posted on May, 29 2015 @ 05:03 PM
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who
enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” -John ch10 vv1-2
Jesus was fond of using the phrase “Truly I say to you”, but this “double” version, with the repeated AMEN, is found only in John’s
He seems to use it to mark the statements which he wants people to remember.
The chapter division masks the fact that the background of this particular statement is the healing of the blind man in ch9, and the criticism from
the Pharisees which followed that healing.
These two chapters are about the work of Jesus in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication.
The theme of this discourse is the contrast between the good shepherd and other kinds of shepherd.
That’s why the definition of “thief and robber” is the starting-point.
He comes in the night, of course, when the gate of the fold is firmly closed against people like himself, so he is obliged to climb over the fence.
The true shepherd of the flock comes along in the morning and is allowed through the gate. He knows all his sheep individually, and they know him. He
calls them out by name, and leads them out to find the good pastures. They follow his voice, and ignore the voice of “strangers”, the shepherds of
This theme echoes Ezekiel ch34, where the prophet is instructed to prophesy against the current shepherds of Israel. They take all the profit they can
from their position, but they fail to feed the sheep or tend them, and they allow them to be scattered.
Therefore, says the Lord God, “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…
I myself will be the shepherd of the sheep, and I will make them lie down” –Ezekiel ch34 vv1-16
In the gospel, this allegory follows on from an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees, where he rebukes their misleading guidance of the people;
“If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say ‘we see’, your guilt remains”.
The implication is that the Pharisees are coming under condemnation as thieves and robbers.
Before Jesus develops the “good shepherd” theme, he briefly takes the allegory in another direction;
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep” –v7
He is “the door” in the sense that he is the means of access to a good relationship with God.
By that route, the sheep will “enter” the kingdom and be saved (v9).
It’s always tempting, reading that verse, to equate “the fold” with the place of salvation.
But how, then , can we take the following words about “going out and finding pasture”?
It is probably better to keep to the terms of the original image, in which the fold is only the night-time refuge of the sheep, while finding pasture
outside the fold is their normal daytime activity. The point is their security in both situations.
The rest of the discourse follows the more natural continuation of the allegory, in which Jesus identifies himself as the shepherd.
This really begins in v8 and v10, though they are ostensibly part of the “door” metaphor.
“All who came before me are thieves and robbers”.
The implication is that he means people in positions of leadership.
Not just, necessarily, those who came calling themselves “messiah”.
Whoever they were, the sheep, who were waiting for Jesus alone, took no notice of them.
There is an absolute contrast between these thieves and their true shepherd, because the thief comes to take things for himself and to take life.
He “takes life” in one sense because he leads them away from the eternal life which God provides.
Jesus comes to give life, abundantly.
Then Jesus names himself as the good shepherd and presents another contrast, between himself and the “hireling” (vv11-15).
The hireling shepherd, unlike the thief and the stranger shepherd, has a legitimate function in relation to the flock.
However, he neglects his task of protecting the sheep.
When danger comes, the hireling runs away, because he loves his own life more than he loves the sheep.
The good shepherd is a more reliable protector, because he is looking after his own flock.
He knows, and is known by, his own sheep.
This relationship links with a similar relationship between Jesus himself and the Father, who know each other to the same degree.
This double relationship means that the shepherd is willing to lay down his life “on account of” [HUPER] the sheep.
Once the shepherd has given his life, he can bring in “the other sheep [the Gentiles] that are not of this fold”. As a result, there will be
“one flock, one shepherd” (v16).
The conscious offering of himself is the key to the whole task.
We must not think that his life would be forcibly taken away from him by the action of men.
The event rests ultimately upon his own choice.
He tells Pilate later that the man would have held no power over him if it had not been allowed by God (ch19 v11).
Indeed, the doctrine of the Incarnation implies that the Son entered willingly into a world where he could be put to death, presumably
foreseeing what would happen.
He has the power and authority [EXOUSIA] to lay down his life, and also the same power to take up his life again (to be raised from the dead) when the
task has been completed.
The Father has commissioned him to do this, and loves him because he is willing to do it (vv17-18).
In this way, the Father and the Son between them have fulfilled the promise made in Ezekiel, that the Lord God would look after the flock himself.