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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 10

Joh 10:1-21. The Good Shepherd.

This discourse seems plainly to be a continuation of the closing verses of the ninth chapter. The figure was familiar to the Jewish ear (from Jer 23:1-40; Eze 34:1-31; Zec 11:1-17, &c.). "This simple creature [the sheep] has this special note among all animals, that it quickly hears the voice of the shepherd, follows no one else, depends entirely on him, and seeks help from him alone—cannot help itself, but is shut up to another's aid" [Luther in Stier].

1, 2. He that entereth not by the door—the legitimate way (without saying what that was, as yet).

into the sheepfold—the sacred enclosure of God's true people.

climbeth up some other way—not referring to the assumption of ecclesiastical office without an external call, for those Jewish rulers, specially aimed at, had this (Mt 23:2), but to the want of a true spiritual commission, the seal of heaven going along with the outward authority; it is the assumption of the spiritual guidance of the people without this that is meant.

2. he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep—a true, divinely recognized shepherd.

3. To him the porter openeth—that is, right of free access is given, by order of Him to whom the sheep belong; for it is better not to give the allusion a more specific interpretation [Calvin, Meyer, Luthardt].

and the sheep hear his voice—This and all that follows, though it admits of important application to every faithful shepherd of God's flock, is in its direct and highest sense true only of "the great Shepherd of the sheep," who in the first five verses seems plainly, under the simple character of a true shepherd, to be drawing His own portrait [Lampe, Stier, &c.].

7-14. I am the door of the sheep—that is, the way in to the fold, with all blessed privileges, both for shepherds and sheep (compare Joh 14:6; Eph 2:18).

8. All that ever came before me—the false prophets; not as claiming the prerogatives of Messiah, but as perverters of the people from the way of life, all pointing to Him [Olshausen].

the sheep did not hear them—the instinct of their divinely taught hearts preserving them from seducers, and attaching them to the heaven-sent prophets, of whom it is said that "the Spirit of Christ was in them" (1Pe 1:11).

9. by me if any man enter in—whether shepherd or sheep.

shall be saved—the great object of the pastoral office, as of all the divine arrangements towards mankind.

and shall go in and out and find pasturein, as to a place of safety and repose; out, as to "green pastures and still waters" (Ps 23:2) for nourishment and refreshing, and all this only transferred to another clime, and enjoyed in another manner, at the close of this earthly scene (Re 7:17).

10. I am come that they might have life, and … more abundantly—not merely to preserve but impart LIFE, and communicate it in rich and unfailing exuberance. What a claim! Yet it is only an echo of all His teaching; and He who uttered these and like words must be either a blasphemer, all worthy of the death He died, or "God with us"—there can be no middle course.

11. I am the good shepherd—emphatically, and, in the sense intended, exclusively so (Isa 40:11; Eze 34:23; 37:24; Zec 13:7).

the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep—Though this may be said of literal shepherds, who, even for their brute flock, have, like David, encountered "the lion and the bear" at the risk of their own lives, and still more of faithful pastors who, like the early bishops of Rome, have been the foremost to brave the fury of their enemies against the flock committed to their care; yet here, beyond doubt, it points to the struggle which was to issue in the willing surrender of the Redeemer's own life, to save His sheep from destruction.

12. an hireling … whose own the sheep are not—who has no property, in them. By this He points to His own peculiar relation to the sheep, the same as His Father's, the great Proprietor and Lord of the flock, who styles Him "My Shepherd, the Man that is My Fellow" (Zec 13:7), and though faithful under-shepherds are so in their Master's interest, that they feel a measure of His own concern for their charge, the language is strictly applicable only to "the Son over His own house" (Heb 3:6).

seeth the wolf coming—not the devil distinctively, as some take it [Stier, Alford, &c.], but generally whoever comes upon the flock with hostile intent, in whatever form: though the wicked one, no doubt, is at the bottom of such movements [Luthardt].

14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep—in the peculiar sense of 2Ti 2:19.

am known of mine—the soul's response to the voice that has inwardly and efficaciously called it; for of this mutual loving acquaintance ours is the effect of His. "The Redeemer's knowledge of us is the active element, penetrating us with His power and life; that of believers is the passive principle, the reception of His life and light. In this reception, however, an assimilation of the soul to the sublime object of its knowledge and love takes place; and thus an activity, though a derived one, is unfolded, which shows itself in obedience to His commands" [Olshausen]. From this mutual knowledge Jesus rises to another and loftier reciprocity of knowledge.

15-18. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father—What claim to absolute equality with the Father could exceed this? (See on Mt 11:27).

and I lay down my life for the sheep—How sublime this, immediately following the lofty claim of the preceding clause! It is the riches and the poverty of "the Word made flesh"—one glorious Person reaching at once up to the Throne and down even to the dust of death, "that we might live through Him." A candid interpretation of the words, "for the sheep," ought to go far to establish the special relation of the vicarious death of Christ to the Church.

16. other sheep I have … not of this fold: them also I must bring—He means the perishing Gentiles, already His "sheep" in the love of His heart and the purpose of His grace to "bring them" in due time.

they shall hear my voiceThis is not the language of mere foresight that they would believe, but the expression of a purpose to draw them to Himself by an inward and efficacious call, which would infallibly issue in their spontaneous accession to Him.

and there shall be one fold—rather "one flock" (for the word for "fold," as in the foregoing verses, is quite different).

17. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, &c.—As the highest act of the Son's love to the Father was the laying down of His life for the sheep at His "commandment," so the Father's love to Him as His incarnate Son reaches its consummation, and finds its highest justification, in that sublimest and most affecting of all acts.

that I might take it again—His resurrection-life being indispensable to the accomplishment of the fruit of His death.

18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again—It is impossible for language more plainly and emphatically to express the absolute voluntariness of Christ's death, such a voluntariness as it would be manifest presumption in any mere creature to affirm of his own death. It is beyond all doubt the language of One who was conscious that His life was His own (which no creature's is), and therefore His to surrender or retain at will. Here lay the glory of His sacrifice, that it was purely voluntary. The claim of "power to take it again" is no less important, as showing that His resurrection, though ascribed to the Father, in the sense we shall presently see, was nevertheless His own assertion of His own right to life as soon as the purposes of His voluntary death were accomplished.

This commandment—to "lay down His—life, that He might take it again."

have I received of my Father—So that Christ died at once by "command" of His Father, and by such a voluntary obedience to that command as has made Him (so to speak) infinitely dear to the Father. The necessity of Christ's death, in the light of these profound sayings, must be manifest to all but the superficial student.

19-21. There was a division … again among the Jews for these sayings—the light and the darkness revealing themselves with increasing clearness in the separation of the teachable from the obstinately prejudiced. The one saw in Him only "a devil and a madman"; the other revolted at the thought that such words could come from one possessed, and sight be given to the blind by a demoniac; showing clearly that a deeper impression had been made upon them than their words expressed.

Joh 10:22-42. Discourse at the Feast of DedicationFrom the Fury of His Enemies Jesus Escapes beyond Jordan, Where Many Believe on Him.

22, 23. it was … the feast of the dedication—celebrated rather more than two months after the feast of tabernacles, during which intermediate period our Lord seems to have remained in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was instituted by Jude Maccabeus, to commemorate the purification of the temple from the profanations to which it had been subjected by Antiochus Epiphanes 165 B.C., and kept for eight days, from the twenty-fifth Chisleu (December), the day on which Judas began the first joyous celebration of it (1 Maccabees 4:52,56,59; and Josephus, Antiquities, 7.7.7).

it was winter—implying some inclemency. Therefore,

23. Jesus walked … in Solomon's porch—for shelter. This portico was on the east side of the temple, and Josephus says it was part of the original structure of Solomon [Antiquities, 20.9.7].

24. Then came the Jewsthe rulers. (See on Joh 1:19).

How long dost thou make us to doubt?—"hold us in suspense" (Margin).

If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly—But when the plainest evidence of it was resisted, what weight could a mere assertion of it have?

25, 26. Jesus answered them, I told you—that is, in substance, what I am (for example Joh 7:37, 38; 8:12, 35, 36, 58).

26. ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said—referring to the whole strain of the Parable of the Sheep, (Joh 10:1, &c.).

27-30. My sheep hear my voice, &c.—(See on Joh 10:8).

28. I give unto them eternal life—not "will give them"; for it is a present gift. (See on Joh 3:36; Joh 5:24). It is a very grand utterance, couched in the language of majestic authority.

29. My Father, which gave them me—(See on Joh 6:37-39).

is greater than all—with whom no adverse power can contend. It is a general expression of an admitted truth, and what follows shows for what purpose it was uttered, "and none is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." The impossibility of true believers being lost, in the midst of all the temptations which they may encounter, does not consist in their fidelity and decision, but is founded upon the power of God. Here the doctrine of predestination is presented in its sublime and sacred aspect; there is a predestination of the holy, which is taught from one end of the Scriptures to the other; not, indeed, of such a nature that an "irresistible grace" compels the opposing will of man (of course not), but so that that will of man which receives and loves the commands of God is produced only by God's grace (Olshausen—a testimony all the more valuable, being given in spite of Lutheran prejudice).

30. I and my Father are one—Our language admits not of the precision of the original in this great saying. "Are" is in the masculine gender—"we (two persons) are"; while "one" is neuter—"one thing." Perhaps "one interest" expresses, as nearly as may be, the purport of the saying. There seemed to be some contradiction between His saying they had been given by His Father into His own hands, out of which they could not be plucked, and then saying that none could pluck them out of His Father's hands, as if they had not been given out of them. "Neither have they," says He; "though He has given them to Me, they are as much in His own almighty hands as ever—they cannot be, and when given to Me they are not, given away from Himself; for He and I HAVE ALL IN COMMON." Thus it will be seen, that, though oneness of essence is not the precise thing here affirmed, that truth is the basis of what is affirmed, without which it would not be true. And Augustine was right in saying the "We are" condemns the Sabellians (who denied the distinction of Persons in the Godhead), while the "one" (as explained) condemns the Arians (who denied the unity of their essence).

31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him—and for precisely the same thing as before (Joh 8:58, 59).

32. Many good works have I showed you—that is, works of pure benevolence (as in Ac 10:38, "Who went about doing good," &c.; see Mr 7:37).

from my Father—not so much by His power, but as directly commissioned by Him to do them. This He says to meet the imputation of unwarrantable assumption of the divine prerogatives [Luthardt].

for which of those works do ye stone me?—"are ye stoning (that is, going to stone) me?"

33. for a blasphemy—whose legal punishment was stoning (Le 24:11-16).

thou, being a man—that is, a man only.

makest thyself God—Twice before they understood Him to advance the same claim, and both times they prepared themselves to avenge what they took to be the insulted honor of God, as here, in the way directed by their law (Joh 5:18; 8:59).

34-36. Is it not written in your law—in Ps 82:6, respecting judges or magistrates.

Ye are gods—being the official representatives and commissioned agents of God.

35, 36. If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came … Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest—The whole force of this reasoning, which has been but in part seized by the commentators, lies in what is said of the two parties compared. The comparison of Himself with mere men, divinely commissioned, is intended to show (as Neander well expresses it) that the idea of a communication of the Divine Majesty to human nature was by no means foreign to the revelations of the Old Testament; but there is also a contrast between Himself and all merely human representatives of God—the one "sanctified by the Father and sent into the world"; the other, "to whom the word of God (merely) came," which is expressly designed to prevent His being massed up with them as only one of many human officials of God. It is never said of Christ that "the word of the Lord came to Him"; whereas this is the well-known formula by which the divine commission, even to the highest of mere men, is expressed, as John the Baptist (Lu 3:2). The reason is that given by the Baptist himself (see on Joh 3:31). The contrast is between those "to whom the word of God came"—men of the earth, earthy, who were merely privileged to get a divine message to utter (if prophets), or a divine office to discharge (if judges)—and "Him whom (not being of the earth at all) the Father sanctified (or set apart), and sent into the world," an expression never used of any merely human messenger of God, and used only of Himself.

because, I said, I am the Son of God—It is worthy of special notice that our Lord had not said, in so many words, that He was the Son of God, on this occasion. But He had said what beyond doubt amounted to it—namely, that He gave His sheep eternal life, and none could pluck them out of His hand; that He had got them from His Father, in whose hands, though given to Him, they still remained, and out of whose hand none could pluck them; and that they were the indefeasible property of both, inasmuch as "He and His Father were one." Our Lord considers all this as just saying of Himself, "I am the Son of God"—one nature with Him, yet mysteriously of Him. The parenthesis (Joh 10:35), "and the Scripture cannot be broken," referring to the terms used of magistrates in the eighty-second Psalm, has an important bearing on the authority of the living oracles. "The Scripture, as the expressed will of the unchangeable God, is itself unchangeable and indissoluble" [Olshausen]. (Compare Mt 5:17).

37-39. though ye believe not me, believe the works—There was in Christ's words, independently of any miracles, a self-evidencing truth, majesty and grace, which those who had any spiritual susceptibility were unable to resist (Joh 7:46; 8:30). But, for those who wanted this, "the works" were a mighty help. When these failed, the case was desperate indeed.

that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him—thus reiterating His claim to essential oneness with the Father, which He had only seemed to soften down, that He might calm their rage and get their ear again for a moment.

39. Therefore they sought again to take him—true to their original understanding of His words, for they saw perfectly well that He meant to "make Himself God" throughout all this dialogue.

he escaped out of their hand—(See on Lu 4:30; Joh 8:59).

40-42. went away again beyond Jordan … the place where John at first baptized—(See on Joh 1:28).

41. many resorted to him—on whom the ministry of the Baptist had left permanent impressions.

John did no miracle, but all things John spake of this man were true—what they now heard and saw in Jesus only confirming in their minds the divinity of His forerunner's mission, though unaccompanied by any of His Master's miracles. And thus, "many believed on Him there."

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