“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.” (John 10:1)
This is not, beloved reader, a tranquil and pastoral (if you will) image. Jesus is talking about leaders (in some paraphrases the Pharisees are directly addressed) who enter ministry not as called and chosen people but as for their own perverted reasons and do not have the good of the people they lead at heart.
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (Verses 2 – 5)
In this metaphor the “shepherd” is the rightly appointed church leader. You may ask “sheep” may know the voice of their “shepherd” when he or she come to the congregation for the first few years. It is a legitimate question, but the answer is quite simple. The voice of the shepherd is an echo and a conduit for the Divine. If the “sheep” of the congregation (which actually is not a very flattering image) have been following the Divine, when they hear the voice of their pastor, they will knew she/he is true because it reverberates in their souls which are hosts to the Holy Spirit.
“Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” (Verses 6 – 7)
The writer of the gospel of John has Jesus being very critical and direct with the church leaders that are in front of him. And actually, is kind of stirring around theology and the history of the called and chosen people to make a point about the Divine Personage of Jesus the Christ.
“All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (Verses 8 – 9)
One is supposed to assume that Jesus is talking about the church leaders of his time, and NOT the prophets that had come before in the Israelites history. It is interesting to speculate, however, that those who did not follow the guidance and direction of the prophets were not truly “sheep” of Yahweh but quasi-believers who only appeared to put on the mantel of obedience.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Verses 10)
I knew of a pastor, several decades ago, who did great damage in a church. Maybe at one time he had been called and chosen, but by the time I came know about him he had lead many people astray. He did destroy, and stole in ways that it was impossible for the loss to be recovered. And he did kill some spirits. That such a pastor went undetected for so long is a blemish on the church of Christ. There have been other stories of other church leaders that have also abused that position.
One of the first classes I took in seminary was a class designed to discern if one’s calling was from the Divine. Rest assured beloved reader, I passed the class with flying colors and kudos! Shalom!