John 10. The Shepherd Gathers His Flock.
Key Notes: The door, the fold and the shepherd. We are like sheep? He became a sheep. Hearing His voice.
The story of the conversion of the man born blind leads logically to Jesus’ next revelation, His role as the Leader of the Church that will be His new society. Jesus’ detachment from the Jews in John 8 now enlarges to a vision of those chosen to gather around Him and receive His salvation. He will lead Jews and also Gentiles as a shepherd cares for sheep. There will be resistance. The man born blind is one of His sheep, one that the leaders of Israel rejected. The scene is the celebration of Hanukkah in winter, on Solomon’s porch of the Temple. (10:22). Hanukkah was a celebration of the rededication of the temple after Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated it in 163BC.
10:1–6 Jesus began with a figure of speech, like an allegory, with many applications. For this reason, the applications will be made as we go through the text.
The Fold is the place of salvation—rest and security. Those who do not come by the door are a threat to the sheep. The religious leaders had no intention of letting Jesus’disciple, the Man born Blind, escape from Judaism as they understood it and threatened him with exclusion if he persisted in his false notions.
The one who does not go into the sheep-fold by the entrance is a thief (one who steals sheep) and a robber (a thief who may resort to violence). The shepherd goes in at the entrance and is admitted by the porter to call out His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow strangers. We note that Jesus did not begin by saying that He was the Good Shepherd. He started by saying that the Shepherd goes in by the gate which is opened by the servant.
The servant, the door-keeper of the sheepfold is not easily interpreted. I suspect Moses is the door-keeper because “Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to things that were to be spoken later….” (Heb.3:5). He supports Christ’s mission in every way—especially by his appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration as Jesus prepared for His "Exodus" in Jerusalem. Lk.9:30–3. But Christ becomes "...High Priest over the House of God...." (Heb.10:21). Then the message is that Moses opens the way for Christ to take over the care of Israel.
If we accept Moses as door-keeper, what is the sheep-fold?
A first approximation is that it is Judaism, the House of God, the custodian of the Truth..
Then what is the wall of the sheep-fold?
The sheepfold was a fenced-in enclosure, made of stone, open to the sky.
What defines who is "IN and who is "OUT" of the sheep-fold, the House of God?
The territory is defined by the Law of Moses, a statement of the will of God. "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." (Matt.7:21). "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified." (Rom.2:13). So the Law is the defining boundary between those who are justified and those who are not. Moses was the custodian. That is not to say that the Law has any saving activity; it simply divides those who are justified from those who are not.
The Shepherd knows His sheep and calls them by name, as we know Jesus did: John, Peter, Matthew, Mary, Martha, James, Thomas.... And they followed Him because they knew His voice.
10:7 Jesus began again because they did not understand Him. This time He emphasized His own part in the shepherding. The doorkeeper is not mentioned again because Jesus has replaced Moses as the Master of the House of God, the place of safety and salvation. Jesus is the door of the sheep-fold. The shepherd slept in the opening of the sheepfold.
10:8 Those who preceded Him were thieves and robbers. There are plenty of candidates.
*He may refer to the Jewish religious leaders since Malachi.
*Caesar Augustus was called “the savior, the son of god”.
*A number of Roman gods were portrayed as shepherds: Attis, Anubis, Dionysius, and Hermes.
(Theol. Dict. of New Test. G.Kittel, Eerdmans;’65. Vol. III, p.548)
*Many pagan religious leaders emerged about the time Malachi was written: Confucius, Socrates / Plato, Zoroaster, and Buddha.
And Ezekiel spent a chapter denouncing the destructive shepherds of Israel. They did not help the sheep but exploited them and they were scattered. (Ezek.34:1–10). They had their feet in the trough and fouled the water the sheep were to drink. Ezek.34:18–19
10:9 He is the door to salvation, making a safe haven, a home for the sheep where they can go in and out and finding pasture. Where is the "out" to which they are going? Logic says it is the world into which Jesus led His Apostles to be active in finding other sheep for the fold. Peter was the Apostle to the Hebrews; Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles.
10:10–11 The thief would destroy the flock. The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep. If we realize that sheep are dumb animals, it is extraordinary to think that a human being would risk death to save them. The life of a human being is hundreds of times more valuable than a sheep. In fact, the life of Jesus is worth infinitely more than the humans He shepherds. But if one of His is lost, He will leave the 99 and go into the wilderness to find it. (Lk.15:3–7). Yet He became a sheep, “led like a sheep to the slaughter” (Isa.53:7 NIV) to save the sheep. He is amazing.
10:12–13 The hired man is frightened by the wolf and runs away, abandoning the sheep. There were no immediate candidates for the hired man, but through the centuries, many religious leaders have displayed their interest in money more than in people. And what of the Church under persecution? Should the pastor stay with his people, or escape to serve another day? When does the church need more help than when facing persecution?
10:14–15 “I know My own and My own know Me, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father”.
The knowledge-bond between the sheep and the Shepherd is like the bond between the Father and the Son. (10:28). That means that it is permanent and indissoluble.
10:16 "Other sheep not of this fold" refers to the Gentiles. They will become one body, one flock under Christ, all acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior. Eph.2:14–22
10:17–18 The Father loves Him because He lays down His life--voluntarily--with power to raise His body from the dead. He is sent by the Father under this special mandate.
Jesus entered the fold of Judaism, the House of God and the people of God. The fold is bounded by the Law of Moses. He owns the sheep. He became the door, the way into the House. False religious leaders (scribes and Pharisees) tried to get into the fold by some other way but His sheep did not follow them. They heard His voice and followed Him. He came that they might have abundant life. He laid down His life for these sheep and others who will come from outside the fold of Judaism. He laid down His life voluntarily, under the Father's charge and in His love.
10:19 -24 The reaction was sharply divided: He is mad or He is very powerful—opening the eyes of the blind. He must tell those crowded around Him whether He truly is the Christ. Jesus uniformly avoided the Christ / Messiah label because it was identified with the politics of the nation and its eventual victory over its adversaries—an event far in the future.
10:25–26 Jesus had already told them who He was on several occasions.
“…He…called God His Father, making Himself equal with God.” Jn.5:18
“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me.” Jn.5:39
“…I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me….” Jn.6:38
No one “has seen the Father except Him who is from God….” Jn.6:46
“Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jn.8:58
Plainly they do not belong to Him. But now He will tell them even more.
10:27–30 His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. They are eternally secure. No one can snatch them from His hand, and His Father’s hand as well. Jesus and the Father are one.
They asked for the truth, but they could not tolerate it when Jesus told them.
10:31–38 Jesus made two defenses of His unity with the Father.
He reminded them of His works of power, as He had before. (Jn. 5:20, 36; 10:25). These included water turned to wine; a lame man healed after 38 years; 5000 men fed by His hand, and a man blind from birth made to see.
Then He argued from Scripture, from Psa. 82.
“It is not written in your law ‘ I said you are gods''? If He called them gods to whom the word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said ‘I am the Son of God'”? Logically it is a lesser scandal to call one “the Son of God”, than to call many humans “gods”.
The text is from Psa.82:1–4. 7 where the judges of Israel are called gods (elohim) because they take the place of God in judgment. “God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’” “I say ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you, nevertheless, you shall die like men and fall like any prince.’” In Ex.21:6, 22:8,9 the English word “God” (Elohim) also refers to the human judges of Israel.
The word “consecrated “ has two meanings: set apart for special use and sanctified by cleansing. Jesus consecrated by the Father, means that He was set apart for this special work of redemption; it is His unique task.
Jesus reminds us that the Scripture cannot be broken. As Jesus said in Matt. 5:18, “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” That does not keep people from trying to break it to suit their own agendas.
Again He said “…know and understand that The Father is in Me and I am in the Father”.
They tried to arrest Him, but He escaped and went back across the Jordan to the site where John the Baptist did his work. So His public work ended as it had begun, in association with John the Baptist.
The Shepherd theme was used many times in the OT. It was not always favorable; bad shepherds were denounced, and their criticism gives us good information about what a good shepherd (The Good Shepherd) does. Jesus fills the OT prophecy that David would shepherd Israel.
“Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.” Ezek.34:2–5; also Zech.11:15
"And I will set over them one Shepherd, my servant David, and He shall feed them; He shall feed them and be their Shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God and My servant David shall be prince among them; I the LORD, have spoken." Ezek.3423–24
"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own the they know Me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep." Jn.10:14,15
Sheep as a metaphor for human beings is not flattering. Sheep are virtually defenseless herd animals, depending on their numbers for their protection. They are less intelligent than pigs and easily frightened. They spend their waking time eating, with faces to the ground, paying little attention to their surroundings. For these reasons they need to be guarded and directed to good pastures. They can be herded by a shepherd walking in front of them, calling to them by name, or by a sheep-dog from behind. They respond to the dog with fear as they might fear a wolf. Our Shepherd goes before us, scouting green pasture and still water.
The herd instinct is also strong in humans and stiff resistance is felt by anyone who tries to leave the group. The herd mentality is seen in all kinds of political and religious groups, making conversion difficult except for strays and outcasts. The man born blind was a beggar, but he experienced pressure from the herd to deny Jesus and stay with Jewish society.
Sheep respond to the voice of the shepherd. Their peripheral vision is excellent, but their perception of depth is poor and they tend to avoid shadows. They recognize faces. They respond to their names. Jesus said His sheep hear His voice. Do we hear the voice of the Shepherd?
Some suggestions on guidance and hearing God’s voice. The many ways God communicates with us would fill a book.
*I believe Christ calls us by name into His kingdom. But if I heard Christ speak to me by name, I would be alarmed. Jesus addressed Peter by his full name when he was in trouble. (Jn.21:15).
*Prayer is simply conversing with God. Some of our prayer should be in silence, listening.
*We have the Scripture, the advice of our friends, and our minds and consciences as our basic guides. *We should not presume that God will direct our every step. He gave us minds to use.
*Most of God’s guidance is not with an audible voice. I have been guided by circumstances that I had no control over, sometimes involving major decisions. I have had one experience of hearing God speak to me in rebuke and other close encounters that were like visions without words.
*I have had inspirations while teaching the Bible that I felt were direct revelations from the Spirit, but the listeners thought nothing of it. On the other hand, I have had people say that God spoke through me and I was not aware of anything unusual.
*Beware of someone who says “God told me”, indicating that God did not tell you and you must follow this way. We are reminded to be humble about our revelations.
(see also "Hearing God". Dallas Willard, IVP,’99)