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Jesus the Good Shepherd


“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

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Joh 10:1-21. The Good Shepherd.

This discourse seems plainly to be a continuation of the closing verses of the ninth chapter. The figure was familiar to the Jewish ear (from Jer 23:1-40; Eze 34:1-31; Zec 11:1-17, &c.). "This simple creature [the sheep] has this special note among all animals, that it quickly hears the voice of the shepherd, follows no one else, depends entirely on him, and seeks help from him alone—cannot help itself, but is shut up to another's aid" [Luther in Stier].

1, 2. He that entereth not by the door—the legitimate way (without saying what that was, as yet).

into the sheepfold—the sacred enclosure of God's true people.

climbeth up some other way—not referring to the assumption of ecclesiastical office without an external call, for those Jewish rulers, specially aimed at, had this (Mt 23:2), but to the want of a true spiritual commission, the seal of heaven going along with the outward authority; it is the assumption of the spiritual guidance of the people without this that is meant.

2. he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep—a true, divinely recognized shepherd.

3. To him the porter openeth—that is, right of free access is given, by order of Him to whom the sheep belong; for it is better not to give the allusion a more specific interpretation [Calvin, Meyer, Luthardt].

and the sheep hear his voice—This and all that follows, though it admits of important application to every faithful shepherd of God's flock, is in its direct and highest sense true only of "the great Shepherd of the sheep," who in the first five verses seems plainly, under the simple character of a true shepherd, to be drawing His own portrait [Lampe, Stier, &c.].

7-14. I am the door of the sheep—that is, the way in to the fold, with all blessed privileges, both for shepherds and sheep (compare Joh 14:6; Eph 2:18).

8. All that ever came before me—the false prophets; not as claiming the prerogatives of Messiah, but as perverters of the people from the way of life, all pointing to Him [Olshausen].

the sheep did not hear them—the instinct of their divinely taught hearts preserving them from seducers, and attaching them to the heaven-sent prophets, of whom it is said that "the Spirit of Christ was in them" (1Pe 1:11).

9. by me if any man enter in—whether shepherd or sheep.

shall be saved—the great object of the pastoral office, as of all the divine arrangements towards mankind.

and shall go in and out and find pasturein, as to a place of safety and repose; out, as to "green pastures and still waters" (Ps 23:2) for nourishment and refreshing, and all this only transferred to another clime, and enjoyed in another manner, at the close of this earthly scene (Re 7:17).

10. I am come that they might have life, and … more abundantly—not merely to preserve but impart LIFE, and communicate it in rich and unfailing exuberance. What a claim! Yet it is only an echo of all His teaching; and He who uttered these and like words must be either a blasphemer, all worthy of the death He died, or "God with us"—there can be no middle course.

11. I am the good shepherd—emphatically, and, in the sense intended, exclusively so (Isa 40:11; Eze 34:23; 37:24; Zec 13:7).

the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep—Though this may be said of literal shepherds, who, even for their brute flock, have, like David, encountered "the lion and the bear" at the risk of their own lives, and still more of faithful pastors who, like the early bishops of Rome, have been the foremost to brave the fury of their enemies against the flock committed to their care; yet here, beyond doubt, it points to the struggle which was to issue in the willing surrender of the Redeemer's own life, to save His sheep from destruction.

12. an hireling … whose own the sheep are not—who has no property, in them. By this He points to His own peculiar relation to the sheep, the same as His Father's, the great Proprietor and Lord of the flock, who styles Him "My Shepherd, the Man that is My Fellow" (Zec 13:7), and though faithful under-shepherds are so in their Master's interest, that they feel a measure of His own concern for their charge, the language is strictly applicable only to "the Son over His own house" (Heb 3:6).

seeth the wolf coming—not the devil distinctively, as some take it [Stier, Alford, &c.], but generally whoever comes upon the flock with hostile intent, in whatever form: though the wicked one, no doubt, is at the bottom of such movements [Luthardt].

14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep—in the peculiar sense of 2Ti 2:19.

am known of mine—the soul's response to the voice that has inwardly and efficaciously called it; for of this mutual loving acquaintance ours is the effect of His. "The Redeemer's knowledge of us is the active element, penetrating us with His power and life; that of believers is the passive principle, the reception of His life and light. In this reception, however, an assimilation of the soul to the sublime object of its knowledge and love takes place; and thus an activity, though a derived one, is unfolded, which shows itself in obedience to His commands" [Olshausen]. From this mutual knowledge Jesus rises to another and loftier reciprocity of knowledge.

15-18. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father—What claim to absolute equality with the Father could exceed this? (See on Mt 11:27).

and I lay down my life for the sheep—How sublime this, immediately following the lofty claim of the preceding clause! It is the riches and the poverty of "the Word made flesh"—one glorious Person reaching at once up to the Throne and down even to the dust of death, "that we might live through Him." A candid interpretation of the words, "for the sheep," ought to go far to establish the special relation of the vicarious death of Christ to the Church.

16. other sheep I have … not of this fold: them also I must bring—He means the perishing Gentiles, already His "sheep" in the love of His heart and the purpose of His grace to "bring them" in due time.

they shall hear my voiceThis is not the language of mere foresight that they would believe, but the expression of a purpose to draw them to Himself by an inward and efficacious call, which would infallibly issue in their spontaneous accession to Him.

and there shall be one fold—rather "one flock" (for the word for "fold," as in the foregoing verses, is quite different).

17. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, &c.—As the highest act of the Son's love to the Father was the laying down of His life for the sheep at His "commandment," so the Father's love to Him as His incarnate Son reaches its consummation, and finds its highest justification, in that sublimest and most affecting of all acts.

that I might take it again—His resurrection-life being indispensable to the accomplishment of the fruit of His death.

18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again—It is impossible for language more plainly and emphatically to express the absolute voluntariness of Christ's death, such a voluntariness as it would be manifest presumption in any mere creature to affirm of his own death. It is beyond all doubt the language of One who was conscious that His life was His own (which no creature's is), and therefore His to surrender or retain at will. Here lay the glory of His sacrifice, that it was purely voluntary. The claim of "power to take it again" is no less important, as showing that His resurrection, though ascribed to the Father, in the sense we shall presently see, was nevertheless His own assertion of His own right to life as soon as the purposes of His voluntary death were accomplished.

This commandment—to "lay down His—life, that He might take it again."

have I received of my Father—So that Christ died at once by "command" of His Father, and by such a voluntary obedience to that command as has made Him (so to speak) infinitely dear to the Father. The necessity of Christ's death, in the light of these profound sayings, must be manifest to all but the superficial student.