Lesson 50: John 10:12-18 – The Hireling

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 50 from the sermon series "The Gospel of John" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.



A man hired to watch the sheep is not going to care as much for the sheep as the shepherd who owns them (10:11-13). If you are wondering about the point of this parable, the Lord has already identified Himself as the good shepherd (v.11,14), and the hirelings are the Pharisees He was addressing here (9:40,41). When the “wolves” of false prophets came (v.12cf.Mt.7:15) the Pharisees left the sheep (Mt.9:36), while the good shepherd gives His life for them.

Israel often had leaders like this (Isa.56:9-11; Ezek.34:2-10). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with shepherds feeding themselves of the flock as long as they feed the flock. Just as there’s nothing wrong with getting paid to pastor a church (ICor.9:14) as long as the pastor feeds the flock with the Word. Otherwise he’s just a hireling. The Greek word for pastor means shepherd, and shepherds should feed God’s people (Zech.11:4,5; Acts 20:28).

God knew what to do about the shepherd problem in Israel; He sent His Son to be the good shepherd (Isa.40:10,11). We need more shepherds like Him and Timothy, who “naturally” care for the sheep (Phil.2:19-21).

Though sheep all look alike to us, a good shepherd knows who his sheep are (John 10:14 cf. IITim.2:19), and knows their works (Rev.2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15), i.e., knows all about them. They know Him too, and this knowledge justifies them (Isa.53:11; John 17:3). How well do the Lord and His sheep know each other? As well as the Father and the Son know one another (John 10:15).

Since the Lord says He’d lay down His life for the sheep (10:15) and the Pharisees weren’t sheep (10:26), our Calvinist friends teach He didn’t die for unbelievers, only for the elect. They argue there’s no sense in wasting His blood on the unsaved who are going to hell. But the sheep aren’t the elect, they are Israel (Mt.15:24). As far as anyo-ne knew, the Lord came to die only for Isaiah’s people, Israel (53:8), who were also the Lord’s people (Mt.1:21 cf. 20:28). Not til Paul do we read He died for “all” (ITim.2:6)

How did a sacrifice intended for the Jews get broadened to include the Gentiles? Well, to die for the Jews He had to become a Jew (Heb.2:14-16), but to become a Jew to die for Jews, He also had to become a man, and so He could also die for men.

We see this pictured in Matthew 13:44. The treasure is Israel (Ex.19:3-5), and the field is the world (Mt.13:38). So in this parable the Lord came to earth looking for Israel and found her in the field of the world. Since He owned nothing but His life, when it says he sold all He had to buy the field, it means He gave His life to buy—not just the treasure, but the field of the world! To buy the treasure of Israel He had to buy the field of the world. To buy the Jews, He had to buy the Gentiles. To die for Jews He had to become a Jew, to become a Jew He had to become a man

Most commentaries think the “other sheep” are Gentiles, but the Gentiles were dogs (Mt.15:26). Since the Lord was ministering to the two tribes of Judah here, the other sheep were the 10 tribes of Israel. In saying this, the Lord was thinking of Ezekiel 37:19-24, and how in the kingdom the two “folds” of both of these houses of Israel will be one under His leadership, and He had come to unite them.

The “therefore” of John 10:17 shows that if the Lord didn’t lay down His life for the sheep, the Father wouldn’t love Him. Remember, God’s standard for men—even the God-man—is perfect obedience, and God sent Christ to die for us (IJo.4:10). To not die for us would be to disobey.

It looked like they took the Lord’s life when they nailed Him to a cross, but He says otherwise (Jo.10:18). They were only able to kill Him because He let them. They tried to kill Him many times, but couldn’t (Lu.4:28-30; Jo.8:59; 10:39 cf. 18:4-6; Mt.26:53). He had the power to lay down His life and take it again (Jo.10:18 cf. 2:19-21).

The Lord here claims He raised Himself from the dead, but Romans 6:4 says the Father raised Him, and Romans 8:11 says the Spirit raised Him. Far from a contradiction, this is one of the many proofs of the trinity in the Bible.


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