John 10

Introduction

‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.’ John 10:1-6

This is a continuation of the end of the previous chapter, the chapter division is placed to cut the conversation in half. And so, we have Jesus speaking, continuing to answer the question asked in John 9:40 by a group of Pharisees.

Jesus condemns the unfaithful shepherds of Israel, they had cast out the once blind man but Jesus the good shepherd had received him and helped him. The blind man had been healed and this situation with the Pharisees had arisen as a result of Jesus seeking the man after he had been thrown out of the synagogue by the Jewish authorities.

The good shepherd is now denouncing the unfaithful shepherds as did the prophets of old, Isaiah 56:9-12 / Jeremiah 23:1-4 / Jeremiah 25:34-38 / Ezra 34 / Zechariah 11.

The term ‘verily’, ‘I tell you the truth’ generally is used by Jesus to emphasise a point He was making, in this case, the sheep pen was a walled enclosure having no roof and space or gate at one end in which the sheep were kept for the night. If it were attached to a building or were near a town it would have a wooden door. Jesus was the gate or door.

However, some people try to prevent the owner of the sheep from having these sheep. These thieves and robbers are the Pharisees and other Jews and the Methods used are, as seen in the previous chapter, intimidation, bullying, threatening and removal from the synagogue, they were usurping God’s authority over them His own people.

Jesus uses both the gate and the shepherd to describe Himself. The gatekeeper would look after the sheep in the pen at night. He would lie down across the gate so if anything came to attack the sheep he would defend them.

Sometimes a gatekeeper would be hired to look after the sheep, as he did not own the sheep, he would not put his life at risk to protect them. Several flocks from an area could be kept in one pen to stay the night together.

The true shepherd would have every right to enter by the door. When the shepherd came, all the sheep belonging to him would recognise his voice and follow. Christians should recognise the voice of Jesus and follow Him.

British shepherds drive their flocks. Elders and evangelists should lead the flock, too often they drive or drag, rather than lead by example, they are reactive rather than active. The flock ought to listen to the voice of the shepherd.

When others try to lure us away from Christ, we can see through them and cling to Christ. It’s not surprising that the Pharisees didn’t understand, they were blind to the spiritual application of Jesus’ words.

‘Therefore, Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So, when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ John 10:7-21

Because the Pharisees still didn’t understand what Jesus was saying, He again explained, using Himself as a gate. All who enter by the gate are legitimate, as opposed to those who climb over the wall. Thieves and robbers, those who had come before claiming Messiahship were illegitimate, they were self-appointed leaders who made havoc on the flock, as they attempted to hijack the masses.

However, Jesus also includes here the Jewish hierarchy at the time, many of whom were only concerned about personal power and gain. The Sadducees were notorious for their money-making schemes, many Pharisees were covetous, Luke 16:14 / Mark 12:40 and although many listened to these imposters ‘the sheep’ the true people of God did not heed them.

Jesus emphasizes His ‘gate-hood’, and that all who enter through Him are safe within the realm of Jesus and can move about in the world but not of the world. The result of the entering is eternal life, Jesus getting down to the ‘nitty-gritty’ of Christianity.

Entrance into the fold of divine favour is exclusively through Jesus, John 14:6.

‘He can come in and out’ means he who listens to Jesus will be safe and sound as he goes in and out of the pen to find his food.

The word, ‘kill’ in John 10:10 means to mutilate, rather than annihilate. The religious bodies had no real concern for the people but rather hold them in contempt, John 7:49 / Matthew 23:35. Jesus came to give them abundant life, which means ‘life’ to the full, till it overflows, now as in heaven.

In John 10:11 we see the beginning of the contrast between the Good Shepherd and the hirers. This section concentrates on Jesus as the good shepherd. He again uses one of the ‘I am’ statements that are a signature of Christ portrayed by John.

The good ‘kalos’ means far more than just good, but could be described as beautiful, in character and service, complete, righteous, loving, Holy, total or protector among other things. 1 Peter 3:3+4.

That ‘good’ shepherd would and did, lay down His life for all with no conditions attached. The dedication of the paid Pharisees is questioned.

The hired hand, ‘misthotos’, means those who merely serve for wages. They do what they do for money, not out of those qualities described by the word ‘kalos’. As the gatekeeper, can lose nothing, he will not endanger his life but rather will abandon the sheep to their danger.

The hired hand’s attitude was shown by the religious leaders, by their treatment of the once blind man. They showed no concern for him. 1 Peter 5:3. However as the shepherd owns everything, he will sacrifice all.

With Christ, we are the highest priority, with the labourer His wages. The shepherd has an intimate relationship with the sheep, He knows them all, and He recognises them all and is known and recognised by them. He knows and is known by the Father.

John 10:16 is often misunderstood by a certain religious group. We are known by the saviour. The word ‘other’ is derived from the Greek word ‘alos’, indicating something of the same sort.

This then refers to other people of the same sort who must also be contacted and certainly the Gentiles who had not been included in God’s scheme of redemption in Judaism, Ephesians 2:13-29 / John 12:32 / Galatians 3:25-29. Everyone will gather together making one flock, which emphasises their relationship and the need for Christian unity, Ephesians 4:1.

The reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection here, is so remarkable that Jesus goes on, in verse 18 to vindicate it.

‘I lay down my life’, He would die voluntarily, Romans 5:1-9.

‘I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again’, as God/man, Jesus requires authority from the Father, His human nature demands that everything He did was with the cooperation of the Father.

But as the risen God-man, He has the power over death and Hades, Revelation 1:18. In these verses, we have seen Jesus as a remarkable teacher. He has told of facts about the very basis of Christianity, things that are now complex doctrines, and He made them clear in just a few verses.

In John 10:19-21 we see the Jews’ reaction. The words just passed are the tail end of the incident surrounding Jesus’ healing of the blind man. The result of all this teaching is division, ‘schisma’, John 7:43, again people don’t believe and are thus confused. They say ‘He is a demon and is mad, can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’

These are not the sayings of one who has a demon, John 7:12 / John 9:16. The arguments used for and against Him in John 8:48 and elsewhere are again employed.

‘Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again, they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place, many believed in Jesus. John 10:22-41

The feast of dedication was and indeed is, a feast instituted by man rather than by God. It was an 8-day celebration beginning the 25th day of Kislev (December 25th) about two months after the feast of Tabernacles.

It commemorates the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple after it had been defiled by the evil Antiochus Epiphanies in 168 BC. He called himself Epiphanies Theos, the glory of God but the Jews nicknamed him the donkey. He made possession of copies of the law and the act of circumcision a capital offence.

It is said he defiled the Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus on the Main altar and slaughtering pigs on the main altar and then spreading the remains about the Temple. He turned the temple rooms into a brothel. Judas Maccabees led the revolt and freed the nation from oppression.

The temple had been left unused for three years after its desecration and it was re-dedicated in 165 BC. (Three years to the day) by Judas Maccabees. He then decreed it to be an annual event to be remembered.

The incident is recorded in 1 Maccabees 1:59 / 1 Maccabees 4:52 / 1 Maccabees 4:59 and by the writings of Josephus. It is still celebrated today and is now called the Hanukkah festival of lights.

It’s now the winter before the spring in which Jesus is crucified and He was walking under the Colonnades as it was the rainy season. Many explanations have been given as to why Jesus is so reluctant to reveal his true identity to these people.

He did eventually to the woman at the well, John 4, but this was only after a long discussion and after he had revealed the spiritual nature of His calling.

In John 10:24 they ask a question, ‘how long will you keep us in suspense?’ No doubt the question was intended to again seek a reason to accuse Jesus. The implication is that He hadn’t been explicit in His claims, or said in so many words that He was the Messiah.

The real answer to the question was irrelevant to the questioners. They already considered Him an imposter and nothing would change the collective mind. They were still missing the point of all He had said and done.

He had previously revealed the spiritual nature of the task. But what He had revealed didn’t fit in with their preconceived ideas of what the Messiah was like.

They had expected that the Christ would overthrow Roman rule, set up the throne of David in Jerusalem, and bring national and material wealth to the nation of Israel. He had never claimed to be an earthly King, He wasn’t that kind of Messiah and so He was rejected.

Nevertheless, Jesus says that he had told them plainly! By His words, John 5:17-49, by his works John 10:25, testify to the truth of His claim. He’s pointing to the works that He had done in Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temple, the healing of the lame man at Bethsaida, the healing of the man born blind. Each work had been accompanied by the claim to be the son of God. John 2:16 / John 5:23 / John 10:9.

‘You are not of MY sheep’. His critics didn’t believe because they didn’t recognise Him as the shepherd and therefore didn’t heed His voice. He has reverted to his previous teaching in John 10:1-18, He is the door and they refuse to enter. they refuse to follow Him.

His sheep would recognise and obey His voice, John 10:3-5, they were listening to their father, they were children of the devil, John 8:14. Characteristics of Christ’s sheep, they hear (listening) John 10:27 / Matthew 7:24. They follow me, John 10:27 / John 8:31 / John 15:4.

The consequence of hearing and following Jesus is eternal life a present possession, John 3:36 / John 5:24 / John 6:47. They shall never perish, John 3:16 / Matthew 24:46.

Double security, ‘no one will snatch them out of my hand, or my Father’s hand’. No external power can remove the divine handclasp of one who listens to Jesus and walks in obedience to Him. Romans 8:31-39.

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