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PART IV. (D.)
IV. THE GROWING CONFLICT, ETC.
1. At the feast of dedication.—
(1) Jesus manifests Himself as eternal love in the parabolic allegory of the good shepherd—the door, the fold, the flock, the shepherd, the porter, the stranger (John 10:1-6).
(2) The explanation of the allegory: Christ is the door.
(3) He is also the true shepherd of the sheep, and the character and duty of the good shepherd are set forth (John 10:7-18).
(4) Divisions among the people because of this claim of Jesus (John 10:19-21).
2. Christ’s claim, of oneness with the Father, which is the basis of His claim to be the good shepherd.—
(1) He and the Father are one (John 10:22-30).
(2) This claim is violently opposed, but clearly vindicated (John 10:31-38).
(3) Jesus, taking refuge in Peræa from the threats of His enemies, is accepted by many who had followed John the Baptist, and had heard of his faithful testimony to Jesus as the Messiah (John 10:39-42).
Second Year (to beginning of Third) of our Lord’s Ministry
Chaps. 10; 11.—Probable position in Synoptic narrative: following Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:28-45; Luke 18:31-34.
Time.—From feast of dedication, Chisleu (November–December), A.U.C. 782, A.D. 29, until Adar (February–March), A.U.C. 783, A.D. 30.
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 10:1-21 contain a discourse on false and true leaders and teachers in reference to Christ, under the allegoric parable of the fold and the good shepherd. The enmity of the Pharisees displayed toward Jesus after the miracle of healing the man born blind led to the assertion of John 9:39. “Are we blind also?” wonderingly asked some of the Pharisees. “You boast that you are not,” is the reply. “You have the light of the divine word, etc., but are wilfully blind to it, as your words and actions show, and therefore blind leaders of the blind.” This naturally led to the parabolic allegory of this chapter. The Jewish leaders, blinded by their traditional expectations, had false conceptions of God’s fold, and of the way of entrance into it. Thus they were incompetent to lead men into the fold. Only those who were able to get past the thickets of traditionalism could find the true way and entrance (Luke 1:39-56; Luke 2:20-38, etc.). In His teaching the Redeemer gradually cleared away the obstructions, and closed up false paths; and here He definitely points to Himself as the door and the good shepherd of the sheep. The figures of the allegory shift and change. Whilst John 10:1-6 is a complete parable of the fold, in John 10:7-9 emphasis is laid on the figure of the door of the fold, and in the following verses the principal idea is that of the good shepherd. One similitude could not fully express and illustrate the many-sidedness of Christ’s relations to His people.
John 10:1. The sheepfold (τὴν αὐλὴν τῶν προβάτων).—It was customary in Palestine to bring the flocks, which had wandered over the hills by day, into fold at eventide. Bedawin robbers and beasts of pray were dangerous then as now. The fold means here the Church of God—in the case of Christ’s hearers the ancient Jewish Church. There is but one entrance to the fold—the door. Implicitly this is Christ Himself. Although not fully revealed before His advent, He was implied in all the Mosaic observances and requirements through which priest and prophet had to enter.
John 10:3. The doorkeeper (θυρωρός).—Various opinions have been held as to the meaning of this figure. Some think it merely an adjunct (De Wette, etc.) intended to fill out the picture. Westcott thinks it signifies the Spirit working through His appointed ministers in each case. This idea seems quite reconcilable with that of Lange, Alford, etc., viz. that the Holy Spirit Himself is meant. For how does the Spirit work in the Church and among men if not by the use of means and human instruments? (1 Corinthians 12:1-11; 1 Corinthians 16:9, etc.). His own sheep.—The reference is evidently to true pastors, and to the various flocks in the one fold.
John 10:6. This parable they understood not, etc.—No wonder, if even a Nicodemus did not at first understand the divine teaching of Jesus. But the Pharisees were not “seekers after truth” like Nicodemus; therefore to them the Saviour’s words in Matthew 13:10-17 will apply.
John 10:8. All that ever came before Me (πρὸ ἐμοῦ).—Christ distinctly claims to be the only way to the fold. He cannot here refer to the Old Testament prophets and teachers; for they “testified of Him.” The πρὸ seems, therefore, intended to be taken in the sense of “instead of,” or “in place of Me” (Lange, etc.), which seems to be essentially the same meaning as that of Westcott and Godet, who lay the emphasis on came, and add “who came making themselves ‘doors’ of approach to God,” claiming to have the key of knowledge, etc. These false teachers did not, like law and prophecy, point, to Him; they sought to construct a door of theocratic temporal grandeur, and scorned the lowly entrance of the incarnate Christ, “despised and rejected of men.”
John 10:9. By Me, etc.—Meyer, who restricts this clause to shepherds alone, may in part be right. For in the East shepherds have often actually to find pasture for their flock in the dry season. Go in and out, etc.—I.e. by means of the door pursue their duties, etc.
John 10:10. The Saviour comes to His flock bearing blessing with Him, “even life for evermore” (Psalms 133:0.), on the mountains of the spiritual Zion. This is an application of the truth in John 1:4.
John 10:11-18. Christ as the good shepherd.—ὁ καλός, i.e. in a super-eminent sense. The head and chief of all other true shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4), whose claim to be so designated is shown not only by His general care of the flock, but by His willingness even to lay down His life for them (1 John 3:16).
John 10:12. The hireling.—A figure which brings out the inner spirit of some of those false shepherds. One who becomes a pastor of the flock merely for daily bread (1 Samuel 2:36)—a mere mercenary. The wolf is that power ever seeking to destroy men’s souls—the powers opposed to Christ in whatever form—Matthew 10:16 (Reynolds)—more especially that “wicked foe” who inspires and uses them all as his instruments.
John 10:16. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, etc.—Is He not looking forward to the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 60:0., which points to the consummation foretold by St. Paul (Romans 11:25-26)? Them also I must bring.—Even though they are My sheep they have not the privileges granted to Israel; but they also shall enjoy the greater blessedness of My kingdom (John 1:17; Acts 10:35; Acts 10:44-48). He is the door of the sheep. Jews and Gentiles in Him are one (Ephesians 2:11-17; Colossians 3:11). “There may be many folds. Different nations, ages, times, and seasons may cause variations in these, but there is but one flock under the watchful guardianship of one shepherd” (Reynolds). One flock.—Not αὐλή, but ποίμνη—not one rigid fold or Church system, but all of whatever name who hold to the “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).
John 10:17. For this cause doth the Father love Me, etc.—The Father’s love is the concomitant of this eternal purpose, and it is manifested toward the incarnate Son whilst subjecting Himself to voluntary humiliation for the salvation of men. The Me and I are to be referred to Christ incarnate. “Ἳνα indicates the purpose of His laying down His life. Had He laid it down merely, then His shepherd activity would have ceased. But He takes it again that He may still, as the chief shepherd, care for His flock.
John 10:18. He asserts full power over His life. His laying it down is a voluntary surrender out of love to men. Had He willed it otherwise, who could have withstood His will (Matthew 26:53)? But as the incarnate Son, in accordance with the eternal direction (ἐντολή), command, of the Father, He exercised this power or right (ἐξουσία), not only to lay His life down, but, etc. “The Father’s command was, Thou shalt die or not die, Thou shalt rise again or not rise again, according to the free promptings of Thy love” (Godet).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 10:1-21
John 10:1-9. Christ the door of the sheep.—“Apart from Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5), said our Lord to the disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. In this beautiful parabolic allegory the same great truth appears. Christ is to the Christian “wisdom,” etc. (1 Corinthians 1:30). That is the reason why there is a mingling of different images in this allegory. It must be kept in view that it would be impossible to express under one figure all that Christ is to His people. The relationships He sustains to them are so various that it is impossible to present them in one view. Thus, as the work and character of the Redeemer are presented here, the scene must shift, the similitudes change. Christ is not only the shepherd of His people, the guardian of His sheep—not simply the teacher and leader of His disciples. Had a further revelation of divine truth alone been needed, it might have been given otherwise than in the Incarnation. But the needs that conscience discovered to men, and which revelation only made clearer, could not be satisfied by any further revelation like that made to Israel, which was but a shadow of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1-10). Christ performs functions for His people that could alone be done on the high level of His divine nature. It is only as the incarnate Son that He can say, “I am the door,” the means of access to the Father and to life eternal. It is only through Him that blessings can flow forth to His spiritual flock. He is the door of access to those spiritual blessings that culminate in the “pleasures for evermore” of the heavenly fold (Psalms 16:11). The giver of spiritual life, the channel through which grace and truth come to believers, their teacher, guide, friend, Jesus Christ is to them altogether essential.
I. Consider some of the contending claims, in relation to that of Christ, which are prominent in the world.—
1. There are systems which profess to explain man’s position in the universe, and to meet his needs. Can they do so? Can they, e.g., satisfy that longing for immortality which is innate in man’s soul? meet that inborn desire for happiness which can only be attained when men find “rest,” when their powers work in harmony with conscience, etc.? Can they meet those religious instincts which seek to find appropriate expression in harmony with man’s spiritual nature? Nor will it do to explain away those desires, etc., for they have been, and are, characteristic of the nature of man. Those who undertake to furnish men with a system of thought that will bring complete satisfaction to them undertake a herculean task.
2. There were those who attempted to do this when our Lord was on earth. To them, in part, He refers in John 10:8 : “All who ever came before Me,”—the Sadducees with their semimaterialistic scepticism at the one extreme, and the Pharisees at the other making void the law by their traditions (Mark 7:13). Who could live spiritually in the icy atmosphere of Sadducean unbelief, or tolerate the burdensome traditions of the Pharisees?
3. These men have their modern representatives. Have they succeeded any better? Materialism may be considered as a perfected system in these days. Its prophets make assumption of a kind of universal insight into things. They speak as if they can explain the universe, as an engineer can explain the genesis and working of the machine he has made. Matter has been deified by their declaring it to be eternal. From it they have, if they are to be believed, evolved the universe. Life and thought are thus but finer phases of matter. As a result there can be no human freedom; necessity governs all, and moral order vanishes. What is the outcome of such a system? Hear it: “Materialism springs from a conviction based on experience, that every effort is a failure and our position a comfortless one.” Is this a system that can satisfy man as he is? or is Huxley’s position any better? “The theory of evolution encourages no millennial expectations”; yet we are told “to be strong in will, and with stout hearts to strive toward our hopes,” the hope being, “It may be that the gulf will wash us down; it may be we shall touch the happy isles.” Can such a “gospel” ever satisfy men? Is it wonderful in view of such teaching that there is an increasing spread of materialistic social views, an insane communism and generally relaxed morality—that men, become restless and unhappy, should seek vainly in social overturnings and excitements that happiness which can be found only within?
4. Another similar system need only be referred to, the pantheistic. Material things, or what are called such, are only ripples on the surface of an infinite substance, which indeed is universal nature, are but modes of the substance. Man is therefore, as a part of this, immortal; as a transient phase of it he passes away, his individual existence vanishes. Like the waves of the sea, men rise and disappear. To men crying for the bread of life, these systems give—a stone! (Matthew 7:9-11).
5. Such doors to spiritual satisfaction are knocked at by the few. There are other doors, however, to which the many throng. There is one in high favour in especial—the substitution of the results for the way of redemption, putting works in the place of faith. It is astonishing to find how hard this error is to kill. On what do the hopes of eternal life rest in the case of many? I have lived respectably, not fallen into gross sin, have defrauded no one, have lived as far as possible in accordance with God’s law; therefore I trust that, as God is merciful, He will pardon what has been amiss. How frequently are such pleas met with! But there is no open door here into life. It was closed long ago, and guarded by cherubim and a flaming sword (Genesis 3:24). Across men’s path in this direction is a barrier as huge as Sinai and as stern as its lightning-scathed summit (Romans 3:20).
6. Another fancied door, toward which many press, is that of a supposed intermediate authority between the soul and God. But Christ’s words are explicit: “By Me if any man enter in,” etc. (John 10:9). To apostles and ministers of the word, to pastors as well as their flocks, there was, and is, but one door into life—Jesus Christ.
II. We turn from all proposed substitutes to Christ Himself, the only way of salvation.—
1. “I am the door” is only an allegoric statement of the truth, “There is none other name,” etc. (Acts 4:12). We need not dwell on this; it is so fully and frequently urged in Scripture. And it is truth that all who truly enter through Him find peace and joy.
2. But what is meant by entering in through the door? John 10:3 shows that there is one appointed to guard it, viz. the porter or janitor. This is the Holy Spirit, who quickens faith in believers, and thus ushers them into the fold. Here several of the elements of faith are implied.
(1) The element of knowledge. The porter’s opening of the door signifies the enlightenment of Christians in divine things (John 3:8; John 3:12). They thus recognise Christ as the entrance to life. Without this enlightenment the best are blind and may enter some pathway of error. Heavenly aid must be given ere repentant and believing the soul enters in. A mere intellectual knowledge is not enough. True faith will bring along with it assurance, arising from experimental knowledge. What is needed is, “the spirit of wisdom and revelation for the acknowledgment of Christ,” etc. (Ephesians 1:17-18).
(2) This being taught of the Spirit leads, again, to these further elements of faith, submission and trust. Submission implies the forsaking of our own ways and man’s wisdom, and learning of Him (John 10:3), listening reverently for His commands. And when men truly understand Christ’s blessed character this is not difficult.
3. Trust in Christ also is evoked. The sheep of His spiritual fold hear His voice, and do not fear to follow Him. No wonder! The conceptions of His power, love, goodness, etc., which come through the enlightenment of the Spirit are sufficient to awaken this feeling. Think of all He is and of all He did whilst on earth; and that, although so far above, yet He is near to men as a tender brother drawing to Himself all except the evil by the power of His love. Men trust those who love them, because confident that love will never willingly cause a single pang. And who has ever given such proofs of love to men as Christ has? This must lead to trust. Christ alone is the door of the eternal fold; those who would enter must do so through knowing and believing in Him. Then knowledge leads to love, and love to willing submission and implicit trust.
III. Those who enter the spiritual fold through Christ “go in and out and find pasture.”—
1. All other systems outside the gospel fail in this. The framers of them did not fully understand man’s nature, and their systems could not meet his desires, longings, etc. They lead to a longing cry for “more light,” or to despair. How many leaning on these broken reeds have fallen! Nor are those who seek to establish a righteousness of their own in any better case. Conscience will torment, peace will be afar.
2. In Christ the needs of man’s nature are all met. The gospel quickens intellectual life; but its adequacy for human need is seen, especially in the moral and spiritual spheres and in the social life of men. It supplies an authoritative rule for guidance in the moral life, and at the same time a motive of obedience (John 13:34).
3. In the spiritual life it realises the cravings of the human spirit after communion with the source of its being, and meets these cravings. In Christ God is revealed as coming near to men in fatherly love, receiving them into His spiritual family, and thus granting what men are in the deepest sense longing for, the renewal of that communion broken by sin.
4. The gospel meets the social wants of men. It breaks down the barriers sin has raised, and, if permitted to prevail, would banish discord from the earth and bring men “to dwell together in unity” (Psalms 133:0.) And to all this add peace, joy, strength, grace, comfort in sorrow, songs in the night, the heavenly manna, the springs of living water, and hope for the future to animate the heart.
5. The door stands open now (Revelation 3:7). To-morrow to some even this gate may be closed for ever! What issues depend on this step! Without—error, darkness, misery, death; within—the light of eternity, spiritual pasturage, everlasting joy. Can any still halt between two opinions?
“Yet there is room! still open stands the gate,
The gate of love; it is not yet too late.…
Oh, enter, enter now!”
John 10:1. The care of servants.—Masters are, so to speak, pastors of their families, and especially of their servants, for the sanctification of whom they should labour. Three interests are involved in this:—
I. The interest of the servants.—A master is constituted by God the governor of his servants. Every governor, even a secular governor, should seek to lead men to their chief concern—salvation. This law is common to kings and to all powers ordained of God. If a man regards his servants only from his own personal point of view, and for the rest permits them to do as they choose, he is acting criminally. A master should use his power as God uses His. He uses it for our salvation (Ephesians 6:5-9). For the sanctification of his servants a master should attend to three things—instruction, example, and a kindly correction.
II. The interest of God.—All power comes from God, and should be employed only for Him—to serve and glorify Him. But how many masters employ the power given them for their own ends simply! This was an error for which Augustine eloquently reproached the Roman magistrates. They permitted the poets publicly to mock the gods, and prohibited them under severe penalties from attacking the reputation of a Roman citizen—an error which St. Bernard also denounced severely. Zeal for God is the character of true Christians. Take as examples the early saints. Whence came that zeal which prompted them to guide by Christian rule and order those under them? The spirit of religion—faith. Hear what St. Paul says (1 Timothy 5:8). It will not do to say that in a house it is difficult to compel minds that are wilful, and with a bias toward freedom from restraint. When you speak of God to your servants, and speak to them with a kindness sustained by your authority, they will hear you.
III. The interest of the masters.—In the obligation laid on them by God to care for their servants two advantages will be found—the first spiritual, the second temporal. The spiritual advantage. This obligation will prove a counterpoise to repress that pride often inspired by authority; for according to St. Augustine, St. Gregory, and St. Bernard, the masters will thus become the servants of their servants. The temporal advantage. Masters in regulating the morals of their servants establish a true subordination, peace, concord, the safety of their homes; and is not all this a cause of happiness? But where does one see such homes? and why are they so few? It is because there are so few masters who endeavour to maintain among their servants the worship of God and the spirit of piety. The example of the virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:0).—Abridged from Bourdaloue.
John 10:1-3. Jesus the door for flock and pastor.—The Jews at Jerusalem “understood not” what things they were which He spoke unto them in His allegory of the fold (John 10:1-6). It was not the form of the allegory; that they understood perfectly from the usage of the Old Testament prophets. It was the truth couched in the allegory that they did not wish to understand (see Explanatory Notes, John 10:24). They did not desire a spiritual shepherd, nor any other door or way into the fold than the places where they clambered over to destroy the flock. What they wanted was a conquering prince to drive away the enemies clustering round the fold of Judaism. And such intimations that His mission was spiritual, not temporal, and His implied condemnation of them as not true shepherds, filled their hearts with rage. But we know and see what they saw not. And as we read these words we comprehend that Jesus means that by Him alone flocks and true pastors can enter into His fold.
I. The door of the fold for the sheep.—
1. It was customary in the East for shepherds to bring their flocks at night into a stone enclosure, the entrance to which was under the care of a guardian or door-keeper, who kept watch, fully armed, to repel beasts of prey, and to keep out thieves. In the morning each flock was delivered to its shepherd. He called the leader of the flock, and they all followed to the pastures. The fold is the Church and kingdom of God (vide Explanatory Notes, John 10:1).
2. A door of entrance to the Church, and kingdom of God is necessary, and there is but one—Jesus Christ. Even the ceremonial law of the ancient economy implied this (Hebrews 9:0; Hebrews 10:0, etc.). It is only when men enter through Him that the promise of salvation (John 10:9) is assured. Those who try to enter in some other way really seek to rob God of the honour of redemption. They seek to break down the wall of the fold in whole or in part, to make the Church, in other words, on a level with the world, with no restrictions of which the world would disapprove. Others fail to see the need of door or porter, or any need of salvation by entering into the fold by Christ. The mercy of God they think opens many doors, or indeed dispenses with doors altogether. They forget that the experience of the ages confirms the word of the prophet as to the futility of all merely human effort to draw near to God (Micah 6:6-7).
3. Human effort, wisdom, philosophy, have all vainly endeavoured to find a door of access to the knowledge, love, and favour of God. Christ alone is fitted in His nature and by His work to be the way of entrance for men into God’s fold, for He alone can take away the cause and result of the alienation between God and man. He is the heavenly Mediator, and it is through faith in Him as the divine Son and in His atonement that we enter. This gate is too strait for many; it is wide enough for Christ’s flock.
4. The keeper of the door is the Holy Spirit working through all the means and instruments of grace (see Explanatory Notes, John 10:3). It is He who guides believers into all truth, opens the heart of a Lydia (Acts 16:14, etc.).
5. The fold into which the door leads is not a dungeon.—The flock “go in and out and find pasture.” The fold of God is the home of spiritual freedom: in it we enter into “the glorious liberty of God’s children.” It is the sphere of spiritual activity where the members go in and out freely “about their Father’s business.”
II. Christ is also the door of entrance for faithful shepherds.—
1. Through Christ and for His service all such enter the fold. The highest title of a minister of Christ is that of pastor—shepherd—in this office serving under the chief Shepherd. It is a great honour, an unspeakable privilege, to be entrusted by the chief Shepherd with a section of His flock. Every true pastor must enter the fold by the same door as the sheep. To Him also the porter must open, and will do so if the pastor comes with loving heart, desiring to feed Christ’s flock. And there is an orderly manner of entrance (1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22, etc.). Not, then, every one who assumes of himself this sacred office is to be accounted worthy to exercise it, but he who comes by Christ’s appointed way. “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets”; but no true prophet will disregard the Lord’s method and order in the exercise of His gifts.
2. Yet no outward ordination to the office of pastor can avail without the inner spiritual calling. It is here that there is the danger of false shepherds (Ezekiel 34:0), who have merely the outward sign and not the inward Spirit, coming to deceive and waste God’s flock. Only those who are spiritually fitted for this lofty office can enter through the door. Those who aspire to exercise this function merely for ambition, gain, bread, or some other selfish end never truly enter the fold. They may entice some of the flock to follow them; but they are no protection to such deceived ones, who are left to the attacks of their spiritual foes and scattered hither and thither.
3. The true pastor leads the flock of God. He is through the Spirit’s guidance in Christ their leader and director. He leads them to the pasture and living water of God’s word in preaching the gospel. He guides them to earnestness in prayer and fervour in the life of devotion. He points them to spheres of Christian activity and service. And in all this preaching and precept his own example must ever be conspicuous. He must go in the right way if he wishes them to tread in it.
4. And his diligence and activity in pasturing and leading the flock will be conditioned and regulated by his personal knowledge of them, by his diligence in pastoral work. As the good Shepherd knows every sheep and lamb of the many flocks in His fold, so the good under-pastor will seek to know the individuals under his charge. “He calleth his own sheep by name.” He knows their special circumstances and needs, so that he can adapt his teaching and ministry to these needs. Onerous but most honourable is this calling. Oh for grace that we may exercise it diligently, so that “when the chief Shepherd shall appear we may receive a crown of glory”! (II. after Kögel).
John 10:10-15. Christ the good Shepherd.—Scripture exhausts the imagery which may be used to describe the tenderness, love, and care of God for men. He is a Father, and men His children; a king, and men His subjects, ruled by Him for their eternal good; a benefactor, “opening His liberal hand” and pouring out His bounty. But no figure perhaps is at once so tender and true as that in which the relation between Jehovah and His people is likened to that between a shepherd and his flock. This relationship implies on the one hand ability to help, and the exercise of a watchful, even tender care, and on the other a sense of dependence and affection which are characteristic of the relationship between God and His people. He cares for them, tends them, supplies their wants; and they look to and follow Him in entire dependence and submission.
I. The good Shepherd gives His flock every spiritual blessing.—
1. This is implied in the words, “I am come that they might have life,” etc. This is the fulfilment of the old promise to the spiritual Israel (Psalms 133:3). It is this that men need, life, spiritual life; and it is this Christ came to bestow. He alone can give it (John 1:4)—spiritual life and the means of sustaining life. Every true member of Christ’s flock remembers a time when he was restless and unsatisfied. Why? Because the soul was separated from the true fountain and source of its life, because the spirit was longing for communion with the source of its true life. And having received life, they receive it more abundantly. Those who have come to the fold from the dreary desert of dissatisfaction and unrest, of danger and death, where no spiritual manna fell, they know of the gladness that filled the soul when He who is the bread and who gives the water of life followed them across the waste, and led them to the living springs of life, etc.
2. And with this life He gives all that pertains to it, all that is necessary to quicken and sustain it. “All things are yours.” “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord [His flock] shall not want any good” (Psalms 34:10). He will care that His people are sustained in their material life as they need, so that their spiritual life may radiate forth in living influence on a perishing world. And this spiritual life will also have its due nourishment (John 10:9), so that they may grow “to the measure of the stature of the perfect man in Christ.”
II. The good Shepherd cares for each individual of the flock.—
1. “I know Mine own,” He says. It is not merely a general care. In this, too, He is “One with the Father.” The divine providence follows the righteous, nay, all men, individually, overlooking none; despising none.
2. So the good Shepherd cares for the individuals of His flock. Each member of it feels this special care, which does not overlook the one among the many, and can say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” “I know, … and am known of Mine.” He knows His sheep even when they wander far from the fold it may be, and in love and pity He follows them in their alienation across the lonely wilderness, and brings them back to the fold with rejoicing (Luke 15:1-7).
3. His care descends to the young and feeble of His flock; and in the aspect of His office He is emphatically the good Shepherd. The lambs of the flock He receives with benign favour and blesses them (Mark 10:13-16). His care and sympathy are extended toward those who are spiritually immature and feeble; they elicit His tender regard. He never breaks the bruised reed, etc.
4. The struggling and doubting believer is not unregarded by Him, but looking to Him shall receive from Him grace for grace. He had indeed shown among this unbelieving people all those marks of the character of the Shepherd-King, the Messiah, which they must have recognised had they understood the prophetic writings. “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs in His arms,” etc.
5. “And am known of Mine.” Is it wonderful that they do, in view of all the grace and goodness they owe to Him, their spiritual life, and all that sustains it, and all the blessedness and peace it brings? Who could be ignorant of his best friend and benefactor? And more especially His flock know Him because—
III. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.—
1. It was necessary that He should do so, to meet the claims of the divine law, to overcome the wolf that came to steal, kill, and destroy—that by dying He should conquer death for His people, etc.
2. Are we of His flock? do we know Him? Then we must make Him known!
John 10:12-16. The good Shepherd and His flock.—In everything that is bright, clear, diaphanous, the sun mirrors itself and imprints its image, in the dewdrop, river, and brook, glass and crystal, and in the human eye. It recoils from what is by nature dark and black, lighting the surface, but without impressing its image. So the Lord Jesus, the sun of grace, mirrors Himself in hearts pure and transparent to the heavenly light; the hearts closed and dark are for a time outwardly illumined, but His image does not remain in them. So, too, He mirrors Himself in the conditions and occupations of human life, laying hold in His parables of those especially which have the most affinity with His redemptive work. He speaks of the fisher, sower, etc., etc. But we might almost say that He loves most of all to liken Himself to a shepherd. He was foreshown in the old covenant by pious types of this office. Abraham, etc., who received the clearest prophecies concerning Him, shepherded their flocks. “According to the flesh” He is descended from those shepherds. In the psalms and prophets the Lord is so frequently likened to a good shepherd that we cannot now go over the long succession of those blessed prophetic words, etc. As therefore He it was to whom the prophets especially referred, He willingly assumes the type. He spoke of the lost sheep, and the flock-master—Himself. Here He speaks of the good Shepherd, i.e. Himself. He speaks of His flock. The flock is His Church, etc. “O Lord Jesus, Thou good Shepherd, gather us together to-day around Thee on the green meadows of Thy holy word. Give our souls healthful nourishment. Open heart and ears that we may hear Thy voice. Banish all allurements of the world, so that we may at this time truly be near Thee, and may more and more be filled with the desire to be with Thee for ever. Amen.”
I. The good Shepherd cares for and dies for His sheep.—“I am the good Shepherd,” said Jesus. There is but one, etc., and that is He. He also said, “I am the light,” etc., not a light. Beside Him no other light is of any account. “I am the way,” etc. Beside Him there is no other way, truth, life. No man cometh to the Father but by Him. If any one has a right to a title and name of honour, He has to that of the good Shepherd. In the gospel He does not discourse of the times of repose for the flock,—how at spring of day He leads them forth; at midday guides them to rest by fresh streams; how at eventide He leads them gently homeward from the fold to the sound of song or flute-note. He has chosen times of need in order to represent Himself as the good Shepherd, and prove Himself to be so. He speaks of the times when the wolf breaks into the fold. Whom does He mean? The prince of this world. He breaks into the fold of God that he may sow unbelief therein, that he may persecute the members of the fold, etc. If we take this image in a historical sense, there is now no more any wolf, the flock can feed unharmed. But if we consider the position of the community of the faithful, who hold fast by the revealed word, by Christ, God’s only begotten Son, and His ordinances, then many wolves menace them. With speech, writing, seducements of every sort, mockery, and force they attack the flock. Now the wolf adopts sheep’s clothing; anon he appears in true wolfish guise. He would disperse and scatter the sheep, etc. But to God be praise and thanks in eternity that we have such a good Shepherd. Behold, He is no hireling. The flock is His, purchased by Him, gathered together and drawn from the hedgerows and wastes of the world. He has fully purchased and acquired them, not with gold or silver, but by His own precious blood. He is no hireling for reward. None can give Him aught, for all that we possess is a gift of His grace. What He did receive from men is not the reward of any hireling—scourging, a crown of thorns, nails for His cross. He did not seek ours, but us. In order that His flock might have pasture, He Himself was fed on the place of skulls. But His pasturage was vinegar mingled with gall, and anguish, as He cried, “My God,” etc. When the wolf came in Gethsemane, the Shepherd protected His flock: “If ye seek Me, let these (disciples) go,” etc. (John 18:8). That they and we might live He died. But He still is our good Shepherd in eternity. From the right hand of His father He shepherds His flock. His pastoral staff reaches every quarter of the earth. He leads to green pastures, etc., stands by us in conflict, fights ever for His flock, and will carry the conflict to victory. Jacob was faithful in his pastoral office (Genesis 31:40). But more faithful is He who died on the cross, who knows each sheep, their needs, what their souls require. Bold was David son of Jesse as shepherd and king (1 Samuel 17:34). But bolder still was our good Shepherd. He knew that only in dying could He conquer. He gave His life for the sheep. And this faithfulness, this death-defiance, is fitly crowned, so that He rules and shall rule over all His foes. Are we of His flock? Prove yourselves; for of His flock He says—
II. The flock hear His voice and follow Him.—The flock is Christendom. His people are likened to sheep, because they are to be meek and lowly of heart, and fight not with carnal weapons. What does the Lord require of His sheep? “I am known of Mine.” What does He mean by this knowledge? You know that He was born in Bethlehem, brought up in Nazareth, that He went seeking souls for three years through the Holy Land, that He was crucified on Golgotha. Do you say, That is enough, He is known by me? This is not the knowledge He means. You have seen a painting of Him, as it were, as He lies in the manger-crib whilst the star of the wise men shines down upon Him, as He stands crowned with thorns, etc. But that is not knowledge of Him. His enemies saw more than this—they saw Himself. True knowledge of Him is that which you have within—that He is in you lovingly, that you are dead to the world, alive to Him. He is known when you have experienced in you the power of His life and death, when His gospel has penetrated your soul—when in you there is a Golgotha of the old man to be found, and a Bethlehem of the new—when you know Him as not a but your Redeemer, and feel that in you His atoning work is completed, when through faith and prayer you enter daily into intercourse with Him. To those who thus know Him may be applied the saying, “My sheep hear My voice.” Have you heard? There may be hearing and hearing. On the crosses near His hung two thieves. Both heard (the one like a rock from which rebounded a dead mocking echo, the other as one whose ears God had opened) words which reached the heart like arrows, whose barbs remained fixed. Do you hear thus? You must if you know Him. Ask yourself, How many passages, sermons, from God’s words thus remain fixed in your heart? Have you so heard the saving truths of the gospel that they become part of your life, nature, etc.? Then in you will be found the third mark of Christ’s flock, “And I know them.” There is a distinction in His knowing as in our hearing. He knows a Judas; but only in this sense those to whom He wears another aspect. Faith and love are the soul’s eyes. When the Lord stands before us and sees Himself reflected in those eyes, He says, I know you. If He sees nothing of Himself in you, you are spiritually dead. But this is not an indifferent position; it is a wrong one. He sees a mockery of Himself in it, knows you not, and says, “I have never known you,” etc. (Matthew 7:23). Is He known to you? do you hear His voice? does He know you? Then you must follow Him—with joy, for the Christ within you has no more loving friend and leader than the Christ without. Have you followed your Lord? How often have mammon, life’s pleasures, agreeable and easy tranquillity, been your leaders! How pleasing it was when their leadership and Christ’s coincided! And when it was not so, had you not much regret? Ah! then you must not truly know Him. Pray, therefore, the Holy Spirit that He would make Him known to you, so that you may follow in joy or sorrow, etc.
III. He leads His flock home at eventide.—When the sun sinks to rest and the shadows lengthen, when the evening bells are sounding, and the winds of evening sigh, then the shepherd leads His flock homeward, that the terrors of night may not overtake them. So is it with our good Shepherd. At the close of His discourse on the good Shepherd, He drops parable, and says plainly, “I give unto them eternal life,” etc. (John 10:28). Why does He drop the allegory now? Because He comes now to your holiest hopes and dearest portion. He does not wish to leave the slightest doubt, or give room for any misinterpretation. Therefore He says, “I give unto them eternal life,” etc. He speaks of the time when we shall no more see in a glass darkly, etc. From the love at the close of this allegory you may recognise the love with which He will bring you to rest at the eventide of life. There are foes and soul murderers even on the home-going road. But He is with His flock, giving wondrous power and quickening faith. “They shall never perish,” etc. But when they have passed through this, then the wilderness is all past. When you consider all these things, when you so know Him, then you will ever pray, Lord, take me wholly into Thy fold. I am content to go as Thou dost lead, if Thou be my good Shepherd.—Abridged from, Dr. F. Ahlfeld, “Predigt.”
John 10:12-16. The good Shepherd and His characteristics.—The sheep, their confidence and safety, their obedience and love, are the chief points of the passage. The mediator of the old covenant said, Thou shalt. The Mediator of the new covenant declares, I love thee; and He awaits the effects of the working of His love in our hearts. This love comes home to us especially, and works prevailingly in our hearts when He calls and proves Himself to be the good Shepherd. May this thought of Christ as our good Shepherd determine us to love Him more unrestrainedly, and increase love to Him in our hearts. Christ is the good Shepherd of His people. This He makes known:—
I. In His love toward His people.—
1. He knows His own, their wants and needs. He knows what solacement they require, and what satisfaction their hearts desire.
2. As is the intercourse of love between the Father and the Son, so is it between Christ and His flock. He consecrates His life for their salvation. He leads them to pasture on green meadows, and beside the fresh watersprings.
II. In His conflict for His people.—
1. He does not act as the hireling who flees when the foe comes near. He stands by His people in their conflict with the prince of darkness and his temptations, in opposition to the incitements and threatenings of the unbelieving world, and the temptations that arise from their own carnal nature.
2. He lays down His life for His people in order to redeem them from sin, death, and Satan, to satisfy divine justice, and assure them of the grace of God.
III. In the joy which He has in His people.—
1. He rejoices when His people find life and full satisfaction in their loyalty to Him.
2. He rejoices when all His people, without distinction of race, station, or age, unite together in one communion, hearing His voice, and being comforted by His promise of eternal life.—J. L. Sommer.
Christ the good Shepherd.—
I. He loves His sheep.—“I am a good Shepherd; a good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” His love is wonderful; for who is the shepherd? who are His sheep? His love is self-sacrificing and self-denying. He could have spoken of His love under various other types, but here He uses this one. He gives His life for the sheep. The Shepherd here is at the same time the Lamb of God who is led to the slaughter. His love is comforting; for it is to the sheep light, pasture, treasure, all things.
II. He protects His sheep.—The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep; the hireling flees before the wolf, and the good Shepherd defends the sheep. He must protect them, for the sheep are silly, timorous, helpless creatures. Without the help of the good Shepherd, they would fall a prey to the wolf, the world, sin, and Satan. He will protect them. He is no hireling; the sheep are His own, and have been bought with a price. He can protect them. He has drawn out the teeth of the wolf. The risen Lord is with us alway, even to the end of the world. All power is given to Him in heaven and in earth.
III. He knows His sheep.—“I know My own, and am known of Mine, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father.” We consider, with regard to this: A solace. The Holy One knows me! Is this a comfort? Yes! There was a time when this thought filled one with fear; now it is otherwise. The good Shepherd has given His life for the sheep, and for thee. He knows all thy sins, and how much thou needest His grace. He knows all thy temptations, thy necessities, thy inmost troubles. He can comfort thee, as one is comforted by his mother. He knows thee, although thy best friend may misunderstand thee. He knows thee, and acknowledges thee. An experience. “I know My own, and am known of Mine,”—the process in which we become known to ourselves. A mystery. As My Father knows Me, and I know the Father; so I know My own, and am known of Mine. We stand here before a mystery which we cannot understand, but whose blessedness we experience in our hearts.
IV. He gathers His sheep.—“I have other sheep which are not of this fold; … they shall, be one flock,” etc. In these words there is revealed to us: The majesty of the good Shepherd. In the circle of His disciples the Lord stands in kingly majesty. He looks abroad on the development of His kingdom. He sees beyond all ages to eternity, and utters the great missionary proclamation, “Other sheep I have,” etc. The power of His love. He must bring in those other sheep; the power of His love impels Him to do this. The nature of His Church. He gathers together His flock, but not into one fold. The one mother has many daughters, among whom one, it is true, is dearest to the Lord. We are not to pull down our own fold. The future of His kingdom. There shall be one flock, one Shepherd. This, at present, we have only in part. But amid all differences there is still unity. Still, this unity will find its complete realisation in the future.—Appuhn in J. L. Sommer’s “Evang. Per.”
John 10:14. What impression should this truth, “Jesus is our good Shepherd,” make upon us?
I. It calls for our eternal gratitude in view of the highest and greatest act of His love.
II. It should awaken within us heartfelt confidence in His unchanging faithfulness.
III. It should prompt us to earnest self-examination in reference to our relation to Him.
IV. It should warrant us in having a glorious hope in the extension and consummation of His kingdom.—Dr. v. Biarowsky, Idem.
John 10:16. Christ’s prophetic promise of the ingathering of the Gentiles.—As we read these words of Jesus the mind instinctively reverts to the old prophetic promises of the glory of the Church, and the ingathering of all peoples into the one flock, especially such prophecies as that of Isaiah 60:6-16; Micah 4:1, etc. In such grand prophecies the final unity of the flock of Christ is gloriously foretold. Not only do we behold the Gentile nations far and near bringing their gifts to Zion, their ships like light clouds on the far horizon, or like doves winging their flight homeward, coming even from the far islands of the sea; but we also see the nations themselves becoming subject to Zion. The governments of the nations in their activity and rule are bound to the Church and kingdom of Christ, and find their chief glory in the service of the Holy One. The result of all being that Zion—the Church—shall grow in beauty and strength as the nations are brought into unity of service, until it shall be conspicuously evident that Jehovah is the Lord and Redeemer of His Church and people. It need only be pointed out how close the connection is between those prophetic promises and this utterance of our Lord to the Jews in Jerusalem. The Saviour’s words are not merely an affirmation of these old promises, for they are His own word also and must stand, but mark a definite stage in their fulfilment. We may look:—
I. At the manner and extent in which the unification of the Saviour’s flock had been accomplished before His advent.—
1. Of course it is evident our Lord included His ancient people as part of His flock. The “other sheep” are the Gentile nations, and these are to be brought into union with “the sheep of this fold,” i.e. the Jewish Church, which for long ages had been the church and flock of God on earth. And we are to remember that the Saviour still calls them His sheep, though they have for a time strayed into the desert of unbelief. He still yearns over them in love, and is going forth through missions and mission work to seek them and bring them back into the unity of His flock. In the future of Christ’s Church also Israel will play an important part, is being kept separate for that part.
2. The restoration (fulness) of Israel will be “the riches of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:12). But as a nation at that time they had not carried out the divine purposes. In Babylon they had been cured for ever of the old wayward lapsing into idolatry, and leaving in Babylon large numbers of their compatriots unequivocal and uncompromising believers in the unity and spirituality of God, the remnant returned to set up a pure worship in Jerusalem. But they became more exclusive than ever; they did not seem to realise the truth that the possession of the holy oracles and privileges of the chosen people were designed to make them ministers and teachers of truth to all nations, as the Psalmist sang, “God be merciful, … that Thy way,” etc. (Psalms 67:0).
3. But what they would not do of their own free will they were in a measure compelled to do by the divine hand. Under the divided Greek empire numbers of them were forcibly transported to Alexandria, Antioch, and other parts of the Greek dominion among peoples under Greek influence. Alexandria was the greatest mercantile centre of the age—then, as now, a cosmopolitan city in the widest sense—a seat of ancient learning, a centre from which opinions and ideas spread to all parts of the known world.
4. There was thus more than mere hazard in the fact, rather divine guidance, that from this important centre the first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was given to the world in the Greek language, then the speech of philosophy, etc., spoken more or less everywhere throughout the known world. Thus, in spite of themselves, the Jewish people were making known God’s light and truth; and at the time when our Lord came—the fulness of time—not only were there hundreds of thousands of Jews in many of the most populous centres (1 Peter 1:0, etc.), but their religion was commending itself to the Gentiles; numerous proselytes from among these had become attached to the Jewish faith. So that in many ways the soil had been prepared for the fulfilment of those promises which prophets had foretold in many an inspired utterance, and which even shine out in special enactments of the Mosaic economy.
5. But, as a race, the Jews failed to carry out the divine order. Not only did they make the gate of entrance into Judaism itself too strait and difficult by their traditions, “lading men,” etc. (Luke 11:46), shutting up and hiding by their human inventions the way into God’s fold, but they stood aloof, and repelled by spiritual pride Samaritan and Gentile alike. As a nation at that time they had failed to carry out their divine mission.
II. The divine necessity for the fulfilment, etc., is expressed in Christ’s words, “Other sheep: … them also I must bring,” etc.—
1. In this chapter we have recorded the actual final rejection of our Saviour’s claim by the Jerusalem Jews. Earnestly had our Lord sought to free them from the bondage of their traditions, so that they might receive Him and become His instruments in bringing the Gentiles into the flock of God. And from many indications we gather that they would have been willing to do so on their own conditions and in their own way. If Jesus had permitted them to crown Him as king, had rallied an army around Him, and like another Judas Maccabæus, only greater, He had smitten as with a hammer the Roman invaders from the land, and made conquering Israel the centre of the nation’s homage in a temporal and material sense, then they would have hailed Him with their hosannas and followed Him to the death. They misread their prophets, however, turned spiritual promises into material, in place of interpreting the temporal adjuncts in a spiritual sense. They disregarded even the Baptist’s proclamation of the spiritual kingdom—would have nothing to do with calls to repentance, humility, righteousness. They would not see it was these they needed—that these only are the true strength of nations—that true conquest is not by the sword, but by the Spirit. Therefore the Jewish pastoral office was to be superseded for a time: the Jewish fold had been made too narrow to receive the whole flock of God. The Jewish shepherds of those later days had become false and hireling for the most part: their office was to be taken from them (Jeremiah 23:0; Ezekiel 34:0, etc.).
2. But Jesus must needs bring these other sheep into His fold. This Jewish exclusiveness was not the measure of God’s love and pity. Outside of that fold were many whom Christ claimed as His own—already His, for He speaks in the eternal now of His divine nature. They were still wanderers—“aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” etc. (Ephesians 2:11-12). But Christ must bring them in. The necessity of redemption for the race at large flows from the depths of and follows eternal love, the love of God, “who will have all men to be saved,” etc. And if we ask, Who are those whom He is to bring? etc., the answer is, Those who are still outside, although His flock, attested to be so by His word here, and by His declaration, “I lay down My life,” etc. (John 10:15). But, it is said, is it not the elect only that are of His flock? The reply is, Those who hear His voice are the elect.
3. But all are His sheep by creation and providence (Psalms 100:3), though some wander away and perish, may turn from Him and reject Him, as did the Jews. He is the governor, the shepherd, among the nations; and from among them He will bring His flock, the title to and possession of which He has gained by His redeeming and self-sacrificing love. He was sent to “the lost sheep,” etc. (Matthew 15:24); and though they as a body for the time rejected Him, He could look beyond them to wider and more distant fields, in which He should “see of the travail of His soul,” etc.
4. He viewed the restriction of His activity to Israel as withdrawn by His death. As He said, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,” etc. (Matthew 21:43). And as the exalted Christ He is the shepherd of all peoples: in this office He issues to His followers the command, “Go, make disciples,” etc. (Matthew 28:0).
III. Look at Christ’s method in bringing about the fulfilment of His promises.—
1. It was essentially different from that of the Jews. They would have brought it about vi et armis; Christ, by spiritual influence and moral power. They would have taken the sword—some of the disciples even—as Mohammedanism did at a later day, only “to perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
2. Christ wields a power which no material force can hem in or subdue; and His empire is in the hearts of men. He brings them to Himself by the power of His redeeming love and grace, so that they willingly hear His voice and obey Him. They shall come, are coming, from north, south, east, and west, “and shall sit down with Abraham,” etc. (Matthew 8:11), and they shall become “one flock,” etc. Not one fold, one rigid, ecclesiastical system; but unity in diversity, one flock consisting of Jewish and Gentile Church, companies from among “Barbarian, Scythian,” etc. (Colossians 3:11), men of different nations, different Church orders, following different forms of worship, yet all joined in unity of love and service.
3. And how does He lead them into this unity? He brings the flock, it is true, but does so by bringing first the individuals to Himself. With each He pursues His own way, leading each as He sees best, varying His methods with each member of the separate folds, as every member is dissimilar from every other member.
4. There is no mechanical method of “turning out” Christians; each individual must for him or herself hear Christ’s voice. And so it comes about that He leads His people by “ways they know not” often, sometimes rough ways, where they may “sow in tears.” But not for ever: it is that they may “reap,” etc. (Psalms 126:0). While men of the world escape, His sheep are often severely punished for transgression, e.g. “Moses” (Deuteronomy 3:26-27). So that His people may often say, “If in this life only,” etc. “But to whom He gives much, of them,” etc. (Luke 12:48): the branches of the vine are pruned that they may bring forth more fruit (John 15:2).
5. See in the history of the Church how variously He deals, etc. In what different ways are a John, Paul, Luther, Savonarola, etc., brought to Him and kept in His flock! He often leads us otherwise than we desire—to-day to “green pastures,” to-morrow to the valley of shadows: times of fervour are succeeded by seasons of frigidity, “Where is the blessedness,” etc.—times of peace by trial and persecution—times of answer to prayer by times of withholding the answer. Something we clung to as a chief good is taken from us, and it is only long after, perhaps, that we see what a danger we were then snatched from. His flock, indeed, learn as He gathers them that “His ways are not our ways,” but better, etc. (Isaiah 55:8).
6. And thus He individually gathers them, through the power of His love, working of His Spirit, ministry of the word, and all means of grace, until they attain the unity of faith, and through hearing His voice, and following Him, to membership of the one flock of which He is “the chief shepherd and bishop” (1 Peter 5:4). In this is fulfilled His personal and prophetic word.
IV. Hindrances to the fulfilment of this promise which still exist.—
1. The age in which we live has seen a marvellous extension of endeavour to fulfil our Lord’s injunction to the Church to “make disciples,” etc., marvellous when we remember that even at the beginning of this century Christian people were found who argued that it was not our part to send the gospel to Jew and Gentile, etc.
2. This was just how the Jews of our Lord’s day acted. They did not see that they were called to make known God’s saving health to all nations. And we know the result. In the history of Judaism since the fall of Jerusalem, the fate of subjects of God’s kingdom neglecting their responsibilities, etc., is seen.
(1) One great hindrance to the fulfilment of this divine promise is the supineness, want of interest, indifference, of those who call themselves Christ’s, to the Redeemer’s command. What shall we say of a Christian people who call themselves God’s flock, and spend on football yearly about four millions of pounds, on drink over one hundred and fifty millions, and on missions a paltry one and a half million? The Church needs waking up, etc.; then perhaps the ships of Tarshish will bear fewer kegs of rum and gunpowder to the heathen, and a larger number of “messengers proclaiming the gospel of peace,” etc.
(2) Another and in some ways greater hindrance is the strife and division between different sections of Christ’s flock. This arises from the lack, fundamentally, of pure Christian charity—love. There is less now than in former times, let us be thankful, of the unchurching of one another by Protestant communities of the faithful, although there is still more than enough of it. And until the light of pure truth breaks in on the Roman and Greek communities, not much is to be hoped from those quarters. Although many faithful people are in those communities, as a whole their errors must keep them from the close unity of the flock. But better things might be expected from enlightened communities of the Reformed than the state of things that exists. Pray for the spirit of Christian love, so that this promise may speedily be fulfilled, and there “be one fold,” etc.
John 10:17-18. “I have power to lay down My life.”—This is not spoken of the power men have to lay down life voluntarily, as distinguishing them from the lower animals; nor of the somewhat equivocal courage required to lay down life, so as not to have to drink to the dregs the cup of suffering or shame. It refers rather to the power, which we as Christians ought to feel that we have, to lay down our lives as Christ did for the sake of what is good. The consciousness of power to do this is a high privilege:—
I. Because nothing else raises us so much above earthly things.—The changes of life, whilst they bring what is pleasant, etc., also threaten us with loss. The latter is all the more hard to bear when we are conscious that we would never willingly have submitted to it. Some are satisfied when the loss is balanced by the gain. But must they not feel that the preponderance is ever uncertain, and that in regard to it they are altogether dependent? Others seek in various ways to endeavour to secure as long a lease of life’s possessions as possible. But must they not feel that the ordering of life is not in their own hands? One safe way remains, i.e. when a man has laid down his course for life, and resolves to lose life itself, the sum-total of all those particular possessions, rather than swerve from that course. In view of this all he does not lose is gain, and every loss which confirms him in his duty will be a voluntary surrender. In misfortune he feels that he who possesses what is dearer than life need not weakly grieve over the loss of a single possession. Only thus can we be free—more free than if we possessed many of earth’s gifts, and were secure in the possession of them. This we see exemplified most gloriously in the case of Christ. If He had surrounded Himself with the heavenly hosts, and escaped from the hands of His foes, would He have seemed to us so sublimely elevated above all earthly power, as He is now, since He voluntarily gave Himself to die?
II. Because nothing so greatly consoles us in view of the insignificance of our efforts.—We are not to reckon up the value of our works, but believe that actions apparently unequal may in view of this be equal in God’s sight. The measure of our work is the exercise of our powers. Even when sometimes we are inclined to be contented with our efforts, we feel that by greater exertion we might have done more. Men often feel also that they are not in positions in which all their powers might be best utilised. In respect of this, on what shall we stay ourselves if not on our readiness to use all our powers in doing what is incumbent on us? And how shall we be better conscious of ability to do this, than when we feel in us the power rather to lay down life itself than to turn away from the end set before us? What greater proof did the Redeemer give us of His unbounded obedience, or what greater could be required, than that He went forward to death to fulfil the Father’s will? When we can do this, the Father will love us as He loved Him.
III. Because nothing can purify us so thoroughly from the suspicion of self-interestedness in our activity.—Evil mixes in everything which is of consequence in our lives. Too late sometimes we discover that it has been mixed up with what was begun from the very purest motives—in the form, e.g., of selfishness or vanity. The more narrowly we observe ourselves we shall see occasion in this respect to blame ourselves severely. But how, in such case, can we have a clear conscience toward God, unless through this power of laying down our life? Whatever is impure in connection with our possessions must be concerned with merely earthly possessions. In order then best to cut ourselves loose from dependence on them, and to be pure in heart, we must seek to feel ourselves strong enough not to be willing to give up these particular possessions alone, but that which is the sum-total of them all. So we judge others should act. Nothing washes away the reproach of self-interestedness more thoroughly than a real martyrdom. The bitterest foes of the Saviour, when He went forward to death in reality, could not impute to Him any self-interested aim. We see then how true it is that the Redeemer can raise us toward Himself only in so far as we take up our cross and follow Him; and that the most precious blessings of our fellowship with Him come to us in our readiness, if need be, to suffer and die for Him and the concerns of His kingdom. But who will assure us that this consciousness of our power to lay down our life will not prove to be spurious? Beneath the cross of Christ our hearts cannot deceive us in this matter. Here each one will find, when he needs it, the conviction that he is, or the power to become, such a one.—Abridged from Schleiermacher.
John 10:19-21. “A sign which shall be spoken against.”—“The thoughts of many hearts” were again being revealed; and the divisions which followed Christ’s teaching were becoming more and more sharp, as that teaching became more searching and personal, and as the cross at the end of the way became more distinct. And this is not to be wondered at. Every reformation and every reformer are causes of division. When truth enters the lists, error and falsehood are compelled to take up arms, after their kind. When goodness draws near, wickedness gnashes its teeth. And those who by nature are allied to either will then fall into their true places, although before it may have been difficult to distinguish between the two classes. Ever and anon there are crises in life which tend to bring these two classes into prominent opposition. It was so in Jerusalem at the period of our narrative.
I. A wicked charge.—
1. This was not the first time such a charge had been levelled against our Lord (John 7:20, John 8:48). Spiritual, like mental, derangement considers itself alone sane. These Jews could not bear the presence and teaching of Christ, which were a continual reproach to them.
2. Especially were they enraged at our Lord’s claim to such close relationship with His Father. If that were a fact, then indeed they were condemned, so utterly inimical were they in nature and life to Christ.
3. But there was no attempt on their part to discover whether in any sense Christ’s words were true. They must not be admitted to be true, otherwise there would be an end of all authority over the people on the part of these Jews.
4. Nor must the people be permitted to be influenced any longer by Jesus. Hence the resort of these men to the old, coarse method of abuse: “He hath a demon, and is mad.”
II. A convincing rejoinder.—
1. It is a matter of every-day experience that contemptuous and contumelious charges and names flung abroad in the heat of party strife do tell with many of the unthinking multitude. It is a poor and contemptible proceeding, looked at in any light. But although it may succeed with some, it will just have the opposite effect on rational-minded, thinking men. It will lead to a more strict examination of facts; and the evil name or imputation will generally in the end recoil on the head of him who gave it currency. Such an action is somewhat of a boomerang nature.
2. It was so on this occasion. As some of the thinking people reflected on the beautiful, tender, and loving words of the Saviour—as they remembered His miracles, the healing of the man born blind, which had led to such prolonged discussion and to such a display of heated feeling—these people answered with a simple directness that silenced the slanderers: “These are not the words of Him that hath a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
3. By all candid minds the “teaching” of Jesus was seen to be with authority; it was so lofty and spiritual, yet ever graded so as to be comprehensible to his hearers. He taught men “as they were able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Unlike the scribes, He did not restrict Himself to the instruction of learned coteries. The poor and degraded shared His instructions, and the common folk heard Him gladly. All reasonable men must have seen that such teaching was truly Godlike and bore the stamp of heaven. It was given to all freely, just as God’s providential care is over all His works.
4. And then Christ’s miracles! So beneficent, so divine! It was impossible that minds not distorted by hate and bigotry could believe that powers such as these could come from beneath.
III. A lesson for the time.—
1. There are still divisions because of Christ, and Christ’s disciples are frequently treated as was their Master. When men become spiritually in earnest, often people of the world, worldly friends, think their earnestness a symptom of mental ill-health. It was so in the case of Chalmers, e.g., when first he began to preach with power. “Mad Tom Chalmers” was a familiar expression. So has it been with other men of spiritual power. The words of Festus to Paul (Acts 26:24) are memorable. “The disciple shall be as his Master.”
2. And are there not those to-day who hint that Christ’s claims are a delusion or a myth, that the records of His mighty works are fables? But are not His works still among us to confute these modern calumnies? Look around. See amid all the imperfections of Christendom the tokens and evidences of His presence in works of love and mercy, etc., unknown before He lived and moved among men. Let men and women testify how He has rescued them from the horrible pit and miry clay, etc. (Psalms 40:0); how He has brought them out of darkness into marvellous light, etc. “By its rays we recognise the sun; by its fruits we know the tree; by his seal and signature we know who the man is; and by His works we know the Master.”
John 10:12. The motto of the hireling is Non vos, sed vestra, i.e. Not you, but yours—your milk, your wool. Soul-tenders and not wallet-tenders—so should it be with Christ’s pastors. The description of a true shepherd was thus made by one who painted a mirror, and wrote under it, Cunctis œque fidum, i.e. He does not play the hypocrite, but represents people as they really are. We must, before all things, see to the glory of God and the salvation of men, for for these two reasons God has constituted the ministry of preaching. The hireling has always Pax vobis (Peace be with you) on his tongue, never Vae vobis (Woe be to you). Good shepherds and hirelings are never more easily distinguishable than in circumstances of persecution, poverty, sickness, etc. At no other time does the shepherd remain more closely by his flock, and at no other time does the hireling so readily forsake his flock. The spiritual office brings with it not pleasure, but a load; not glory, but often grief; not laughing, but watching. People might say of the preacher’s hood and gown as that king said of his kingly robe: “If any one knew how much care, trouble, and responsibility are concealed in it, he would not lift it up from the ground.” A pastor is Christ’s under-shepherd. The prayer book must never be far from him, so that he may at all times cry out in spirit for himself and his hearers. His shoes are patience, with which he passes through all adversity, and endures as a good soldier of Christ. His shepherd’s wallet is the Holy Scripture. He brings thence things new and old—the law to terrify the old man and the Gospel to entice and comfort the new man. His shepherd’s crook is the staff “chastisement” and the staff “gentleness”; with that he brings down proud spirits, with this he raises up the humble. His shepherd’s dog is watchfulness; he slumbers not, but cares for the flock committed to his charge. His pastoral flute is cheerfulness and kindliness, with which he attracts souls to him, so that they may follow the teaching of the Lord which he sets forth.—From J. J. Weigel.
John 10:14. Truly knowing Christ.—Many know Christ indeed according to His mercifulness, but do not wish to know Him according to His righteousness; therefore they sin without fear. Others recognise Him, however, as the Righteous One, but not as the Merciful One; therefore they despond in sin, and will not allow themselves to be comforted. If thou givest up Christ, He will in turn give thee up. God punishes slighting with deprivation. If Christ sometimes pastures His lambs not among corn, but only beside it, it is simply because too rich a pasturage would not be good for them. It was not without purpose that the high priest of the old economy was required to bear on his heart the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, when he went into the holy place. Without doubt this signified that a true guardian of souls will bear his flock in his heart, and also in his mind, so that he may never forget to pray, watch, fight for them.—Idem.
John 10:15. Christ knows His sheep.—Renatus Campanus, a French gentleman of rank, ordered those of the reformed faith who fell into his hands to be cast into a deep lake, which he called his great beaker. On one occasion, when asked by King Charles IX. how many Lutheran heretics he had put into his welcome-cup, he replied that he had not kept a register of such worthless and small matters. So much men’s souls were valued by him, which, however, are of great worth in God’s sight.—Idem.
John 10:16. The Church of Christ is a sheepfold.—Because from outside, under the cross, it has a poor appearance. Because it is not fixed in any one place. Because within it are sheep and lambs, strong and weak. Because it is surrounded by foes, like a sheepfold by the wolves.—Idem.
John 10:2. The true Shepherd.—All these traits are so speaking that they require no great explanation. Christ is the essential good shepherd, because that faithfulness with which the heart of the true shepherd beats for the sheep reappears in His heart in a higher form—a faithfulness carried to its utmost perfection on behalf of His human flock, viewed in their need of pasture, of protection, and of a shepherd; yea, because His heart is the centre and fountain-head of all that faithfulness and compassion with which true shepherd-hearts in their spheres of labour, whether spiritual or secular, beat for all living beings which require protection and pasture—for all flocks requiring the shepherd; because He is essentially the ordained shepherd of mankind, and mankind is eternally His flock, which entirely needs His presiding shepherd’s glance, His protection, and His pasture; and because He is ready to deposit His life for the deliverance of this flock.—J. P. Lange.
John 10:8. Robbers of the fold.—The home missions, institutions, and associations of the Romish Church, the orders of monks and nuns, had lapsed for the most part into a state of corruption through the universally corrupt condition of the whole Church. Their powerlessness to effect any radical betterment was not overlooked by the enlightened men of that time. As the Romish See, and the priesthood serving under it, were fighting in especial to sustain the outward authority of the Church, and in consequence permitted the care for the eternal salvation of those souls committed to their charge to recede all too far into the background—as those shepherds of Christendom, to use Ezekiel’s words (Ezekiel 34:3-4), ate the fat, clothed them with the wool, etc.—the spiritual societies, whilst they acknowledged no higher authority than the Romish See, so fell away into a carnal activity, a sensuality and riotous living, avarice and pride, that they helped to draw the Church more deeply into corruption rather than to save it. “They appeared principally,” as an old historian said, “to be appointed to be fishers of money rather than of men by the Papal See.” If Christendom were not to be destroyed, the merciful Saviour, the faithful chief Shepherd, must needs Himself intervene and rouse up soul-shepherds, who should, in the spirit and mission of their Master, seek the lost, bring back the erring, etc., with joyful consecration.—Bachring-Johannes Tauler.
John 10:10. A call to faithfulness.—And you, father, guardian, shall you not come through Jesus, as through the door, and pray that you may have a shepherd’s heart for your child’s sake, so that you may be able to nurture the seed sown by pastoral instruction? And you, mother, do you not hear the commission, “Feed My lambs”? Dare you into the opening lily-cup of a child’s spirit, expanding to receive God’s word, pour the glowing ashes of worldliness and vanity? Teachers, counsellors of the people, authors, journalists—not alone among the clergy are there hirelings, thieves, robbers; and not alone either among the clergy are there shepherds after God’s own heart! In the abbey of Alpirsbach, and over the porch of the convent church there, is represented a husband and wife of the Hohenzöllern family kneeling and praying. They belonged to the most remote of the ancestors of the noble Hohenzöllern house. Above the figures are engraved the words: “I am the door; through Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.” Let us here seek the true pasture; let us lead others to it, so that one day we may, both shepherd and flock, be led by the chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls to living streams above!—Dr. R. Kögel, “Predigt.”
John 10:11. True pastors.—Oh that we (pastors) were faithful like our Lord, and no hirelings! that none of us served for reward, daily bread, the honour and applause of the world, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart! that we, we too, were contented, even though the reward of our pains were shame and persecution, thorny crown and cross! that we did not trouble ourselves so much about an easy and pleasant life, but more especially about the flock committed to us! that we followed even individual souls, as He went after the individual lost sheep! We read how He sought Thomas in the desert of unbelief, how He followed Peter in his wandering with the thrice repeated question, “Simon, son of Jona,” etc.
(21). The ancient Apostolic Church had such pastors; so, too, has the Evangelical Church in her times of gracious visitation. During the first period of the pestilence which Luther passed through in Wittenberg, he wrote to his friend John Lange, prior of the Augustinians in Erfurt: “The pestilence has come, and began here suddenly and violently, especially among the dear children. You advise me to take flight. I trust the world will not be ruined, even though Brother Martin should die. I am set here; because of my duty I dare not flee until duty, which has called me hither, recalls me.” And thus he persevered during three periods of pestilence at his post in the community, comforting and pasturing the flock like a good shepherd.—Translated from Ahlfeld, “Predigt.”
John 10:12. The hireling.—Under the image of a hireling are here presented all surreptitious leaders of men who only for reward, or gain of some sort or other, have undertaken an overseer’s office with a human flock. They are integrated by the wolf, the natural enemy of sheep, who makes havoc of flocks and scatters them. The hireling and the wolf present toward one another an elective affinity and an historical oneness. The one exhibits the heartless flock-leader, who has no concern for the flock, but who seemingly serves them rightly so far as it suits him, for the sake of the hire. The wolf exhibits the principle of hostility to the flock, as it openly appears doing its work of destruction in the person of decided spirits of error and popular seducers. And just by the wolf’s appearing is the hireling revealed as hireling. This last does not live for the flock; he watches not against the wolf. The enemy may be near, and he has yet hardly observed it; as soon as he does observe it, he takes to flight. He is very far from contending with his life against the destructive principles of the wolf, but leaves him to do as he will. Yes, so soon as the delusion of spirits has attained a certain recognition, he joins it. The hireling in the third part of the parable is, we may perceive, to be conjoined with the wolf among the thieves and murderers in the first and second parts. The thief and murderer, when unfolded to view, is half hireling, half wolf.—J. P. Lange.
John 10:12. Faithful shepherds and hirelings.—The office of teacher is related to that of preacher. A Christian teacher should remember above all things this: that his scholars are Christians, baptised in Christ’s name. Baptism is the bond of union between the Church, that school of adult persons, and the school, that Church of the little ones. Even the high schools should not be considered to occupy too lofty a position for their teachers to have the calling of soul-winners. So, too, a professor of theology should not only rear scholars, but Christian disciples. Whoever of us has had a Christian teacher, whether in early childhood or in later youthhood, either as tutor or religious instructor, who did not spare labour and application to be faithful in little things and to the little ones, on whose brow the earnestness of eternity seemed written, who therefore understood how to make a Scripture lesson instructive, because he himself believed in it; who knew how to train for the Saviour, because to the Saviour he himself belonged,—whoever has had such a teacher will daily pray, Hallowed be Thy name among teachers and scholars; may Thy kingdom come into the schools and through the schools.
“Zion’s desolate paths repair;
Whate’er can stay Thine own dear word’s free way,
Remove, ah! swift remove it, Lord, away:
Eradicate vain unbelief’s despair;
From every selfish hireling set us free,
That Church and school may both God’s garden be.”—Kögel, “Predigt.”
John 10:12. All public teaching partakes of the pastoral office.—Literary men and writers for the journalistic press should look into the mirror of our gospel for self-examination, and arraign themselves before conscience as to whether they have sought to implant and foster ideal opinions, or materialistic opinions with the mark of the beast and the sycophancy of the serpent; whether they have spared and defended the sanctuary, or have laid it in ashes with the torch of a Hero-stratus; whether they are incorruptible or venal. They also—yes, they also—have the office of public teachers, and have affinity with the pastoral office!—Idem.
John 10:14. Following Christ.—If from the tree, under which he had last rested, the shepherd has broken off a green branch and holds it behind him, then the flock follow. If he turns round and invites them with gentle voice, then they follow him. Yet they follow also even when he does not look back at them, but silently and steadfastly advances. You will follow if Christ breaks off for you green twigs from the tree of grace. You will follow when He invites you with the sweet voice of His gentleness, when He gives you what your heart desires. But that is not enough. When He goes forward as if He had forgotten you, when for days and weeks and months you have not consciously received any glance of His grace, then must you still follow. There have been many in the Church … on whom spiritual peace and freedom have never smiled, and yet they have followed on. Although (internally and externally) they have had to press on through thorns and thickets, they have followed His footsteps. Such only are of His true flock. So must you learn to follow Him. Oh, this following, unconditional following, let Him lead how He will—this is a theme suited to our times! When darkness falls, incontinently must you hold closely to the good Shepherd. For in times of tribulation and anxiety the wolf crouches beside every path. Especially at such times the Christian will keep close to the Shepherd and the flock, for each individual may readily become a prey. Especially at such times must the lambs, the young in Christ, be kept near Him, for they are not yet firmly established in His way. They are easily enticed away, one knows not how. But he who thus keeps himself, and his, close to Christ can be of good cheer, even when night falls around.—Transtlated from Ahlfeld, “Predigt.”
John 10:16. “Other sheep, not of this fold.”—John Wesley once, in the visions of the night, found himself, as he thought, at the gates of hell. He knocked and asked who were within. “Are there any Roman Catholics here?” he asked. “Yes,” was the answer, “a great many.” “Any Church of England men?” “Yes, a great many.” “Any Presbyterians?” “Yes, a great many.” “Any Independents?” “Yes, a great many.” “Any Baptists?” “Yes, a great many.” “Any Wesleyans here?” “Yes, a great many.” Disappointed and dismayed, especially at the last reply, he turned his steps upward and found himself at the gates of paradise, and here he repeated the same questions. “Any Wesleyans here?” “No.” “Any Presbyterians?” “No.” “Any Church of England men?” “No.” “Any Roman Catholics?” “No.” “Any Baptists?” “No.” “Any Independents?” “No.” “Whom have you here, then?” he asked in astonishment. “We know nothing here,” was the reply, “of any of those names you have mentioned. The only name of which we know anything here is ‘Christian.’ We all are Christians here; and of these we have a great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues.”—From the “Quiver.”
John 10:17-18. The meaning of the self-sacrifice of Christ.—He died of His own free will. From the very beginning His obedience was voluntary. His incarnation loses its whole meaning and value, unless we understand it as the willing entrance into our condition for our sakes of the Son of God. For our sakes He deigned and consented to be born, even as for our sakes He deigned and consented to die. He had before Him all the way what He was to pass through. In the very beginning of His ministry the same thought came over His spirit that crossed it at the end; and He said that He had to be lifted up even as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness. This gives their whole meaning to His sufferings. The very essence of sacrifice lies in the spirit; and if the spirit of Jesus Christ had rebelled, or if He had been but the feeble victim of an enormous wrong. His sacrifice would have been of no value. So if the shocks and storms of life had taken Him unawares, as they take us, the meaning of that life would not have been what it is. But we know that He counted the cost, that every step of His restless, wandering life brought Him nearer Jerusalem, where the prophets were slain, and that He freely willed to die for us. If I had known, we often say, what I had to pass through, I never could have lived. He knew it all, and loaded with the weight of this foreknowledge, He went through it for our sakes.—W. Robertson Nicoll.
John 10:21. Misjudgments of the world.—“Your studies have turned your head, Paul.” Such was the judgment of the cool worldling on the inspired witness of the truth. And we cannot much wonder at the heathen Roman, since he had no conception of the light of Gospel truth, or the sacred fire of the apostolic spirit of witness-bearing. But does not the Christian world sometimes judge very similarly to-day? Is it given to a preacher to handle the sword of the Spirit with power, then the world may not be disinclined to allow that he has a certain amount of talent, but they are of opinion that he lets his light shine simply for the sake of glory. That it is a heartfelt matter with him they will hardly credit; or they then say about him, “Much learning makes him mad.” If a Christian seek to be earnest in his Christianity, in his faith, life, and walk, then if the cool worldlings do not set him down as a hypocrite, they will dub him an extravagant fanatic, whose excessive Bible-reading and church-going have turned his head; and again the cry is, “Paul, thou art beside thyself.” This is a very usual judgment of the man of the world on the man of God. His childlike faith is set down as spiritual narrowness, his earnest Christian walk as hypocrisy, his blessed Christian hope as a vain dream; whilst the man of the world’s own lukewarmness is reckoned as sobriety of judgment, prudence, illumination, and culture. So did they judge of the witnesses of truth at Pentecost: “They are full of new wine.” And of Christ Himself, the light of the world, they said, “He is mad, and hath a demon.”—Karl Gerok, “Predigt.”
EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL NOTES
John 10:22-38. Our Lord’s utterances at the feast of dedication on His oneness with the Father, etc.—This feast (τὰ ἐγκαίνια—the Encænia) was post-exilic in its origin. It commemorated the re-dedication of the temple and the renewing of the altar by Judas Maccabæus after their profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes. It was also called τὰ φῶτα, “Lights,” from a later custom of illuminating the city and temple (vide Jos., Ant.; Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, etc.). It lasted eight days, and was accompanied by great festivities (2Ma. 10:6-8)—from the 25th Chisleu (December 20th), i.e. about the middle of the Syrian winter or rainy season. It is somewhat uncertain whether we are to understand that our Lord was absent from Jerusalem between the feast of tabernacles, during which the discourse 1–22 was spoken, and this feast. Godet thinks that perhaps during that period we may include the events recorded in Luke 10:1-37.
John 10:22-23. It was winter, etc.—Vide above. These are clearly the words of an eye-witness. Solomon’s porch.—Or the portico of Solomon (vide also Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12). “That which was really Solomon’s work, and which was preserved until that time, and remains even to the present day, is to be found in the substructures under the Aska; the subterranean passage, especially, which led from the city of David into the sanctuary; the corridor with the double gate. This we regard as the portico of Solomon: there Jesus walked in winter; because the cold did not penetrate into this crypt, which must naturally have been a frequented place of resort during the winter season” (Caspari).
John 10:24. How long dost Thou keep our minds in a state of suspense (or doubt)?—(αἴρειν τὴν φυχήν, to excite the mind with expectation of hope or fear.) This question shows how wide-spread was the interest among the Jerusalem Jews as to our Lord’s person and mission. The leading Jews were evidently anxious that they and the people should arrive at some definite understanding concerning Christ. “Here the ruling powers of the Jews in Jerusalem seem to be making their last attempt to discover whether from this man, marked as in any case He seemed to be by characteristics of great power, there might not be gained another phase of character and turn of mind than He had hitherto presented. The meaning of the festival might have perhaps especially disposed their minds to do this. For hardly could they celebrate an Encænia without sighing in their secret hearts, and murmuring to one another, Would that a new Judas Maccabæus (Hammerer) would arise and hammer away the Romans.… And as often as they thought on the possibility, even yet, that the mighty Jesus might undertake this part, their bitter distaste to the trend of His character could not fail for the moment to recede into the background.… This was the frame of mind that prompted this question.… It was only under His further explanation in what sense He allowed Himself to be their Christ, that their old exasperation broke out afresh” (Lange, Life of Christ).
John 10:25. I told you, etc.—He had done so frequently (John 5:19; John 8:12; John 8:36, etc.), and had shown by His works and symbolical actions what He was (John 2:13 seq.). A direct claim merely might be made by any impostor; but Jesus pointed to the proofs which supported the declarations He had already openly made of His divine Sonship.
John 10:26. As I said, etc. (καθὼς εἷπον ὑμῖν).—This clause is omitted in the Revised Version. Alford considers “the difficulty of the clause a considerable warrant for its genuineness,” and that it refers “more to the whole allegory than to any explicit saying.” The phrase might also include a reference to John 8:37-44.
John 10:27-38. Here the subject of discourse of two months previously is again taken up. The Saviour’s utterances have had time to sink into the hearts of His hearers, and now He takes up the theme and carries it to its lofty conclusion in John 10:30. The Saviour was seeking to win men; therefore He brings the truth to their minds gradually (Isaiah 28:10).
John 10:29. My Father … is greater than all.—i.e. than all those powers of evil which seek to destroy My flock. ἐκ τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ πατρός μου.—Winer well remarks that these words are “not pleonastic.” They give, as they were intended to do, the most unmistakable definiteness to the statement.
John 10:31. ἐβάστασαν.—Perhaps the meaning is “lifted up and poised in their hands ready to cast at Him.” Again (John 8:59).—This, however, was a more bitter and determined attack.
John 10:32. These words would cause the Jews to reflect before carrying out their intentions. Notice the calmness of the Saviour in the face of this outburst, and the wisdom of His reply.
John 10:33, Blasphemy was punishable with stoning (Leviticus 24:11). But, unless they had been led away with rage, could they connect blasphemy with One who did so many good works? Their action, and the reason they gave, form a clear proof that they understood Jesus to claim the divine Sonship and oneness with God.
John 10:34. The law (νόμος), signifies here the Old Testament generally—the elder revelation as a whole. Our Lord did not wish to drive these men into open antagonism; He tried to lead them, by reasoning from the less to the greater, to recognise how far His claim was from blasphemy. In your law—the law by which you consider yourselves bound—those are called gods to whom the word of God came (Psalms 82:6). And if even tyrannical judges, etc., were called gods, how much more may the eternal Son whom the Father hath sanctified, etc., assume the title Son of God? “The word which gives the name of gods to the lowest judges and prophets in Israel, in the well-understood sense of their being bearers and executors of individual utterances of God, whether judicial or prophetic—this, as a word of Scripture, they were constrained to hold inviolable; while in His case, who is essentially God’s consecrated One and God’s Messenger, the Mediator of His perfected revelation, to whom the Father has Himself given consecration and office in its most essential form—in His case they will count it as blasphemy that He calls Himself the Son of God” (Lange, Life of Christ). “To stand in close relation with the theocracy was to be covered with its glory.… Judaism and rabbinism had widened the chasm between God and man. Christ came to fill up the chasm; nay more, to show the divine and human in living, indissoluble union” (Reynolds).
John 10:39. Again, etc., points to John 7:30. See also Luke 4:30. There was, one may believe, a kingly dignity and power about the Saviour which restrained these infuriated men not only from stoning Him, but from laying hands on Him.
John 10:40. Beyond Jordan.—Peræa. To the place, etc.—i.e. to Bethania in the ancient Gaulonitis, now Jaulan (vide John 1:28). See Mark 10:1 : “He cometh into the borders of Judæa and beyond the Jordan.” St. Mark, in this succinct notice, comprises the two journeys—that to Jerusalem at the feast of dedication, and this to Peræa. Matthew mentions the latter of these only (John 19:1). But even in these minute references we see that the two Synoptists and St. John are practically in agreement.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—John 10:22-41
John 10:22-39. The power of prejudice in blinding men to the truth.—The feast of dedication (vide Notes) was not of divine appointment. Attendance at Jerusalem was not demanded; it could be held elsewhere. Still, it was a festival that appealed to patriotic hearts. A feast of joy it was; marks of sorrow were to be banished; the city was illuminated, etc. Its celebration could not fail to awaken in the hearts of the people a desire for freedom from the Roman yoke. Jesus seized the opportunity to meet the leaders of His people and again assert His claims. They, it seemed, were equally anxious to have those claims decided. Notice,
1. The eager inquiry;
2. The clear answer;
3. The malignant charge begotten of prejudice and disappointment;
4. The calm refutation.
I. The eager inquiry.—
1. Among the crowds at the feast Jesus walked intent on His mission. It was never forgotten. It was winter not only in the outer world, but even at this festival time in the hearts of the Jews—a winter of despair of deliverance. Would a springtide of freedom ever bloom again for the nation?
2. Would this claimant to the Messiahship bring such a blessed period? They had been meditating on Christ’s words. All men indeed had been “musing in their hearts” concerning Him. Could He be the messenger predicted by the ancient prophetic words in passages read during the festival? (Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 3:8, etc.). “Tell us plainly,” they cried, we may imagine, in despairing tone. “We would fully understand the meaning displayed, yet hidden, under Thy parables. Art Thou the Messiah?”
II. The clear answer.—
1. In His reply Jesus pointed them to the fact that He had often told them (see Notes). And again, in patient love, He pointed to His teaching, which they had heard, as it was delivered openly; and to His works, mighty and beneficent, in proof of His claim to be the good Shepherd of His people, the divine Son sent by the Father.
2. And then He showed them that it was because their inner spirit had no true affinity with Him and with the Father that they lingered still outside His fold. It was because of this that they could not, would not, enter into the blessedness of His flock—eternal life and eternal safety.
3. His flock, who follow Him, know and rejoice in this blessedness; for their ground of confidence is in the Eternal. They realise that the good Shepherd is one in love and power with the Father. And to leave those Jews in no doubt as to His claim and position He added the sublime words, “I and My Father are one.”
III. The malignant charge begotten of prejudice and disappointment.—
1. We can in a measure understand the effect such words would have on those Jews who had listened to them, biassed by the training of rabbinical traditionalism and blinded by prejudice. This the Messiah they dreamed of, longed for! Away the thought! Their law, the prophetic word, Christ’s own heavenly teaching and mighty works, all went for nothing, the memory of them was clean blotted out, as prejudice and hate rose within them. These blinded their eyes to the truth. And it was not that this prejudice and hate arose from ignorance. In such a case they are in part excusable. Here they arose from spiritual pride and obstinate self-will. “Ye will not come to Me,” etc. (John 5:40). This was their condemnation.
2. And their action is a warning for all time. How often do intellectual or religious prejudices keep men from truth, and lead to acts of sinful violence? Thus the Jews, led away by their prejudices and prepossessions into rage and madness, seized the stones scattered around—there were building operations proceeding on the yet unfinished temple—and were ready to stone our Lord, putting forward as their excuse His alleged blasphemy. They clearly understood, it is evident, the nature and extent of His claim. They would even have been inclined to so far admit that it had been proved; but its loftiness, unworldliness, and spirituality opposed and defeated their temporal expectations, and their answer to Christ’s claims were hatred, rage, and stones uplifted ready to be cast at Him. This has always been the reply of traditionalism baffled by the clear presentation of truth, e.g. the Inquisition and the Reformation, the Vatican and Galileo, Savonarola, etc.
IV. The calm refutation.—
1. Calmly and unmoved the Saviour repelled their charge, and convinced them for the moment of the folly of their action. He referred them to their sacred Scriptures, which they believed “could not be made void,” in which even unjust and tyrannical judges are called gods (vide Notes, John 10:34-36). “If you find no blasphemy in those words of the Scriptures you revere, how can you charge Me with such a crime, when by word and work I have testified to you the justice of My claim?”
2. They were silent, but not convinced. It was their heart that needed to be changed and converted. They would fain have seized Him; but conscience, and a moral power emanating from the Saviour’s person, making itself felt (vide Notes, John 10:39), paralysed them, and so “He passed out of their hand.”
John 10:28-30. The eternal safety of Christ’s people.—Believers stand firmly on the promises of God in Christ. When men believe in Him, they find all the promises, so far as they refer to this life, to be yea and amen. This is surely an earnest that the promises for the future will also be fulfilled. Believers know how the power of the risen life works within them; and as they know from experience that Jesus is the same yesterday and to-day, so they are assured He will be for ever. His promises do not and will never fail.
I. Christ is the giver of eternal life.—
1. That spiritual and undying life begins here. It is felt pulsating through all the avenues of being. The believer is “a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, they have become new.”
2. But it is an earnest of the eternal life to come. The most of men believe in an immortality of some sort. Even the longing for it in our hearts is in some sort an evidence; for this desire was not implanted in vain, surely. The incompleteness around seems to demand a state where the imperfect will be fully rounded.
3. The world’s greatest uninspired thinkers have not, however, been able to rise to the conception of eternal life given us in the gospel. They could not pronounce definitely on the question of personality. But our Lord revealed this truth. It is no mere vague, unconscious existence He gives. It is eternal life,—life pulsating, vigorous as that of the little child raised at His word, Talitha cumi; or that of Lazarus sitting with his Lord at the supper table at Bethany (John 12:2); or higher still, that of His own glorified person, as He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection.
4. And this personal, individual, eternal existence comes through living union with the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. Our Shepherd’s hands will hold us with invulnerable might when we are thus united with Him.
II. The ground of the believer’s safety.—
1. The Father gives the Son His believing people John 6:37; John 6:39), gives Him unlimited power “over all flesh,” so that He may give eternal life, etc. (John 17:2). And the Father dots not give the Son an inheritance which may be taken from Him. The wicked imagine it is possible (Psalms 2:2-3; Luke 20:14; Acts 4:29). But He that sits in heaven, who is over all, will paralyse every foe. So that even supposing it were possible, a mere supposition, that any could pluck Christ’s sheep out of His hand, still they would have to reckon with Him who is above all.
2. More than that; there is in reality no distinction between the power of Christ and the power of the Father here. The sublime utterance, “I and My Father are one,” dispels every fear. Believers are equally the care of Christ and the Father. There is unity of will, of power, of property, of nature between them. Therefore, as Jesus said, “All Mine are Thine,” etc. (John 17:10). The Father did not give them from His hand, as He gave them to the Son as chief Shepherd. In the Son’s hand they are also in the Father’s.
3. “Our salvation, therefore, rests on almighty power” (1 Peter 1:5). “He who holds in His right hand seven stars,” etc. (Revelation 1:16), is the Lord, the eternal Son. “If He is for us, who can be against us?”
III. The blessedness of this promise should be a motive to joyful enduring—
1. Believers should seek to rise to full trust in this promise. This will give them strength for duty and courage in temptation or trial.
2. The assured prospect that all things will “work together for good,” whether life or death, will give them joy and comfort in their course.
3. This trust also will give them more power for good in the world. The doubting, fearing, backsliding—these are the weakness of the Church. Those who go manfully forward, trusting on those divine promises, are the “lights in the world,” “the salt of the earth.”
John 10:41. Upon what kind of life did Jesus Christ set the seal of His blessing?—
1. He specially blessed the spirit and ministry of John the Baptist; and yet John did no miracle, (a) It is possible to be true, (b) courageous, (c) self-controlled, (d) illustrious, and yet to do no miracle.
2. That this approval was in no sense exceptional is made plain by other parts of Jesus Christ’s recognition of man’s life and work, (a) Seventy returned, (b) cup of cold water, (c) employment of talents. All this is made the clearer by a case on the other side, “In Thy name done many wonderful works,” etc. When did Jesus Christ ever set a man in high honour in His kingdom simply because the man was a worker of miracles? What, then, are the qualities which God most esteems in us? “A meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight,” etc. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver,” etc. Nowhere is the brilliant man singled out, etc. “Many that are first,” etc.
1. A word to the poor;
3. nobodies. What doth the Lord thy God require of thee? Miracles? “To do justly,” etc. Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet charity above all!—Dr. Joseph Parker.
John 10:28. Certainty of salvation.—We are certain of our salvation, since we know it rests in the hand of Christ. Those, however, who seek it through the saints or by their own works, let them take heed as to what sort of assurance they have. The most part doubt, some despair.—Lyser U.S.
That Church which erects doubt as to the believer’s state of grace into a dogma leads one to assume that she wishes her faithful adherents to entertain a certain reserve or fear in reference to the reception of the witness of the Holy Ghost within them, lest that by the complete cessation of doubt a too great inner freedom and self-dependence should spring up in them. The Christian—it would almost seem as if they meant this—should never attain to full spiritual freedom, in case he should no longer feel the need of—should, indeed, feel independent of—the manifold and often repeated means of help provided by the Church.—Thiersch, in Besser’s “Bibelst.”
John 10:29. The Creator keeps His word with us.… Will you, with vast cost and pains, educate your children to be adepts in their several arts, and as soon as they are ready to produce a masterpiece call out a file of soldiers to shoot them down? We must infer our destiny from the preparation.—Emerson.
To me the eternal existence of my soul is proved from my idea of activity. If I work incessantly till my death, nature is bound to give me another state of existence when the present can no longer sustain my spirit.—Goethe.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on John 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany