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Jesus the Good Shepherd.
The parable of the sheepfold:
v. 1. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
v. 2. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
v. 3. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
v. 4. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice.
v. 5. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.
v. 6. This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.
This parable was also spoken in the Temple, shortly after Jesus had found the man that had been blind and had uttered the ominous words to the Pharisees concerning spiritual blindness. He here refers to a sheepfold, to one of the Oriental pens, or corrals, for sheep; This was a yard with a high stone wall to keep out wild animals as well as other intruders. There was a gate or door which was guarded by a porter. Jesus now states that any person that did not choose the gate to enter into the corral, but sought some other way into the interior, by that very token became evident as a thief, whose intention is to steal quietly, or even a robber, who would not hesitate to use violence. The shepherd is not in need of such schemes and stratagems. He comes to the gate of the corral openly, and the door-guard will open the door for him, for he knows the shepherd and his intentions. And when the heavy gate has been unbarred, the shepherd need but raise his voice in the call which is so well known to the sheep, when they will respond at once. He has names for each one of the sheep entrusted to him, and they can distinguish the call. If there should be several herds in the corral overnight, the sheep of each shepherd will still respond only to the voice of their own shepherd. And when all the sheep that belong to his own herd have been put out of the corral, they will follow their shepherd as he leads the way, the shepherd walking in front as is still the custom in the East. They follow his voice, not his clothes nor his dog, as has been ascertained by actual tests. The sheep have such a knowledge of the kind care of the shepherd, of his mild and gentle way of leading and guiding them, that they have full confidence in him. But the sheep fear and flee from a stranger, since his voice is not known to them; they have not learned to trust him as they do their own shepherd. This parable is one of Christ's most beautiful stories in its completeness and in the detailed correctness of the picture, and the application of the parable was sufficiently obvious. But, as usual, the Jews had no idea of the meaning and of the lesson which the Lord intended to convey.
The sheepfold is the Church of God of all times. The sheep are the members of the kingdom of God, the believers of both the Old and New Testaments that put their trust in the Word of their redemption through the work of the Messiah. But the men that were to be their shepherds, their leaders, have from olden times been divided into two classes. There are such as come to the door openly, that have the call and the duty to take care of the souls entrusted to them, and that carry out their difficult calling in the proper manner, with all faithfulness. For they are assistants of the great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and it is His voice that calls through them. The sheep thus hear the voice of Jesus in the voice of the true pastors, and this they recognize and know perfectly, this they heed gladly. And if they are truly His sheep, they will pay no attention to the call of such as try to imitate the voice of the true Shepherd, but will fear them and flee from them. "For as He has said of His office which He carries on through His Word, thus He also says of His sheep, how they behave in His kingdom, namely, when the door is opened to Him, they at once hear His voice and learn to know it well, for it is a truly comforting, cheering voice, by which they, delivered from terror and fear, come to the liberty that they may expect all mercy and comfort of God in Christ. And when they have once accepted this Shepherd, they adhere to Him alone with all confidence and hear the teaching of none other. " The spiritual hearing of the true sheep of Christ, of the believers, soon becomes so keen that they will distinguish at once between true and false teaching, and they will fear and shun the voice of strangers. They will be enabled to judge doctrine correctly, without any arbitrary commands of a self-constituted hierarchy. "The other doctrine is that all Christians have power and right to judge all doctrine and to separate themselves from false teachers and bishops and not to obey them. For here hearest thou that Christ says of His sheep:... A stranger will they not follow. For that they can judge such things, of that they have this rule which is stated in this word of Christ, that all who do not preach Christ are thieves and murderers. With this statement the judgment is established that there is need of no further knowledge but to be known of Christ, and that they owe it to Him to follow this judgment and therefore to flee and to shun all such, no matter who, how great, and how many they are. " These false shepherds are characterized as such that climb into the corral some other way except through the door. False teachers, that have no call from Christ, whose false doctrine has no right to exist, will not come with the pure Gospel and with a call of which they can prove its divine origin, but will make use of schemes and stratagems to deceive the sheep and inveigle them into listening to them. "Now the Gospel is so tender and precious, it cannot endure any addition or extra doctrines. The spiritual doctrines of getting to heaven with fasting, prayer, and other similar works, they in themselves are side-paths which the Gospel will not suffer; but the opponents want them, therefore they are thieves and murderers, for they outrage consciences and slay and murder the sheep... Thus such a path is murder and death. " All false teachers are thieves and robbers in the sense of Scriptures, and their presence is a constant menace to the Church of God. "But they are called thieves for this reason, since they steal in secretly, and come with fair speeches, as St. Paul says, Romans 16:18, with a great show, and also with true sheep's clothing, pretend to have special faithfulness and love for the souls, but incidentally have that mark, whereby Christ teaches to distinguish them, that they do not go in at the door, but climb up some other way, that is, as He Himself explains, come before Him and without Him, do not point and refer to Christ as the only Shepherd and Savior."
Jesus the Door to the sheepfold:
v. 7. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the Door of the sheep.
v. 8. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them.
v. 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.
v. 10. The thief cometh 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.
Jesus makes an application of His parable for the sake of His hearers. In the sheepfold of His Church He is the Door. Only through Him, by reference to Him and His work of salvation, shall any man have access to the sheep, only through Him can the sheep find access to the fold. By faith in Him admittance to the fold is gained; it is the only way in which this wonderful result may be obtained. All real pastors will preach only of this one Door, of this one Way to heaven, through faith in Jesus and the redemption through His blood. There were such among the ruling party of the Jews at that time, and had been even before this, as had arrogated to themselves the function of bringing people into communion with God and into heaven in a different manner, unlike the prophets of old that had always pointed forward to Jesus only. But all those that claimed to be what Christ was in truth, that promised to give to men the certainty of salvation, were thieves and robbers; they came without His authority. Luckily, the real sheep, the true people of God among the children of Israel, had given no heed to their words. For Christ is the Door; through Him if a person enter, and through none else, he will be rendered safe. The only way of salvation leads through Christ; He Himself is that Way, and every man that knows Jesus as such may enter into the fold of the Church and go out on the pasture of the Gospel, and always have fullness and plenty, the mercy and goodness of the Lord, Psalms 72:16. Three great blessings fall to the lot of those that accept Jesus as their Savior. They have deliverance from dangers, from all enemies; they are safe in the Master's fold. They have liberty, the glorious liberty of the children of God, the right to go out and in; they are slaves neither of sin nor of the Law. And they have sustenance; the riches of God's bounty are poured out upon them anew every day in: the Gospel. That is the great contrast between Christ and all those that come as thieves. The thief, and especially the thief in spiritual matters, comes for the purpose of taking away, of destroying life. That is the only object he can have according to his nature. But Jesus has come for the purpose of giving life, true, lasting, eternal life, and not in small measure, but in a fullness far exceeding all needs. Every Christian receives the full measure of everlasting life with all the glories and satisfying beauties that are included therein. Here is an offering of sustaining comfort which is without equal in all religions without Christ, of which no unbeliever can have the faintest conception.
Jesus the Good Shepherd:
v. 11. I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.
v. 12. But he that is an hireling, and not the Shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
v. 13. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
v. 14. I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.
v. 15. As the Father 'knoweth Me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
v. 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.
Jesus here applies the parable in still another way, from another view-point. He calls Himself the Good shepherd, with emphasis, as the only one that may bear this name with full justice. In this sense the name is applicable to Christ alone; He is the one most excellent Shepherd of the spiritual sheep. The first feature which distinguishes Him as the true Shepherd of souls is this, that He gives His life, His own soul, as a ransom, as the one complete sacrifice, for the guilt of all sinners, who have earned eternal damnation. He became their Substitute; He took upon Himself their transgressions and died in their stead. Thus the guilty, the sinners, were delivered from sin and destruction. In this respect Jesus incidentally is an example for all those that bear the name pastor as His assistants in the great work. For that purpose He also places Himself in deliberate contrast to the hirelings, the false teachers, the Pharisees. Such hirelings, whose sole concern is the money and the desire to take their ease in Zion, have no interest in the souls of men entrusted to their care. They are strictly mercenary and will work only so long as their lives and well-being seem to be safe. At the first sign of the wolf, at the first indication of real danger, of probable persecution, suffering, and even martyrdom, they turn in precipitate flight. The result is the dispersion and the murder of the sheep on the part of the enemies. But the hireling does not care; he has no worry, no anxiety for, no interest in, the sheep. "He that will be a preacher, let him love the work with all his heart, that he seek only God's honor and the welfare of his neighbor. If he does not seek God's glory and his neighbor's salvation only, but thinks, in such office, of his benefit and detriment, there you need not think that he will last. Either he will flee shamefully and desert the sheep, or he will keep silence and let the sheep go without pasture, that is, without the Word. Those are hirelings that preach for their own benefit, are covetous, and do not want to be satisfied with that which God gives them daily as an alms. For we preachers should not desire more from our office than enough and to spare. Those that want more are hirelings that do not care for the herd; whereas a pious preacher will give up everything on that account, even his body and life. " The second feature that distinguishes Jesus as the Good Shepherd, in contrast to all others, is the fact of the intimate acquaintance and knowledge between Him and His sheep. Just as Jesus knows them that are His, according to body, mind, and heart, so the believers know Jesus; their heart, their mind and will, is centered in Jesus, rests in Jesus. The expression fitly pictures the intimate, cordial relation and communion of love that obtains between Christ and His true disciples. This intimacy and communion is as close and embracing as that which exists between Father and Son. Their hearts and minds are open to each other; there is a mutual interchange of thoughts and ideas, all guided by a wonderful love. Thus it is between Christ and the believers. It is due to Christ's knowledge of the Father and His will that Jesus declares that He will lay down His life for the sheep. The ransom is paid for the sins of the whole world, but the believers alone take advantage of the mercy of the Savior, they alone obtain the grace of the Father. And Christ has other sheep, which are not of this fold; He shall gain believers in Him also from the members of other nations outside of the Jewish. For the Father has given a great number to Him, out of every nation in the world; they are His by the Father's design and gift. Christ here declares that His voice, In the Word of the Gospel, would go out unto the people of other; descent and tongue than the Jews. It is the, obligation of the divine will resting upon Him, which is urging Him to gain also these for the Gospel. And they would listen, they would obey His voice in the Gospel, and the final result would be one dock, composed of all such as have accepted salvation through the blood of Christ, and one Shepherd, the Son of God Him! self. "But nothing is said of unity of organization. There may be various folds, though one flock. " The dreams of unionism find no support in this passage. The "holy Christian Church, the communion of saints," has been gathered in the world ever since the first proclamation of the Gospel, and all the true believers in Christ form the great invisible Church. But there is not a word here of uniting visible church organizations into one great, powerful body.
The end of the discourse and its effect:
v. 17. Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.
v. 18. No man taketh 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.
v. 19. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
v. 20. And many of them said, He hath a devil, I and is mad; why hear ye Him?
v. 21. Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
The chief proof and manifestation of the love of the Good Shepherd consists in this, that He lays down His life, His soul, as a ransom. The self-sacrifice of Jesus was altogether free and in no way forced upon Him. For that reason also did His Father love Him, because the Son was in such thorough accord with Him that He understood His will so completely and acted upon it so cheerfully. And in laying down His life, Jesus has a second object, namely, to take it again. To remain in death and So leave His sheep defenseless would render His entire ministry void. It was necessary for Christ to die, but just as necessary also for Him to arise again. As His sacrifice was free and voluntary, so His return to life must be a matter of His own power, of the deliberate use of His strength. The laying down of His life was not due to His yielding to His foes and their cunning; it was an act of His will. He had the power to give His life, to lay it down in death; but He had the power also to take it again. No other man could dream of having such power; every other person succumbs to death, but Jesus differs from all other men in this respect, because He is Himself true God. The fact of His voluntary death gave to His sacrifice its real worth and value; without such free will His sacrifice would have been in vain. And herein He agrees with His Father, whose command He has received and now carries out for the salvation of mankind.
The immediate effect of the entire discourse was that it caused a division among the Jews that were present. Many thought He was talking insane foolishness and that He was possessed of an evil spirit. That is the meanness, the devilish mind of the unbelievers, that they have nothing but mockery and blasphemy for the consoling, precious words of Christ concerning His shepherd's love. But others took a more sensible view. The calm discourse of Jesus could hardly be put into the same category with the ravings of demoniacs. The devil is also able to perform seeming miracles, but never such as will benefit any person in body or soul. The miracle performed upon the blind man was of a nature to admit of only one explanation: divine interference. Thus there are always some people whose hearts accept the glorious truths of the Gospel and learn to trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Christ's Sermon at the Feast of Dedication.
The testimony of Jesus concerning Himself:
v. 22. And it was at Jerusalem, the Feast of the Dedication, and it was winter.
v. 23. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon's Porch.
v. 24. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us to doubt? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
v. 25. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not; the works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me.
v. 26. But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you.
v. 27. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
v. 28. and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.
v. 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.
v. 30. I and My Father are one.
There is an interval of about two months between this story and the one just preceding it. The Festival of the Dedication had been celebrated since the time of the Maccabees in commemoration of the reconsecration of the Temple after its defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. Its date was the 25 th
of Chisleu (December). Jesus had either remained at Jerusalem, or, what is more probable, had spent the intervening time in Perea, a favorite place for retirement. At this time He was in the Temple, walking about or up and down in the splendid portico or cloistered hall which bore Solomon's name. He was soon recognized by the Jews, many of whom had been present at His last discourse and now took occasion to put a question to Him about which there had probably been much discussion since they had seen Him last. They surrounded Him, thus preventing His moving onward. With an almost menacing attitude they put their question: How long dost Thou keep our souls in uncertainty? Their meaning is that they have not yet received sufficient testimony one way or the other to enable them to judge properly. They demanded a plain, unequivocal statement. Jesus reminded them of the fact that He had given them the truth concerning Himself, that not only His words, but also His actions, His miracles, bore testimony of Him. All these things should have convinced them long ago that He was the Christ. It was their unbelief that stood in their way, and this unbelief, in turn, proved that they did not belong to His sheep. Their unbelief in the face of such overwhelming testimony was their own fault. For of His sheep, of the believers in Him, it was true that they heard His voice, as He had explained to them upon a former occasion. With His believers Jesus has entered into a close communion; He responds to their every need. And above all, He, as the Savior and powerful God, gives to them the life everlasting which He has earned for them by His atoning work. No enemy in the world or elsewhere can rob them, can tear them away from Christ by any force. He has them firmly by the hand, He holds them safely in His hand, and therefore they shall never be lost. The Lord here, as one commentator has it, gives us a guarantee against ourselves, against our own weakness and doubt. There are so many factors which tend to stifle faith in our hearts, to make us doubt the sincerity of God's promises toward us, but this word of Christ must overcome all doubt most effectually and definitely. Unless the believers maliciously reject their Savior and trample upon the salvation earned for them, there can be no doubt of His holding them in His hand. If we but trust in His loving mercy and kindness, there shall nothing harm us or tear us away from His side. And this fact He emphasizes still more strongly by stating that the believers are given Him by His Father, who is greater and mightier than all; what enemy will tear them out of His Father's hands? God has given these sheep, these believers, to His Son, in order that they should be saved, and so they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:6. And Jesus and His Father are one. There are two different persons, but only one essence. The will of the Son will never oppose the will of the Father. The Son is God just like the Father, and in the same degree as the Father. And from this it follows that the Father and the Son work together in this great work of saving men, of keeping the believers safe until the end. Note: This glorious, comforting passage is of such beauty and power that it should be memorized by every Christian or use against the wily attacks of the devil and his allies. We are safe in the hands of our heavenly Father and of Jesus Christ. His Son, our Savior.
The Jews accuse Jesus of blasphemy:
v. 31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
v. 32. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from My Father; for which of those works do ye stone Me?
v. 33. The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God.
v. 34. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your Law, I said, Ye are gods?
v. 35. If He called them gods unto whom the Word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken,
v. 36. say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
v. 37. If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not.
v. 38. 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.
With growing indignation and resentment the Jews had listened to the statements which Jesus made concerning Himself until He reached the climax in the declaration of the essential unity of Himself and the Father. Here they could no longer contain themselves. This seemed to them the essence of blasphemy that this man should say He was one with God. And so they took up stones in order to punish Him for His supposed blasphemy, Leviticus 24:14-16, as they had attempted to do once before, John 8:59. But a further word from Jesus arrested their murderous action. He reminded them of the fact that He had shown them many good works which gave evidence of the authority of the Father; which of these was it that deserved stoning? The Jews answered as they saw the situation. They had no objection to His works, to His miracles, as such. But their belief was that He was a mere man, and as such it was blasphemy for Him to arrogate to Himself the Sonship of God. From: their blind standpoint they were right: it was blasphemy for a man to claim equality with God, or deity for Himself, Deuteronomy 18:20; Leviticus 14:10-17. The modern unbelieving teachers that deny the unity of essence of Father and Son on the ground that this is not taught in Scriptures are blinder than the Jews were in this instance. But Jesus here proves to the Jews that His claim was no blasphemy, by referring to Psalms 82:6. If the leaders of the people, through whom the Word of God was delivered to the Jews, were called gods, how much more does He deserve the designation who was separated, ordained, hallowed, and sent out by God for this work which He was now performing? In bringing this proof, the Lord states an axiom for the inerrancy of Scriptures which needs particular emphasis in our days: The Scripture cannot be dissolved, cannot be broken, cannot be put aside; it must ever stand unchallenged, word for word, as the eternal truth of God. In the case of the Old Testament teachers, the commission of God usually found them engaged in the works of their earthly calling, from which they were raised to their new dignity and received the honoring appellation, but Jesus was set apart by the Father from eternity for the work of salvation, and He was now performing the works of the Father, such works as in themselves are evidence that the Father is in Him and He in the Father. That is the eternal relation in the Trinity between Father and Son: the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son. This relation has not been set aside by the incarnation of the Son, but was exhibited in the miracles and in all the works which Jesus did. If the Jews therefore chose not to believe His words, they could not deny the evidence of His works. The testimony of His deeds was overwhelmingly strong in establishing the fact of the intimate relationship between Him and the Father, just as He had stated. Note: There is no possibility of weakening the force of this argument but by asserting that the miracles of Jesus did not take place by the power of God. But that would place Jesus in the class of base deceivers and cheats, a conclusion which even the most liberal teachers hesitate to make.
Jesus leaves Jerusalem:
v. 39. Therefore they sought again to take Him; but He escaped out of their hand,
v. 40. and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there He abode.
v. 41. And many resorted unto Him and said, John did no miracle; but all things that John spake of this Man were true.
v. 42. And many believed on Him there.
The argument of Jesus at least made so much impression that the Jews dropped the stones, but they still had the intention of arresting Him; but Jesus, in the power of His divinity, went out of their hands, which sank back powerless. He had again proclaimed the Gospel to the Jews, He had again shown that He is truly the Messiah of Israel. He now went into the region of Perea where some of the early work of John the Baptist had been done, where He stayed for some time. And the effect of His preaching became evident at least in some cases. Many people, who had heard the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus, had mulled over those sayings and had compared them with the evidence before their eyes in the person and works of Jesus. Though John had performed no miracles, yet they knew him to be a good and wise man and a great prophet. And now that they saw the truth of John's prediction, they were convinced; they learned to believe in Jesus the Savior.
Summary. Jesus tells the parable of the sheepfold, showing that He is both the Door to the sheep and the Good Shepherd; He gives the Jews the evidence of His divine Sonship and escapes their murderous intentions.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 10". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany