Wednesday, May 20, 2009

John 10: The Gate; The Good Shepherd; The Lamb

There are many passages of scripture that are commonly misunderstood, abused, and poorly exegeted. Certain interpretations are taught daily in seminaries, bible colleges, and churches as gospel.
Like most religious doctrine, the assumption is that since it has been taught this way for one, or two, or a hundred centuries, that this proves the "correctness" of the interpretation.
I propose to post a series of articles attempting to throw light on some of the scriptures that are most often mishandled.

2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

I would like to start with John 10.

To understand this chapter we must go back to chapter 9 and the incident of Jesus healing the man born blind. ( I suggest that it should be read in its' entirety) After Jesus restores the sight of this man, the pharisees question him, and eventually cast him out of the synagogue.

The chapter ends with this:

John 9:
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
37 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you."
38 He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."
40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?"
41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.

John 10 is the conclusion of this episode. Chapter 9 flows right into chapter 10. May we be delivered from reading the Bible as if it is a collection of essays or short stories.

John 10:
1"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.
2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."
6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Jesus is speaking to the people, and the pharisees, in the same setting in which chapter 9 ends.
Let's look at each point the Lord is making.

1. Thieves and robbers "hop the fence" in order to access the sheep.
2. The true shepherd enters through the door/gate.
3. The gatekeeper opens for the authentic shepherd. The sheep hear his voice and they respond by following him.
4. The real shepherds are recognized by those they shepherd, and most importantly by the gatekeeper.
5. The sheep will not follow the stranger as they do not recognize that voice. So the stranger must resort to illegal entry, i.e. he must become a thief. The sheep will not follow him, therefore he must steal them in order to have a flock to shepherd.
6. The people were not understanding the metaphor Jesus used, so He begins to clarify:

John 10:
7 So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

1. Jesus is the door/gate. I believe that the Father is the gatekeeper, and that the rest of this chapter will prove that point.
2. The gate only opens to the one whom the gatekeeper recognizes as the genuine shepherd.
"All who came before me", are any and all who do not enter the pen through the gate. We know that they did not enter through the gate, as Jesus,who is the gate, says they are thieves and robbers. He does not recognize them as shepherds.
3. All who enter by Christ (the way, truth, and life) are saved, will go in and out, and will find pasture. This drives the point home that shepherds are also sheep. (more on that in just a bit)
4. So these false shepherds (thieves) come to steal, kill, and destroy.Verse 10 is not talking about Satan, though the case is most certainly made throughout scripture that Satan is an accuser, thief, murderer, and liar. However Jesus is talking about the pharisees and any others like them who are false shepherds.
5. Jesus came so that the flock will have life, and that that life will be one of abundance; "they will go in and out and find pasture". He is truly the gateway to truth and abundant Life.
The Lord now begins to really press the issue:

John 10:
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 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.
13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 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.

1. Not only is Jesus the gate, He is the good shepherd.
2. The true good shepherd will lay down His life for the sake of the flock.
3. This is most important;: a hired hand,i.e. a hireling, is NOT a shepherd and indeed never was.
When the wolves come, and they will, the hireling will not be found. He will leave the flock at the mercy of the wolves.

Acts 20:
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Matthew 7:
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

A college degree, and a good resume do not qualify anyone as a shepherd. I am afraid that there exists many churches where the wolves are having their way.

4. Jesus, as the good shepherd, knows (foreknew) all that are His sheep, and they know him. Recall that in verse 4 the sheep recognize the shepherd as they know His voice. So those who know the voice of Jesus are His sheep.
5. Jesus know His sheep and they know Him, just as He and the Father know, and are known by each other. He lays His life down for all who are His, which would include sheep from another fold (the gentiles) John 17:6-26
6. There is one flock and one shepherd over all. Eph 2:11-22; Eph 4:4-6

John 10:
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
18 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."

Since the good shepherd is defined by the fact that He lays His life down for His sheep, it has been given to Jesus by the Father to die, and to rise from the dead. So this is the Father's testimony concerning the Son. He is not only recognized by the Father as THE good shepherd, He is the good shepherd who rises from the dead, thus granting to all who are His flock eternal (abundant) life. The term abundant life was never meant to be defined in the sense of material goods and wealth.
This passage also supplies the answer to the question; "who killed Jesus?" (That is a whole other study.)

John 10:

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.
20 Many of them said, "He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?"
21 Others said, "These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

The people begin to argue about Jesus. He was a bringer of controversy,i.e. a stumbling block to the jews, and foolishness to the gentiles. He is truly the rock of offense. Isaiah 8:14-15 and Matt 21:42-46

John 10: 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
24 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."

1. There is apparently a lapse of time here. The Feast of Dedication, known today as Chanukah or Hannukah, was celebrated much differently in Jesus' day than it is now. The myth of one days supply of oil lasting for eight days in the Menorah was added approximately 600 years after Christ lived.

2. The jews press Him for answers as to who He is. It is interesting that He was walking in the temple, on the day of the feast that celebrated the re-dedication of the temple in the time of the Machabees.

John 10: 25 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,
26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 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.
30 I and the Father are one."

1. Jesus immediately goes back to the "flock" metaphor. He tells the people that since His sheep are able to hear His voice (verses 3-5), their unbelief in His Word proves that they are not part of His flock. He knows His sheep and they know and follow Him John 8:47; Romans 9:6-7

2. He gives them eternal life, i.e. life abundant. The abundant life insures that we will never perish.

3. Jesus adds something new; no one can take His sheep from Him. The Father has given His sheep to the Son, and not only can no one snatch them away from the Son, they are also in the hand of the Father, never to be taken away. The reason being; Jesus and the Father are one and the same.

John 14:
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

John 6: 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--

Jesus is consistent throughout John's narrative. No one can say that He did not tell them who He is.

John 10: 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?"
33 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."
34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'?
35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came--and Scripture cannot be broken--
36 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'?
37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;
38 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."
39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained.
41 And many came to him. And they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true."
42 And many believed in him there.

1. As they begin to collect stones with which to kill Him, Jesus again refers to the works of His Father. For which of these good works were they going to stone Him for? It sounds like a ridiculous question to ask, but it drew the response from the people; no one stones anyone for a good work. They were seeking His life as he dared to say that he was God. Remember they asked Him to state plainly that He is the Christ. I believe He gave them a plain answer.

2. Jesus quotes Psalm 82;
Psa 82:6 I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

3. He presents a logical argument. If the scriptures say that God calls men His sons, and the scripture cannot be broken, (those words should be placed in every church entry), then how is He blaspheming by calling Himself the Son of God?

4. Again He refers to the works; If you cannot hear His voice,believe His words, then believe in the works that He does, as testimony that he comes from the Father. Works such as giving sight to the blind......

5. He leaves the area, and the debate still continues, though many came to believe in Him. John did no sign, which would infer that Jesus did many signs, therefore believe on acount of the works. His sheep hear His voice.

Several things can be learned from this tremendous chapter:

1. Jesus is the gate, the Father is the gate keeper.

2. He gives access to the sheep, that is, He opens the gate, to His son.

3. The Father and Son are one and the same.

4.They hold the sheep in their hand, and that is eternal security for the sheep. The sheep are already in the pen waiting for the shepherd, therefore the sheep are foreknown. They are already His. They can never be stolen from the Lord.The thieves and robbers may enter the pen, but nowhere does it say that they steal any of the flock. Their intent is evil, but His sheep are secure. This is what the exchange between the pharisees and the man who had his vision restored was all about. They could not persuade him to denounce His deliverer, so they cast him out, and later Jesus comes to claim him as His own. He could not be "snatched away". There are also sheep from another fold, i.e. the gentiles who are part of the foreknown flock.

5. Jesus is not only the shepherd, but He is the Lamb who is slain. Remember earlier we saw that the shepherds are sheep also.

6. All who are true shepherds and not hirelings, enter through Christ to lead the flock to pasture. The gatekeeper only recognizes the voice of Jesus, so only those who are called for this work, and who speak the word of God can lead His flock. The sheep of the Lord will recognize the voice of Jesus when these shepherds speak.

Now I will humbly suggest that Ezekiel 34 be studied thoroughly, as it contains the essence of what we have just worked through.

Psalm 95:

6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Soli deo Gloria!

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