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THE SHEEPFOLD AND THE SHEPHERD
Now the Lord speaks in parabolic form, again in verse 1 doubly pressing the truth of His words. One climbing the fence of the sheepfold (rather then entering by the door) was a thief and a robber. The connection with chapter 9 is evident. Pharisees were blind leaders of the blind. The sheepfold was Israel as established by God under law, separated from Gentiles by an enclosure of laws and ordinances that were God-given. Pharisees, willfully blind as to the ways of God, sought to dominate the sheep: they were not the shepherd, but thieves and robbers (v.2). The door was God's appointed entry, that by which Old Testament prophecy declared as to who the true Shepherd would be. He would come to Israel at the appointed time, in the appointed way. He must fit every prophecy concerning the Messiah of Israel: only thus would the door open for Him.
Only One could do this, and the Doorkeeper opens the door to admit Him (v.3). The Doorkeeper is evidently God by His Spirit making the way fully clear for the Lord Jesus to enter into the sheepfold, which was His own possession, to do with the sheep as His divine wisdom decides. For of course He is the true Shepherd who had in the first place established the sheepfold, and He alone has the right to make any changes.
Here we see the great dispensational change that He Himself came to introduce. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out of the sheepfold This leading is not a national movement in Israel, but a movement in individual hearts, just as we see in the blind man of chapter 9. He was thrown out by the Jews, but met immediately by the Lord. Throughout John's Gospel we see this precious personal dealing of the Lord.
Yet while He leads His sheep personally, He also "brings out His own sheep" (v.4), that is, there is necessary pressure on some who may be slow to respond. This is seen in the first part of the book of Acts, when Christ was forming the Church, and many were slow to leave Judaism. Still, He does not drive His sheep: He goes before them. They follow Him because they know His voice. His word has for them a living power of attraction such as no other voice has. They do not need to know what is wrong with a stranger's voice in order to avoid it, but simply that it is not the Shepherd's voice (v.5). Acquaintance with His word is a strong protection against the deception of strange teachings.
The parable not being understood, the Lord in some measure explains, but adds more in His following words. With another double verily He declares Himself to be the door of the sheep (v.9). This is of course not "of the sheepfold," for He had entered by that door. But He is the entry for the sheep into all the blessings of this present dispensation of grace.
Others who came before Him, seeking to attract followers, did not come with blessing for the sheep, but to rob them. His own sheep did not hear them. Verse 9 then shows Him to be the door of salvation and of the blessings connected with it. The sheep find a new liberty that enables them to "go in and out and find pasture;" that is, they are not limited either to the Old or to the New Testament as to finding fresh, living food for their souls. In the sheepfold they had previously been dependent on being fed in whatever measure by priests, Levites or prophets: now they may find the fresh food for themselves. This involves now our having the Spirit of God by whom we may learn the word of God in fresh reality, finding green pasture in both Old and New Testaments.
The thief (a false spiritual leader) had the object of stealing, killing and destroying, causing the ruination of God's work (v.10). Christ, the true Shepherd, came that the sheep might have life and have it more abundantly. What a contrast! For He Himself is the source of life, the living God, on whom the sheep are totally dependent. Of course true believers had life before ever Christ came into the world, but that life was even then dependent on Him, and manifested to be so when He came. He Himself being the full manifestation of eternal life, then in Him, come into the world, the sheep find abundant fullness of life.
But the life given to believers even in Old Testament times, and at all times, is dependent on the fact of the Good Shepherd laying down His own life for the sheep. God gave life in the Old Testament in view of the certainty of Christ's sacrifice. Compare John 12:24.
In contrast, the hireling has no genuine care for the sheep. He is not of course a thief or a robber, but because only hired to care for the sheep, he thinks more of himself than of the sheep, so that when the wolf comes, he deserts them. The Lord does not hire servants for money. If one willingly serves with love as a motive, the Lord will sustain and reward him; but it requires love to stand against the wolf, the type of Satan in his destructive enmity, whose object is to catch and scatter the sheep. But the Good Shepherd knows His sheep in a vital, intimate way, and His sheep know Him.
Only a comma should be found at the end of verse 14, intimating that the Lord knows His sheep as they know Him, just as the Father knows Him and (not "even so") He knows the Father. Wonderful is this vital, eternal knowledge given us in Christ Jesus! This relationship of sublime love is connected with His laying down His life for the sheep.
The "other sheep" of verse 16 are manifestly Gentile believers, not of the fold of Israel. They were to be brought also, as a result of the death of the Good Shepherd, and to be joined with the Jewish sheep, but not brought into the fold. Rather, "there will be one flock and one Shepherd." The one flock is the Church of God composed of all believers of the present age, whatever their race. It is not a fold, where restraints of laws and ordinances are present, but a flock, free of legal encumbrances, in order to follow the Shepherd to the green pastures. For the Shepherd is present: He is their resource, their leader, their protection. It is the sense of the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus that is so essential to the true welfare of the Church in her entire history. Let us settle for nothing less.
Though the Lord Jesus is the Son of the Father's love from eternity past, yet His willing sacrifice is a fresh reason for His Father's love toward Him (v.17), as indeed it is a cause for our love too. He laid down His life: it could not be taken from Him: He had perfect control as to this. On Calvary He Himself dismissed His spirit, after crying out with a loud voice, certainly not therefore dying of exhaustion. Since He is without sin, death had no authority over Him. His death was a miracle performed by His divine power, willingly because of His great love, and with the object of taking His life again. He had authority for this Himself, as the sent One of the Father.
Such words from His lips give occasion for another division among the Jews. Some callously, senselessly accuse Him of having a demon, because of course His words evidenced more than mere human power. Others at least were reasonable in considering the evidence and dismissed any idea of demon influence.
The dedication of verse 22 was a celebration of the re-dedication of the temple in the days of Judas Maccabeus, and took place in December., about two months following the feast of tabernacles (John 7:2).
Now He to whom the temple was dedicated walks in His own residence, yet Is petulantly accused by the Jews of making them to doubt as to whether or not He was the Messiah. The very question bothers them greatly, which shows that they were not really convinced that their opposition was right. But they did not want their Messiah to be of lowly, faithful, pure character.
His answer is plain: He had told them and they disbelieved. Also His works, done in His Father's name, were an unquestionable witness. If there were any doubts, this was their fault, not His. But their unbelief was evidence that they were not of His sheep. For His sheep were subject to Him; they had ears for His voice: He knew them as vitally His own: they followed Him.
He declares these things as absolute facts. He attaches no conditions to them whatever. To the above three He adds four more, giving a seven-fold assurance of the eternal security and blessing of every child of God. "I give them eternal life," a free, unconditional gift, not temporary, but eternal. Then He further presses, "they shall never perish." What clear assurance to the believing heart! Further, "neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand," and also, "no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" (vs.28-29). They are held by the double power of the Father and the Son for eternity, and this is sealed in sublime dignity and beauty, "I and My Father are one."
ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO STONE HIM
The Lord's words of such living power, ending with "I and My Father are one," (not "My Father and I"), have surely fully substantiated, in answer to the Jews question (v.24), that He is the Christ. But they react, not only in doubt, but in bitter enmity, taking up stones to stone Him. Yet they are powerless to put into execution their base intentions. His word, calmly, simply spoken, has power that holds them helpless. He had done many good works, He says, all of them proceeding from the Father. For which of these works did they intend to stone Him? (v.32).
How plainly the issue now comes to the fore: they disavow all reason for their enmity but one, that is, they say, that He made Himself God; and they considered Him only a man. He is condemned for telling the truth as to who He is.
He certainly does not back down from this position. Quoting Psalms 82:6, He speaks of Jewish leaders to whom the word of God came as being "gods." This was because they had been entrusted by God with authority to represent Him, and only pure truth could represent Him properly. But if they were called "gods," then the Lord Jesus, set apart in pure truth from all others, sent directly by the Father to do His will, certainly could be depended upon to rightly represent God, and tell the truth When He said, "I am the Son of God," He was representing the Father in so saying: He was speaking truth from the Father. For He was infinitely higher than all human authorities who had ever come before Him. The Jews knew of His public sanctification and anointing of the Spirit at His baptism, and of the Father's declaration at that time, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). God had trusted Him with representing Him in a way high above all others: then certainly He told them the truth of God.
If He had not done the works of the Father, then they would have cause to disbelieve Him, but since they could not at all dispute the fact that His works were manifestly of the Father, they should at least believe the works, which proved that the Father was in Him and He in the Father.
Frustrated in their intention of stoning Him, yet stung by the truth, the Jews sought to arrest Him (v.39). But He simply left, for His hour had not come, and went to the Jordan, to the scene of John's first baptizing, a reminder that repentance Is imperative if one is to genuinely receive the Son of God. In all of these things the lowliness of the character of the Lord Jesus is of great beauty indeed. In fact, it was this lowliness that the Jews so despised. But He would put forth no show of power and might, easily as He could have done so, either to intimidate or to impress His enemies.
He would represent His Father in His Father's way. How different it might have been for the Jews too if they had but taken to heart the lessons of the river Jordan.
Many, however, did take such things to heart, resorting to the Lord in the place of John's testimony. In such cases, John's ministry had done its good work, and they were prepared to receive the One who fulfilled John's faithful prophecies. They too consider a very pertinent fact, that John, in contrast to the Lord, did no miracle: yet this did not at all take anything from John's value as a prophet. On the contrary, they give a wonderful commendation to John's ministry when they say that "all the things that John spoke about this Man were true" (v.38). How much better is this report than any reputation of working miracles! Honesty could easily perceive these things: only dishonesty therefore can explain the blindness of the Pharisees.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on John 10". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany