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THE GOOD SHEPHERD
John 10:1-29. “ Truly, truly, I say unto you, The one not coming in through the door, but climbing up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.” It is subsequently revealed that Christ Himself is the door. I have heard superstitious, ignorant preachers hold up water baptism as the door, and contend most pertinaciously that you must receive it according to their ipse dixit, or lose your soul. “ Let God be true, and every man a liar.” Here you see that Christ Himself is the door into the fold of redeeming grace, the Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. Hence it is silly heresy to talk about any other door, and, as here Jesus says, the one entering in through another door is a thief and a robber: A thief, because he is trying to steal heaven for himself without paying the price forsaking all, and following Jesus to Calvary, and having old Adam crucified. He’s a robber, because he robs all who follow him of their heavenly hopes and never-dying souls. “ He that cometh in through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.” The porter here is none other than the Holy Ghost, who goes before and prepares the way for Jesus; i. e., opens the heart and lets Him in. So the blessed Holy Spirit keeps the door of the heart, and if you yield to His heavenly influence, will certainly open it and let Jesus come in. In a similar, but a subordinate sense, this is true of all who faithfully follow the Good Shepherd. If you are truly the Lord’s blood-washed, spirit-filled, fire-baptized preacher, the Holy Spirit will go before you, and open the hearts of the Lord’s elect, give you audience with them, and make you humbly instrumental in doing them good. Here we see that the Lord’s sheep know His voice, and He calls each one by name. In Palestine there are no fences, and all stock are herded, the herdsmen remaining with them day and night. An old tourist, who has spent twenty-five years in that country escorting travelers all over it, and is intimately acquainted with everything appertaining to it, related to me the literal fulfillment of this Scripture at the present day; e. g., a sheep has been lost out of a flock, and the shepherd surmises that it has gotten into some other, calls to his neighbor shepherd on a contiguous mountain, “Have you any stray sheep?” “I do not know. Wait a minute, and I will see.” He calls out to his flock, and they all quit grazing, and raise up their heads to hear his voice, except one, which pays no attention to him, but grazes on. Then he answers, “Yes, I have one that does not belong to me. Come and see if it is yours.” So he comes over and calls, and none of the flock quit grazing to give him any attention except that one, which holds up his head and listens to him. Then the shepherd says,” Take it along; it is yours.” It is very consolatory to know that the Good Shepherd is so familiar with us as to call us all by name. During my childhood and youth, I heard my name constantly. Since I entered public, professional life, I am called by other epithets, and seldom hear the name given to me by my beloved parents, who are now in glory. When I meet an old friend of my boyhood, who freely calls me by my name, I feel good. “ When he may put out all his own, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.” It is not the custom of the Oriental shepherd to drive his flock, but to lead them, and they always follow whithersoever he goes. This is also the custom in the great West, where they are herded after the manner of the Old World. An old California shepherd told me that he was herding two thousand sheep up on the mountain, when a snow fell, covering the grass so they could not get it. Then, mounting his pony and calling aloud, he sets out for the plains, where the snow never falls, the whole flock following him. We should adhere pertinaciously to our Savior’s Word, and never drive, but always lead the people of God. There is but one way to lead them, and that is to be more proficient in the Truth of God, a better exegete of the Scripture, more zealous for truth and righteousness, more abundant in good works, more humble, meek, and lowly, and more like Jesus, than they are. If some of them excel us in Christ-likeness, we should rejoice in God, and be a follower of such, as they follow Jesus. Pastor is a Latin word, which means shepherd; episcopos, bishop, being the Greek. O how few pastors actually lead their flocks in the way of humility, love, holiness, and heaven! All who do not thus lead them should resign at once. How common is it now, rather than lead, thus diametrically to antagonize the precept and example of the Chief Shepherd!
“ But they will not follow another, but will fly from him , because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This explains the reason why the godly members of Churches in all ages have been stigmatized as schismatical, revolutionary, and unmanageable. It is because there is a stranger in the pulpit, and they are the Lord’s true sheep, and will not follow him. At this point bloody persecutions have broken out, ever and anon, through all bygone ages. You have nothing to do but give this matter a little attention, and see how carnal pastors are utterly incompetent to manage the spiritual members of their congregations. To follow them would be to go down to perdition. The Lord’s sheep never have followed, and never will fallow, the voice of a stranger. “ Jesus spake this parable to them; and they did not know those things which Jesus was saying to them.” An unspiritual audience frequently signally fails to understand spiritual truth. “ Then Jesus said, Truly, truly, I say unto you, That I am the door of the sheep.” Hence you see we must come to Jesus personally, and pass through His arms into the fold of salvation. Consequently all of the Lord’s sheep enjoy a happy, personal acquaintance with the Good Shepherd, who, like the Palestinean herdsman, abides with His flock night and day. “All, so many as came, are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them.” Here we have ethon, “came,” in the second aorist tense, not only past, but instantaneous and complete, alluding to Satan and his demoniacal armies, who made the first run on the world, and did their utmost to capture it all, four thousand years having rolled away before the Incarnate Shepherd came on the earth. The sheep were here in all ages, but did not hearken to the voice of the counterfeit shepherds.
“ I am the door; through Me, if any one may enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.” This is a beautiful, natural description of nomadic life among the Orientals, the flock going out and coming in, led by the shepherd. How beautifully symbolic of the spiritual shepherdhood! N.B. There are no fences in that country, the sheep having access to any and every place whither the good shepherd may lead them. You can not find a trace nor a track of denominationalism in the Bible. This is man’s work, Satan thus building up fences to separate the Lord’s sheep, so he can starve at least some of them to death; as there is always plenty of good grass in some river valley, mountain cove, or fertile plain, where the showers fall and keep the fields always green. Consequently, if there were no fences, the sheep could all find good grazing, live fat and flourishing. All the great revivals in bygone ages have conduced to break down these partition walls. The present holiness movement is doing a grand work, knocking down the fences, and letting the Lord’s sheep come together and enjoy the good grass in all the different pastures. Besides, entire sanctification disencumbers people of every burden, making them active as catamounts, so they can jump over all the devil’s fences into a Methodist clover-field, a Baptist blue- grass pasture, a Presbyterian wheat-field, or a grand Quaker lawn, where a variety of grasses grow, and thus availing themselves of the wholesome pabulum which the Good Shepherd provides. O how we flourish and fatten, the beautiful lambs skipping on all the hills, and the copious white fleeces washed clean in the crystal rivers, which course through the fertile plains of Immanuel’s pasture-lands! “ The thief does not come except that he may steal, murder, and destroy.” All carnal, worldly preachers belong to the catalogue of these thieves, who are really actuated by carnal motives, and the effect of their work is to steal the fleece, fat, and milk of God’s flock, and destroy them, because they do not care for their souls; so when they get what they have, they let Satan take their souls. “ I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” We have life in regeneration, and the same life superabounding in sanctification.
“ I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” As Jesus died to save the whole world, so we, as His subordinate shepherds, should be ready at all times to lay down our lives for souls.
“ The hireling, not being a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flies, and the wolf seizes them and scatters them; because he is an hireling, and there is not a care to him concerning the sheep.” Read Ezekiel 34:0 to the shepherds abiding in their tents, feasting on the fat, drinking the milk, and clothing themselves with the wool of the flock, while the sheep are scattered abroad, on every high hill, down in every deep valley, wandering amid the crags and precipices, the wolves devouring them without mercy. The above statement of our Savior with reference to the hireling shepherd, certainly does sweep the salaried ministry from the face of the earth. We dare not stipulate and make finances a consideration, lest we fall under the ban of the hireling shepherd. O how significant in this connection the faithful words of Peter, while venerable with years and looking bloody martyrdom in the face! “ Therefore I, being an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, also a participant of the glory about to be revealed, exhort the elders who are among you: Feed the flock of God which is among you, not from constraint, but willingly, for God ’ s sake; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; nor as it were domineering over the heritages, but being examples of the flock; and the Chief Shepherd appearing, you shall receive a crown of glory, which will never fade away.” The man who is afraid in reference to his temporal support has mistaken his calling, or at least he has not tarried long at Jerusalem, nor received the “perfect love, which casts out fear” of starvation and everything else. The Lord does not want any shepherds who are troubled with fears in reference to temporal support. Full salvation clears all that away, and prepares you to go to Greenland, and freeze to death for Jesus’ sake, or to India and starve, and in either case, die shouting, in glowing anticipation of a martyr’s crown, the grandest boon achievable beneath the skies. These declarations of Jesus abundantly explained the present deplorable apostasy of the Churches. The devil’s wolves come round in the form of dances, frolics, theaters, circuses, card- parties, horse-races, saloons, etc. The pastor sees his flock going headlong to ruin, ignores the whole matter, and plays dummy. Why? If he takes the devil by the throat, does his duty, contends for the faith once delivered to the saints, preaches holiness or hell like lightning, and enforces discipline, fearless of men and devils, taking the rotten potatoes all out of the barrel so as to save the few sound ones, they will get mad at him, refuse to pay their assessments, his salary must be reported largely deficient at the ensuing Conference, himself discounted for inefficiency, and be taken out of the fat station and sent to a poor circuit. What is the result? His courage fails, and the wolves devour the flock: he sells out their souls to the devil for filthy lucre, receives a fat salary, lives like a king, lets his own children go to the devil; is honored and applauded as an efficient and faithful pastor, while heaven mourns and hell rejoices. What is the solution of this dismal problem? He is a hireling shepherd, and Jesus says, for that very reason, he is utterly untrustworthy; for the sake of his salary, he lets the wolves devour the sheep. You see the point? He should be no hireling, but a volunteer for Jesus, to save souls from hell, and looking to God alone for support, temporal and spiritual. Let me corroborate the venerable apostle I assure you, God will be everything to you, and feed you and yours, like He feeds the birds. I have been a preacher longer than Peter, but not so long as John. So I gladly add my testimony to theirs. O Lord, what shall become of Thy Church under a hireling ministry? Jesus tells the dark secret. Satan’s wolves capture and scatter the flock. “ I am the Good Shepherd, and know Mine, and Mine know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” How grand and glorious is the preaching of Jesus on the direct witness of the Spirit! He knows every true heart, and every faithful soul knows Him. Blessed consolation! Here He affirms repeatedly that He lays down His life for the sheep. That is true subjectively, as none but the elect avail themselves of His vicarious atonement; while objectively, He gave His life for all, making their salvation a gracious possibility. “He tasted death for every one.” (Hebrews 2:9.) “ But I have other sheep, which are not of this fold, and it behooveth Me to bring them, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one Shepherd and one fold.” And the other sheep, not of the Jewish fold, were in all the Gentile world. Here you see that the Lord wills but one fold, as there is but one Shepherd. He broke down the partition wall between the Jews and the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:0); and you may rest assured that He is grieved over all the partition walls which have ever been built up by the sects and denominations . “ Therefore the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again.” In the track of Jesus and two hundred millions of martyrs, we have blessed assurance that if we lay down our lives for Him, we shall follow Him in the glorious resurrection, receiving life immortal, triumphant over death, hell, and the grave, and glorious beyond all possible conception. “ No one taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; but I have the privilege to lay it down, and I have the privilege to take it again; this commandment I received from My Father.” With Jesus, our Paragon, and like Him constantly ready for martyrdom, O what a glorious privilege to be one of His sheep, and even a subordinate shepherd! The elect of God are in every nation, the sheep of the Lord’s pasture, and exposed to prowling wolves, roaring lions, and bloodthirsty tigers. O what a grand open door for the subordinate shepherds of Jesus, to go away to the mountains, deserts, and jungles, hunt the lost sheep, and bring them back to the fold! They are all around us, invaded, desolated, and scattered by the ferocious beasts of prey, beside the millions in heathen lands. If you could only look up to heaven, and see the crown of glory in the hand of the Chief Shepherd, ready to place on the brow of the most humble man or woman who will dare to go out in the name of the Good Shepherd, and hunt up the lost sheep, and lead them into green pastures, where they can lie down beside the still waters, methinks every reader of these lines would cry out: “Good Shepherd, let me go. I do not wait for the hire of paltry pelf. I am ready to lay down my life for the sheep.” Mark it down, we can not depend on a hireling ministry to do this work. Jesus has so decided, and He makes no mistakes.
“ Again there was a division among the Jews on account of these words. Then many of them were saying, He hath a demon, and is gone mad; why do you hear Him? Others were saying, These are not the words of a demonized man; whether is a demon able to open the eyes of the blind?”
“ The servant is not above his Lord, nor the disciple above his Teacher.” You see here how they declared that Jesus had a demon, and was gone mad; i. e., that He was actually run mad by the demon which possessed Him. You see here that many of His audience spoke out, pleading with the people to go away and not listen to Him, as He was a demonized madman. Do you not know that the carnal world and counterfeit religion are the same today as in our Savior’s time? Rely upon it, if you go out and preach the truth as it is in Jesus, fearless of men and devils, they will talk about you in the scurrilous and blasphemous manner in which they denounced and anathematized Him. “ And it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem; it was winter.” This feast was the anniversary of the temple’s dedication, after it had been purified from idolatry and thoroughly repaired, at the close of the three years and a half, during which it was polluted by idol worship during the occupancy of the Syrians, and the time was B. C. 25.
“ And Jesus was walking about in the temple, in the Porch of Solomon.” This was not connected with the temple proper, but was a magnificent building, erected by King Solomon, near the Beautiful Gate, leading through the east wall of the city into the Temple Campus, and about six hundred yards northeast of the temple proper, as all the campus, about thirty-five acres, with its many buildings, was denominated The Temple. “ Then the Jews surrounded Him, and continued to say to Him, How long will You take away our life? If Thou art the Christ, tell us openly.” This seems like a reasonable appeal, begging Him to relieve all their suspense, solicitude, and torture by telling them outright whether He is the Christ. They had a law among themselves that if any one claimed to be the Christ, he should be brought before the Sanhedrin for examination. In this way they were hypocritically endeavoring to get some clue at Him to make Him a prisoner. Besides, it is well understood that the Christ was to be King of the Jews. Hence the liability of bringing Him into trouble with the Roman Government, and having Him arraigned before Pilate on the charge of high treason. While thus they outwardly manifest sincerity and candor, Jesus read their hearts, and knew the diabolism of their intention. “ Jesus responded, I told you, and you do not believe; the works which I do in the name of My Father, these testify concerning Me.” The healing of the man born blind, about which they all well knew, was all that honest men could want by way of assurance as to His Christhood. So He refers them to His miracles, which spoke louder than words. “ But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.” This tells the dark secret. Those Jews, the favored people of God, the leading preachers and laymen, standing at the head of the Church, were not of His sheep; i. e., they were reprobated and hopelessly doomed; not that God reprobates men to death, but they reprobated themselves, rejecting the Holy Ghost, and even imputing His works to the devil, thus, with all their clerical offices and honors, plunging headlong into everlasting woe.
“ My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall pluck them out of My hand.” This is wonderfully strong, beautiful, and consolatory. The reason why those Jews did not spiritually hear His voice
(because they certainly heard it physically) was because they were not of His sheep. While He assures us that His sheep will never perish, and no one is able to pluck them out of His hand, we must bear in mind the liability of the sheep to stray away from the fold and be lost. While there is no power in the universe competent to pluck us out of the hands of the Omnipotent Savior, yet we are free and on probation, exposed to temptation and a thousand liabilities and snares, as we see above, in the case of those wolves, which are prowling all around us and ready to devour us. The danger is not on the side of power, but our own will. “ The Father, who has given them unto Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of the hand of the Father.” Of course, the Father saw all the saved before He sent Jesus into the world and gave them to Him; therefore if Satan comes first, so far as the question of power is concerned, he, a poor finite being, would have to be stronger than the Almighty. He would have to conquer the Son, who has us in His hands, and also the Father, who gave us to His Son, if He ever gets us. Hence you see, the omnipotence of the Trinity is pledged for our security. Consequently the danger, in view of which Jesus so faithfully warns us about Satan’s wolves, is altogether on the human side. Therefore we see, while God elects people to life, He does not reprobate any of them to death. We are all free to choose between sin and holiness. If we choose the latter, we are elected to life; if the former, we are reprobated to death, from the simple fact that the “wages of sin is death.” If we remain in sin, we are in the hands of Satan, who, at the close of this life, has no place to put us but hell.
John 10:30-39. “ I and My Father are one.” There is but one God, but three persons i.e., three characters manifested by the Deity to the world. I am a preacher, a teacher, and a book editor, three characters, and yet but one . “ Again the Jews took up stones that they may stone Him.” As they felt that they were prepared to sustain their condemnation of blasphemy against Him because He claimed to be the Son of God, they thought if they could raise a row and excite the rabble, they might get rid of Him by stoning Him to dearth, and cover up the whole transaction under the charge of blasphemy. Though they take up stones, and show every manifestation of instantaneous death, Jesus remains perfectly tranquil. “ And Jesus responded to them, Many good works have I shown to you from the Father, on account of which work of these do you stone Me? The Jews responded to Him, We do not stone Thee for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God.” According to the Mosaic law, the penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning. The same also was the penalty for Sabbath-breaking. Consequently His enemies, who hounded Him day and night, thirsting for His blood, were constantly on the alert, ready to catch up anything whatever, and use it as a charge against Him. It so happened, in the normal administration of His official Messiahship, He was really under the necessity of rendering Himself vulnerable to the charge of blasphemy, in order to enunciate and vindicate His claims to the Messiahship, as it would have been really impossible for any one to preach and testify in harmony with the Messianic office without exposing Himself to the liability of the charge of blasphemy; whereas His constant works of philanthropy, healing the multitudes of sick people everywhere He went, would have necessitated Him to intermit His work on the Sabbath or become vulnerable to the charge of Sabbatic violation. Consequently His enemies, having these two strings to their bow, pulled on them incessantly, making music for the bottomless pit.
“ Jesus responded to them, Is it not written in your law that I said, Ye are gods?” (Psalms 80:0.) Here the word is applied to tyrannical world-rulers. “ If He called them gods to whom the Word of God came, and the Scripture is not able to be broken, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, do you say that Thou blasphemest because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, believe not Me, believe the works, in order that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. Then they were seeking to arrest Him, and he went out from their hand.” Our Lord’s ministry is now rapidly winding to a close. Consequently it is important to emphasize the great, salient point of His earthly mission, and everywhere prominently hold up His Christhood, so that all the people would clearly apprehend and indubitably witness His claims to the Messiahship, thus exposing Himself to the constant liability of arrest and arraignment, as they had a rabbinical law specifying that any man claiming to be the Christ should be brought before the Sanhedrin for investigation and examination. Now that He boldly meets the issue, despite their charge of blasphemy, they proceed to arrest Him. Of course, the Sanhedrin would have condemned Him to death by stoning (Leviticus 24:16), thus cutting off His earthly ministry about one month before the time. Consequently He passed away from their hands, of course unobserved, all losing sight of Him, and thinking He was somewhere in the crowd; but no one being able to find Him, meanwhile He passes clearly away.
JESUS AT BETHANY, PEREA
John 10:40-42. “ And again He went away beyond Jordan, into the place where John was first baptizing, and there abode. Many came to Him, and continued to say, That John did no miracle; but all things, so many as John said concerning this One, were true, and many believed on Him there.” This Bethany was in the Jordan Valley, on the east side, about twenty miles above the ford where Israel crossed, and where Jesus was baptized, in the territory occupied by the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan. When the multitudes followed Him, the sight of the place reminded them of John’s ministry, which they had there enjoyed three years previously. Consequently the conversation naturally turned on that subject. Though John was the greatest of all the prophets, he wrought no miracles like his illustrious predecessors, Elijah and Elisha. They naturally contrast these two most illustrious characters i. e., John and Jesus and remember so vividly the powerful preaching of the former in reference to the latter; and now, in contemplation of His mighty works, all certify that John’s wonderful testimony in reference to Him is literally true.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 10". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany