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Amongst all the places in the Old Testament which mention this great Shepherd, there is no one doth so exactly describe him and his pastoral work, as chapter 11 of the prophet Zechariah Zechariah_11. We will fetch a few things from thence, that may serve to explain the passage now in hand:
I. He describes this great Shepherd manifesting himself, and applying himself to his great pastoral office, when the nation was now upon the brink of destruction: the prophet had foretold their ruin, and brings in this Shepherd undertaking the care of his sheep, lest they should perish too.
As to the first verse, "Open thy doors, O Lebanon"; take the Jews’ own comment upon it, who yet do, by all the skill they can, endeavour to take off the whole prophecy from those proper hinges upon which it turns.
"Forty years before the destruction [of Jerusalem], the gates of the Temple opened themselves of their own accord. Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai declaimed upon it, saying, ’O Temple, Temple, why dost thou terrify thyself? I know thy end will be destruction; for so Zechariah, the son of Iddo, hath prophesied concerning thee; Open thy doors, O Lebanon,’ " etc.
The rest that follows doth plainly enough speak out desolation and ruin, John 10:2-3; but particularly that is remarkable, John 10:6, "I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand": how manifestly doth it agree with those intestine broils and discords, those horrid seditions, stirred up amongst them! "And into the hand of his king"; i.e. Of Caesar, concerning whom they may remember they once said, "We have no king but Caesar."
II. He describes the evil shepherds of the people under a triumvirate, John 10:8; "Three shepherds also I cut off in one month," etc.; i.e. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes; which interpretation though it cannot but sound very unpleasingly in Jewish years, yet is it what seems abundantly confirmed, both from the context and the history of things. They therefore would turn the edge of the prophecy another way, the Gemarists understanding the three shepherds of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: Jarchi would have it the house of Ahab, the house of Ahaziah, and his brethren: Kimchi, the sons of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. Aben Ezra saith, "Perhaps they are the high priest Joshua, the person anointed to the wars, and the sagan; or perhaps Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi," etc.
But what can be more clear than that the prophet speaks of those shepherds that had wasted and corrupted the flock, and who, when the true Shepherd of the sheep should reveal himself, would do the like again? And who should these be but the principals and chief heads of sects, and the leaders of the people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes?
Object. But how can these properly be said to be cut off by the great Shepherd when he should come, whereas it is well enough known that these sects lived even after the death of Christ, nay, after the ruins of Jerusalem; not to say that Pharisaism hath its being amongst the Jews to this very day?
Ans. So indeed it is said, that under the gospel, the nations should not learn war any more, Isaiah 2:4; and that there should not be an infant in age, or one under age, in the new Jerusalem, Isaiah 65:20; whereas we find enough of war in every generation, and that infancy or ignorance in divine things abounds still. But nevertheless God had done his part towards the accomplishment of such prophecies; namely, he had brought in the gospel of peace and the gospel of light, that nothing should be wanting on his side that peace might reign on the earth, and infancy in divine things should be no more. So did this great Shepherd bring in the evangelical doctrine, the oracle of truth and religion, which did so beat down and confound all the vain doctrines and institutions of those sects, that, as to what related to the doctrine of Christ, there was nothing wanting to have cut off those heresies and vanities.
III. This great Shepherd broke that covenant that had been made and confirmed with that people, John 10:10; "I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people." With all the people; i.e. With all Israel, the ten and the two tribes too. And in John 10:14; the affinity and kin which was betwixt Judah and Israel is dissolved; which it would not be amiss for those to take serious notice of, who as yet expect a universal conversion of the whole nation of the Jews. Let them say by virtue of what covenant; if the covenant of grace, that makes no difference betwixt the Jew and the Greek, nor knows any one after the flesh. If by virtue of the covenant peculiarly made with that people, that was broken and dissolved, when God had gathered his flock out of that people. For,
IV. The great Shepherd, when he came, found that there must be a flock gathered in that nation, as Romans 11:5; A remnant according to the election of grace; and these he took care to call and gather before Jerusalem should be destroyed. Zechariah himself calls it the flock of slaughter; and the poor of the flock, John 10:7. Where, by the way, whoever compares the Greek version in this place must needs observe, that so the poor is, by those interpreters, jumbled and confounded into one word. For, instead of and so the poor of the flock knew, they read it, the Canaanites shall know the sheep, etc. So instead of for this, or for you, O poor of the flock, John 10:7; they read, unto the land of Canaan...I have some suspicion that these interpreters might have had an eye upon the reduction of the dispersed captivity into the land of Canaan, according to the common expectation of that nation. But this only by the by.
That of the apostle ought to be strictly heeded; Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Which indeed is, as it were, the gnomon to that chapter, and, above all other things, does interpret best the apostle’s mind. For he propounds to discourse not concerning the universal call of the Jews, but of their not being universally rejected: which may very easily be collected from the very first verse of this chapter John 10:1; "Hath God cast away his people?" that is, so cast them away that they are universally rejected. "God forbid!" for I myself am an Israelite, and am not cast away. This argument he pursues, and illustrates from the example of those most corrupted times, the age wherein Elijah lived, when they threw down the altars of God, slew his prophets, and not a few worshipped Baal of the Sidonians, whom Ahab had introduced; and almost the whole nation worshipped that golden calf or cow which Jeroboam had set up. And yet, even in that worst state of affairs, saith God, "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to that golden calf, " the common and universal error of that nation, much less to Baal of the Sidonians. "Even so" (saith the apostle), "at this present time also there is a remnant"; plainly intimating, that he does not assert or argue for the calling of the whole nation, but of that remnant only; and that he discourses concerning the present calling of that remnant, and not about any future call of the whole nation.
V. That is a vast mystery the apostle is upon, verse 25 of that chapter Romans 11:25; "Blindness hath severally happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." I render severally, or by parts, not without warrant from grammar, and according to the meaning and intention of St. Paul. For the mystery mentioned by him is, that blindness severally, and at several times, happened to the Israelites: first, the ten tribes were blinded through idolatry, and, after many ages, the two tribes, through traditions; and yet both those and these reserved together to that time, wherein the Gentiles, who had been blinded for a longer space, are called, and then both Israelites and Jews and Gentiles, being all called together, do close into one body. It is observable that the apostle, throughout this whole chapter, doth not so much as once make mention of the Jews, but of Israel, that he might include the ten tribes with the two within his discourse.
And, indeed, this great Shepherd had his flock, or his sheep, within the ten tribes, as well as within the two: and to me it is without all controversy that the gospel, in the times of the apostles, was brought and preached as well to the one as the other. Doubtless St. Peter, whilst he was in Babylon, preached to the Israelites dispersed in those countries as well as to the Jews.
VI. Some of the Gemarists do vehemently deny any conversion of the ten tribes under the Messiah: let them beware lest there be not a conversion of their own.
"The ten tribes shall never return, as it is written, ’And he cast them into another land, as it is this day,’ Deuteronomy 29:28. ’As this day passeth and shall never return, so they are gone and shall not return again.’ They are the words of R. Akibah."
"It is a tradition of the Rabbins, that the ten tribes shall not have a part in the world to come; as it is written, ’The Lord rooted them out of their land in anger and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them out into another land. He rooted them out of their own land in this world, and cast them out into another land in the world to come.’ They are the words of Rabbi."
But, in truth, when the true Messiah did appear, the ten tribes were more happily called (if I may so speak), that is, with more happy success than the Jews; because amongst those Jews that had embraced the gospel, there happened a sad and foul apostasy, the like to which we read not of concerning the ten tribes that were converted.
Ver 1. Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.2. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.3. To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.4. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.5. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
CHRYS. Our Lord having reproached the Jews with blindness, they might have said, We are not blind, but we avoid you as a deceiver. Our Lord therefore gives the marks which distinguish a robber and deceiver from a true shepherd. First come those of the deceiver and robber: Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
There is an allusion here to Antichrist, and to certain false Christs who had been, and were to be. The Scriptures He calls the door. They admit us to the knowledge of God, they protect the sheep, they shut out the wolves, they bar the entrance to heretics. He that uses not the Scriptures, but climbs up some other way, i.e. some self-chosen, some unlawful way, is a thief. Climbs up, He says, not, enters, as if it were a thief getting over a wall, and running all risks.
Some other way, may refer too to the commandments and traditions of men which the Scribes taught, to the neglect of the Law. When our Lord further on calls Himself the Door, we need not be surprised. According to the office which He bears, He is in one place the Shepherd, in another the Sheep. In that He introduces us to the Father, He is the Door, in that He takes care of us, He is the Shepherd.
AUG. Or thus: Many go under the name of good men according to the standard of the world, and observe in some sort the commandments of the Law, who yet are not Christians. And these generally boast of themselves, as the Pharisees did; Are we blind also? But inasmuch as all that they do they do foolishly, without knowing to what end it tends, our Lord said of them, Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Let the Pagans then, the Jews, the Heretics, say, "We lead a good life;" if they enter not by the door, what avails it? A good life only profits, as leading to life eternal. Indeed those cannot be said to lead a good life, who are either blindly ignorant of, or willfully despise, the end of good living. No one can hope for eternal life, who knows not Christ, who is the life, and by that door enters into the fold.
Whoso wishes to enter into the sheepfold, let him enter by the door; let him preach Christ; let him seek Christ’s glory, not his own. Christ is a lowly door, and he who enters by this door must be lowly, if he would enter with his head whole. He that does not humble, but exalt himself, who wishes to climb up over the wall, is exalted that he may fall. Such men generally try to persuade others that they may live well, and not be Christians. Thus they climb up by some other way, that they may rob and kill. They are thieves, because they call that their own, which is not; robbers, because that which they have stolen, they kill.
CHRYS. You have seen His description of a robber, now see that of the Shepherd: But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
AUG. He enters by the door, who enters by Christ, who imitates the suffering of Christ, who is acquainted with the humility of Christ, so as to feel and know, that if God became man for us, man should not think himself God, but man. He who being man wishes to appear God, does not imitate Him, who being God, became man. You are bid to think less of yourself than you are, but to know what you are. To Him the porter opens.
CHRYS. The porter perhaps is Moses; for to him the oracles of God were committed.
THEOPHYL. Or, the Holy Spirit is the porter, by whom the Scriptures are unlocked, and reveal the truth to us.
AUG. Or, the porter is our Lord Himself; for there is much less difference between a door and a porter, than between a door and a shepherd. And He has called Himself both the door and the shepherd. Why then not the door and the porter? He opens Himself, i.e. reveals Himself. If you seek another person for porter, take the Holy Spirit, of whom our Lord below said, He will guide you into all truth. The door is Christ, the Truth; who opens the door, but He that will guide you into all Truth? Whomsoever you understand here, beware that you esteem not the porter greater than the door; for in our houses the porter ranks above the door, not the door above the porter.
CHRYS. As they had called Him a deceiver, and appealed to their own unbelief as the proof of it; (Which of the rulers believes in Him?) He shows here that it was because they refused to hear Him, that they were put out of His flock. The sheep hear His voice. The Shepherd enters by the lawful door; and they who follow Him are His sheep; they who do not, voluntarily put themselves out of His flock.And He calls His own sheep by name.
AUG. He knew the names of the predestinated; as He said to His disciples, Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.And leads them out.
CHRYS. He led out the sheep, when He sent them not out of the reach of, but into the midst of, the wolves. There seems to he a secret allusion to the blind man. He called him out of the midst of the Jews; and he heard His voice.
AUG. And who is He who leads them out, but the Same who loosens the chain of their sins, that they may follow Him with free unfettered step?
GLOSS. And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, He leads them out from the darkness of ignorance into light, while He goes before in the pillar of cloud, and fire.
CHRYS. Shepherds always go behind their sheep; but He, on the contrary, goes before, to show that He would lead all to the truth.
AUG. And who is this that goes before the sheep, but He who being raised from the dead, dies no more; and who said, Father, I will also that they, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am? And the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.
CHRYS. The strangers are Theudas, and Judas, and the false apostles who came after Christ. That He might not appear one of this number, He gives many marks of difference between Him and them. First, Christ brought men to Him by teaching them out of the Scriptures; they drew men from; the Scriptures. Secondly, the obedience of the sheep; for men believed on Him, not only during His life, but after death: their followers ceased, as soon as they were gone.
THEOPHYL. He alludes to Antichrist, who shall deceive for a time, but lose all his followers when he dies.
AUG. But here is a difficulty. Sometimes they who are not sheep hear Christ’s voice; for Judas heard, who was a wolf. And sometimes the sheep hear Him not; for they who crucified Christ heard not; yet some of them were His sheep. You will say, While they did not hear, they were not sheep; the voice, when they heard it, changed them from wolves to sheep.
Still I am disturbed by the Lord’s rebuke to the shepherds in Ezekiel, Neither have you brought again that which strayed. He calls it a stray sheep, but yet a sheep all the while; though, if it strayed, it could not have heard the voice of the Shepherd, but the voice of a stranger.
What I say then is this; The Lord knows them that are His. He knows the foreknown, he knows the predestinated. They are the sheep: for a time they know not themselves, but the Shepherd knows them; for many sheep are without the fold, many wolves within. He speaks then of the predestinated. And now the difficulty is solved. The sheep do hear the Shepherd’s voice, and they only. When is that? It is when that voice said, He that endures to the end shall be saved. This speech His own hear, the alien hear not.
Ver 6. This parable spoke Jesus to them: but they understood not what things they were which he spoke to them.
AUG. Our Lord feeds by plain words, exercises by obscure. For when two persons, one godly, the other ungodly, hear the words of the Gospel, and they happen to be such that neither can understand them; one says, What He said is true and good, but we do not understand it: the other says, It is not worth attending to. The former, in faith, knocks, yes, and, if he continue to knock, it shall be opened to him. The latter shall hear the words in Isaiah, If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.
Ver 7. Then said Jesus to them again, Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.8. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.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.10. The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
CHRYS. Our Lord, to waken the attention of the Jews, unfolds the meaning of what He has said; Then said Jesus to them again, Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
AUG. Lo, the very door which He had shut up, He opens; He is the Door: let us enter, and let us enter with joy.All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers.
CHRYS. He said not this of the Prophets, as the heretics think, but of Theudas, and Judas, and other agitators. So he adds in praise of the sheep, The sheep heard them not; but he no where praises those who disobeyed the prophets, but condemns them severely.
AUG. Understand, All that ever came at variance with Me. The Prophets were not at variance with Him. They came with Him, who came with the Word of God, who spoke the truth. He, the Word, the Truth, sent heralds before Him, but the hearts of those whom He sent were His own. They came with Him, inasmuch as He is always, though He assumed the flesh in time: In the beginning was the Word. His humble advent in the flesh was preceded by just men, who believed on Him as about to come, as we believe on Him come.
The times are different, the faith is the same. Our faith knits together both those who believed that He was about to come, and those who believe that He has come. All that ever came at variance with Him were thieves and robbers; i.e. they came to steal and to kill; but the sheep did not hear them. They had not Christ’s voice; but were wanderers, dreamers, deceivers. Why He is the Door, He next explains, I am the Door; by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.
ALCUIN. As if to say, The sheep hear not them, but Me they hear; for I am the Door, and whoever enters by Me not falsely but in sincerity, shall by perseverance be saved.
THEOPHYL. The door admits the sheep into the pasture; And shall go in and out, and find pasture. What is this pasture, but the happiness to come, the rest to which our Lord brings us?
AUG. What is this, shall go in and out? To enter into the Church by Christ the Door, is a very good thing, but to go out of the Church is not. Going in must refer to inward cogitation; going out to outward action; as in the Psalm, Man goes forth to his work.
THEOPHYL. Or, to go in is to watch over the inner man; to go out, to mortify the outward man, i.e. our members which are upon the earth. He that does this shall find pasture in the life to come.
CHRYS. Or, He refers to the Apostles who went in and out boldly; for they became the masters of the world, none could turn them out of their kingdom, and they found pasture.
AUG. But He Himself explains it more satisfactorily to me in what follows: The thief comes not, but for to steal, and for to kill: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
By going in they have life; i.e. by faith, which works by love; by which faith they go into the fold. The just lives by faith. And by going out they will have it more abundantly: i.e. when true believers die, they have life more abundantly, even a life which never ends. Though in this fold there is not wanting pasture, then they will find pasture, such as will satisfy them. Today shall you be with Me in paradise.
GREG. Shall go in, i.e. to faith: shall go out, i.e. to sight: and find pasture, i.e. in eternal fullness.
ALCUIN. The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill. As if He said, And well may the sheep not hear the voice of the thief; for he comes not but for to steal: he usurps another’s office, forming his followers not on Christ’s precepts, but on his own. And therefore it follows, and to kill, i.e. by drawing them from the faith; and to destroy, i.e. by their eternal damnation.
CHRYS. The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; this was literally fulfilled in the case of those movers of sedition, whose followers were nearly all destroyed; deprived by the thief even of this present life. But came, He said, for the salvation of the sheep; That they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly, in the kingdom of heaven. This is the third mark of difference between Himself, and the false prophets.
THEOPHYL. Mystically, the thief is the devil, steals by wicked thoughts, kills by the assent of the mind to them, and destroys by acts.
Ver 11. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.12. But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees: and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep.13. The hireling flees, because he is an hireling, and cares not for the sheep.
AUG. Our Lord has acquainted us with two things which were obscure before; first, that He is the Door; and now again, that He is the Shepherd: I am the good Shepherd. Above He said that the shepherd entered by the door. If He is the Door, how does He enter by Himself? Just as He knows the Father by Himself, and we by Him; so He enters into the fold by Himself, and we by Him. We enter by the door, because we preach Christ; Christ preaches Himself. A light shows both other things, and itself too.
There is but one Shepherd. For though the rulers of the Church, those who are her sons, and not hirelings, are shepherds, they are all members of that one Shepherd. His office of Shepherd He has permitted His members to bear. Peter is a shepherd, and all the other Apostles: all good Bishops are shepherds. But none of us calls himself the door. He could not have added good, if there were not bad shepherds as well. They are thieves and robbers; or at least mercenaries.
GREG. And He adds what that goodness is, for our imitation: The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. He did what He bade, He set the example of what He commanded: He laid down His life for the sheep, that He might convert His body and blood in our Sacrament, and feed with His flesh the sheep He had redeemed.
A path is shown us wherein to walk, despising death; a stamp is applied to us, and we must submit to the impression. Our first duty is to spend our outward possessions upon the sheep; our last, if it be necessary, is to sacrifice our life for the same sheep. Whoso does not give his substance to the sheep, how can he lay down his life for them?
AUG. Christ was not the only one who ho did this. And yet if they who did it are members of Him, one and the same Christ did it always. He was able to do it without them; they were not without Him.
AUG. All these however were good shepherds, not because they shed their blood, but because they did it for the sheep. For they shed it not in pride, but in love. Should any among the heretics suffer trouble in consequence of their errors and iniquities, they forthwith boast of their martyrdom; that they may be the better able to steal under so fair a cloak: for they are in reality wolves.
But not all who give their bodies to be burned, are to be thought to shed their blood for the sheep; rather against the sheep; for the Apostle said, Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. And how has he even the smallest charity, who does not love connection with Christians? to command which, our Lord did not mention many shepherds, but one, I am the good Shepherd.
CHRYS. Our Lord shows here that He did not undergo His passion unwillingly; but for the salvation of the world. He then gives the difference between the shepherd and the hireling: But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees.
GREG. Some there are who love earthly possessions more than the sheep, and do not deserve the name of a shepherd. He who feeds the Lord’s flock for the sake of temporal hire, and not for love, is an hireling, not a shepherd. An hireling is he who holds the place of shepherd, but seeks not the gain of souls, who pants after the good things of earth, and rejoices in the pride of station.
AUG. He seeks therefore in the Church, not God, but something else. If he sought God he would be chaste; for the soul has but one lawful husband, God. Whoever seeks from God any thing beside God, seeks unchastely.
GREG. But whether a man be a shepherd or an hireling, cannot be told for certain, except in a time of trial. In tranquil times, the hireling generally stands watch like the shepherd. But when the wolf comes, then every one shows with what spirit he stood watch over the flock.
AUG. The wolf is the devil, and they that follow him; according to Matthew, Which come to you in sheep’s’ clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
AUG. Lo, the wolf has seized a sheep by the throat, the devil has enticed a man into adultery. The sinner must be excommunicated But if he is excommunicated, he will be an enemy, he will plot, he will do as much harm as he can. Wherefore you are silent, you do not censure, you have seen the wolf coming, and fled. Your body has stood, your mind has fled. For as joy is relaxation, sorrow contraction, desire a reaching forward of the mind; so fear is the flight of the mind.
GREG. The wolf too comes upon the sheep, whenever any spoiler and unjust person oppresses the humble believers. And he who seems to be shepherd, but leaves the sheep and flees, is he who dares not to resist his violence, from fear of danger to himself. He flees not by changing place, but by withholding consolation from his flock.
The hireling is inflamed with no zeal against this injustice. He only looks to outward comforts, and overlooks the internal suffering of his flock. The hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and cares not for the sheep. The only reason that the hireling flees, is because he is a hireling; as if to say, He cannot stand at the approach of danger, who does not love the sheep that he is set over, but seeks earthly gain. Such a one dares not face danger, for fear he should lose what he so much loves.
AUG. But if the Apostles were shepherds, not hirelings, why did they flee in persecution? And why did our Lord say, When they persecute you in this city, flee you into another? Let us knock, then will come one, who will explain.
AUG. A servant of Christ, and minister of His Word and Sacraments, may flee from city to city, when he is specially aimed at by the persecutors, apart from his brethren; so that his flight does not leave the Church destitute. But when all, i.e. Bishops, Clerics, and Laics, are in danger in common, let not those who need assistance be deserted by those who should give it.
Let all flee together if they can, to some place of security; but, if any are obliged to stay, let them not be forsaken by those who are bound to minister to their spiritual wants. Then, under pressing persecution, may Christ’s ministers flee from the place where they are, when none of Christ’s people remain to be ministered to, or when that ministry may be fulfilled by others who have not the same cause for flight. But when the people stay, and the ministers flee, and the ministry ceases, what is this but a damnable flight of hirelings, who care not for the sheep?
AUG. On the good side are the door, the porter, the shepherd, and the sheep; on the bad, the thieves, the robbers, the hirelings, the wolf.
AUG. We must love the shepherd, beware of the wolf, tolerate the hireling. For the hireling is useful so long as he sees not the wolf, the thief, and the robber. When he sees them, he flees.
AUG. Indeed he would not be a hireling, did he not receive wages from the hirer. Sons wait patiently for the eternal inheritance of their father; the hireling looks eagerly for the temporal wages from his hirer; and yet the tongues of both speak abroad the glory of Christ.
The hireling hurts, in that he does wrong, not in that he speaks right: the grape bunch hangs amid thorns; pluck the grape, avoid the thorn. Many that seek temporal advantages in the Church, preach Christ, and through them Christ’s voice is heard; and the sheep follow not the hireling, but the voice of the Shepherd heard through the hireling.
Ver 14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.15. As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.16. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.17. Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.18. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.19. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings20. And many of them said, He has a devil, and is mad; why hear you him?21. Others said, These are not the words of him that has a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
CHRYS. Two evil persons have been mentioned, one that kills, and robs the sheep, another that does not hinder: the one standing for those movers of seditions; the other for the rulers of the Jews, who did not take care of the sheep committed to them. Christ distinguishes Himself from both; from the one who came to do hurt by saying, I am come that they might have life; from those who overlook the rapine of the wolves, by saying that He gives His life for the sheep.
Wherefore He said again, as He said before, I am the good Shepherd. And as He had said above that the sheep heard the voice of the Shepherd and followed Him, that no one might have occasion to ask, What say you then of those that believe not; He adds, And I know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As Paul too said, God has not cast away His people, whom He foreknew.
GREG. As if He said, I love My sheep, and they love and follow Me. For he who loves not the truth, is as yet very far from knowing it.
THEOPHYL. Hence the difference of the hireling and the Shepherd. The hireling does not know his sheep, because he sees them so little. The Shepherd knows His sheep, because He is so attractive to them.
CHRYS. Then that you may not attribute to the Shepherd and the sheep the same measure of knowledge, He adds, As the Father knows Me, even so know I the Father: i.e. I know Him as certainly as He knows Me. This then is a case of like knowledge, the other is not; as He said, No man knows who the Son is, but the Father.
GREG. And I lay down My life for My sheep. As if to say, This is why I know My Father, and am known by the Father, because I lay down My life for My sheep; i.e. by My love for My sheep, to show how much I love My Father.
CHRYS. He gives it too as a proof of His authority. In the same way the Apostle maintains his own commission in opposition to the false Apostles, by enumerating his dangers and sufferings.
THEOPHYL. For the deceivers did not expose their lives for the sheep, but, like hirelings, deserted their followers. Our Lord, on the other hand, protected His disciples: Let these go their way.
GREG. But as He came to redeem not only the Jews, but the Gentiles, He adds, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.
AUG. The sheep hitherto spoken of are those of the stock of Israel according to the flesh. But there were others of the stock of Israel, according to faith, Gentiles, who were as yet out of the fold; predestinated, but not yet gathered together. They are not of this fold, because they are not of the race of Israel, but they will be of this fold: Them also I must bring.
CHRYS. What wonder that these should hear My voice, and follow Me, when others are waiting to do the same. Both these flocks are dispersed, and without shepherds; for it follows, And they shall hear My voice. And then He foretells their future union: And there shall be one fold and one Shepherd.
GREG. Of two flocks He makes one fold, uniting the Jews and Gentiles in His faith.
THEOPHYL. For there is one sign of baptism for all, and one Shepherd, even the Word of God. Let the Manichean mark; there is but one fold and one Shepherd set forth both in the Old and New Testaments.
AUG. What does He mean then when He says, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? Only, that whereas He manifested Himself personally to the Jews, He did not go Himself to the Gentiles, but sent others.
CHRYS. The word must here (I must bring) does not signify necessity, but only that the thing would take place. Therefore does My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. They had called Him an alien from His Father.
AUG. i.e. Because I die, to rise again. There is great force in, I lay down. Let not the Jews, He says, boast; rage they may, but if I should not choose to lay down My life, what will they do by raging?
THEOPHYL. The Father does not bestow His love on the Son as a reward for the death He suffered in our behalf; but He loves Him, as beholding in the Begotten His own essence, whence proceeded such love for mankind.
CHRYS. Or He says, in condescension to our weakness, Though there were nothing else which made Me love you, this would, that you are so loved by My Father, that, by dying for you, I shall win His love. Not that He was not loved by the Father before, or that we are the cause of such love. For the same purpose He shows that He does not come to His Passion unwillingly: No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself:
AUG. Wherein He showed that His natural death was not the consequence of sin in Him, but of His own simple will, which was the why, the when, and the how: I have power to lay it down.
CHRYS. As they had often plotted to kill Him, He tells them their efforts will be useless, unless He is willing. I have such power over My own life, that no one can take it from Me, against My will. This is not true of men. We have not the power of laying down our own lives, except we put ourselves to death.
Our Lord alone has this power. And this being true, it is true also that He can take it again when He pleases: And I have power to take it again: which words declare beyond a doubt a resurrection. That they might not think His death a sign that God had forsaken Him, He adds, This commandment have I received from My Father; i.e. to lay down My life, and take it again. By which we must not understand that He first waited to hear this commandment, and had to learn His work; He only shows s that that work which He voluntarily undertook, was not against the Father’s will.
THEOPHYL. He only means His perfect agreement with His Father.
ALCUIN. For the Word does not receive a command by word, but contains in Himself all the Father’s commandments. When the Son is said to receive what He possesses of Himself, His power is not lessened, but only His generation declared. The Father gave the Son every thing in begetting Him. He begat Him perfect.
THEOPHYL. After declaring Himself the Master of His own life and death, which was a lofty assumption, He makes a more humble confession; thus wonderfully uniting both characters; showing that He was neither inferior to or a slave of the Father on the one hand, nor an antagonist on the other; but of the same power and wild.
AUG. How does our Lord lay down His own life? Christ is the Word, and man, i.e. in soul and body. Does the Word lay down His life, and take it again; or does the human soul, or does the flesh? If it was the Word of God that laid down His soul and took it again, that soul was at one time separated from the Word.
But, though death separated the soul and body, death could not separate the Word and the soul. It is still more absurd to say that the soul laid down itself; if it could not be separated from the Word, how could it be from itself? The flesh therefore lays down its life and take it again, not by its own power, but by the power of the Word which dwells in it. This refutes the Apollinarians, who say that Christ had not a human, rational soul.
ALCUIN. But the light shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a division among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He has a devil, and is mad.
CHRYS. Because He spoke as one greater than man, they said He had a devil. But that He had not a devil, others proved from His works: Others said, These are not the words of Him that has a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? As if to say, "Not even the words themselves are those of one that has a devil; but if the words do not convince you, be persuaded by the works."
Our Lord having already given proof who He was by His works, was silent. They were unworthy of an answer. Indeed, as they disagreed amongst themselves, an answer was unnecessary. Their opposition only brought out, for our imitation, our Lord’s gentleness, and long suffering.
ALCUIN. We have heard of the patience of God, and of salvation preached amid revilings. They obstinately preferred tempting Him to obeying Him.
Ver 22. And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.23. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.24. Then came the Jews round about him, and said to him, How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ, tell us plainly.25. Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.26. But you believe not, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you.27. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.28. And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.29. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.30. I and my Father are one.
AUG. And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication. Encænia is the feast of the dedication of the temple; from the Greek word signifying new. The dedication of any thing new was called encænia.
CHRYS. It was the feast of the dedication of the temple, after the return from the Babylonish captivity.
ALCUIN. Or, it was in memory of the dedication under Judas Maccabeus. The first dedication was that of Solomon in the autumn; the second that of Zorobabel, and the priest Jesus in the spring. This was in winter time.
BEDE. Judas Maccabeus instituted an annual commemoration of this dedication.
THEOPHYL. The Evangelist mentions the time of winter, to show that it was near His passion. He suffered in the following spring; for which reason He took up His abode at Jerusalem.
GREG. Or because the season of cold was in keeping with the cold malicious hearts of the Jews.
CHRYS. Christ was present with much zeal at this feast, and thenceforth stayed in Judea; His passion being now at hand. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.
ALCUIN. It is called Solomon’s porch, because Solomon went to pray there. The porches of a temple are usually named after the temple. If the Son of God walked in a temple where the flesh of brute animals was offered up, how much more will He delight to visit our house of prayer, in which His own flesh and blood are consecrated;
THEOPHYL. Be you also careful, in the winter time, i.e. while yet in this stormy wicked world, to celebrate the dedication of your spiritual temple, by ever renewing yourself, ever rising upward in heart. Then will Jesus be present with you in Solomon’s porch, and give you safety under His covering. But in another life no man will be able to dedicate Himself.
AUG. The Jews cold in love, burning in their malevolence, approached Him not to honor, but persecute. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said to Him, How long do you make us to doubt? If You be the Christ, tell us plainly. They did not want to know the truth, but only to find ground of accusation.
CHRYS. Being able to find no fault with His works, they tried to catch Him in His words. And mark their perversity. When He instructs by His discourse, they say, What sign show You? When He demonstrates by His works, they say, If you be the Christ, tell us plainly. Either way they are determined to oppose Him.
There is great malice in that speech, Tell us plainly. He had spoken plainly, when up at the feasts, and had hid nothing. They preface however with flattery: How long do you make us to doubt? as if they were anxious to know the truth, but really only meaning to provoke Him to say something that they might lay hold of.
ALCUIN. They accuse Him of keeping their minds in suspense and uncertainty, who had come to save their souls.
AUG. They wanted our Lord to say, I am the Christ. Perhaps, as they had human notions of the Messiah, having failed to discern His divinity in the Prophets they wanted Christ to confess Himself the Messiah, of the seed of David; that they might accuse Him of aspiring to the regal power.
ALCUIN. And thus they intended to give Him into the hands of the Proconsul for punishment, as an usurper against the emperor. Our Lord so managed His reply as to stop the mouths of His calumniators, open those of the believers; and to those who inquired of Him as a man, reveal the mysteries of His divinity: Jesus answered them, I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.
CHRYS. He reproves their malice, for pretending that a single word would convince them, whom so many words had not. If you do not believe My works, He says, how will you believe My words? And He adds why they do not believe: But you believe not, because you are not of My sheep.
AUG. He saw that they were persons predestinated to eternal death, and not those for whom He had bought eternal life, at the price of His blood. The sheep believe, and follow the Shepherd.
THEOPHYL. After He had said, You are not of My sheep, He exhorts them to become such: My sheep hear My voice.
ALCUIN. i.e. Obey My precepts from the heart. And I know them, and they follow Me, here by walking in gentleness and innocence, hereafter by entering the joys of eternal life.
And I give to them eternal life.
AUG. This is the pasture of which He spoke before And shall find pasture. Eternal life is called a goodly pasture: the grass thereof wither not, all is spread with verdure. But these cavilers thought only of this present life. And they shall not perish eternally; as if to say, you shall perish eternally, because you are not of My sheep.
THEOPHYL. But how then did Judas perish? Because he did not continue to the end. Christ speaks of them who persevere. If any sheep is separated from the flock, and wanders from the Shepherd, it incurs danger immediately.
AUG. And He adds why they do not perish: Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. Of those sheep of which it is said, The Lord knows them that are His, the wolf robs none, the thief takes none, the robber kills none. Christ is confident of their safety; and He knows what He gave up for them.
HILARY. This is the speech of conscious power. Yet to show, that though of the Divine nature He has His nativity from God, He adds, My Father which gave Me them is greater than all. He does not conceal His birth from the Father, but proclaims it. For that which He received from the Father, He received in that He was born from Him. He received it in the birth itself, not after it; though He was born when He received it.
AUG. The Son, born from everlasting of the Father, God from God, has not equality with the Father by growth, but by birth. This is that greater than all which the Father gave Him b; viz. to be His Word, to be His Only-Begotten Son, to be the brightness of His light.
Wherefore no man takes His sheep out of His hand, any more than from His Father’s hand: And no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. If by hand we understand power, the power of the Father and the Son is one, even as Their divinity is one. If we understand the Son, the Son is the hand of the Father, not in a bodily sense, as if God the Father had limbs, but as being He by Whom all things were made.
Men often call other men hands, when they make use of them for any purpose. And sometimes a man’s work is itself called his hand, because made by his hand; as when a man is said to know his own hand, when be recognizes his own handwriting. In this place, however, hand signifies power. If we take it for Son, we shall be in danger of imagining that if the Father has a hand, and that hand is His Son, the Son must have a Son too.
HILARY. The hand of the Son is spoken of as the hand of the Father, to let you see, by a bodily representation, that both have the same nature, that the nature and virtue of the Father is in the Son also.
CHRYS. Then that you may not suppose that the Father’s power protects the sheep, while He is Himself too weak to do so, He adds, I and My Father are one.
AUG. Mark both those words, one and are, and you will be delivered from Scylla and Charybdis. In that He says, one the Arian, in we are the Sabellian, is answered. There are both Father and Son. And if one, then there is no difference of persons between them.
AUG. We are one. What He is, that am I, in respect of essence, not of relation.
HILARY. The heretics, since they cannot gainsay these words, endeavor by an impious lie to explain them away. They maintain that this unity is unanimity only; a unity of will, not of nature, i.e. that the two are one, not in that they are the same, but in that they will the same. But they are one, not by any economy merely, but by the nativity of the Son’s nature, since there is no falling off of the Father’s divinity in begetting Him.
They are one whilst the sheep that are not plucked out of the Son’s hand, are not plucked out of the Father’s hand: whilst in Him working, the Father works; whilst He is in the Father, and the Father in Him. This unity, not creation but nativity, not will but power, not unanimity but nature accomplishes.
But we deny not therefore the unanimity of the Father and Son; for the heretics, because we refuse to admit concord in the place of unity, accuse us of making a disagreement between the Father and Son. We deny not unanimity, but we place it on the ground of unity. The Father and Son are one in respect of nature, honor, and virtue: and the same nature cannot will different things.
Ver 31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him,32. Jesus answered them, "Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me?"33. The Jews answered him, saying, "For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God."34. Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, ’I said, you are gods?’35. If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;36. Say you of him, whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, you blaspheme; because I said, I am the Son of God?37. If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.38. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him."
AUG. At this speech, I and My Father are one, the Jews could not restrain their rage, but ran to take up stones, after their hardhearted way: Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
HILARY. The heretics now, as unbelieving and rebellious against our Lord in heaven, show their impious hatred by the stones, i.e. the words they cast at Him; as if they would drag Him down again from His throne to the cross.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord remonstrates with them; Many good works have I showed you from My Father, strewing that they had no just reason for their anger.
ALCUIN. Healing of the sick, teaching, miracles. He showed them of the Father, because He sought His Father’s glory in all of them. For which of these works do you stone Me? They confess, though reluctantly, the benefit they have received from Him, but charge Him at the same time with blasphemy, for asserting His equality with the Father;
For a good work we stone you not, but for blasphemy; and because that You, being a man, make Yourself God.
AUG. This is their answer to the speech, I and My Father are one. Lo, the Jews understood what the Arians understand not. For they are angry, for this very reason, that they could not conceive but that by saying, I and My Father are one, He meant the equality of the Father and the Son.
HILARY. The Jew said, You being a man, the Arian, you being a creature: but both say, You make yourself God. The Arian supposes a God of a new and different substance a God of another kind, or not a God at all. He said, You are not Son by birth, you art not God of truth; you art a superior creature.
CHRYS. Our Lord did not correct the Jews, as if they misunderstood His speech, but confirmed and defended it, in the very sense in which they had taken it. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law,
AUG. i.e. the Law given to you, I have said, you are gods? God saith this by the Prophet in the Psalm. Our Lord calls all those Scriptures the Law generally, though elsewhere He spiritually distinguishes the Law from the Prophets. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
In another place He makes a threefold division of the Scriptures; All things must he fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me. Now He calls the Psalms the Law, and thus argues from them; If he called them gods to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say you of Him whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, you blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God?
HILARY. Before proving that He and His Father are one, He answers the absurd and foolish charge brought against Him, that He being man made Himself God. When the Law applied this title to holy men, and the indelible word of God sanctioned this use of the incommunicable name, it could not be a crime in Him, even though He were man, to make Himself God.
The Law called those who were mere men, gods; and if any man could bear the name religiously, and without arrogance, surely that man could, who was sanctified by the Father, in a sense in which none else is sanctified to the Sonship; as the blessed Paul said, Declared to be the Son, of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness. For or all this reply refers to Himself as man; the Son of God being also the Son of man.
AUG. Or sanctified, i.e. in begetting, gave Him holiness, begat Him holy. If men to whom the word of God came were called gods, much more the Word of God Himself is God. If men by partaking of the word of God were made gods, much more is the Word of which they partake, God.
THEOPHYL. Or, sanctified, i.e. set apart to be sacrificed for the world: a proof that He was God in a higher sense than the rest. To save the world is a divine work, not that of a man made divine by grace.
CHRYS. Or, we must consider this a speech of humility, made to conciliate men. After it he leads them to higher things; If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; which is as much as to say, that He is not inferior to the Father. As they could not see His substance, He directs them to His works, as being like and equal to the Father’s. For the equality of their works, proved tile equality of their power.
HILARY. What place has adoption, or the mere conception of a name then, that we should not believe Him to be the Son of God by nature, when He tells us to believe Him to be the Son of God, because the Father’s nature showed itself in Him by His works?
A creature is not equal and like to God: no other nature has power comparable to the divine. He declares that He is carrying on not His own work, but the Father’s, lest in the greatness of the works, the nativity of His nature be forgotten.
And as under the sacrament of the assumption of a human body in is the womb of Mary, the Son of God was not discerned, this must be gathered from His work; But if I do, though you believe not Me, believe the works.
Why does the sacrament of a human birth hinder the understanding of the divine, when the divine birth accomplishes all its work by aid of the human? Then He tells them what they should gather from His works; That you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. The same declaration again, I am the Son of God: I and the Father are one.
AUG. The Son does not say, The Father is in Me, and I in Him, in the sense in which men who think and act aright may say the like; meaning that they partake of God’s grace, and are enlightened by His Spirit. The Only-begotten Son of God is in the Father, and the Father in Him, as an equal in an equal.
Ver 39. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,40. And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.41. And many resorted to him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spoke of this man were true.42. And many believed in him there.
BEDE. The Jews still persist in their madness; Therefore they sought again to take Him.
AUG. To lay hold of Him, not by faith and the understanding, but with blood thirsty violence. Do you so lay hold of Him, that you may have sure hold; they would fain have laid hold on Him, but they could not: for it follows, But He escaped out of their hand. They did lay hold of Him with the hand of faith. It was no great matter for the Word to rescue His flesh from the hands of flesh.
CHRYS. Christ, after discoursing on some high truth, commonly retires immediately, to give time to the fury of people to abate, during His absence. Thus He did now: He went away again beyond Jordan, into the place where John at first baptized. He went there that He might recall to people’s minds, what had gone on there; John’s preaching and testimony to Himself.
BEDE. He was followed there by many: And many resorted to Him, and said, John did no miracle.
AUG. Did not cast out devils, did not give sight to the blind, did not raise the dead.
CHRYS. Mark their reasoning, John did no miracle, but this Man did; wherefore He is the superior. But lest the absence of miracles should lessen the weight of John’s testimony, they add, But all things that John spoke of this Man were true.
Though he did no miracle, yet every thing he said of Christ was true, whence they conclude, if John was to be believed, much more this Man, who has the evidence of miracles. Thus it follows, And many believed in Him.
AUG. These laid hold of Him while abiding, not, like the Jews, when departing. Let us approach by the candle to the day. John is the candle, and gave testimony to the day.
THEOPHYL. We may observe that our Lord often brings out the people into solitary places, thus ridding them of the society of the unbelieving, for their furtherance in the faith: just as He led the people into the wilderness, when He gave them the old Law.
Mystically, Christ departs from Jerusalem, i.e. from the Jewish people; and goes to a place where are springs of water, i.e. to the Gentile Church, that has the waters of baptism. And many resort to Him, passing over the Jordan, i.e. through baptism.
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Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on John 10". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany