The Good Shepherd.
SUMMARY.--The Sheepfold. The Shepherd of the Sheep. The Hireling. The Feast of Dedication. The Jews Seek to Stone Jesus. He Teaches Beyond Jordan.
1. He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold. The sheepfold is a figure of the church, the door into which is Christ. The sheepfolds of the East are large enclosures, open to the sky, but walled around with reeds or stones or brick in order to afford a protection against robbers, wolves, and other beasts of prey. There is a large door at which the shepherd enters with the sheep.
2. He that entereth in by the door. The one who comes in by the door is the shepherd. The figure is very plain to those familiar with Eastern sheepfolds. The door is for the shepherd and the sheep, while those who get in otherwise are robbers who seek to prey upon the sheep.
3. To him the porter openeth. The gatekeeper whose business is to guard the entrance. This servant was furnished with arms to fight off intruders, but the shepherd he would let in. It is not certain that Christ intended to make the porter a figure of any spiritual thing, but if so, he would represent God, who has decided who shall enter through the door. And the sheep hear his voice. This is true to the letter. The sheep in the East are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. He leads them forth from the fold just where he pleases. The Eastern shepherds lead their sheep, while in our country we drive them. He calleth his own sheep by name. This corresponds exactly with the facts of Eastern shepherd life. They give names to sheep as we do to horses, cows, and dogs. "Passing by a flock of sheep," says Mr. Hartley, "I asked the shepherd to call one of his sheep. He instantly did so, and it left its pasturage and its companions, and ran to the shepherd with a promptitude and signs of pleasure that I never witnessed before."
4, 5. The sheep follow him: for they know his voice. Also literally true in the East as all travelers testify, but a stranger they will not follow, because his voice is strange. So true is it that when a traveler has changed dress with the shepherd for an experiment, they still have followed the disguised shepherd's voice and refused to listen to the voice of a stranger in the garb of their own shepherd.
6. This parable spake Jesus unto them. The Greek word rendered here "parable" is not so rendered elsewhere. It is rather a simile.
7. I am the door of the sheep. Verses 1-5 speak of shepherds in general. These shepherds enter into the fold and go out by the same door as the sheep. Christ is that door; the Door of the sheep, the one door for all, both sheep and shepherds. There is no other way in, for "there is no other name, under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved."
8. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers. Abbott holds that the idea is, "All who came, not entering through the door, but claiming to be before me, having the precedence, independent of me, are thieves and robbers." This seems to harmonize with the context, and is probably the Savior's meaning. He included the Jewish rabbis, the Greek philosophers, the pretended prophets, and the "Infallible Pope." These all refuse to bow to his authority. But the sheep did not hear them. The true sheep.
9. By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. Christ is at once the door, the shepherd and the pasture. His pasture is the bread of life and the water of life.
10. The thief cometh not, but to steal. All those who enter otherwise than by the door wish to prey upon the flock.
11. I am the good shepherd. This title, applied to Jehovah in Psa 23 , and in Ezek. 34:12 , Christ here applies to himself. The mark of the good shepherd is that he giveth his life for his sheep. In that unsettled country the shepherd had often to defend his flock.
12. But he that is a hireling . . . leaveth the sheep, and fleeth. It is not the bare fact of a man receiving pay that makes him a hireling. "The laborer is worthy of his hire." He is a hireling who would not work were it not for this hire, and who works where the hire is highest rather than were he can do the most good.
16. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold. Not Jews, of whom his followers then were, but Gentiles who would soon be called to him. These would hear his voice, enter through the door, into the same fold as the Jewish Christians, so that there would be "one fold and one shepherd." There is only one Church and one door into it, and one Shepherd over it.
18. I lay it down of myself. His life. He gave himself for man of his free will. He laid it down on the cross; he took it up when he rose from the dead. Abbott says of the lesson in these eighteen verses , "I understand this lesson to be a parable with a double application. First, Christ compares the Pharisees to shepherds, himself to the door, and declares that those only are true shepherds who enter through the door; that is, through Christ and his authority. All others are thieves and robbers. Then he changes the application and declares himself the good shepherd whose praises David and Isaiah sung, and indicates the nature of the service that he will render unto his sheep by giving for them his life."
22. It was . . . the feast of dedication. Two months after the last incidents, which occurred at and shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Dedication occurred in December, was not divinely appointed, but was instituted by Judas Maccabæus in B. C. 164, to commemorate the purification of the temple after it had been defiled by the Syrians. Jesus took the occasion to teach the people that came together. There is no proof that he observed it.
23. Walked . . . in Solomon's porch. A long covered colonnade that was a part of the temple.
24. The Jews . . . said. The ruling class. They came, not for information, but to secure ground for accusation.
26. Ye believe not, because ye are not my sheep. Not from lack of proof, but from a lack within themselves. If, as his sheep, they would follow (hear and obey), they would recognize him.
28. I give unto them eternal life. To his sheep. Eternal life means, not eternal existence, but eternal bliss. God hath made the soul deathless, but it may exist in banishment from heaven.
29. No man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. The sheep who hear his voice and follow him ( verse 27 ). This is the condition of their safety. If they comply with it God's grace will save them from the adversary.
30, 31. I and my Father are one. Are so united that the Father is pledged to keep the sheep of the Son. These words the Jews held to be blasphemy, and sought to stone him. Compare 8:52 .
33. For blasphemy. Because he said he and the Father were one.
34-36. Is it not written in your law. In Psa. 82 . I said, Ye are gods? It was there addressed to judges. Christ's argument is: If your law calls judges gods, why should I be held guilty of blasphemy for saying that I am the Son of God? Sanctified. Set apart.
39. Therefore they sought again to take him. A few moments before they would have stoned him by mob violence ( verse 31 ), but when they had cooled somewhat they sought to arrest him.
40. And went away again beyond Jordan. He had been nearly three months in Jerusalem, a very stormy ministry. Twice efforts were made to mob him ( John 8:59 John 10:31 ); twice, to arrest him ( John 7:32 John 7:45 John 10:39 ). His time would not come yet for three months, till the next passover, and he retired from the storm for a season. In the other gospels there are recorded a number of the incidents of his ministry beyond the Jordan.