The Shepherd and the Thief

The Thief and the Shepherd
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

sheep grazing

What a contrast! Jesus is addressing the people in John chapter 10 with a beautiful metaphor of claiming to be our shepherd and what that means. Somehow, this caused confusion and division among His hearers. Did they not know that God already spoke about this relationship centuries earlier?

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
Ezekiel 34:15-16

WOW! What a promise! God promised to find us when we stray, and bring us back, taking care of us in our time of need. His promise is very personal as He Himself looks to our welfare in every way.

The key to understanding this good shepherd is held within the words of Jesus in this passage.

...the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
John 10:3-5

This shepherd calls us and leads us, going before us. We follow Him because we know and recognize Him.

The Thief

The thief (the devil) comes with the sole intention of theft, murder, and destruction. If we read today's headlines, we can see that he has been busy recruiting humans to do his bidding in these three areas. Children, particularly, are under assault at this heartbreaking time. The consequences are severe if we ignore the danger and the thief is not stopped.

God wants to use us, His followers, to help protect the vulnerable from the thief. As we live righteous lives in obedience to Him, we will certainly care for orphans and widows, acting on God's behalf.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27

Woe to the one who takes part in the assault on children! Jesus gave a severe warning to those perpetrators of harm while commending those who act with compassion toward these young ones.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:5-6

Let's do our best to love and protect the young lambs from danger by drawing them close to the Shepherd by example, by teaching, and by helping protect them from the lies of the enemy. We need to boldly proclaim truth in love.

The Shepherd's Voice

Sheep do not instinctively know how to identify a thief, but they do recognize the voice of their shepherd. How? By spending time with him, by being fed by him, and by being protected by him. Sheep trust the shepherd and feel safe in his presence, fleeing from strangers who try to manipulate them.

We, too, can know our Shepherd by spending time with Him, being fed by Him, and trusting Him implicitly. When we know His voice intimately, we can easily distinguish His voice from that of the enemy, the thief.

Thief vs Shepherd

Knowing the Difference

The thief sneaks in; Jesus enters by the door, fulfilling all the prophecies given about Him over the centuries before His birth.

...he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.
John 10:1

The thief comes to steal; Jesus came to give.
The thief comes to kill; Jesus gives life.
The thief comes to destroy; Jesus gives life abundantly.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

The Good Shepherd

Jesus calls to us – by name. He knows us! He then leads us and we can follow confidently because we also know Him.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 10:14-15

Not only does Jesus give us life abundantly, but He gave His own life freely for us. No one took His life, He gave it willingly. This is true and real love.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again...”
John 10:17-18

It is up to us to choose to get to know the Shepherd and then to follow Him. When we follow Him, we receive provision, rest, safe passage, comfort, peace, strength, honor, protection, goodness, mercy, and even eternal life.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23:1-6 KJV

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated into any other language.