilled by Jesus – “For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture…‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced’” (John 19:36-37).
This is just a sampling of the Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled, the promised shepherd’s credentials He carried. All in all, Jesus fulfilled more than 300 Old Testament prophecies of the promised shepherd—a staggering number. This is why Jesus said, “search the Scriptures…it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39). The Old Testament spoke of Him and predicted Him—over and over again. Jesus came through the right gate. He came precisely as the Old Testament promised.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the promised shepherd of the Old Testament—the fulfillment of more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. He is the Shepherd God the Father sent to rescue His sheep from danger. The one who would save His sheep from their sins and gather them to Himself in care and love. He is the good shepherd who came to lead His wandering sheep back to the pasture of God.
But there is more to this shepherd. More to come in Part 3 of “The Most Important Question” series.