In the previous chapter Jesus healed a man born blind (cf. John 9) which caused a great division among the Jews as to whether or not Jesus was sent from God. Ultimately the man was ousted from the synagogue for attributing his miraculous healing to God and claiming to be healed by Jesus (the servant sent from God). The Pharisees claimed Jesus could not have been sent from God because He healed this man on the sabbath (9:16) contrary to the law. However, it was evident to the blind beggar that Jesus’ miracle was the work of the One sent from God. Thus, he asked if they (the Pharisees) desired to become disciples as well (v. 27).
Upon hearing the man was cast out of the synagogue Jesus found and asked if he believed on the Son of man (v. 35). Jesus led the man to faith and explained His purpose (vv. 36-39). He came to judge between those whose guilt remained because of their willingness to continue breaking the law and those who desired to be freed from guilt because they understood they were already condemned under the law for their sin (cf. vv. 39-41) and in need of a true shepherd.
What follows in chapter 10 is Jesus’ teaching on why He is the true servant of God apposed to the religious leaders, in particular those Pharisees, who claimed to be God’s chosen shepherds because of their birth. His reference to the sheepfold depicts the place Israel was kept as God’s flock of people; Shepherds were those He appointed to safely lead and to feed the flock with knowledge from God (cf. Numbers 27:15–23; Isaiah 63:11; Ezekiel 34:1–24). Israel’s exodus from Egypt is at times portrayed in terms of a flock being led by its shepherd (Psalm 77:20; cf. Psalm 78:52). Israel’s history is littered with leaders, some were good but most were not.
The sheepfold was a large enclosure or courtyard were several flocks of sheep were kept for their safety from predators. Often a gatekeeper was hired to guard the entrance to the sheepfold. Thieves depict those who entered into the fold by covert means and robbers were those whose use of violence endangered the sheep. Thus, Jesus’ teaching here is plain. There were some who claimed to be sent from God but led insurrections to the harm of Israel. As well, there were others whose harsh treatment caused Israel to suffer greatly. Jesus is not only the gatekeeper (door to the sheepfold) who was appointed for Israel’s safety, He is also the perfect Shepherd (owner) of the sheep (Israel) who leads in the pathway of righteousness and feeds with godly wisdom. Like this blind beggar, God’s sheep recognize the true Shepherd sent from God.
Though your faith in Jesus may cause you to be ousted from some fellowship groups, remember He is the Perfect Shepherd who leads and feeds God’s true fold. He will find and call you to faith, but to follow is your choice. As the Good Shepherd, He has intimate knowledge of His sheep (He calls them by name) and they follow Him. He feeds them with godly wisdom and leads them to eternal life. Are you following a thief, a robber, or The Perfect Shepherd? The choice is yours.