"Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he's up to no good - a sheep rustler!
The shepherd walks right up to the gate.
The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice.
They won't follow a stranger's voice but will scatter because they aren't used to the sound of it."
Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about.
So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep.
All those others are up to no good - sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them.
I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for - will freely go in and out, and find pasture.
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.
A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf.
He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him.
"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.
In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.
You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They'll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again.
No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father."
This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks.
A lot of them were saying, "He's crazy, a maniac - out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?"
But others weren't so sure: "These aren't the words of a crazy man. Can a 'maniac' open blind eyes?"
They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter.
Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon's Porch.
The Jews, circling him, said, "How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you're the Messiah, tell us straight out."
Jesus answered, "I told you, but you don't believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words.
You don't believe because you're not my sheep.
My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.
The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him.
I and the Father are one heart and mind."
Again the Jews picked up rocks to throw at him.
Jesus said, "I have made a present to you from the Father of a great many good actions. For which of these acts do you stone me?"
The Jews said, "We're not stoning you for anything good you did, but for what you said - this blasphemy of calling yourself God."
Jesus said, "I'm only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, 'I tell you - you are gods.'
If God called your ancestors 'gods' - and Scripture doesn't lie -
why do you yell, 'Blasphemer! Blasphemer!' at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?
If I don't do the things my Father does, well and good; don't believe me.
But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes. Then perhaps things will come together for you, and you'll see that not only are we doing the same thing, we are the same - Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him."
They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers.
He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and stayed there.
A lot of people followed him over. They were saying, "John did no miracles, but everything he said about this man has come true."
Many believed in him then and there.