John 10:1-6 : “Most certainly, I tell you, one who doesn’t enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But one who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. Whenever he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. They will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him; for they don’t know the voice of strangers.” Jesus spoke this parable to them, but they didn’t understand what he was telling them.”
All four books of the Bible that record the life of Jesus describe Him as speaking using parables. These stories are encoded messages and are to be taken symbolically. It can be difficult to properly interpret these stories, and many different interpretations have been proposed.
Jesus didn’t mean for parables to be interpreted in any way that we want. He clearly meant something. We find out next how Jesus intended this parable to be interpreted, but many of the parables don’t come with explanations.
Because Jesus recognized the Bible of His day as God’s Word, and because He was God. It is appropriate to use symbolism from the Bible to understand Jesus parables. This is the same for other interpretations in the Bible too. It makes sense to let God speak for Himself rather than to rely an fallible men to interpret what God says based on non-Biblical ideas. This is one of the big mistakes of modern Bible teaching. Many teachers fail to allow God to explain Himself before attaching their own ideas. Some do this because they would rather keep their own ideas as the most important ones rather than to allow God’s ideas to teach us what we should think.
The best interpretations will be taken in context with the whole Bible. This idea, among theologians, is called a “hermeneutic based on Biblical exegesis” and simply means that we use the Bible to interpret itself whenever possible. Although I make mistakes, this is one of my goals as I write this blog. It is important to read and keep in mind as much of God’s word as we can. This is one reason why reading it every day is very good for us.
So before we get too far into a discussion about the door, the shepherd, the sheep, the gatekeeper, the thief, and the stranger, we should find out first what Jesus says about the interpretation. Since Jesus realized that they didn’t understand, He explains a bit more about the parable next.