Truly, truly, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way…
The simple lesson which our Lord intended to teach in this familiar passage has often been strangely mistaken. The minds of men have been so fixed upon certain ecclesiastical conclusions which have been commonly derived from it, that the simpler but far profounder teaching which the Master had in mind to give has been overlooked. He was not defending the formal authority of His own or of any office. He was not discussing the regularity or lawfulness of His own or of any ministry. He was not pointing out the mode of entrance into shepherdhood, but He was telling how the function for all true shepherdhood must be discharged. He was laying down the rule of good conduct and right service in all true leadership — a rule which He Himself exemplified and fulfilled, and which all must obey who hope in any degree to be worthy leaders of men. He was propounding a lesson which it behoves all men to ponder well who hope to influence their fellow men for good rank, office, order, culture, property — be the authority, the privilege, the right of these what they may, the eternal law of God, as exemplified in the life of His Son, and taught in His Holy Word, and illustrated in human history, is this: that none of these, no matter how commissioned or sent, can exercise any real shepherdhood over men except as they are in sympathy with them. This is true in Church and State; of the employers of labour; of the heads of households; of civil rulers and political leaders; of bishops, priests, and deacons — the power to lead men lies in sympathizing with them, and walking in the same way with them. The man of influence is the man of sympathy; the man of power is the man of service. He that loves is he that leads. He that serves is he that rules. Think for a moment, and you will see why it must be so. Man is free, The soul is free in the truest, deepest sense of the word. God royally made it so, and even He cannot control it by any merely external force or power. It is free to think, to will, and choose, to love, and no mere force or authority from without can control it in these operations in which its sovereign selfhood is realized. You may chain the limbs of a man — you may coerce his actions or even his words; but how can you get into communion with the soul, and rule its will and affections? There is only one way. If you would influence men intimately, profoundly, really, no matter what your authority or station, you must enter into sympathy with them. You must walk in the same path and enter in by the same door, or you can never be the shepherd of the sheep. This is what St. Paul meant when he sang the praise of love (1 Corinthians 13). Among men love is power. And a greater than St. Paul taught the same lesson and confirmed it by His own Divine experience. The Good Shepherd proved and illustrated His own good shepherdhood by sympathy and love. It was by no flash of splendour or miracle of external power that He proved His Divine leadership over the hearts of men; but by coming to walk with them, to toil and hunger, and suffer with them. He entered into mortal life by the same lowly door of human birth; He passed through it by the same path of toil and daily care; He made His exit from it through the same portal of suffering and death. In life and death He walked with the sheep. Therefore He could say, "I am the Good Shepherd, not merely because I am commissioned and sent of My Father, not merely because I wield the power of omnipotence," but "I am the Good Shepherd," He said, because "I know My sheep and am known of Mine."
(Bp. S. S. Harris.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.