Jesus is continuing His confrontation with the Pharisees (John 8:48, 52, 9:40-41, 10:20-21). He compares them to thieves and robbers. Illegitimate shepherds enter the sheepfold in illegitimate ways. There are always those who take authority but have not gotten it from God. Those that are truly God’s sheep will not follow another, but instead will flee. This was just illustrated by the fact that the man born blind refused to listen to the Pharisees, but turned to Jesus.
Many think this means that they cannot be deceived, but they presume upon their profession. It is not how well we are following it is who we are following that matters most. Many will faithfully follow a false shepherd and a false faith. But the true sheep will only follow the real Shepherd of the faith. The test is not about who is following but about who is being followed. The false shepherds will have many followers but no real sheep.
Jesus expands on what He has just said. He says the religious leaders of the day were not real shepherds of God, but emissaries of the enemy. They are in position only for their own pleasure, but Jesus was there for their protection and provision.
Jesus says the mark of a true shepherd is that he is fully invested in the sheep. The sheep know who their shepherd is; he cares for them, knows them by name, and will do anything to protect them. He willingly dies for them, while the hired hand withers at the sight of the wolves.
Jesus indicated that His sheep may be scattered, but they will be brought in (cf. Acts 2:21 / Romans 10:13), the flock of faith would not consist of Jews only. Jesus was not performing some “plan b” of salvation for the sheep; it was the divine design of God. That’s the real deal.