This chapter is a continuation of the teaching of Jesus following the conversion of the blind man who had received his sight. I puzzled over the characters in the analogy of the shepherd…the shepherd, the thief, the sheep, the watchman, the hireling, the owner of the sheep, the fold and the door. (these are characters too) So far what I see is that Jesus is both the door and the shepherd. V. 3 says the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice and heed it. I am constantly challenged by that idea,”My sheep know my voice…” I know there have been many times when I’ve thought, “Is that Your voice, Father, or is it my own….or worse….the enemy’s” and I’ve also thought if I could be more certain about knowing the voice, I would certainly be quicker about heeding it….obeying. But it is one of those things that we almost have to learn by experience….if we have a practice of second guessing….or ignoring His voice…..we will not learn to recognize it, and possibly even lose the capacity to hear it, but if we make a practice of heeding it….we will learn to hear and recognize it….seems backwards, but oh well….
I find it interesting when you link this story with the chapter before it, about choosing the light/life over the institution, in v. 3 it states…”and he calls his own sheep by name and brings (leads) them OUT. This is stated again in v. 4 “When he has brought his own sheep outside, he walks on before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice….
When you just grab a few minutes and read a few verses in the Bible, you will probably always receive something on some level….but when you read with the idea of following the thread from where Jesus started and where He takes it….and consider “the turn” when it happens….sometimes there is even more to be gained. In any event, it seems to me that Jesus was teaching the people, that though they were to be taken out of the Institution that they knew and loved, He was walking on before them, and would lead them.
When I tentatively took my first steps out of the IC (institutional church) I was a little nervous about being led astray. I think this is a learned thing. That we are taught to put our trust in the professional theologians, and not trust that we will hear or recognize Father’s voice. However, in v. 5 Jesus reassures us that “They will never (on any account) follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers or recognize their call.” There are many religious movements we can get in on and many bandwagons to join, and I don’t feel any responsibility to debunk them, but I recognize that they are not the voice I’m listening for. Thank you Father….you are giving me ears….to hear.
Besides being the Shepherd, Jesus is also the door. It is by means of Him (and only by means of Him) that we enter into spiritual life. In V. 9 He states, “I am the Door; anyone who enters IN through Me will be saved (will live).” That’s what being saved is….receiving life...God’s life…the eternal kind of life. It’s not that we are just saved from the death of ET (eternal torment) we are saved from the condition we are now in….death….the kind spoken of in Genesis 2:17.
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God said we’d die...and God does not lie…. And now, Jesus is telling the people, the way to be saved not from death…but OUT OF death.
Now Jesus compares the Good Shepherd, with the hireling, who He says, works for wages, and runs away and deserts the flock when trouble comes. The Good Shepherd, on the other hand knows and loves each of his own, and lays down his life for them. V. 15 says, “I am giving My life for the sheep.” He doesn’t ask us to stay in the fold because He knows that’s not the way of the sheep and that we’ll simply die if kept in and not brought out to pasture. V. 9 states, “He will come in and he will go out (freely) and will find pasture.” That’s because He leads us….and if we go astray….He will come and find us and lead us back to be in His care.
v. 16 is a verse which people have puzzled over. “I have other sheep (beside these) that are not of this fold. I must bring and impel those also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be (they will become) one flock under one shepherd. I’ve heard this verse used as support for the idea that there is life on other planets. It is also thought that since He is addressing Jews, he is referring to Gentiles. I think that’s certainly one facet of the truth, but the AMP Bible that I use, has a note taking me back to Ezek. 34:23, which is the verse that it seems Jesus is quoting. In speaking of the evil shepherd, He is also referring back to that passage in Ezekiel. From this we learn that Jesus is identifying Himself in the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophesy, just as He did with Isaiah’s prophesy, when He said (Luke 4:21) “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
As well as self-identifying as the Messiah, and I believe, preparing the Jews with the knowledge that the Gentiles were included in his plan, it is a message to us, that while there are some that are His sheep, and know His voice, there are other, that are not of THIS fold, but who He says He “must bring and impel also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be (they will become) one flock under one Shepherd.” This is supportive of 1 Cor. 15: 22-28 , which is possibly the most clear teaching found in the Bible, of the eventual restoration of all thing under Christ. God does things in ages and stages…and that does NOT mean sleepers, creepers, leapers, pre-school, primary, intermediate, jr and sr high, c&c, Young married’s, homebuilders, seniors. It means each in his own rank and turn: Christ…then those who are Christ’s at His coming, and then the kingdom wholus bolus. It means in ever widening circles… Jerusalem...Judaea…Samaria… the uttermost part of the earth. It means over the course of ages….aeons…
So then in v 17and 18 He speaks of the love of the Father which accrues to Him in special measure “because I lay down My (own) life – to take it back again. V. 18 No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily…” I used to think that there was something wrong there….because I felt that when one is executed, one’s life IS taken from one. And Jesus was executed, He did not commit suicide. I’ve learned though, that whenever there is an especially puzzling bit it scripture, there can usually be found a nifty little key which opens up something that was formerly closed to us. In this case, I believe Jesus was not talking about giving up his temporal life on earth; something He had not yet done. In v 15 He speaks in the present tense -not in the future, about giving his life. Also, in my Amplified Bible the word life is amplified with (very own) which seem to indicate a special meaning to the word life. In v. 18 He takes especial care to spell out the fact that, “No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily. [I put it from Myself.] I am authorized and have power to lay it down (to resign it) and I am authorized and have power to take it back again. These are the instructions (orders) which I have received [as My charge] from My Father.”
For these reasons, I believe that Jesus is referring here to laying down His pre-existent life rather than his physical life. In John 17:5 He speaks of his resurrection from this “death-life” to his pre-existent life when He prays, “And now, Father, glorify Me along with Yourself and restore Me to such majesty and honor in Your presence as I had with You before the world existed.” He laid down his pre-existent life voluntarily, with the understanding that He would take it up again. His physical life was taken from Him, even though He did give it in the sense that He was “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
Also, Jesus consistently refers to the carnal or temporal life as death. Consider what he said to the disciple when he called him, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” So Jesus voluntarily laid down His (very own real pre-existent life) to become one of us (dead) in order that He might share His (eternal kind of) life with us when He has resumed it…which He has done.
V 19 says, “Then a fresh division of opinion arose…” Everywhere Jesus went division arose, because as He Himself said in Matt. 10:34, He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A sword is a tool, not just for battle, but often used to separate or divide. Consider Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” He came to sort, who’s in and who’s out, sheep from goats…but today, there is almost nothing worse that you can be than divisive….it’s almost as bad as intolerance. There is a lot of pressure on us all to stay homogeneous with the crowd, to not set ourselves apart by becoming too spiritual. It seems you have to act carnal to be normal, and to not make anyone feel spiritually inferior. It’s like work to rule. If no one raises the bar, then we’ll all feel a lot more comfortable. But everywhere Jesus went, the sword of division went too. And anyone who is serious about following Jesus will be persecuted and ridiculed by those who are happy where they are. If we attempt to live the Christ life, we will have the same divisive effect Jesus had, and if we are highly successful, we will very likely be treated as cruelly as He was.
So they badgered Him and mocked Him “He is insane – He raves, He rambles…” They ask Him if He is the Christ, and He plainly tells them that He has already affirmed that He is. He says in v. 26 “But you do not believe and trust and rely on me because you do not belong to My fold [you are no sheep of Mine.]” Once again we are reminded that there are more folds than one. Jesus reiterates in v. 27 that the sheep that are His own hear and are listening to my voice…not only that they hear…but they deliberately hear…they are listening and following. He knows who they are, and no one is able to snatch them away from Him.
His remark in v. 30 “I and the Father are One,” reminds me of the opening two verses of the book of John. “…and the Word was with God (two) and the Word was God (one) The same was in the beginning with God (two). Is Jesus God? Well If a man has a son, is the son the father? Are they one person or two? Jesus has referred to Himself as the Son of God, and even more commonly, the Son of man, I believe that when He makes the statement, “I and the Father are one," He is saying they are in complete and total agreement and alignment. Jesus’ prays for us in John 17:21 “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:” It is our destiny to be one with the Father in the same way that Jesus is. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It’s affirmation that we deliberately align our will with His and agree with Jesus’ prayer, that we all be one.
We read in 1 John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” We can read this verse and we can sing it….but if we really believe that it is our destiny to become sons of God, then we will be treated the same as Jesus was. Our consolation for the persecution we can expect to suffer is found in 2 Timothy 2:12 “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:”
In V. 36 He asks, “ “Do you say of the One Whom the Father consecrated and dedicated and set apart for Himself and sent into the world, You are blaspheming, because I said, I am the Son of God?” (Once again, Jesus makes a clear claim to be the Son of God.) At the end of v. 39 Jesus makes the statement “The Father is in Me, and I am in the Father [One with Him]. I think that reinforces the concept of being in a state of complete and perfect unity with God. I will repeat Jesus’ prayer for us which is found in John 17:21 “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:” This is what I understand to be meant by the term “Sonship.”