Exposition of the Gospel of John


Christ, the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-21

The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—

1. The good Shepherd dies for His sheep: verse 11.

2. The character and conduct of hirelings: verses 12, 13.

3. The intimacy between the Shepherd and the sheep: verse 14.

4. The intimacy between the Father and the Son.’ verse 15.

5. Gentile sheep saved by the Shepherd: verse 16.

6. The relation of the Shepherd to the Father: verses 17, 18.

7. The division among the Jews: verses 19-21.

The passage before us completes our Lord’s discourse with the Pharisees, following their excommunication of the beggar to whom He had given sight. In this discourse, Christ does two things: first, He graphically depicts their unfaithfulness; second, He contrasts His own fidelity and goodness. They, as the religious leaders of the people, are depicted as "strangers" (verse 5), as "thieves and robbers" (verse 8), as "hirelings". (verses 12, 13). He stands revealed as "the door" (verses 9, 11), and as "the good Shepherd" (verse 11).

The Pharisees were the shepherds of Israel. In casting out of the synagogue this poor sheep, the man that was born blind, for doing what was right, and for refusing to do what was wrong, they had shown what manner of spirit they were of. And this was but a sample of their accustomed oppression and violence. In them, then, did the prophecy of Ezekiel receive a fulfillment, that prophecy in which He had testified of those shepherds of His people who resembled thieves and robbers. Ezekiel 34 (which like all prophecy has a double fulfillment) supplies a sad commentary upon the selfish and cruel conduct of the scribes and Pharisees. The whole chapter should be read: we quote but a fragment—"And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them" (verses 1-4).

The same prophecy of Ezekiel goes on to present the true Shepherd of Israel, the Good Shepherd: "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day... I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick... And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd... Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God" (verses 11, 12, 15, 16, 23, 30, 31).

Ezekiel is not the only prophet of the Old Testament who presents the Savior under the figure of a "shepherd." Frequently do the Old Testament Scriptures so picture Him. In His dying prediction, Jacob declared, "From thence (the mighty God of Jacob) is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel" (Gen. 49:24). The Psalmist declared, "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Ps. 23:1). Through Isaiah it was revealed, "The Lord God will come with strong hand. and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Ps. 40:10, 11). In Zechariah occurs that remarkable word "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones" (Ps. 13:7).

In addition to the prophecies, the Old Testament is particularly rich in the types which foreshadow Christ in the character of a "shepherd." So far as we have been able to trace, there are five individual shepherds who pointed to Christ, and each of them supplies some distinctive line in the typical picture. First, Abel, for in Genesis 4:2 we are told that "Abel was a keeper of sheep." The distinctive aspect of typical truth which he exemplifies is the death of the Shepherd—slain by wicked hands, by his brother according to the flesh. The second is Jacob, and a prominent thing in connection with him as a shepherd is his care for the sheep—see Genesis 30:31; Genesis 31:38-40; and note particularly Genesis 33:13, 14. The third is Joseph: the very first thing recorded in Scripture about this favorite son of Jacob is that he fed the flock (Gen. 37:2). The fourth is Moses. Three things are told us about him: he watered, protected and guided the sheep: "Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helpeth them, and watered their flock... Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" (Ex. 2:16, 17; 3:1). The fifth is David, and he is presented as jeopardizing his life for the sheep—"And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear" (1 Sam. 17:34-36). There is one other individual "shepherd" referred to in the Old Testament and that is "the idol shepherd" (Zech. 11:16, 17), and he is the Antichrist—how significant that he is the sixth! The only other individual "shepherd" mentioned in Scripture is the Lord Jesus, and He is the seventh! Seven is the number of perfection, and we do not reach perfection till we come to Christ, the Good Shepherd!

"I am the good shepherd." The word for "good" is a very comprehensive one, and perhaps it is impossible to embrace in a brief definition all that it included within its scope. The Greek word is "kalos" and is translated "good" seventy-six times: it is also rendered "fair," "meet," "worthy," etc. In order to discover the prime elements of the word we must have recourse to the law of first mention. Whenever we are studying any word or expression in Scripture, it is very important to pay special attention to the initial mention of it. The first time this word "good" occurs in the New Testament is in Matthew 3:10, where we read, "Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." The word "tree" is there used metaphorically. It is the unregenerate who are in view. No unbeliever is able to bring forth "good fruit." The "good fruit," then, is what is produced in and through a Christian. What kind of "fruit" is it which a Christian bears? It is Divine fruit, spiritual fruit: it is the product of the new nature. It is Divine as contrasted from what is human; spiritual as contrasted from what is fleshly. Thus in the light of this first occurrence of the word "good" we learn that when Christ said, "I am the good shepherd" He signified, "I am the Divine and spiritual Shepherd." All other shepherds were human; He was the Son of God. The "shepherds" from whom He is here contrasting Himself were the Pharisees, and they were carnal; but He was spiritual.

It will also repay us to note carefully the first occurrence of this word "good" in John’s Gospel. It is found in John 2:10. When the Lord Jesus had miraculously turned the water into wine, the servants bore it to the governor of the feast, and when he had tasted it, he exclaimed, "Every man at the beginning cloth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." Here the meaning of the word "good" signifies choice, or excellent, yea, that which is pre-eminently excellent, for the "good wine" is here contrasted from the inferior. This usage of "kalos" helps us still further in ascertaining the force of this adjective in John 10:11. When Christ said, "I am the good shepherd," He intimated that He was the pre-eminently excellent Shepherd, infinitely elevated above all who had gone before Him.

"I am the good shepherd." This was clearly an affirmation of His absolute Deity. He was here addressing Israelites, and Israel’s "Shepherd" was none other than Jehovah (Ps. 23:1; 80:1). When then the Savior said, "I am the good shepherd." He thus definitely identified Himself with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

"I am the good shepherd." This, like every other of our Lord’s titles, views Him in a distinctive relationship. He was, says Dr. John Gill, "a Shepherd of His Father’s appointing, calling, and sending, to whom the care of all His sheep, or chosen ones, was committed; who was set up as a Shepherd over them by Him, and was entrusted with them; and who being called, undertook to feed them." In the Greek it is more emphatic than in the English: literally it reads, "I am the shepherd, the good."

"The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (verse 11). The word for "giveth’ is usually translated "layeth down." "For the sheep" signifies, on their behalf. The good Shepherd gave His life freely and voluntarily, in the room and stead of His people, as a ransom for them, that they might be delivered from death and have eternal life. The Ethiopic Version reads, "The good Shepherd gives His life for the redemption of the sheep."

"The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." This is one of the many scriptures which clearly and definitely defines both the nature and extent of the Atonement. The Savior "gave his life" not as a martyr for the truth, not as a moral example of self-sacrifice, but for a people. He died that they might live. By nature His people are dead in trespasses and sins, and had not the Divinely-appointed and Divinely-provided Substitute died for them, there had been no spiritual and eternal life for them. Equally explicit is this verse concerning those for whom Christ laid down His life. It was not laid down for fallen angels, but for sinful men; and not for men in general, but for His own people in particular; for "the sheep," and not for "the goats." Such was the announcement of God through the prophets, "For the transgression of my people was he stricken" (Isa. 53:8). As said the angel to Mary, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21); and as said the angel to the shepherds, "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people" (Luke 2:10). The same restriction to be observed in the words of Christ at the Supper: "This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). (Cf. also Acts 20:28; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 2:17, etc.)

"But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep" (John 10:12). It seems evident that our Lord is here pointing once more to the Pharisees, the unfaithful shepherds of Israel. The hireling shepherd is not the owner of the sheep—note "whose own the sheep are not"; he has neither a proprietorship over them nor affection for them. The "hireling" is paid to guard and watch them, and all such mind their own things, and not the things of the Lord. And yet in view of Luke 10:7—"The laborer is worthy of his hire"—and other Scriptures, we must be careful not to interpret the use of this figure here out of harmony with its context. "It is not the bare receiving of hire which demonstrates a man to be a hireling (the Lord hath ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel); but the loving of hire; the loving the hire more than the work; the working for the sake of the hire. He is a hireling who would not work, were it not for the hire" (John Wesley). The "hireling" in a word is a professing servant of God who fills a position simply for the temporal advantages which it affords. A hireling is a mercenary: has no other impulse than the lust of lucre.

"But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep." We do not think that the "wolf" here has reference, directly, to Satan, for the false shepherds do not flee at his approach; rather does it seem to us that "the wolf" points to any enemy of the "sheep," who approaches to attack them. Note in passing the care of Christ here in the selection of His words: "the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep," not devoureth, for no "sheep" of Christ can ever perish.

"The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep" (John 10:13). At first glance this saying of Christ’s seems very trite, yet a little reflection will show that it enunciates a profound principle—a man does what he does because he is what he is. There is ever a rigid consistency between character and conduct. The drunkard drinks because he is a drunkard. But he is a drunkard before he drinks to excess. The liar lies because he is a liar; but he is a liar before he tells a lie. The thief steals because he is a thief. When the testing time comes each man reveals what he is by what he does. Conduct conforms to character as the stream does to the fountain. "The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling": this is a philosophical explanation of the fugitive’s deed. It was the flight which demonstrated the man.

The same principle holds good on the other side. The Christian acts christianly because he is a Christian; but a man must be a Christian before he can live a Christian life. Christian profession is no adequate test, nor is an orthodox creed. The demons have a creed, and it causes them to tremble, but it will not deliver them from Hell; It is by our fruit that we are known: it is deeds which make manifest the heart.

"The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling." Character is revealed by our conduct in the crises of life. When is it that the hireling fleeth? It is when he seeth "the wolf coming." Ah! it is the wolf that discovers the hireling! You might never have known what he was had not the wolf come. Very suggestive is this figure. It has passed into our common speech, as when poverty and starvation is represented by "the wolf is at the door." It suggests a crisis of trial or fierce testing. St. Paul made use of this simile when addressing the Ephesian elders: "For I know this, that after my departing shall greivous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). This is all very searching. How do you act when you see "the wolf’ coming! Are you terror stricken? Or, does approaching danger, temptation, or trial, cast you back the more upon the Lord?

"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). There seem to be three lines of thought suggested by this figure of the "shepherd" as applied to the Lord Jesus. First, it refers to His mediatorial office. The shepherd is not the owner of the flock, but the one to whom the care of the sheep is entrusted. So Christ as Mediator is the One appointed by the Father to act as shepherd, the One to whom He has committed the salvation of His elect—note how in the types, Joseph, Moses, and David tended not their own flock, but those of their fathers. Second, the figure speaks of fellowship, the Savior’s presence with His own. The shepherd never leaves his flock. There is only one exception to this, and that is when he commits them into the care of the "porter" of the sheepfold; and that is at night-fall. How suggestive is this! During the night of Christ’s absence, the Holy Spirit has charge of God’s elect! Finally; the shepherd-character speaks of Christ’s care, faithfulness, solicitude for His own.

In two other passages in the New Testament is Christ presented as "the shepherd," and in each with a different descriptive adjective. In Hebrews 13:20 we read, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.’’ Again in 1 Peter verse 4, we are told, "When the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away." There is a striking order to be observed in the three "shepherd" titles of our Lord. Here in John 10, the reference is plainly to the Cross, so that He is the "good" Shepherd in death, laying down His life for the sheep. In Hebrews 13 the reference is to the empty sepulcher, so that He is the "great" Shepherd in resurrection. While in 1 Peter 5:4 the reference is to His glorious return, so that He will be manifested as the "chief’ Shepherd.

"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep." Why does the Lord refer to His people under the figure of "sheep"? The figure is very suggestive and full. We shall not attempt to be exhaustive but merely suggestive. Under the Mosaic economy a sheep was one of the few clean animals: as such it suitably represents God’s people, each of which has been cleansed from all sin. A sheep is a harmless animal: even children will approach them without fear. So God’s people are exhorted to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). Sheep are helpless: nature has endowed them neither with weapons of attack nor defense. Equally helpless is the believer in himself: "without me, says Christ, ye can do nothing. Sheep are gentle: what so tame and tractable as a lamb! This is ever a grace which ought to distinguish the followers of Christ: "gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits" (James 3:17). The sheep are entirely dependent upon the shepherd This is noticeably the case in the Orient. Not only must the sheep look to the shepherd for protection against wild animals, but he must lead them to the pastures. May we be cast back more and more upon God. Sheep are preeminently characterized by a proneness to wander. Even when placed in a field with a fence all around it, yet if there be a gap anywhere, they will quickly get out and stray. Alas, that this is so true of us. Urgently do we all need to heed that admonition, "Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation." A sheep is a useful animal. Each year it supplies a crop of wool. In this too it prefigures the Christian. The daily attitude of the believer should be, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?"

"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep." Very blessed is this. The Lord Jesus knows each one of those whom the Father has given to Him with a special knowledge of approbation, affection, and intimacy. Though unknown to the world "the world knoweth us not" (1 John 3:l)—we are known to Him. And Christ only knoweth all His sheep. Ofttimes we are deceived. Some whom we regard as "sheep" are really "goats"; and others whom we look upon as outside the flock of Christ, belong thereto notwithstanding. Whoever would have concluded that Lot was a "righteous man" had not the New Testament told us so! And who would have imagined that Judas was a devil when Christ sent him forth as one of the twelve! "And know my sheep": fearfully solemn is the contrast presented by Matthew 7:23—"I never knew you"!

"And am known of mine" (John 10:14). Christ is known experientially; known personally. Each born-again person can say with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:6). The believer knows Christ not merely as the outstanding Figure in history, but as the Savior of his soul. He has a heart knowledge of Him. He knows Him as the Rest-giver, as the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother, as the good Shepherd who ever ministereth to His own.

"As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father" (John 10:15). The word "knoweth" here, as frequently in Scripture, signifies a knowledge of approbation: it is almost the equivalent of loveth. The first part of this verse should be linked on to the last clause of the previous one, where Christ says, I "know my sheep, and am known of mine." The two clauses thus make a complete sentence, and a remarkable one it is. The mutual knowledge of Christ and His sheep, is like unto that which exists between the Father and the Son: it is a knowledge, an affection, so profound, so spiritual, so heavenly, so intimate, so blessed, that no other analogy was possible to do it justice: as the Father knoweth the Son, and as the Son knoweth the Father, so Christ knows His sheep, and so the sheep know Him.

"And I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). The precise significance of the preposition is unequivocally defined for us in Romans 5:6-8, where the same Greek term ("huper") occurs: "For when we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The word "for" here means not merely on the behalf of, but in the stead of: "the Greek expression for "dying for any one," never has any signification other than that of rescuing the life of another at the expense of one’s own" (Parkhurst’s Lexicon).

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold" (John 10:16). It is clear that the Lord is here contemplating His elect among the Gentiles. Not only for the elect Jews would He "lay down his life," but for "the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52) as well. But note Christ does not here say, "other sheep I shall have," but "other sheep I have." They were His even then; His, because given to Him by the Father from all eternity. A parallel passage is found in Acts 18. The apostle Paul had just arrived in Corinth, and the Lord spoke to him in a vision by night, and said unto him, "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city" (verses 9, 10). How positive, definite, and unequivocal these statements are! How they show that everything is to be traced back to the eternal counsels of the Godhead!

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they, shall hear my voice" (John 10:16). Equally positive is this. This is no uncertainty, no contingency. There is no they are willing to listen." How miserably man perverts the truth of God, yea, how wickedly he denies it! It is not difficult to understand what is the cause of it; it is lack of faith to believe what the Scriptures so plainly teach. These "other sheep" Christ must bring because necessity was laid upon Him. He had covenanted with the Father to redeem them. And they would be brought, they would hear His voice, for there can be no failure with Him. The work which the Father gave His Son to do shall be perfectly performed and successfully accomplished. Neither man’s stubbornness nor the Devil’s malice can hinder Him. Not a single one of that favored company given to Christ by the Father shall perish. Each of these shall hear His voice, because they were predestinated so to do, and it is written, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). "They shall hear my voice" was both a promise and a prophecy.

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice." Upon this verse the Puritan Trapp has some most suggestive thoughts in his excellent commentary—a commentary which, so far as we are aware, has been out of print for over two hundred years. "Other sheep—the elect Gentiles, whose conversion to Christ was, among other types, not obscurely foretold in Leviticus 19:23-25—‘And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised; three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lord your God’. The first three years in Canaan, the Israelites were to cast away the fruits of the trees as uncircumcised. So our Savior planted the Gospel in that land for the first ‘three years’ of His public ministry: but the uncircumcision was cast away; that is, to the uncircumcised Gentiles, the Gospel was not preached. The fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God: that is, Christ in the fourth year from His baptism, laid down His life for His sheep, rose again, ascended, and sent His Holy Spirit; whereby His apostles, and others were consecrated as the firstfruits of the Promised Land. But in the fifth year, the fruit of the Gospel planted by Christ began to be common, for the Gospel was no longer shut up within the narrow bounds of Judaism, but began to be preached to all nations for the obedience of faith!"[1]

"And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). Everywhere else in the New Testament the Greek word for "fold" is translated "flock," as it should be here, and as it is in the R. V. In the first part of this verse the Greek uses an entirely different word which is correctly rendered "fold"—"Other sheep I have which are not of this fold." "This fold" referred to Judaism, and the elect Gentiles were outside of it, as we read in Ephesians 2:11, 12, "Ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." But now the Lord tells us, "there shall be one flock, and one Shepherd.’ This has been already accomplished, though not yet is it fully manifested—"For he is our peace, who hath made both (believing Jews and believing Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition" (Eph. 2:14). The "one flock" comprehends, we believe, the whole family of God, made up of believers before the nation of Israel came into existence, of believing Israelites, of believing Gentiles, and of those who shall be saved. The "one flock" will have been gathered from various "folds."

"Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" (John 10:17). Christ is here speaking as the Mediator, as the Word who had become flesh. As one of the Godhead, the Father had loved Him from all eternity. Beautifully is this brought out in Proverbs 8:30: "Then I was by him, as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him"—the previous verses make it plain that it is the Son who is in view, personified as "Wisdom." But the Father also loved Christ in His incarnate form. At His baptism, the commencement of His mediatorial work, He declared, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." Here the Son declares, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again", for the laying down of His life was the supreme example of His devotion to the Father as the next verse clearly shows—it was in obedience to the Father that He gave up His spirit.

"No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:18). When Christ died, He did so of His own voluntary will. This is a point of vital importance. We must never give a place to the dishonoring thought that the Lord Jesus was powerless to prevent His sufferings, that when He endured such indignities and cruel treatment at the hands of His enemies, it was because He was unable to avoid them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The treachery of Judas, the arrest in the Garden, the arraignment before Caiaphas, the insults from the soldiers, the trial before Pilate, the submission to the unjust sentence, the journey to Calvary, the being nailed to the cruel tree—all of these were voluntarily endured. Without His own consent none could have harmed a hair of His head. A beautiful type of this is furnished in Genesis 22:13, where we read that the ram, which was placed on the altar as a substitute for Isaac, was "caught in a thicket by his horns." The "horns" speak of strength and power (see Habakkuk 3:4, etc.). Typically they tell us that the Savior did not succumb to death through weakness, but that He gave up His life in the full vigor of His strength. It was not the nails, but the strength of His love to the Father and to His elect, which held Him to the Cross.

The pre-eminence of Christ was fully manifested at the Cross. In birth He was unique, in His life unique, and so in His death. Not yet have we read aright the inspired accounts of His death, if we suppose that on the Cross the Savior was a helpless victim of His enemies. At every point He demonstrated that no man took His life from Him, but rather that He laid it down of Himself. See the very ones sent to arrest Him in the Garden, there prostrate on the ground before Him (John 18:6): how easily could He have walked away unmolested had it so pleased Him! Hear Him before Pilate, as He reminds that Roman officer, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). Behold Him on the Cross itself, so superior to His sufferings that He makes intercession for the transgressors, saves the dying robber, and provides a home for His widowed mother. Listen to Him as He cries with a loud voice (Matthew 27:46, 50)—no exhausted Sufferer was this! Mark how triumphantly He "gave up the ghost" (John 19:30). Verily "no man" took His life from Him. So evident was it that He triumphed in the hour of death itself, the Roman soldier was made to exclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54).

"I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18). Here our Lord ascribes His resurrection to His own power. He had done the same before, when, after cleansing the temple, the Pharisees had demanded from Him a sign: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19) was His response. In Romans 6:4 we are told that Christ was "raised from the dead by the glory of the Father." In Romans 8:11 we read, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." These passages are not contradictory, but complementary; they supplement one another; each contributing a separate ray of light on the glorious event of which they speak. Putting them together we learn that the resurrection of the Savior was an act in which each of the three Persons of the Trinity concurred and co-operated.

"This commandment have I received of my Father." This is parallel with what we read of in Philippians 2:8, "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." It was to this our Lord referred in John 6:38, "For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."

"There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings" (John 10:19). This had been foretold of old: "He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Isa. 8:14). Similarly, Simeon announced in the temple, when the Savior was presented to God, "Behold, this child is set (appointed) for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" (Luke 2:34). So had the Savior Himself declared. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). From the Divine side this is a profound mystery to us. It had been an easy matter for God to have subdued the enmity in men’s hearts and brought them all as worshippers to the feet of Christ. But instead of this, He permitted His Son to be despised and rejected by the great majority, and He permitted this because He Himself eternally decreed it (see Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 2:8, etc).

"And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?" (John 10:20). Terrible indeed was the condition of these men. The Son of God called a demoniac, Truth incarnate deemed insane! "Tigers rage," says a Puritan, "at the fragrancy of sweet spices: so did these monsters at the Savior’s sweet sayings.’’ How humbling to remember that the same corrupt heart indwells each of us! O what grace we daily need to keep down the iniquity which is to be found in every Christian. Not until we reach the glory shall we fully learn how deeply indebted we are to God’s wondrous grace.

"Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?" (John 10:21). Notice it was the "many" who deemed Christ a madman. But there were some—"others"—even among the Pharisees who had, even then, a measure of light, and recognized that the Savior neither spake nor acted like a demoniac. This minority group was made up, no doubt, by such men as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It is significant that they were impressed more with His "words" than they were with His miraculous works.

As a preparation for our exposition of the remainder of John 10, let the interested reader study the following points:—

1. What is the force of "it was winter" (verse 22) in the light of what follows?

2. Mark the contrasts between John 10:23 and Acts 3:11 and 5:12.

3. What verses in John 8 are parallel with John 10:26?

4. Enumerate the seven proofs of the believer’s security found in verses 27-29.

5. Trace out the seven things said about "the sheep" in John 10.

6. Trace out the seven things said about the "shepherd."

7. What is the meaning of "sanctified" in verse 36?


[1] Let the reader carefully re-read this paragraph.