The events of this chapter occurred in Jerusalem about three months before our Lord’s crucifixion. And verse 22 tells us this was at the time of the feast of Dedication – winter. This particular feast is not to be found in the Old Testament. It was instituted by Judas Maccabeus only two hundred years earlier, to commemorate the purification of the former temple – after the desecrations of Antiochus Epiphanes.

As Jesus was walking around in the area called “Solomon’s porch,” He was talking and teaching. But like all His parables, these lessons were to be understood only by His disciples – others rarely saw the point. And that remains true today. He said in verses 1-5 – when it came to keeping sheep overnight, several flocks might be brought together in one pen – one sheepfold, or sheepcote. Then one of the shepherds would sit or lay down in the doorway of the pen, essentially becoming a door. Sometimes thieves would try to jump the low rock walls; they certainly wouldn’t approach the door. In the morning when a shepherd was ready, he would come to the doorway and begin to speak. Those sheep which were his, would hear his voice, stand up, and separate themselves from the aggregated flock, following their own particular shepherd. Of course, the Lord was speaking of Himself and His people – His disciples. “This parable spake Jesus unto (the crowd); but they understood not what they were which he spake unto them.”

In the next dozen verses, the Lord explained and expanded that theme. He said that HE was the shepherd, and as such He was also the doorway to the sheepfold. “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Furthermore, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd, giveth his life for the sheep.” “I know my sheep, and am known of mine.” “My Father, (to whom the sheep actually belong), loves me, because I lay down my life for the sheep.” Clearly – from the Christian’s post-Calvary perspective – Christ is talking about His death on the cross.

At that point there was a division among the unbelievers in the crowd. Some said that Jesus was speaking gibberish – “He hath a devil, and is mad, why hear ye him?” But others replied, “The miracles which this man does prove he is not a madman. We will hear more.” Then a mixed group of those Jews gathered around Him and demanded, “How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I told you, and ye believed not.” Then He added, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” The unbeliever will always be confused by the Lord’s message – always. The things of the Lord are spiritually discerned, and that requires the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Following Jesus’ last statement, His next few words have blessed the hearts of Christ’s sheep for more than two millennia.

I’d like us to consider verses 27 and 28 under the title: “The Theology of Sheep.” I know that the word “theology” often makes heads spin, and there is certainly that potential this morning. But if you are patient with me, I’d like to take a few theological words and bring them back down to the simple explanation which Jesus gives us. In these verses I see the doctrines of election, submission, justification, sanctification and glorification. Christ Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.”

What did the Lord mean when He spoke of “MY sheep?”

He had already pointed out that the majority of the people listening to him were not “His sheep.” There is a difference between the sheep of Christ – the people of Christ – and the sheep of the world. The lost sheep refused to believe – and in fact could not – believe what Jesus was telling them, because they were not His sheep – verse 26. Sheep and their shepherd speak one language, while dogs, goats and chickens speak another. In that day, the sheep of one shepherd – the sheep of one flock – knew the language of their shepherd. And Christians, people with regenerated hearts speak and hear a heavenly language, which the unregenerated, earth-bound people cannot hear. There were people present that day, who may have accepted and acknowledged Jesus’ miracles, but they refused to recognize the divine source which was in Him. And their religious leaders, some of whom were standing right there beside them, had climbed the wall into the sheepfold in order to steal sheep. They would never consider giving their lives for the sheep, as the Good Shepherd was doing. To them sheep were good for little more than wool and food.

But out of a much larger bunch, some of those sheep were of the flock of Christ. How did that come to be? How were they His sheep? Jesus tells us that they had been given to Him by God the Father. “My Father… gave them me” – verse 29. In the Lord’s Prayer of John 17, Christ speaks several times of this gift from the Father. “Thou hast given (me) power over all flesh, that (I) should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given (me).” “I have manifest thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were. And thou gavest them me.” “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” The sheep which became Christ’s flock were the Father’s to begin with.

But why and how were they the property of God the Father? They were His by way of sovereign choice. Out of the millions of sheep in the world, these few were especially selected by God to become His. And these He gave to the Good Shepherd to save.

You will search the scriptures in vain looking for good reasons for the sheep to identify with the Father. These sheep didn’t choose to become God’s or Christ’s; they were chosen by God. Sheep are never invited into the market and asked to choose which shepherd they would prefer. Furthermore, sheep can’t perform great feats to impress potential shepherds. They don’t juggle, win spelling bees, attend Sunday School for years, or offer other sheep as sacrifices. These sheep, now belonging to Christ, were simply chosen by God to be His. They had been elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father – I Peter 1:2. They were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world – Ephesians 1:2.

When Jesus used the word “my” to describe His sheep, He was highlighting the doctrine of election.

And the word “HEAR” highlights the doctrine of SUBMISSION.

“My sheep HEAR my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…” When the Lord made this statement, He was speaking of a lot more than listening to elevator music. And it wasn’t like simply hearing a clap of thunder. It was hearing the thunder and then running for cover. The word is sometimes translated “hearken,” as we find it in Acts 4:19 – Peter and John answered their Jewish judges, “and said unto them, whether it be right in the sight of God to HEARKEN unto you more than to God, judge ye.” The meaning of the word is explained by the Lord Himself in Mark 7:12 – “When he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, HEARKEN unto me and every one of you, and UNDERSTAND.” Jesus’ sheep don’t simply recognize His voice as that of the Son of God; they understand and respond to it. They actually come when He calls. They believe what He says. They obey when He commands. The Devil’s sheep don’t hear Christ’s voice like that. They may hear the sound, but they don’t understand.

Perhaps a good illustration of this point might be Lazarus – one Christ’s chosen sheep. You most likely know the story. Lazarus had been dead for several days. Then the Good Shepherd came to his grave-site at a time when it was surrounded by mourners. Later those people bare record that Jesus “called” Lazarus out of his grave. He said, “Lazarus, come forth.” And while the Lord’s ninety and nine sheep, along with some unbelieving goats, were watching, Lazarus, this single lamb, came out of his tomb in obedience to the voice of his Shepherd. He heard the Lord. At the command of Christ there was nothing else to do but to obey. He wanted to obey. In describing this event and this doctrine, a theologian might use the cold, hard doctrinal words, “irresistible grace,” but let’s avoid them right now. Let’s just stick with what the Lord said to the non-theologians before him – “My sheep HEAR my voice.”

Through the years, there have been many people who have heard my voice and my invitation, but they have turned it down and turned away. But then some time later, they “heard” the voice of the Saviour, and they couldn’t say “No.” Jesus said, “My sheep respond to my voice.” In explaining that response, it might be argued that they finally learned to love that voice, or they learned that other voices weren’t to be trusted. You might argue all sorts of things. But the truth is, the voice of the Lord is by its wonderful divine nature, irresistible.

When Jesus spoke of “KNOWING THEM” one lesson might be that of JUSTIFICATION.

“Justification” is another of those doctrinal terms which excite some people and chill others. I happen to love it. But what does it mean? Most people don’t use that word in ordinary speech, but it does still hangs around. For example, when I am getting ready to publish a book, my computer asks me how I would like to “justify” the text. It means: do I want all the lines to match up on the left side of the page, but to be ragged on the right? Sometimes certain things, like titles or poems, are center-justified on the page. But I prefer full justification, where both the beginning of the line and end of the line are even. In full justification, a page of printing looks like a rectangular box full of words. In this sense, to justify is “to make things line up” according to a specific pattern or plan.

And similarly, theological “justification” is the choice of God to declare something correct or righteous. In “justification” souls line up the way God wants them to. They line up as righteous in His sight. Paul says in Romans 5 – “Therefore being JUSTIFIED by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When God justifies, He looks at the people whom He saves, seeing them as holy – as “saints.” And as such they can then be at peace with Him. As Paul was preaching in Acts 38, he said, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man (Jesus Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are JUSTIFIED from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” He told the Christians in Corinth, You were sheep of the Devil’s flock – “Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God.”

How does the Lord know which sheep are justified? It may sound silly, but He knows because He knows them, and it is He who justifies them. And He “knows” them in a special way much like the way in which His sheep especially “hear” His voice. They don’t just listen to His voice; they love His voice and long to hear His voice so that they might obey and follow Him. Similarly the Lord knows His sheep in a way which is deeper and dearer than a mere acquaintance with their existence. The word “to know” is sometimes used in the most intimate way, as when “Adam knew his wife.”

Essentially when Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I KNOW them” He was speaking of His love for them. He loves His sheep so much that, as the Good Shepherd, He gave His life for them, justifying them. And in that sacrifice, their sins and transgressions were all washed away. When they put their faith in Christ, they are proving that they had been justified in His sight.

The next thing Jesus said was – they FOLLOW me.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This leads us into the doctrine of sanctification – the doctrine of holiness.

And isn’t it interesting that the Lord speaks of His people as sheep – but not as doves or pets or anything else. Perhaps as this chapter began, everyone looked up when a group of Levites brought some sheep into the temple in preparation for their sacrifice. Perhaps Jesus saw those sheep as offerings unto God or to Himself, and it opened the door to further thoughts. Whether that was Christ’s motivation or intention at the time, let me take you back to that idea. Sheep were perhaps the most common sacrifices that the children of Israel offered to the Lord. And as I hope you know only the best of the flock were acceptable.

Consider that thought – only the best – as we continue with John 10:27. As the Lord’s sheep follow Him, where does He lead them? He doesn’t take them to the gin joint or the strip joint, the pot shop, or the gambling den. The Lord doesn’t lead His sheep into internet porn, TV reality shows, or sophisticated style magazines. The Good Shepherd leads His flock down a narrow road toward healthy pastures and still waters. And He speaks to them along the way, sharing with them the principles of righteousness and godliness. Christ’s sheep follow Him, ruminating on His wonderful words of love and truth. And in the process they grow in ways which please Him. They grow in holiness; in sanctification.

In contrast to them, there are the others – those who were chiding with the Saviour that day. They probably all professed to be Jews, children of Abraham, servants of God. But were they? Really? Christ’s sheep don’t profess that they have put their trust in Jesus, but then run back to live among the goats – or worse – to live among the wolves, dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Christ’s sheep don’t live like pigs, coating themselves in mud, eating garbage and refuse.

Christ’s sheep are different, they follow their Shepherd to the same degree that they “hear” Him and He “knows’ them. And they are gregarious, social creatures. They love to be with other sheep in the Lord’s flock, not out in the wilderness away from the ninety-and-nine. Joining the Lord’s flock, they look forward to that day when they are immersed in the sheep dip of baptism. They don’t mind the Lord’s rod and His staff; those things actually comfort them. And they flourish. They flourish in righteousness and their knowledge of the Shepherd. They actually look forward to being sacrificed for His purposes. They “follow” Him. The sheep which doesn’t want to follow the Good Shepherd is most likely not really a sheep; it is certainly not one of the Lord’s sheep.

Christ concluded His thought by saying: “and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.”

That last phrase takes us to our last doctrine for this morning: “glorification.” Jesus the Saviour/Shepherd says, “and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall NEVER perish.” The sheep which belong to Christ will live in His sheepfold for ever. In contrast to the second death there is the Lord’s eternal life. These two are obvious opposites. “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the (Shepherd’s) book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

What did Christ pray in John 17:2, a verse we looked at earlier? “Father, glorify (me) thy son… as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” The Father has given His sheep to the Saviour, the Good Shepherd, that the Shepherd might give His life so that those sheep might live eternally. “This is the promise he hath promised us, eternal life” – I John 2:25. Over and over again, the Lord has made and reiterated that promise. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He that believeth on the Son that everlasting life; (but) he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” – John 3:16 and 3:36. Whoever hears the voice of this shepherd and follows him can not eternally perish, because to him or her the Shepherd has given eternal life – John 3:15. The Saviour will be glorified when those sheep of His are eternally glorified.

Please, O please let Jesus’ words sink into your souls today. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.” Can you hear His voice this morning? Is the Lord saying to you, “I know you, I love you?” Then follow Him. Obey Him by putting humble faith in Him. Love Him. Be loyal to Him. Follow Him. Be dipped for Him. These are the only people to whom the Lord will say, “I give unto YOU eternal life; YOU shall never perish.”