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1"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!

2The shepherd walks right up to the gate.

3The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice.

5They won't follow a stranger's voice but will scatter because they aren't used to the sound of it."

6Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about.

7So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep.

8All those others are up to no good--sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them.

9I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for--will freely go in and out, and find pasture.

10A 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.

11"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.

12A 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.

13He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him.

14"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.

15In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.

16You 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.

17This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again.

18No 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."

19This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks.

20A lot of them were saying, "He's crazy, a maniac--out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?"

21But others weren't so sure: "These aren't the words of a crazy man. Can a 'maniac' open blind eyes?"

22They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter.

23Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon's Porch.

24The Jews, circling him, said, "How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you're the Messiah, tell us straight out."

25Jesus 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.

26You don't believe because you're not my sheep.

27My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

28I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.

29The 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.

30I and the Father are one heart and mind."

31Again the Jews picked up rocks to throw at him.

32Jesus 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?"

33The Jews said, "We're not stoning you for anything good you did, but for what you said--this blasphemy of calling yourself God."

34Jesus said, "I'm only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, 'I tell you--you are gods.'

35If God called your ancestors 'gods'--and Scripture doesn't lie--

36why 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'?

37If I don't do the things my Father does, well and good; don't believe me.

38But 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."

39They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers.

40He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and stayed there.

41A lot of people followed him over. They were saying, "John did no miracles, but everything he said about this man has come true."

42Many believed in him then and there.

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