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6 Lessons From John 10 That Will Make You a Better Pastor

Jesus welcomes the sheep in and is their safe gate. He welcomes those who come, and to him the gatekeeper opens (v. 3). The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. Which leads to the next thing the Great Shepherd does and models for us in leadership: He clearly calls and directs His sheep (vs. 3, 5-6).


Notice the intimacy herein this passage — “He calls them by name” (v. 3). They hear His voice and respond; He knows the sheep and the sheep know Him. There is a deep care for and understanding of each other. There is no more valuable relationship than creation knowing and being known by the Creator. Similarly, when a leader knows his followers, he will better care for them, protect them and guide them. Verse five contrasts Jesus’ leadership with the voice of a stranger. John 10:5-6 states, “[5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” [6] This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

They did not follow the stranger because they did not know Him, or they were not known by Him. When it comes to following Christ, familiarity with the voice of God comes by knowing the heart of God (vv. 3-5). As His sheep, we should be spending time in God’s Word, prayer, fellowship and listening to the Holy Spirit. He makes Himself known to us at salvation and continually through our sanctification. As we know our shepherd, we develop a trust in Him that goes far beyond all circumstances.

Unlike Western shepherds who drive the sheep often using sheepdogs or driving them from the back. The shepherds of the Near East now and in Jesus’ day lead their flocks by calling them and leading from the front. This mental picture of a shepherd going ahead of his sheep and drawing them out is a powerful image of the master-disciple relationship. It models for us what servant leadership should be like in our own ministry as we mimic Christ’s leadership. The sheep follow because they know His voice; but at the same time they will run from anyone else they do not recognize. True shepherd-leaders are clear in the directing and calling of their followers. Nothing is left up to accident in Christ’s call on our life. In the same way, we should carry great intentionality when guiding the sheep; we are called to know, lead, and love.


This is the third characteristic of the Great Shepherd seen in this passage is that He goes before His sheep. He prepares the way for us. He knows what is coming to harm us before we encounter it, providing for us needed security and provision. The image of the shepherd is an extremely important biblical picture of a “leader” (Num 27:17) because it implies not only an intensely personal relationship between God’s people and their leaders but a style or model of leadership exemplified by Jesus (cf. Mark 6:34). The very word “leadership” is developed from the shepherd imagery, where the shepherd goes before the flock and encounters the problems of the flock first.[5]

John 10:4 says, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Jesus continues in verse 8 and says, “[8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” He is contrasting himself with the thief and the robber. Jesus is saying that the thief or robber will do anything to brutalize the sheep. The thief only has his own benefit in mind. The shepherd has what is best for His sheep in mind.

Jesus as the Shepherd-leader goes first to protect the sheep from (1) False teachers, those who claim other ways to find life or hope. He also (2) protects them from other deceived sheep. These may be unbelievers who do not seek God’s truth, or they take the truth of Christ and twist it. Usually a self-serving, low-view of God with only temporary happiness in mind.

The thief tries to kill your relationship with God by eliminating your hope in the one true Shepherd. He tries to steal your affection, loyalty, love and service. He tries to destroy your knowledge, faith and dependence on God. Thieves care least about eternal outcome but work tirelessly for temporary tragedy. Our enemy is real and the protection of the Shepherd is needed. The thieves and robbers paint a picture of those with selfish motives and brutal attacks; Jesus as Shepherd gives a picture of security, ownership, comfort and safety that comes only through Him.

In the same way, as we lead in the marketplace or in the church, we must remember that we lead on behalf of God. The enemy wants to destroy us and the reputation of God on earth. We follow Jesus’ example by going before our sheep, clearing the way (the best we can) of any spiritual, relational or moral obstacles. We work hard to protect the area of domain we have been entrusted with so that our sheep are protected from harm.


Jesus models a selflessness that provides security for His sheep. In John 10:9-10 Jesus says, “[9] I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Verse 10 is akin to John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This word picture Jesus uses is the proverbial way of insisting that there is only one means of receiving true and eternal life. He selflessly gives His own life to save the sheep from the one who comes to kill and destroy, so they may have life. His goodness as a leader and Savior is found in the fact that He lays down His life.[6]

John 10:11-14, “[11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. [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.”