In chapter nine the Pharisees had excommunicated the blind man who had been healed by Jesus. Chapter 10 is a continuation of that discourse as a result of the healed blind man’s excommunication and the mistreatment of the Pharisees towards that man. Here in the opening of this chapter we see a rebuke of the Pharisees for their treatment of the man to whom Jesus had given sight. It is also an encouragement to the healed man in his faith and trust in Jesus. This discourse is also a description of the loving, saving ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Shepherding was a part of life in Judea and the people were familiar with the sheepfold. A sheepfold was a pin often constructed out of rocks or limbs and sometimes it was a cave. In some cases the sheepfold stood in front of the house in which the shepherd lived and the entrance was also the entrance to the house. Some sheepfolds were partially roofed while others were completely in the open. Sometimes a gate keeper was employed at night to watch the sheepfold.
Jesus said that the one who enters the sheepfold by climbing in some other way other than the door is a thief and a robber. They have come only to steal, kill, and destroy. The Pharisees by excommunicating the man who had been born blind are an example of self-assumed authority. They were false rulers where as Jesus was the Messiah. God’s true people were dissatisfied with the Pharisees and like the man who had been born blind were ready to follow Jesus. The Pharisees had not secured their power by entering the door to the sheepfold but had climbed in by another way. Their power was obtained by illegitimate means. Their deceit and hypocrisy had made them like robbers in their violence and audacity. Jesus had come into the world on a divine mission in the appointed office as the Messiah. Jesus was the true shepherd. John the Baptist and other prophets were like the gatekeeper of the fold and had given Him access to the flocks. As the sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd, like the man Jesus had healed those who truly loved God, would gladly accept Jesus as the Messiah.
A sheepfold often did not have a door. During the night the shepherd would lay across the entrance to the sheepfold so that none of the sheep could leave without the shepherd knowing it. No beast or man could enter into the sheepfold without the shepherd knowing of the danger.
Jesus describes Himself as the door for the sheep to enter into the sheep fold. Jesus is the way to divine communion and fellowship and there is no other way to enter in legitimately except through Him. All others who make such claims are false Messiahs and they come only to steal, kill, and destroy. Those who come to God through Jesus will have life and have it abundantly. They will have true liberty satisfaction, and salvation. Jesus is the only way to come into the Kingdom of God and you enter through faith in Him. This is in contrast to the false teachers, the Pharisees, whose results are disastrous. The false teachers of this world only bring death but Jesus brings life.
Jesus now changes His metaphor to that of the Good Shepherd. Jesus added to the responsibility of a good shepherd that He as the Good shepherd would lay down His life for His sheep. Jesus would give guidance, protection, and sustenance for His sheep even at the cost of His life. This is in contrast to the poor shepherds described by Isaiah 56:9-12. “All you beasts of the field, All you beasts in the forest, Come to eat. His watchmen are blind, All of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; They have all turned to their own way, Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one. “Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.”
Jesus also draws a contrast between the Good Shepherd and the day laborer who is only interested in his wages. The day laborer does not have the pride of possession when danger comes to the sheep he will flee for his own safety. The day laborer is more interested in saving his own skin and will leave the sheep to the wolves who will scatter the flock as he kills some of the sheep. The day laborer does not have a personal concern for the sheep.
Jesus as the Good Shepherd is not only concerned about His sheep; He knows them individually and personally. He knows them and they know Him, just as He is known by the Father and the Good Shepherd knows the Father intimately.
Jesus had other sheep than the Jewish people that were in other sheepfolds. Whereas Judaism was exclusive, Christianity was inclusive. Jesus came first to save the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24), but in the end the gospel message would reach out to the Gentiles and to the ends of the earth. All nations would be gathered into one sheepfold of faith under the guidance of the one Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ Himself.
In reference to His death and resurrection Jesus indicated that the Father loved and approved of Him because of His obedience in laying down His life. His sacrificial death was of His own voluntary choice. Jesus had the power to lay down His life willingly for others, and through this power His life would be taken up again. Jesus would be obedient to the Father and operate in the Father’s power that was shared with Him.
At the conclusion of this discourse there was a division amongst the Jewish people. Some believed Jesus to be demon possessed while others thought Him to be mad or insane. Others believed Him because of the healing of the blind man. C.S. Lewis, a 20th century writer, said that we can believe only one of three things about Jesus. Jesus said that he was God’s Son. If this was not true, then Jesus was either mad or wicked. A mad person believes things that are not true. A wicked person lies about something very important in order to deceive people on purpose. So if Jesus was not mad or wicked, he was telling the truth. He was God’s Son. Jesus’ audience had to make a decision about him, too. Some people in the audience said that he was mad or wicked. But other people recognized the truth about him. They believed him because of the miracle that they had seen. Only God’s power could cure a man who was born blind.
Two months have passed since the healing of the blind man and it is now December. Jesus has been in Galilee for this time and has returned to Jerusalem for another national festival called Hanukkah. At this festival the Jew remember the events of two hundred year prior when a foreign King named Antiochus Epiphanes has defeated the Jews. King Antiochus Epiphanes wanted to destroy the Jewish religion and made the Jews leave the temple. The King and his people used the temple to worship their false Gods. In an act of defiance against the Jews they sacrificed a pig in the temple which for the Jews is an unclean animal. This act infuriated the Jews and one of their leaders Judas Maccabeus fought against King Antiochus Epiphanes and defeated him. The Jews then made the temple clean once again and offered proper sacrifices to God. At Hanukkah the Jews remembered when Judas Maccabeus defeated the foreign King.
Jesus is waking in the eastern cloister of the temple know as Solomon’s porch, probably seeking shelter from the cold and rain of December. The Pharisees and seen him and gather around him to demand an answer as to whether He is the Messiah or not. This is another attempt to get Jesus to say something that they can arrest Him for. The Pharisees said to Jesus, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” This is a difficult question for Jesus, as He is the Messiah that the prophets have spoken about, but He is not the Messiah that they are willing to accept.
The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would free them from the control of the Romans. One who would bring peace to Israel and establish an everlasting government. A Messiah that would judge all nations and no longer would there be wars. They were looking for the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah had spoken of. (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 2:4) “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.”
Jesus replies with matchless wisdom. He states that His signs are of divine power and are proof of His claims. The unbelief of the Pharisees is not from a lack of evidence but from the imperfection of their moral disposition. If they were understanding of Him and His Father they would then believe in Him. He then says they do not believe Him because they are not His sheep. Jesus goes on to make this statement, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. “I and the Father are one.” Jesus further confirms the relationship between Him and the Father. This unity between Jesus and the Father in a oneness of will and power and it also indicates a unity of being.
The Pharisees picked up stones to stone Him for His claims of deity, as this was blasphemy. They may have accepted Jesus as the Messiah if He had not claimed deity. The Jews were not looking for a divine Messiah. It was because Jesus claimed to be one with God that the Pharisees hated Him, rejected Him, and eventually crucified Him. Jesus asks for which good work they were about to stone Him for and the Pharisees answered, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
Jesus does not deny His claim to deity but in His answer He frees himself of their charge. He quotes a scripture from Psalms 82:6, “I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.” Jesus state that if the judges, who represented Jehovah in their appointed office, could be called “gods,” it could not be blasphemy for Him, who is the revelation of God, to call himself “the Son of God.” His divine work of mercy and love are proof of His oneness with God. Jesus restates that if they will not believe His words then they should believe His signs.
While the attempt to stone Jesus by the Pharisees for now has been abandoned, still they plan as to how they can arrest Him. During this time Jesus escapes and retreats to east of the Jordan River. Here many who in the testimony of John the Baptist believed in Jesus. Their faith in Jesus is a striking contrast to the unbelief of the Jews in Jerusalem.
The breach between the Pharisees and Jesus was not complete. Jesus’ claims to be the Christ, not only the Messiah, but the Son of God, was made with complete clearness and defended by Jesus on the grounds of His signs. To bring this testimony to the forefront was the first purpose of the writer of this Gospel. The Pharisees no doubt understood Him to assert His essential and absolute oneness with God, and Jesus never argued that they were wrong in this assumption.
In this chapter Jesus makes some striking claims of life which issues from faith in Him. There are six praises from the opening of this chapter which set forth the blessedness of Life through Jesus.
The first two are found in verses 1-6. They are a statement of the faith of a believer in Jesus and the personal interest He has in a follower of His. “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” Verse 27,” My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,” The second two are in verses 7-10 and speak of the faithfulness of the believer and the gracious gift of Christ. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Verses 27-28, “and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them,” the last two are verses 11-18 and relate to the safety of the believer and the protecting power of Jesus Christ. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Verse 28, “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
Throughout the Gospel of John eternal life is a present possession for the believer. Its main feature is not an eternity in time but blessedness and heavenliness of character. It is the abundant life which Christ gives to all who put their trust in Him.
Isaiah 56:9-12, Matthew 15:24, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 2:4, Psalms 82:6