The Shepherd and His Flock (10:1-21)
1 As soon as Jesus had finished telling the Pharisees about their blindness (John 9:39-41), He began to teach about the good shepherd. According to the Old Testament, the Jewish leaders were supposed to be watchmen and shepherds of Israel. But they had failed to do their duty. They had become blind; they lacked understanding (Isaiah 56:9-11). They had become false shepherds. They had become like thieves and robbers, who do not enter the sheep pen through the gate.
2-3 The true shepherd (Christ) always goes through the gate. He comes openly, in truth. He calls His sheep and they recognize Him.79
4-6 The sheep will only follow the shepherd whose voice they recognize. They do not recognize the voice of a false shepherd.
In the Old Testament, God Himself was the shepherd of Israel (Psalm 23:1; Ezekiel 34:15-16). But now He has appointed Jesus to be our shepherd, and He has also appointed under-shepherds—that is, pastors and teachers—for the church (see Acts 20:28-31). The Apostle Peter was Jesus’ chief “under-shepherd” (see John 21:1517). And in his first letter, Peter has written to us how true under-shepherds must behave (see 1 Peter 5:1-4 and comment).
7 Jesus is the gate for the sheep. He is the gate by which the sheep enter the sheep pen and find safety. In the same way, Jesus is the “gate”—the way—by which believers enter heaven and find eternal life (John 14:6).
8 “All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers,” said Jesus.80 This means that all those who come in the morning before light are not true shepherds. The true shepherd comes at dawn to graze his sheep; anyone who comes before that is a thief.
The thief doesn’t go in through the gate. Anyone who desires to be a true shepherd must go through the gate, which is Christ. If we want to save others, we must first be saved ourselves.
9 I am the gate. No one can enter heaven unless he enters by way of Christ (John 14:6). That is, no one can be saved apart from Christ (Acts 4:12). There is only one gate.
10 The false shepherd, the thief, comes to do harm. He is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29).
But the true shepherd Jesus comes to the sheep—to believers—that they might have life, and have it to the full. The false shepherd brings death; the true shepherd brings life. This life is eternal life (verse 28). It begins when one believes, and it never ends (see John 3:15; 8:51 and comments). The life that Jesus gives is spiritual life, life filled with all the fullness of God (Ephe-sians 3:19). It is a life of joy, of peace, of power; and it lasts forever.
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd loves the flock. In Bible times, even good shepherds did not usually lay down their own lives for their sheep. But the one Good Shepherd, Jesus, did lay down His life (Mark 10:45). He laid it down of His own accord (verse 18).
12-13 The true shepherd is the owner of the sheep. He cares much more for the sheep than a hired hand. The hired hand runs away when the wolf comes, and the flock is scattered and destroyed.
In every generation there are some among the leaders of the church who are only “hired hands.” They do not put their flock first. They do not put the welfare of Christ’s church first. They run when trouble comes. To them, being a church leader is a means of making a living. Let each of us examine our hearts. Are we serving Christ for love—or are we serving Christ for money? (see Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:3-5,9-11; 1 Peter 5:2 and comments).
14 The good shepherd knows his sheep, and the sheep know their shepherd (verse 4). The Lord knows those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19); and believers know whom [they] have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).
15 The relationship between the sheep and their shepherd is intimate, like the relationship between God and Christ. Jesus knows and loves His sheep, and He is ready to lay down His life for them.
16 Jesus also had other sheep that were not of this sheep pen. These were Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. Already God had chosen people from among the Gentiles who would believe in Christ. But they had not yet been called; they had not yet been brought to faith. They needed to be brought into the sheep pen, the church. These Gentiles would listen to Christ’s voice, and come to Him. Then there would be one flock, one church, which would include all believers, both Jews and Gentiles.
The job of calling the Gentiles into the church Jesus gave to His disciples—to us. In every generation God has set aside sheep for Christ. But we must call them in.
… there shall be one flock. Christ does not have many flocks; He has only one. Let us never be a cause of division in Christ’s flock.
17-18 God loved Christ because Christ was completely obedient to Him. It was God’s will and purpose that Christ lay down His life for the sheep. And Christ obeyed.
But Christ took His life up again. According to the command of the Father, Jesus laid down His life in order to take it up again. There could be no resurrection without death. In order to conquer death and release us from the death penalty, Jesus had to die Himself.
Jesus laid down His life, and then took it up again. Christ raised Himself from the dead, and God also raised Him. Christ and God always work together. Everything they do is done by both of them (see verse 30).
19-21 Again the people were divided about Jesus (see John 7:20,43; 8:48-49; 9:16 and comments).
Some said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad” (verse 20). Demon possession and madness are two different things. But of ten a demon-possessed person will appear mad.
Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem (10:22-30)
22-24 Some time later came the Feast of Dedication.81 As Jesus was walking in a section of the temple called Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 3:11; 5:12), the Jews asked Jesus to tell them openly if He was the Christ or not. Some perhaps were ready to believe. Others may have merely been trying to trap Him in His speech. If He said He was the Christ (the Messiah), the Romans would arrest Him for making Himself a king. If He said He was not the Messiah, then the people would stop following Him. Thus whatever answer Jesus gave, it would be to the advantage of His enemies.
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you. I have told you who I am.” Jesus had told the Samaritan woman who He was (John 4:26). He also had told the blind man who He was (John 9:35-37), at which time some of the Jews probably overheard Him. He also had told the Jews, “… before Abraham was born, I am” (see John 8:58 and comment). He called Himself the Son, which means the “Son of God,” the Messiah. In all these ways Jesus had said who He was. But the Jews did not believe. They did not even believe Jesus’ miracles, which they could easily see. The miracles were signs proving that Jesus was the Christ. The miracles testified that Jesus had been sent from the Father (see John 5:36). But the Jews, for the most part, were spiritually blind.
26 The Jews didn’t believe, because they were not Jesus’ sheep. They didn’t know Jesus. They couldn’t recognize His voice. They had not been chosen by God to receive the gift of faith (see John 6:37,44; 8:47 and comments).
If the Jews were not Jesus’ sheep, whose sheep were they? They were Satan’s sheep. There are only two flocks: Christ’s and Satan’s. Every one needs to ask himself: Whose flock do I belong to? If we belong to Christ’s flock, we will hear His voice.
27 Jesus knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him (see verse 15 and comment). That is, the sheep have full faith in their shepherd.
28 Jesus gives eternal life to His sheep. He gives it not only in the future, but He gives it now (John 3:15-16; 8:51). He gives His sheep complete protection. This does not mean that He will save us from all trouble and calamity in this life. Rather, it means that He will preserve our souls and spirits, no matter what earthly troubles come upon us.
Jesus said, “… no one can snatch them out of my hand.” The strong hand of the Great Shepherd holds us. The devil tries to pull us away, but Christ’s hold is stronger (see 1 John 4:4 and comment). Our salvation does not depend on our weak hold on Christ; it depends on His strong hold on us.
There is only one way we can lose Christ’s protection: We ourselves can jump out of His hand. That is, we can knowingly continue in sin; we can separate ourselves from God; we can decide to stop believing. Some say that anyone who leaves the faith never had true faith to begin with. They never were in Christ’s hand. And it’s possible that they are right in saying this. But other New Testament verses seem to say that even those who have once truly believed can later turn away from Christ (see Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-29 and comments; General Article: Can We Lose Our Salvation?).
29 Here Jesus repeats the thought of verse 28. No evil power can snatch us from Christ’s hand, because God gave us to Christ (John 6:37), and God is stronger than all evil powers. It is His will that none of His sheep be lost (see John 6:39).
30 Then Jesus gave His final answer to the question the Jews had asked. The Jews had asked, “Are you the Christ?” (verse 24). But Christ told them He was not only the Messiah—He was God Himself! (see John 1:1 and comment). The true Messiah is God. “I and the Father are one.”
This great statement is the foundation for all the teachings Christ has given in this Gospel and the other three Gospels. The Jews didn’t believe, because they saw only the man Jesus—a poor and humble man, a carpenter’s son from the hills of Galilee. But this Jesus was not only a man; He was God Himself, God’s true and only incarnation.
When we look at Jesus, let us not make the mistake of the unbelieving Jews who could only see a man, but could not see God. Let us pray that we might not be spiritually blind like the Jews, and thus lose the chance to receive eternal life.
The Hostility of the Jews (10:31-42)
31 The Jews immediately understood from what Jesus said in verse 30 that He was claiming to be God (verse 33). Such a claim, in their eyes, was blasphemy (see Mark 14:64; John 5:18; 8:59 and comments).
32 Jesus did not run away when the Jews picked up stones. He only said, “What are you stoning me for? I have done nothing but the work of God. For which of the miracles I’ve done do you seek to stone me?”
33 “We don’t stone you for any miracle you’ve done,” the Jews said. “We stone you only because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
The Jews were right about what Jesus claimed. He did claim to be God. What the Jews did not consider was that His claim was indeed true.
34 Jesus then quoted from Psalm 82:6: “I have said you are gods.”82 In this verse, God is calling the judges of Israel “gods,” because they had been given a high office by God Himself.
35-36 Therefore, if mere men are called “gods” in the Old Testament, why is it wrong for Jesus to call Himself the Son of God? If men can be called god in the Bible, surely the true Son of God, whom the Father set apart for his very own, can be called a “god.” Jesus was not claiming to be anything except what He, in fact, was!
Notice in verse 35 that Jesus says, “The Scripture cannot be broken.” Every word of Scripture is true. The verse Jesus quoted was not a very important verse; nevertheless, each word of it was completely true. We must not throw out or change the meaning of any verse of the Bible.83
37-38 Jesus told the Jews to examine His works. Were they the works of God? If so, then the Jews should believe that God is in Jesus and that Jesus is in God (see John 10:30; 17:21). The works show this to be true. No man could have done such works if he were not of God (see John 9:32-33).
39 But the Jews wouldn’t listen. They again tried to seize Jesus, but could not (see John 7:30,44).
40-42 Jesus then left Jerusalem and went to the east side of the Jordan River, where John the Baptist had first baptized people (see John 1:28). John’s testimony concerning Christ was still remembered. His influence still remained among the people. When the people themselves saw Jesus, they could see that John’s testimony was indeed true. Yet John was only a witness. He himself did no miracles. His work was only to prepare the people to meet Christ. And when they met Him, they believed in Him (verse 42).