Studies in the Gospel of John- I Am the Door and the Good Shepherd
I. The Door of the Sheepfold
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by 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. 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 does not own 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 cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, 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.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken– do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 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 am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there. (John 10:1-42)
- In this discourse Jesus describes who He is and His purpose simply yet profoundly. So clear is the message that those listening who disagree with Him decide they want to kill Him. This chapter of John is a continuation of the previous one. It was after the healing of the Man born blind that Jesus hears that the rulers of the temple had cast the man out. The scripture tells us Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:35-41) Within this context Jesus begins talking about the only legitimate way to enter unto the sheep is through the gate. Every other way… over the wall or under the wall is the way that thieves and wild animals enter. Jesus declares that He is the gate of the sheepfold.
- For us to understand the nature of Jesus’ example we would need a little understanding of the metaphor he is using.
A Sheepfold according to Webster is a pen or shelter for sheep. The sheepfold was an inclosure made in fields where the sheep were collected by night to defend them from robbers, wolves, etc. It was not commonly covered, as the seasons in Judea were mild. Out in the fields, where there maybe many flocks there would be sheepfolds that the shepherds could bring their sheep into to shelter and be protected during the night. In the morning, the shepherd would come to the gate of the sheepfold and the porter would allow him to enter in and call to his own sheep. They would hear his voice and come out of the sheepfold and follow him.
- Jesus was saying to the religious leaders that He was the gate, the door, and that unless they entered through Him they were thieves and robbers. Both for the sheep and the shepherds, only those who enter through Him will find pasture and salvation.
II. The Good Shepherd
A. Jesus goes onto tell the people that He is the Good Shepherd. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11) Truly Jesus is the one who comes to give us life abundantly, for in His sacrifice He releases His life so we might have His life. False shepherds, teachers, and leaders as well as the devil himself seek to do this very thing that Jesus declares about them.
- As the Good Shepherd Jesus knows His own and His own know Him. The voice of a stranger they will not follow. Some have suggested that the porter of the gate is the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit allows the Good Shepherd into the sheepfold. There will be others that will come, but they will be hirelings. They do not truly care for the sheep.
- Some would also suggest that Jesus came through the door of Judaism and as a result did everything according to the prescribed method of God, thus was and is the legitimate Shepherd of the Sheep.
- Jesus says that He has other sheep not of this fold. This is a clear declaration that their are others that are called to be part of the flock of God from the non-Jewish peoples. The Gentiles that will stream in according to Isaiah 42 and 60.
- It is here that Jesus declares that He lays down His life for the sheep. He has the power to lay it down and take it back up again. He received this command from His Father.
III. The Feast of Dedication
A.Hanukkah (sometimes transliterated Chanukkah) is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar.
In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication.” The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.
Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to acquiesce to their demands, but Mattathias refused. Once the Maccabees had regained control they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time it had been spiritually defiled by being used for the worship of foreign gods and also by practices such as sacrificing swine. Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the Temple. They lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days.
- Jesus was at the temple during this time of celebration. It was this time of year. He was in Solomon’s porch which was a portion of the temple that had endured even through Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the Temple. He is the One who makes the Temple dedicated and cleansed. He is the Light that constantly shines! It is there that the Jews gathered around Him and asked Him plainly if He was the Christ to which he answered “I told you and you do not believe.”… “because you are not among my sheep.”
- My sheep hear my voice – But ye will not hear: – my sheep follow me; but ye will neither follow nor acknowledge me. Any person who reads without prejudice may easily see, that our Lord does not at all insinuate that these persons could not believe, because God had made it impossible to them; but simply because they did not hear and follow Christ, which the whole of our blessed Lord’s discourse proves that they might have done. The sheep of Christ are not those who are included in any eternal decree, to the exclusion of others from the yearnings of the bowels of eternal mercy; but they are those who hear, believe in, follow, and obey the Savior of the world.- Adam Clarke
- No one can snatch them out of my hand. No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. These statements cause them to pick up stones to kill Jesus. Jesus then asks them why? The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:33)
- Ye are gods – This was said of magistrates on account of the dignity and honor of their office, and it shows that the Hebrew word translated “god,” אלהים ̀elohiym, in that place might be applied to man. Such a use of the word is, however, rare. See instances in Exo_7:1; Exo_4:16. -Albert Barnes
- Jesus is responding to their own accusations with the truth that they deemed themselves to be like gods. They were called to represent the Father to the people and to be the Shepherds of His Flock, and when the True Shepherd was in their midst they could not or would not recognize Him even though He manifested His nature through the works He accomplished.