What does John 10:3 mean?
ESV: To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
NIV: 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.
NASB: To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep listen to his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
CSB: The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
NLT: The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
KJV: To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
NKJV: To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Verse Commentary:
Sheep pens in Jesus' era were constructed with sturdy walls and a single doorway. This allowed easy control over what animals got in or out, and which people could access the sheep. The gatekeeper was not merely minding the opening. There were often no physical barriers across that opening, since a gatekeeper was always on duty. To rest, or even to sleep, the gatekeeper would literally lay across the gap. This will be used in Jesus' second metaphor, where He claims to be "the door of the sheep."

The gatekeeper of the pen would ensure that only approved shepherds—those who had claim on a flock inside—could get in or out. Anyone trying to climb over the walls was, by definition, up to no good. Those allowed in by the gatekeeper were legitimately allowed to be there.

Multiple flocks would be kept in a single pen. To get a particular flock out, all the shepherd had to do was call. The sheep, having been raised and cared for by that single person, would respond. Members of other flocks would not come in response to that voice.

Jesus is using this analogy in response to the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who obstinately refuse to recognize His miracles and His message. In plain terms, these men don't listen to His voice because they are not "His" flock. They are, as Jesus pointed out in other discussions, subjects of Satan (John 8:42–47).
Verse Context:
John 10:1–21 continues directly from Jesus' encounter with local religious leaders, after giving sight to a man born blind (John 9). Jesus' references here to shepherds and shepherding are pointed barbs at these hypocritical, self-serving figures. In this section, Jesus actually creates three separate metaphors; these are not meant to be understood as a single analogy. The first comes in verses 1 through 6, the second in verses 7 through 9, and the third in verses 10 through 18. In doing so, Jesus explains how He differs from the corrupt leaders He confronts. He also delivers His third and fourth ''I am'' statements, out of seven in this gospel.
Chapter Summary:
This passage continues Jesus' discussion with the religious leaders of Jerusalem, seen in chapter 9. Jesus lays out three separate analogies about His ministry, using the concept of sheep and shepherds. In those statements, Jesus explains why some people refuse to accept Him, declares Himself the only means of salvation, and again predicts His sacrificial death. This leads to controversy. Later, Jesus is cornered by a mob in the temple grounds. They once again try to stone Him as He repeats His divine claims, but He escapes in some way not fully described by the text. After this, Jesus leaves the area and returns to the region where John the Baptist had once preached.
Chapter Context:
Starting in chapter 7, the gospel of John describes Jesus' preaching at the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem. Through chapters 7 and 8, He debates with critics and attempts to explain spiritual truths. On the way out of the city, Jesus gives sight to a man born blind, as shown in chapter 9. That begins an extended debate which continues in this chapter. Jesus gives analogies of His mission using shepherding as a theme. Months later, He repeats those ideas when cornered by an aggressive mob in the temple. This sets the stage for His grandest miracle, the raising of Lazarus, seen in chapter 11.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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