Follow Exclusively


John 10 1-16 NET

“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So Jesus said to them again, “I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. 13 Because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep, he runs away. 14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.This month we have been studying what it means to follow the Lord. We saw in Deuteronomy 13 that it means not allowing ourselves to be tempted to rebel against him, even if that temptation comes from someone famous for being wise or gifted. We should resist the temptation to reject the Lord even if it comes from a close friend or family member. We should resist the temptation even if a whole city combines to influence us against the Lord.

Last week, we saw three examples of people who were called to follow Jesus, and in each case, the call to follow Jesus was a call to sacrifice. The four fishermen were called to sacrifice their nets to learn how to fish for people. Matthew was told to walk away from his job as a tax collector. The Pharisees and experts in the law were challenged to sacrifice their phony self-righteousness, and follow Jesus into true righteousness by faith.

For this week’s text, we turn to the teaching of Jesus himself. John chapter 10 is where Jesus explains why we should follow him exclusively. You see, there will always be people who will look at passages like Deuteronomy 13 and say, “Why not do both – why not follow the LORD and the other gods of the nations?” They suggest that we should be more inclusive. It’s okay to follow the LORD, but why not add other gods and follow them as well.

There will also be those who after hearing God’s call to be fishers of people will reply, okay, I’ll do some evangelism on the side, as long as you don’t require that I give up my position as a professional fisherman, or a professional tax collector, or a professional religious leader. Let me be myself, Jesus, and I will follow you also.

It’s in today’s text that we learn that we cannot follow Jesus also. He demands exclusive loyalty. We have to follow him exclusively, and here is why:

We should follow Jesus exclusively because of who he is:

Jesus is teaching by using a parable here. In some of Jesus’ parables, we can identify particular elements, and part of interpreting the parable is deciding who is being identified by each element. The trouble with today’s text is that Jesus kind of bends the rules. He uses two different elements to refer to himself.

  • Jesus is the door (2,7,9,16).

The first element that Jesus uses to refer to himself is the door. It is not the door to a house and it is not the door to a church or temple. It is the door to a sheep pen or a sheepfold.

Here is how Cowles introduces what is going on in this section of the parable:

“A sheep-fold is an enclosure, with walls and a door. The owner is supposed to employ and control the porter, and also, the shepherd; or perhaps, as in the application of the figure here, fill all these offices himself. He is lord of the fold and of the flock, and of course, has command of the door of entrance.”1

The owner employs someone who keeps watch at the door of the sheepfold. This is the porter or the doorkeeper. The owner has also employed others – shepherds – but they can only have access to the sheepfold if they come in through the door.

Now, the interesting thing about this section of the parable is that you would expect Jesus to say that he is the doorkeeper, but he does not. He’s the door itself. If Jesus were the doorkeeper, then all kinds of shepherds could come to him and Jesus could give a yes or no vote as to whether they were worth following.

The door is the symbol Jesus uses here for access to God and his kingdom. What Jesus is saying by identifying himself with the door is that no one will have access to God and his kingdom without first coming to him.

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus said the same thing when he said that he is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). The way and the door are the same thing. They speak of access to God and his kingdom. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness according to Jesus in Matthew 6:33. Jesus is the only way to do that. Jesus is the only door anyone can take that will lead them to God and make them into people who are righteous like God.

  • Jesus is also the good shepherd (2-5, 11,14).

Now, after he has made his point about being the only means of legitimate access to God, Jesus shifts his emphasis and starts identifying as the good shepherd. First, he says that any legitimate leader of God’s people will have to go through him. You cannot even really be a shepherd of the sheep without going through the door.

All the shepherds of the sheep have to follow the good shepherd. As the good shepherd, Jesus claims to know each one of his followers individually. He knows us and we know him. He knows me and I know him. He knows you and you know him. There’s a relationship there.

So, another thing we learn about following Jesus in this text is that it is more than just access to his power. Jesus is more than a door we can walk through. He is the good shepherd. He is here for us to know, and be known by him. He is someone who can change us by the very influence of his presence.

Without the good shepherd, the sheep will be vulnerable to attack, and they will not know where to go to get the right food. They will not be safe lying down. They will be in danger of accidents wherever they go.

As we go deeper into the imagery of Jesus as the good shepherd we also learn that…

We should follow Jesus exclusively because of what he does:

  • As the good shepherd, He has laid down his life for the sheep (11,15).

I love what Gaebelein says here: “This statement sums up all the predictions and types of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning Him and His work of love. He came to die for the sheep, those who are given to Him by the Father. This statement also answers completely the miserable invention that Christ died to seal in death the Truth He had preached, that He was a martyr on account of His convictions and His doctrine. He did not lay down His life for His doctrines, but for His sheep.”2

To put it another way, Jesus is the Truth, but he is also the Life. He came teaching, but God had sent other teachers. When John the Baptist saw him, he didn’t declare to his followers “here is your teacher.” No, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

His death on the cross was crucial to the work of Christ.

We honor the first responders who put their lives on the line for those who need their help. Jesus is the eternal first responder who in the divine plan of the ages came to die as the sinless sacrifice which reconciled sinners to God.

  • As the good shepherd, Jesus also protects the sheep from thieves (1,10)

The thieves are introduced in verse 1, and they are contrasted to Jesus in verse 10. In neither of these are the thieves identified as Satan. The thieves are false shepherds who try to lead God’s people but do not do so by first coming through the door themselves. Sure, it is true that the devil only seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us, but that is not what Jesus is talking about. The thieves in this text are those who want us to follow them, but they refuse to follow Jesus.

  • As the good shepherd, Jesus also leads the sheep to abundant life (9-10).

Here again, I’m afraid we have been misled.

Whole movements have theologized to excess about what Jesus could have meant when he promised us abundant life. We should remember that Jesus’ promise here is couched in a parable where believers are depicted as sheep. What would an abundant life mean to a sheep? Do you think those sheep out in that pasture are dreaming about owning a Cadillac? Do you think they care about bank accounts and mansions? Abundant life for a sheep would mean life instead of death. It would mean rescue from the thieves who sought to steal, kill and destroy the sheep.

It cannot be denied that coming to Jesus will most certainly enhance the quality of life that most Christians will live in this life. But for some, coming to Jesus will mean certain – and in some cases, immediate death. In such cases, how can the promise of abundant life in John 10 be true? It can be true if Jesus was promising an abundant life which is both quantitative and qualitative but promising these things for eternity after the resurrection.

In John 10:10, Jesus is not rewiring our theology. He is not adding a separate new promise of abundance on top of his previous promises of permanent life at the resurrection. If he is hinting at anything we might consider new, it is probably that our new permanent lives after the resurrection will far exceed anything we can imagine. But he is not guaranteeing that we will experience that kind of abundance before the resurrection.

Taken together, all these elements of the parable Jesus teaches in John 10 show us that as the door, Jesus gives us access to God’s sheepfold. As the good shepherd, Jesus died for us. He can now protect us from the false shepherds who are thieves and robbers. And Jesus offers us abundant life for eternity – a life only he can give. For all these reasons, it makes sense to devote our lives to following him exclusively.


1Cowles, Henry. The Gospel and Epistles of John. New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1876. p. 156.

2Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. The Gospel of John, A Complete Analytical Exposition of the Gospel of John. New York, N.Y.: Publication Office “Our Hope “, 1925. pp. 183-184.


Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !

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