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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
John 10



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Verse 3


‘He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.’

John 10:3

The Good Shepherd, meeting us in the Sacrament of Baptism, carried us in His arms, and placed us in His fold in the night of infancy, ere the day of consciousness had dawned. After the morning of consciousness had dawned He must call each with a personal calling, He must call each ‘by name.’ To this call, moreover, each must respond with a personal response as he comes to the Lord, as one of His flock, to live a life of obedience to His leadings. Conversion is the first experience in the development of the regenerate life, and it is a necessary experience. ‘Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’

I. In the true development of Christian life this surrender should take place in early days. Christian children grow up like the child Samuel of old in the Temple of the Lord. At first it may be truly said them as of him, ‘They do not yet know the Lord’; but very early in the morning of life Jesus comes to them, as He came to the boy in the Temple, with the personal call, ‘Samuel, Samuel,’—a call which marks a crisis in religious experience, since obedience to it leads to a personal knowledge of union with Christ. ‘I know My sheep, and am known of Mine.’ Henceforth, unless he ceases to follow the Good Shepherd, the baptized child lives his life in the joy and peace of Christ’s pastorate, and his gratitude takes voice as he sings aloud, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.’ Blessed indeed is he who, in early days of life, through the power of the call of Jesus, turns to the Lord in true conversion, and is led out by Him into the experiences of a true Christian life.

II. What is conversion?—It is a turning to God in response to His love manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is an action of man as he responds to God’s attractive and enabling grace. And this turning to God in Christ is necessary for our dwelling in His kingdom. ‘Except ye turn, ye cannot enter the kingdom.’ Now, to turn is an action done in obedience to the command of the will; underneath it lies the surrender of the will to God. This surrender of the will is not the necessary result of receiving the grace of regeneration. It is not so as a matter of fact. Many who had been baptized in infancy have not made this surrender. Many have never responded to His call, have never taken Him to be their Shepherd, and have never given themselves to Him to live in obedience to His teaching, in patient submission to His discipline, in dependence on His care. And all who live lives of obedience, submission, and dependence do so because they have yielded themselves unto God by a willing acceptance of Jesus as Saviour and King.

III. See how clearly this truth of the necessity of conversion is taught us in the Catechism of the English Church.—In it the Church seeks to guide her scholars into the realisation of their position as Christians, to lead them to hearty thanksgiving to God for His goodness in calling them individually into a state of salvation, and to seek from Him the grace of perseverance by earnest and continual prayer. In other words, she seeks to guide them into the way of peace—that is, into the peace of acceptance and hope.

—Canon Body.


‘The expression “his own sheep,” must not be pressed too far. It simply means that a real shepherd, according to Eastern custom, knowing his own flock individually by name, calls them at once by their names, and proves his relation to them by so doing. If not his own, he could not do so.’

Verse 4


‘They know His voice.’

St John 10:4

In one respect this parable is given to show how we may know that He is our Saviour. But it also shows how we may know that we are His sheep. How is it with us?

I. Have I listened for His Voice?—Do I know His Voice? A man says, ‘You tell me that Christ sorted people by His Voice, and sorts them still. What is that Voice?’ The answer surely is, Dear soul, if you do not know that Voice, what then? Is He a stranger to you? ‘They know not the voice of strangers, but My sheep hear My voice, and follow Me.’ If therefore I should be at a loss to know what is the Voice of Jesus calling Me, then surely something is amiss; and I must at once to my knees and say, ‘O let me hear the Voice, for it is they who hear the Voice who are of the flock.’ Is it that I have been too hurried with matters of this world? Is it that I have been perplexed and distracted by various demands, all kinds of voices claiming my allegiance? Is it that I have been selfish, self-concentrated, or stopping my ears? Or have I been afraid that if I listened too closely, if I read the Bible and pondered on the Saviour’s words, if I was constant in church, patient in silent prayer by myself, if I looked into my conscience where He speaks, if I sank into the solitude of my own heart where He makes Himself known—have I been afraid that His demand would be difficult, that He would ask me to give up some practice of my business or pleasure, something which I could not bear to put under the light of His law—is that why I do not know which is His Voice in all the voices of the world?

II. We have much to guide us towards the Voice.—There is the glorious Gospel written, the Church ordained, uplifting and proclaiming His commandments and invitations. There is the speaking appeal of the Sacraments. You might try these, and see whether they find an answer in your heart. See whether through them will not come an appeal which cannot be denied. If a man does not know this Voice, it may be because he is deserting the means of grace; it may be because he has taken pains to keep outside his own heart where Christ knows well how to make himself heard. Every one who says, ‘What is the Voice?’ though he has no answer to that question, yet has a warning and a call of the very Voice he knows not. He has example also to help him. There are many sheep who know the Voice and love it. If I do not know it, it is my own fault. ‘O Saviour and Shepherd, O Lord of my soul, give me this first grace that I may keep still, and pray for grace; give me this first beginning, that I may at least listen. And O give me then to hear, and let me follow.’

III. There are some who know the Voice, but they have not followed.—They put it from them, sink back into their selfishness and sloth, or give themselves even to Christian duties in such a way as to leave themselves no time for speaking and listening to Christ. We know quite well how we can damp down our own souls. We know the Voice, and have not obeyed. ‘O give us the grace to listen, to obey, to be careful, to go forth to follow His footsteps.’ We are His if we follow Him in the paths of self-discipline and loving obedience to all God’s commandments.

IV. In that fold there are sheep that do not follow the Shepherd. What becomes of them?—Somebody claims them later on; somebody whose voice they have grown accustomed to. What becomes of the men who will not hear Jesus? Somebody will claim them later on, somebody claims them now—somebody whose voice they are growing accustomed to; that is to say, Satan, the destroyer of their souls. If you will not hear His Voice, whose voice are you listening to? If you do not care for the invitation to prayer, to purity, to lovingkindness, to worship, and reverence of God, you are not standing still, you are hearing the voice which invites to pride, to self-satisfaction, to self-indulgence, to carelessness of others’ good and salvation, to wicked ways. There are such voices going through the world, and multitudes follow them. Remember, the voice that we follow now is the voice that we grow accustomed to; the voice that we grow accustomed to is the voice that we shall have to own. It will be the voice of our owner at the end. So the man who is growing accustomed to the Voice of Jesus, and loving it, is becoming more truly His; and Christ is his owner, and will claim him and protect him in the last day. But if you persevere in listening to and obeying and following another voice, be sure your character is becoming fixed in conformity to that voice, and you are gaining a different sort of owner. The man who continually answers the call to self-indulgence is finding a master, a shepherd. It is a shepherd who leads him to the shambles, who claims the soul from Christ Himself.

—Rev. P. N. Waggett.

Verse 9


‘I am the Door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.’

John 10:9

It is an open question whether the text refers to priests only, or to priests and people alike. The latter seems preferable.

I. The fullness of the Christian life.

(a) Security. ‘He shall be saved.’ Salvation placed in the forefront as the very beginning of the Christian life, from which all else in it must start and find its guarantee of permanence.

(b) Freedom. Safety is not dependent on isolation or close confinement to the fold; on physical separation from the world out of which men come; on a vigorous system of restraints and prohibitions. The believer has the run of God’s house, freedom to come and go, the right of access and exit as a child or friend. This does not imply oscillation between the Church and the world, but does imply freedom under Christ’s care. There is no real liberty till a man enters the fold of Christ and becomes a sheep of His pasture. Genuine independence lies in dependence on Christ. Out of Christ men are slaves, in peril, hampered by guilty fears, mechanical rules, and suspected dangers; are creatures of mere petty details, instead of having to rule themselves by great principles.

(c) Sustenance. The exercise of freedom gives pasturage. Not only within, but also without the fold, the saved soul, acting out freely its new instincts, derives nourishment from all worldly things, learns to extract the good, to refuse the evil, to turn all things to spiritual profit. The visible becomes a parable of the invisible, full of rich suggestions of Divine truth. He has not only safety and freedom, but sustenance; not only life, but abundance. Finding implies seeking. Seek, that you may find what you need. Despise nothing that can give pasture.

II. The fullness of the Christian life is open to all.—There is a door of entrance and egress; but the door is open, open for ‘any man’ who chooses to enter. No class of society or race has a monopoly. Christ has no favourites, places no restrictions, makes no exceptions. No one, then, need think regretfully that this fullness is beyond his reach.

III. The sole condition of possessing this fullness is entrance into the Fold.—Christ lays down no other. This entrance is not merely into the visible Church, but into the invisible Church, the mystical body of Christ, in living communion with Him. It is to come out from the world and be separate from it; to enter into Christ by faith. Very simple is the condition. The open door invites you to comply with it.

IV. The entrance into the enjoyment of this fullness depends on Christ alone.—He is the Door. There is no use climbing over the wall or breaking through the fence. Christ has the exclusive right of giving access. There is no other door admitting to the privileges of the fold. Men try to fashion doors for themselves when they do not care to climb the wall, such as the door of their own merits, their religious observances, their charities, etc.; or they make doors of the under-shepherds, and think that they have entered rightly, if these have not barred their passage. But personal dealing with Christ is essential.


‘“He shall go in and out.” What is the meaning of this expression? In the literal interpretation of the allegory of the Good Shepherd there is no doubt on this point. We see the fold reared in the midst of the pasture. Into it the sheep enter, and from it they go forth, according to the desire of each; nothing bars their going out or their coming in. But what is the interpretation of this image in spiritual life? Very many answers have been given to this question, and yet I cannot but think that the meaning is plain when we remember that the expression, “to go out and to come in,” is one of very frequent use in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. You will find it, for instance, in these passages: Numbers 27:15-17; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 28:6; Deuteronomy 31:2; 1 Samuel 18:13; Psalms 121:8; Jeremiah 37:4; Zechariah 8:10; 1 Maccabees 15:25. It is also used by St. Peter of our Lord’s public life in Acts 1:21. If you will refer to these passages, you will see that in every instance they point to us one living in the peace of liberty, for they show us one who is either able or unable to live before men a life freed from all conditions, physical or spiritual, which hinder men from living the life of obedience to duty. In other words, they show us a condition of life in which men can live true to conviction, aspiration, and resolve, as they live in the glorious liberty of the children of God. Hence our Lord says that as the sheep is free in life, as it passes from fold to pasture, and from pasture to fold, so they who are living under His care in His Church are set free to live a rightly regulated life.’

Verse 10


‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’

John 10:10

We are living in a day that will be remembered for the nobility of its aims. From the student in our colleges to the working-man in his club the world is pulsing with high aims.

I. Character is a product: what we need is the force that produces it.—If, with Mazzini, we set aside the house for the man who is to live in it, we must, if we are to succeed, set aside the man for that which is to reside in him if he is to be a man at all. We are not to tie clusters of grapes on to the branch. Our motive touches that very thing which will produce the grapes itself. Not conditions. Not character. ‘I came—that they may have life.’ There is our aim—Life. To link up life with Life: to wedge the graft into the Stock and fold it round with clay, till in that secrecy where no eye can ever penetrate the tiny sap-cells of the branch burst into the greater sap-cells of the Tree, and severed life is one with abundant Life—this is the compelling motive that brought the world’s supreme benefaction, and that accounts for all the wonder of that ‘I am come.’ And it is as we allow ourselves to be caught up into the passion of that Divine aim that we possess also a power that will reach to the extremest human need, and work out for victory in the end.

II. At what precise point, psychologically and spiritually, shall ‘life’ in Christ’s sense of the word be found?—The question is a concrete one. We have special men and women for whom we are anxious before our mind. The question is a religious one. We care not as to how, philosophically, life may be attained; but, quite practically, how has ‘life’ as an actual fact been won? Take the most potent lives you can find. How and where did this new force come into them? Take, e.g., John Wesley. What empowers him, according to his own Journal, is not so much the earnest self-discipline of his Oxford days, or the Holy Club, or of his work for the S.P.G. in the States, as his new experience at the age of thirty-five, realised first at the meeting in Aldersgate Street. ‘I felt,’ he says, ‘my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given unto me that He had taken away my sins.’ Or take John Bunyan, or St. Paul himself. How did these men, men in each case the movers of millions, receive Life? In each case by the assurance of an overwhelming love that embraced them there as they stood—an assurance of the rush of God into their souls, Who, by His own self-sacrifice, had cut out the intercepting barrier of sin, and their life was one with His. In a word, in each case the point at which they receive Life is the Cross.

Christ Jesus came that we may have life. He came, He tells us also, that we may have it abundantly. There are two supreme discoveries in our human experience. The first is the discovery of the Cross: there is life. The second is the discovery of the Blessed Sacrament: there is the ‘abundant life.’ And happy are we if we know them both in their miraculous power. For these twain are one. And just as we never really know the Sacrament without the Cross, so do we never really know the continuous life that flows from Calvary without the Sacrament.

III. Here, it would seem, is the Christian’s aim in the present day.—Our aim is ‘Life.’ And by that we mean not conditions only, not education only, not character only; but that revivifying from within of man’s entire being. We mean that reanimation of his inner spirit which can only come by making proper contact with the great Divine Spirit. And, through the despair and gloom and paralysis and ruin produced by sin, this union with God is adequately secured by the acceptance of the Cross, and adequately maintained, by constant resetting and renewal, in that sacrament ordained to perpetuate this very thing. Thus, in a perfectly natural and personal way, love answers to love, and the man lives.

Rev. H. Gresford Jones.


‘In the refectory of the Madeleine at Florence, there is a picture by Perugino, and in the central cartoon he reveals to us, in a fair sunlit valley, two figures alone—the Crucified Saviour and one kneeling at His feet. Words fail us before the world’s most glorious vision of perfect holiness and perfect love. The artist is true. When we do find ourselves there we are quite alone, and it is very beautiful and full of sunshine.’



Life is the gift of God. Look at it in the gift of nature. From the lowest to the highest, from the highest to the lowest, we see life given to man, and man, the creature, is to use it again. No mere effort of the mind, no mere emotion, no power of civilisation can grant to man the gift of Divine Life; that stands out in contradistinction to his natural life. We watch man as a complex being.

There are the two spheres, the two great kingdoms: the kingdom of the natural life, the kingdom of the spiritual.

I. In baptism the tiny seed is sown, and man in time becomes conscious of that life within him; is conscious of the throb of a strange life that is not his own—that life which strives to live amid all the adverse powers that surround it. Watch, I say, man at length conscious of the presence of that Divine Life in his being. See, first of all, the human will, uncertain, unreliable, afraid of this life that has entered into the being of man. See the heart stirred by the presence of this gift of Divine Life, and yet shrinking from it. It is a consuming fire that will burn up all that is contrary to the Giver of that Life, God Himself. Watch, again, as the passions one by one rally their forces and determine at whatever cost to destroy this gift of Divine Life. Reason stands on one side, and rebels against the demands made by this gift of life. Such is the seed of Divine Life sown in the being of man, so small that it looks as if it must perish, that it must give way before the natural powers.

II. This life has been developed.—It must be used, and so we kneel down and make our plans. We want to advance in the spiritual life. We cannot bear to stay exactly in the spot in which we find ourselves to-day. We make our plans for the future. We make good and true rules, and then, when the future comes, I dare say things do not work out exactly as we want them to. We are disappointed, we are cast down. We must wait for God to work in His own way. We must not hurry Him; we must leave all to Him. See, in the world of nature, the patient farmer casts the seed to the ground, he waits till the precious weeks are past; he may be disappointed, but he trusts. So surely we must trust God. We must trust Him as He has given this life to us, that it will increase more and more day by day.

III. What must I do with this great gift of life?—Use it for the salvation of my own soul? Use it in the life that I live upon earth, wherever it is lived, to glorify God? Is that all? God forbid! Go forth with the power of it, and bring some hope and consolation to those who know it not. That surely is the work of those who realise that they have the gift of life: that they go forth and use it. And nothing, if they will, shall conquer it, because to limit its power would be to limit the power of God. When you are tempted to despair, or to grow lax, or to give up, listen to those words rolling over the centuries that have passed, ‘I am come that they might have Life.’ And then, when perhaps the battle waxes sore, and you feel you must fall, you will never triumph, listen again, not only ‘that they might have Life,’ but ‘that they might have it more abundantly.’

Rev. G. R. Wynn-Griffith.


‘The service of Christ is the business of my life.

The will of Christ is the law of my life.

The presence of Christ is the joy of my life.

The glory of Christ is the crown of my life.’

Verse 11


‘I am the Good Shepherd.’

John 10:11

When our Blessed Lord called Himself the Good Shepherd, and spoke of His loving care for His sheep, those who heard Him felt the full force of the beautiful and original allegory. He spoke to men who came of a shepherd race. He appealed to those who knew what a shepherd’s life was. A more fitting illustration could not have been chosen, and time has only shown how fully and universally the allegory has been appreciated.

I. The Shepherd leads.—How many troubles would be avoided, how much suffering and misery spared, if the sheep of Christ’s flock would only follow Him closely, and with the confidence shown by those sheep for their guardian. But alas! how many professing Christians are like the sheep which have but little confidence in the shepherd, and only follow him with fear and hesitation. The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is ever present to lead us, and if we follow, nothing doubting, when we come to the river of death which lies before us all in the shadows of the future, we shall then feel no fear, no hesitation, but follow eagerly till the eternal fold is reached.

II. The Shepherd knows.—You should, in the next place, try to realise what is meant by the Good Shepherd knowing His sheep. In this country sheep are marked, and a shepherd can thus distinguish his own sheep, but in the East he always learns to know his flock without the aid of marks. Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows each one of His flock, but not by name alone. The character, the weaknesses, and virtues of each one are well known to Him. We cannot stray away from the right path without the watchful Shepherd knowing full well; but there are no trials and temptations through which He will not gladly and lovingly help us; no joys and sorrows with which He will not sympathise. Every true follower of Christ can say, in the words of the Psalmist, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.… Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me.’ In all times of trouble (and who is there who has not or will not have times of trouble?), in all times of temptation and suffering, this thought of the Good Shepherd’s knowledge of our affliction should rise up to bring comfort and peace,

III. The Shepherd seeks.—As you follow the Good Shepherd you will often find that, in some weak moment, you have been tempted to take your eyes off Him and wander aside after some worldly pleasure, tempted, perhaps, by some other wanderer who has strayed away from the right path. But then for our great comfort comes the thought that the Good Shepherd will never leave one of His flock thus wandering without making every effort to bring back the wanderer. No sheep from the flock of this Shepherd ever went astray that was not sought for, and how many, thank God, have been brought back!

—Rev. W. S. Randall.


‘One bitter January night the inhabitants of the old town of Sleswick were thrown into the greatest distress and terror. A hostile army was marching down upon them, and new and fearful reports of the conduct of the lawless soldiery were hourly reaching the place. In one large commodious cottage dwelt an aged grandmother with her granddaughter and her grandson. While all hearts quaked with fear, this aged woman passed her time in crying out to her Saviour that He would “build up a wall of defence round about them,” quoting the words of an ancient hymn. Her grandson asked why she prayed for a thing so entirely impossible as that God should build a wall about their house that should hide it; but she explained that her meaning only was that God should protect them. At midnight the dreaded tramp of the soldiers was heard as the enemy came pouring in at every avenue, filling the houses to overflowing. But whilst the most fearful sounds were heard on every side, not even a knock came to their door, at which they were greatly surprised. The morning light made the matter clear, for just beyond the house the drifted snow had reared such a massive wall that it was impossible to get over it to them. “There,” said the old woman triumphantly, “do you not see, my child, that God could raise up a wall around us?” This Christian woman knew what it was to have a perfect trust in the Good Shepherd.’



‘I am the Good Shepherd.’ Is it not a Self-revelation which comes as a necessary corollary to that interpretation of the Divine relations to mankind which finds expression in the 23rd Psalm and elsewhere in the writings of the Old Testament? If once we accept such a conception of God; if once such a creed takes full possession of our hearts and minds, we are impelled by it to ‘a sure and certain hope’ of such a Self-manifestation as we have in Jesus Christ.

I. The Divine Shepherd!—God is not only the Guide and Mainstay of great bodies of men—of nations and churches, of generations and kingdoms; He is the Guardian and Friend of each individual life. We are all known by Him with a knowledge that is perfect. Nothing is hidden from Him—no temptation, no anxiety, no strain, no failure, no sin, no repentance. His is the hand that has faithfully upheld us and brought us safely through the dangers and troubles which have sorely beset us. Those strange coincidences, which we could not understand at the time, have been realised in the light of subsequent knowledge to have been His loving counsels for our welfare. It has been His ministry that has provided with such sufficiency for our wants. We are all ‘the sheep of His pasture.’ He is, as has been beautifully said of Him, ‘that Eternal Tenderness which bends over us—infinitely lower though we be in nature—and knows the name of each and the trials of each, and thinks for each with a separate solicitude, and gave Itself for each with a Sacrifice as special and a Love as personal as if in the whole world’s wilderness there were none other than that one.’

II. He is our eternal Shepherd of infinite perfection.—He ‘calls’ us ‘by name.’ We may go to Him and thankfully walk in His footsteps and rejoice in the comfort and strength of His protection. We may be certain that there is, and can be, no lowliness, no obscurity, no poverty, no desolation, no suffering, no unmerited reproach which His ‘goodness and mercy’ do not ‘follow’ day by day and hour by hour. We are confident that nothing that we now are or ever have been—no vice, no depravity, no crime, no dishonour—need continue to separate us from Him. He is ever ready to receive us back, to welcome us once more into the shelter of the fold. ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found My sheep which was lost.” We are none of us, even the worst and the vilest, beyond the blessing of His care. Because of His Cross and Passion, because of that supreme victory in which the ‘suffering of death’ issued, because He is ‘stronger than the strong’ and in His own Person has overthrown death and Satan, because He has ‘ascended on high’ and ‘led captivity captive,’ He can be—He is—the Shepherd of us all. In a deeper sense than was ever revealed even to the inspired Psalmist, He will be our Guide along ‘the paths of righteousness’—‘the straitened way that leadeth unto life’—our unseen but ever-present Companion on that last tremendous journey through ‘the valley of the shadow of death’—the valley which leads to the Paradise of God. Whenever we will, He feeds us, from His own sacred table, ‘with the spiritual food of His most precious Body and Blood.’ Aye, and when all here is over and done with, when our time comes sooner or later, expectedly or unexpectedly—

‘To-day, or may be not to-day,

To-night, or not to-night—’

He will receive us, through the wondrous efficacy of His own Self-sacrifice and triumph, into ‘the house of the Lord.’

Rev. the Hon. W. E. Bowen.


‘The figure of the Good Shepherd was one which the young Church was glad to depict. It has often been pointed out that the earliest delineations of our Saviour place Him before us, not with the signs and evidences of suffering upon Him, not with worn visage and tired body, but in all the strength and vigour of unwearied manhood. The “Ecce Homo” of these Christians was unmarked by horror and outrage. “Neither the paintings in the Catacombs nor the sculptures in the ancient Christian sarcophagi reveal a single representation of the Passion of our Lord.” It was a later generation that ventured to introduce the Crucifixion into the sacred circle of subjects suitable for Christian art. And sometimes we are asked, indeed urged, to go back to this older type of representation as better, wiser, truer, healthier. It is an invitation which at first makes a strong appeal to us. But none the less we cannot consent to respond to it. An adequate picture of the human Christ will not exclude those deep lines of suffering which came through His voluntary Self-abasement.’



There are three parables in this chapter. In the first six verses there is the parable of the Shepherd. To the fold mentioned in John 10:1 many flocks would be brought at night. Then their own Shepherd would come in the morning and lead away his flock to pasture. Then in John 10:7 begins the parable of the Door. This was the Door of the day enclosure, where the sheep could go in and out and find food. In John 10:11 there is the parable of the beautiful or ideal Shepherd. Here evening has come, and as the shepherds are leading back their flocks to the fold for the night, the wolf darts forth; but the Good Shepherd flees not like the hireling, but lays down His life for the sheep.

Let us notice three things the beautiful Shepherd is here said to do for His sheep.

I. He knows them.—The words are even more striking in the Revised Version: ‘I know Mine own, and Mine own know Me, even as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father’ (John 10:14-15). Christ knows His sheep with the same loving knowledge that the Father knows Him, and He knows the Father. The weakest, the feeblest, the very sickliest lamb in the flock the beautiful Shepherd loves and knows. Not one is overlooked, or forgotten, or omitted.

II. He dies for them.—‘I lay down My life for the sheep.’ The prophet had foretold this—‘Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd’ (Zechariah 13:7).

‘One came by with wounded Side,

And for the sheep the Shepherd died.’

III. He gathers them.—‘Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold (i.e. not Jews): them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock, one Shepherd’ (John 10:16).

IV. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’—Can you say, ‘My’? Everything depends on that. If you can say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ then all is yours—the quiet rest by the still waters, the restoring, the leading, the presence in the valley, the rod and the staff to comfort, the prepared table, the ointment for the head, the cup running over, goodness and mercy all the days of your life, and a home beyond the grave; all this is yours if you can say ‘My.’

—Rev. F. Harper.


‘Garabaldi and some of his army were marching through the mountains, and as they drew near to where they intended to spend the night they met a shepherd wandering alone. He was taken to the General, and his account of himself was that he was walking across the hill in search of a lost lamb. Garibaldi heard his story, and then called on his men to scatter and seek for the lost. They separated and sought, but without success; and as night closed in the soldiers returned tired and dispirited, without the lamb. They slept well that night; and when the morning call roused them from rest they opened amazed eyes to see a great figure looming through the white mists and advancing towards them. They marvelled, and their wonder was none the less when the new-comer proved to be their General carrying a little lamb in his strong arms. They had slept, but Garibaldi had sought all night, and at dawn he found that which was lost.’

Verse 14


‘I am the Good Shepherd, and know, My sheep, and am known of Mine.’

John 10:14

Few things come more closely home to true Christians than the shepherdly love which the Lord bestows upon them.

His word to us is this: ‘I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.’ And the Revised Version brings out a depth of meaning here. ‘I know Mine own, and Mine own know Me, even as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father.’ So intimate is the knowledge between the shepherd and the sheep, between Christ and true Christians, that it is likened to that perfect knowledge which subsists in the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

I. Intimate individual knowledge.—This personal relationship, this intimate individual knowledge, has great stress laid upon it by our Lord. He knows us, marks us, loves us, one by one. ‘What is my soul among such a multitude of creatures?’ That is the question of one who wishes to be hid, and flatters himself that he is neither known nor observed. But there is another question, not asked in unbelief, but in wonder and humbleness of mind. ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him?’ And there is an answer from the Lord, which tells of close acquaintanceship, of the most loving interest: ‘I have called thee by name: thou art Mine.’

II. A call to follow.—It is no hollow voice, no flattering voice which they hear, but rather a call to go after the Shepherd, whithersoever He goeth. ‘He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice.’ And surely as to ourselves, if we love our Lord, and trust His word, we shall follow Him, even in darkness. For indeed it is no stranger’s voice that we should flee from it, but rather the voice of our best and greatest and most loving Friend. We know that His commandment is eternal life, and we know that to obey it here is present happiness. What a privilege it is for us to have this constant leading from our Lord—to feel certain that when we honestly ask Him, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ He will guide our feet into the way of peace, the path of duty, difficult but blessed!

III. Why doth He call?—Let us ever remember that by this Good Shepherd our souls are fed, partly on the ordinary paths of God’s Providence and in the doing of our duty in common tasks—‘in the ways,’ as the prophet says—partly ‘on all high places,’ by the Divinely ordered means of His glorious grace, and the assurance of His abiding Presence. In Him, the Incarnate Lord, all the promises of God are fulfilled, all the needs of men are satisfied. Whom He brings, He calls; and whom He calls, He loves; and whom He loves, He feeds. None is forgotten of Him. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’

IV. But the love of the Shepherd goes further than this.—Not of Him can it be said, as it can be of the hireling, ‘that he careth not for the sheep.’ They are His inmost, constant, individual care. Their rest, their healing, their recall, their renewal, their preservation, their enlargement—all these are dear to Him, all wrought by Him. The promise which begins, ‘I will feed My flock,” goes on, ‘I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.’ This truly it was which our Jesus, our most compassionate and patient Saviour, took upon Him.

—Rev. Canon Jelf.


‘That was the shepherd of the flock; He knew

The distant voice of one poor sheep astray;

It had forsaken Him, but He was true,

And listened for its bleating night and day.

Lost in a pitfall, yet alive it lay,

To breathe the faint sad call that He would know;

But now the slighted fold was far away,

And no approaching footstep soothed its woe.

A thing of life and nurture from above,

Sunk under earth where all was cold and dim;

With nothing in it to console His love,

Only the miserable cry for Him.

His was the wounded heart, the bleeding limb

That safe and sound He would have joy’d to keep.

And still amidst the flock at home with Him,

He was the Shepherd of that one lost sheep.

Oh, would He now but come and claim His own!

How more than precious His restoring care!

How sweet the pasture of His choice alone,

How bright the dullest path if He were there!

How well the pain of rescue it could bear,

Held in the shelter of His strong embrace!

With Him it would find herbage anywhere,

And springs of endless life in every place.

And so He came and raised it from the clay,

Where evil beasts went disappointed by.

He bore it home along the fearful way

In the soft light of His rejoicing eye.

And, thou fallen soul, afraid to live or die

In the deep pit that will not set thee free,

Lift up to Him the helpless homeward cry,

For all that tender love is seeking thee.’



‘I know My sheep.’ How does the Good Shepherd know His sheep? In three ways.

I. His Father gave them to Him (read John 6:37).—‘All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.’ Men may reject Him, men may scorn Him, men may hate Him, yet all His Father gave Him shall come to Him. Cæsar said, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ Christ will say the same of every one His Father gave Him. Only, Christ conquers by love. He attracts by His Cross.

II. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep because they are redeemed by His blood.—For ‘the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep’ (John 10:11). He had each one in His heart when He died on the Cross. And by His atoning death His intention was to gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad. Behold, how He loved them! For that He was content to die.

III. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep by the gracious work of His Spirit in them.—That gracious Spirit teaches them their need of Him. He puts the cry of the publican into their lips, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner.’ He inclines them to trust Him. He constrains them to love Him. He enables them to work for Him, and as they work, to watch. And over all their heart, like a mantle of gold, the gracious Spirit spreads ‘the gentleness of Christ.’ Let us ask ourselves, ‘Are these marks on me?’

—Rev. F. Harper.


‘Lady Somerset says that in a fisherman’s hut in the north-east of Scotland she saw a picture of the Saviour, and as she stood looking at it, the fishermen told her its story. “I was away down with the drink,” he said, “when one night I went into a ‘public,’ there hung this picture. I was sober then, and I said to the barman, ‘Sell me that picture; this is no place for the Saviour.’ I gave him all the money I had for it, and took it home. Then, as I looked at it, the words of my mother came back to me. I dropped on my knees, and cried: ‘O! Lord Jesus, will You pick me up again, and take me out of all my sin?’” No such prayer is ever unanswered. To-day, that man is the grandest man in that little Scotch village. Lady Somerset asked if he had no struggle to give up the drink. Such a look of exultation came over his face as he answered, “Oh, madam, when such a Saviour comes into the heart, He takes the love of the drink right out of it.’”



The Good Shepherd as contrasted with (a) ‘thieves and robbers,’ those who use the flock for their own selfish purposes; (b) ‘hirelings,’ those who do their duty up to a certain point, but fail in time of danger, because the sheep are not their own. Then (c) an ideal Shepherd, embodying in Himself all that a shepherd should be; and (d) the ‘fair’ Shepherd, attracting by His moral beauty the eyes of all to whom it is given to appreciate Him.

I. His characteristics.—(Here note the mistaken punctuation at the end of John 10:14. The proper meaning destroyed by it. He teaches that there is a correspondence between the mutual knowledge between Christ and His people, and the mutual knowledge between the Father and the Son.) (a) He ‘knows’ His sheep. This an individualising, not a mere general knowledge. It is something more than the knowledge of omniscience. It implies sympathy, approval, complacency, love. But His sheep also ‘know’ Him. He is to them, not an abstraction, but a reality, a Person with whom they have real intercourse. There is, so to speak, an understanding between them. (b) This corresponds with the knowledge which exists between the Father and the Son. The delight of the Father is in the Son. ‘Mine Elect in Whom My soul delighteth’; ‘I delight to do Thy Will, O My God.’ Then ‘the Father showeth the Son all that He Himself doeth’; there are no secrets between Them. So ‘I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.’ Trace here the resemblance, the correspondence.

II. His work.—This ‘knowledge’ of His people leads up to and finds its culmination in His dying for them. ‘I lay down My life for the sheep.’ All that He has done, and is doing, and will do for His sheep—is suggested in this expression.

III. The mention of His death carries Him on to the thought of the result of His work. No doubt His adversaries thought, ‘What a set He has gathered round Him; poor, ignorant, unlettered Galilæans! and this wretched blind impostor! Fit flock for such a Shepherd.’ But Jesus looks over the ages and sees the hosts of the Gentiles coming in. ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.’ ‘And there shall be one flock (notice the mistranslation), one Shepherd.’

IV. Practical application.—To ‘know about’ Christ is well. But we do ‘know’ Him with personal acquaintance? Only so can we be His sheep.

—Prebendary Gordon Calthrop.

Verse 14-15


‘I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.’

John 10:14-15

The important word in this sentence is the word ‘known’—the fourfold knowledge of Christ and His people, which forms a chain, a chain essential to our salvation. If one link in that chain be taken away, then every hope we have of heaven would fall to the ground. Observe it carefully.

I. First, Christ ‘knows’ the Father.—He ‘knew’ Him when He undertook His mission to our world. He ‘knows’ the Father’s requirements; He ‘knows’ the Father’s holiness; He ‘knows’ the Father’s heart; He ‘knows’ the Father’s will; He ‘knows’ how that Father yearns for our salvation. And, therefore it was, He did not ‘spare His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him up for us all.’

II. The Father ‘knows’ Christ.—He ‘knows’ His Sonship; He ‘knows’ His Deity; He ‘knows’ His love; He ‘knows’ His heart! He ‘knows’ His all-sufficiency! He ‘knows’ how that death of His dear Son outweighed the sins and the punishment of the whole world. He ‘knows’ the completeness of the mediatorial work.

III. Christ ‘knows’ His people.—He ‘knows ‘them collectively and He ‘knows’ them individually. He ‘knows’ their several needs. He ‘knows’ their constitution. He ‘knows’ their sorrows. He ‘knows’ their sins. He ‘knows’ their struggles. He ‘knows’ their voice. He ‘knows’ their faith. He ‘knows’ their desires.

IV. Christ’s people ‘know’ Him.—By sweetest experience, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, they ‘know.’ Each one ‘knows’ Him, ‘knows’ His brotherhood, His tenderness, His Cross, His Death, His Intercession, His Voice, His Presence, His Advent.

All this knowledge is the knowledge of the affections, the knowledge of personal experience. In all those four views, knowledge and love are the same thing. No one ‘knows’ who does not love.

Verse 16


‘Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall bear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.’

John 10:16

When our Lord Jesus Christ spoke of Himself as a Shepherd and His people as sheep, He was not giving a new idea to the Jews who heard Him. David, their king, had been a shepherd-boy, and the prophets and teachers of the people had often used the figure in speaking of God and His care for His people.

Let us first think of our Lord’s teaching as to His work.

I. Christ makes a claim to the whole world.—He is not simply the Shepherd of the Jews, of the sheep who could be seen all around; there were many others whom men did not know, many who might never have thought of themselves as being God’s sheep; for those He had a care. God saw them, even though they were as sheep scattered without a shepherd, and God had a purpose for them in their life.

II. The Divine obligation.—Why did He say He must? What was the obligation?

(a) Because it was written of Him that He should.

(b) Because the love of God required it.

(c) Because there was no one else who could. Man cannot save himself; he cannot go back to God alone.

III. And what is the end of His work?—What does He wish to do? To make all one. ‘There shall be one flock under one Shepherd.’ You notice that I say one flock, and not one fold, as it reads in our New Testament. The word ought to be ‘flock,’ and it is very unfortunate that the word ‘fold’ was ever used here. Christ came to bring life, and this life is in Himself. All His members have this life. This tells us how very close all are to one another. All are Christ’s, all have His life, so all have the same life—a spiritual life. Surely this binds them together as nothing else could. ‘Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ The end of the work of our Lord, then, is to gather out of all the world all who will come to Him, and learn of Him, and receive His gifts. He gathers them into one flock, and that flock is His own Body; and in that He gives them His own life, that all may be one in Him. This flock it is which is known as the Holy Catholic Church throughout the world.

—Bishop E. W. Osborne.


(1) ‘The Jews thought there was to he one fold, one enclosure, as it were, into which all were to be gathered, and the hedge or fence about this fold was the Jewish law. Even many of the Jews who became Christians were a long time in learning that the new Christians from among the Gentiles were not bound to keep the Jewish law; they need not become Jews. But our Lord did not say this, He did not say one fold, but one flock. Roman Catholics of to-day often seem to make the same mistake as the Jews. They think there must be one fold, and that fold is the Roman Catholic Church, and the hedge round about it is the laws which that Church, and especially the Bishop of Rome, who may be called the chief shepherd of that part of the Church, may make. They think no one can be in the fold who is not a Roman Catholic. They quite forget, and you must remember, that it is not one fold that we are to come into; we are to be gathered into one flock.’

(2) ‘External unity is not required. There may be many folds, and yet but one flock. The east and the west, the Churches of England and America, of South Africa and Canada, coloured and white, Swedish, German, Italian—so long as they hold to the principles Jesus Christ has laid down in the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, their life in Him may have many external differences, but they are not thereby divided. There are many folds, under many under-shepherds, but with it all, one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.’



In that language the Old Testament was uttering itself, from one end to the other, as well as the New. ‘Other sheep I have,’ that was the spirit of it all. The families of the earth were to be blessed in Abraham and his seed; supremely and in a transcendent sense in a distant day, in some sense every day.

I. In the Redeemer’s heart how large a place was held by the unfolded flock can readily be seen by all who will watch for it in the Gospels. It seems seldom out of His thoughts, and is expressed now with tenderness, now with austerity.

II. To endow the Apostles with power for this momentous advance was one great purpose of the Pentecostal grace. Not that we are to think their personal, their immediate and instant dispersion was to follow.

III. The maintenance of Gentile Church privilege and equality kept St. Paul a good deal upon the defensive. His determination to secure them a perfect Jewish level in matters of social intercommunion, wherein he found even St. Peter and St. Barnabas once hesitating to support him, was not the secondary matter it seemed, though but temporary and local; to vindicate their coordinate rank with Abraham’s seed in Messiah’s Church free from the Mosaic yoke, involving points of far-reaching principle, was felt by him a matter of the gravest necessity.

IV. Jesus in glory watched all, directed all.—Let us finish with that. If the Gentile redemption be what is displayed in the Epistle to Ephesus, there are other scenes still to express its heavenly beauties, win on the Christian imagination, and stir the heart that has any power to rise. Paul passes away, but the Apostle John abides, and by his inspired imagery the Saviour again depicts His great salvation in both its aspects, Israelitish and Gentilic. In one of the scenes we have a sealing of the twelve tribes, after which are ushered in before us a multitude which no man can number, all in the habiliments of salvation, out of every nation, kindred, people, and tongue. Pastoral language is again employed. ‘The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.’ In another scene an angel flies in the midst of heaven, ‘having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.’ In a final vision a new Jerusalem, adorned as a bride, descends, a city which the Apostles have made ready for the Lamb, bearing the names of His twelve, and of the twelve tribes. The nations of them that are saved walk in the light of it, and it has a tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.

Rev. C. Hole.



This ideal of a Catholic Church, in which there should be ‘neither Jew nor Greek, but in which all should be one,’ was not only unacceptable to the Jews, it stirred their opposition. Hence, Christ was in this, as in so many other matters, an offence unto them. But that which in their blindness they rejected and opposed, has become a cherished thought to those whose eyes are opened.

I. The ideal.—The gathering of the flock out of all nations and peoples and kindreds and tongues by the Great Shepherd into the family and flock of God, is seen to be the end of Christ’s work all along the Christian ages. The words of the Good Shepherd are seen to be a prophecy which is rapidly being translated into history. The ideal of the Lord is becoming an expressed fact. The calling out of the elect from the world and their union under the pastorate of Jesus, and in the Communion of His Church, is a work that is carried on through all the varied conditions of the Church’s chequered course. Soon it shall have found its full expression in that day when the fullness of the elect shall have been brought into Christ’s fold, and they shall have ‘become one Flock, one Shepherd.’ And then, when the ideal of the spiritual Israel shall be realised, shall the nations of the earth be saved.

II. But how shall this ideal be realised?—How shall the sheep of Christ be gathered out of the world, and be brought into the unity of His one flock? He Himself tells us that this gathering of the sheep shall be His own work. He it is Who will seek them, find them, call them, bring them to Himself, number them one by one with His flock. This He will do, not chiefly whilst dwelling on earth, but when He is in Heaven. Thence will He gather the elect of His flock by the power of His Spirit. Thence will He seek, and find, and fold them by the ministry of His Church. Yet this ministry shall be not so much the ministry of the Church in the world for Him as His ministry through her. The words she speaks are His words; the power in which she speaks is His power. She is His voice; it is not she who calls, but He by her. ‘Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one Fold, one Shepherd.’

III. The Church, then, is created to be the organ whereby Christ carries on His missionary work in the world.—But the co-operation of the Church with her Lord in this work is willing, and not of constraint. And this willingness is not a corporate willingness in the first place. It is a personal willingness shared in by each, though expressed in the collective and ordered work of the Church. It is when the fiery tongue rests on each that all witness for Christ. But this Baptism of Fire only falls on those who give themselves to Christ to be His fellow-workers in the gathering of His elect. It is to win us to this self-dedication that our Lord spake the words we are considering now. Listen to them again: ‘Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one Fold, one Shepherd.’ Thus speaking, Jesus takes us into closest intimacy with Himself. He bids us see the glorious ideal that is ever before Him, filling His mind with one thought, His imagination with one joyful desire, His will with one glorious purpose.

—Rev. Canon Body.

Verse 19


‘There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.’

John 10:19

We see what strifes and controversies our Lord occasioned when He was on earth. We read that ‘there was a division among the Jews for His sayings,’ and that ‘many of them said He hath a devil, and is mad,’ while others took an opposite view.

I. It may seem strange that He Who came to preach peace between God and man should be the cause of contention. But herein were His own words literally fulfilled—‘I came not to send peace, but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34). The fault was not in Christ or His doctrine, but in the carnal mind of His Jewish hearers.

II. Let us never be surprised if we see the same thing in our own day.—Human nature never changes. So long as the heart of man is without grace, so long we must expect to see it dislike the Gospel of Christ. Just as oil and water, acids and alkalies cannot combine, so in the same way unconverted people cannot really like the people of God. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God.’ ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

III. The servant of Christ must think it no strange thing if he goes through the same experience as his Master. He will often find his ways and opinions in religion the cause of strife in his own family. He will have to endure ridicule, hard words, and petty persecution.

Verse 28


‘I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand.’

John 10:28

Here we have an illustration of the vast privileges which the Lord Jesus Christ bestows on true Christians. He uses words about them of singular richness and strength. ‘I know them. I give unto them eternal life. They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.’ This sentence is like the cluster of grapes which came from Eshcol. A stronger form of speech perhaps can hardly be found in the whole range of the Bible.

I. Christ ‘knows’ His people with a special knowledge of approbation, interest, and affection. By the world around them they are comparatively unknown, uncared for, or despised. But they are never forgotten or overlooked by Christ.

II. Christ ‘gives’ His people ‘eternal life.’ He bestows on them freely a right and title to heaven, pardoning their many sins, and clothing them with a perfect righteousness. Money, and health, and worldly prosperity He often wisely withholds from them. But He never fails to give them grace, peace, and glory.

III. Christ declares that His people ‘shall never perish.’ Weak as they are, they shall all be saved. Not one of them shall be lost and cast away: not one of them shall miss heaven. If they err, they shall be brought back: if they fall, they shall be raised. The enemies of their souls may be strong and mighty, but their Saviour is mightier; and none shall pluck them out of their Saviour’s hands.

Verse 37-38


‘If I do not the works of My Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.’

John 10:37-38

Observe the importance which our Lord Jesus Christ attaches to His miracles. He appeals to them as the best evidence of His own Divine mission.

I. The mighty miracles which our Lord performed during the three years of His earthly ministry are not considered as much as they ought to be in the present day. These miracles were not few in number. Forty times and more we read in the Gospels of His doing things entirely out of the ordinary course of nature. We are so familiar with these things that we are apt to forget the mighty lesson they teach. They teach that He Who worked these miracles must be nothing less than very God. They stamp His doctrines and precepts with the mark of Divine authority.

II. Unbelieving men have tried to pour contempt on Christ’s miracles, and to deny that they were ever worked at all. But they labour in vain. Proofs upon proofs exist that our Lord’s ministry was accompanied by miracles; and that this was acknowledged by those who lived in our Lord’s time. Objectors of this sort would do well to take up the one single miracle of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, and disprove it if they can. If they cannot disprove that, they ought, as honest men, to confess that miracles are possible. And then, if their hearts are truly humble, they ought to admit that He Whose mission was confirmed by such evidence must have been the Son of God.

III. Christianity has abundant evidence that it is a religion from God.—Whether we appeal to the internal evidence of the Bible, or to the lives of the first Christians, or to prophecy, or to miracles, or to history, we get one and the same answer. All say with one voice, ‘Jesus is the Son of God, and believers have life through His Name,’


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on John 10:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 24th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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