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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.”

19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” 21Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews

22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” 34Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42And many believed in him there.

11. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. From the extraordinary affection which he bears towards the sheep, he shows how truly he acts towards them as a shepherd; for he is so anxious about their salvation, that he does not even spare his own life. Hence it follows, that they who reject the guardianship of so kind and amiable a shepherd are exceedingly ungrateful, and deserve a hundred deaths, and are exposed to every kind of harm. The remark of Augustine is exceedingly just, that this passage informs us what we ought to desire, what we ought to avoid, and what we ought to endure, in the government of the Church. Nothing is more desirable than that the Church should be governed by good and diligent shepherds Christ declares that he is the good shepherd, who keeps his Church safe and sound, first, by himself, and, next, by his agents. Whenever there is good order, and fit men hold the government, then Christ shows that he is actually the shepherd But there are many wolves and thieves who, wearing the garb of shepherds, wickedly scatter the Church. Whatever name such persons may assume, Christ threatens that we must avoid them.

12. But the hireling. By hirelings we are to understand those who retain the pure doctrine, and who proclaim the truth, as Paul says, to serve a purpose rather than from pure zeal. Though such persons do not serve Christ faithfully, yet we ought to hear them; for Christ wished that the Pharisees should be heard, because they sat in Moses seat, (Matthew 23:2;) and, in like manner, we ought to give such honor to the Gospel, as not to shrink from its ministers, though they be not good men. And as even the slightest offenses render the Gospel distasteful to us, that we may not be hindered by such false delicacy, let us always remember what I have formerly suggested, that if the Spirit of Christ does not operate so powerfully in ministers, as to make it plainly evident that he is their shepherd, we suffer the punishment of our sins, and yet our obedience is proved.

And he who is not the shepherd. Though Christ claims for himself alone the name of a shepherd, yet he indirectly states that, in some respects, he holds it in common with the agents by whom he acts. For we know that there have been many, since the time of Christ, who did not hesitate to shed their blood for the salvation of the Church; and even the prophets, before his coming, did not spare their own life. But in his own person he holds out a perfect example, so as to lay down a rule for his ministers. For how base and shameful is our indolence, if our life is more dear to us than the salvation of the Church, which Christ preferred to his own life!

What is here said about laying down life for the sheep, may be viewed as an undoubted and principal mark of paternal affection. Christ intended, first, to demonstrate what a remarkable proof he gave of his love toward us, and, next, to excite all his ministers to imitate his example. Yet we must attend to the difference between them and him. He laid down his life as the price of satisfaction, shed his blood to cleanse our souls, offered his body as a propitiatory sacrifice, to reconcile the Father to us. Nothing of all this can exist in the ministers of the Gospel, all of whom need to be cleansed, and receive atonement and reconciliation to God by that single sacrifice. But Christ does not argue here about the efficacy or benefit of his death, so as to compare himself to others, but to prove with what zeal and affection 288288     “De quel zele et affection.” he is moved towards us, and, next, to invite others to follow his example. In short, as it belongs exclusively to Christ to procure life for us by his death, and to fulfill all that is contained in the Gospel, so it is the universal duty of all pastors or shepherds, to defend the doctrine which they proclaim, even at the expense of their life, and to seal the doctrine of the Gospel with their blood, and to show that it is not in vain that they teach that Christ has procured salvation for themselves and for others.

But here a question may be put. Ought we to reckon that man a hireling, who, for any reason whatever, shrinks from encountering the wolves? This was anciently debated as a practical question, when tyrants raged cruelly against the Church. Tertullian, and others of the same class, were, in my opinion, too rigid on this point. I prefer greatly the moderation of Augustine, who allows pastors to flee on the condition that, by their flight, they contribute more to the public safety than they would do by betraying the flock committed to their charge. And he shows that this is done, when the Church is not deprived of well-qualified ministers, and when the life of the pastor in particular is so eagerly sought, that his absence mitigates the rage of enemies. But it the flock — as well as the pastor — be in danger, 289289     “Que s’il y a danger aussi bien pour les brebis que pour la personne du pasteur.” and if there be reason to believe that the pastor flees, not so much from a desire to promote the public advantage as from a dread of dying, Augustine contends that this is not at all lawful, because the example of his flight will do more injury than his life can do good in future. The reader may consult the Epistle to Bishop Honoratus, (Ep. 108) On this ground it was lawful for Cyprian to flee, who was so far from shuddering at death, that he nobly refused to accept the offer of saving his life by a treacherous denial of his Master. Only it must be held that a pastor ought to prefer his flock, or even a single sheep, to his own life.

Whose own the sheep are not. Christ appears here to make all shepherds besides himself to be, without exception, hirelings; for, since he alone is shepherd, none of us have a right to say that the sheep which he feeds are his own But let us remember that they who are guided by the Spirit of God reckon that to be their own which belongs to their Head; and that not in order to claim power for themselves, but to keep faithfully what has been committed to their charge. For he who is truly united to Christ will never cease to take an interest in that which He valued so highly. This is what he afterwards says:

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