"24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."
-- John 10:24-30, ESV
The Gospel writer John must have really loved sheep. He mentions them more than the other three Gospel writers combined. Though he was a fisherman in his youth, and a fisher of men under Jesus Christ, he preferred to picture the King and the kingdom of God as a Good Shepherd with His sheep.
This was not the image of the Messiah the Jews were looking for in the first century, however. They wanted a warrior. They wanted a shrewd and powerful politician. They wanted a candidate for president who would make Israel great again by overthrowing the Roman authorities.
Jesus was not their kind of messiah and they were not Jesus' kind of sheep. When you are not a sheep, you do not want to go where the other sheep go. Jesus' sheep form an assembly of born again believers who gather on the Lord's Day for worship and serve the Lord every day as ambassadors of Christ's church. You can tell those who are "not among my sheep," because they generally shun the church.
When you are not a sheep, you do not want to eat what the other sheep eat. Jesus' sheep feed upon the word of God, the Bible. It is the centerpiece of their Sunday worship and their daily diet throughout the week. You can tell those who are "not among my sheep" by the way they ignore or attack the Bible.
When you are not a sheep, you do not follow the Shepherd like the sheep in love, devotion, and obedience. You can tell those who are "not among my sheep," for they follow their own way, their own will, and spend their time and money on things they want, without reverence or respect for God.
Sheeping is believing. But what people believe wrongly about believing in our day is that it is a singular act of belief. But believing is not a singular act. It is a new life and an ongoing lifestyle. It is becoming a sheep, behaving like a sheep, and receiving the blessings and benefits of sheephood.
We become sheep by being "born again ... through the living and abiding word of God" (ref. 1 Peter 1:23; see also John 3). "My sheep hear my voice," Jesus said. By grace the gospel is preached to you and in faith you understand it and accept it. You turn from sin and selfishness and turn into a sheep.
We behave like sheep when we obey God's word and God's will in our lives and lifestyles. "Follow Me" becomes the two most important words the Good Shepherd ever spoke and of sheep, Jesus said, "They follow Me." See also 1 John 2:4-6. Sheep are not perfect, they get wounded and weary, but the warp and woof of their lives follow the Lord.
We get the benefits of sheep in the double blessing of eternal life and eternal security. Sheep, and sheep only, are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and sheep who know the Lord can know they are saved and kept and guaranteed an abundant life now and an eternal life forever, with the Good Shepherd of our souls.
And just who is this Good Shepherd? He is Jesus Christ, and He is God, for Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." John's Gospel is about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. John's Gospel is about sheep. Sheeping is believing!
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Arkansas and Georgia, and preached the gospel across the United States and other countries. Email him at [email protected]