|(This beautiful photo was taken by my friend, Jenny Hall.)|
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10.7-19)
The first verses in this chapter discuss how Jesus is the only One with the right to enter by way of the door and that anyone who enters by any other way is a sheep and a robber. It follows on the tail of Jesus' indictment of the Pharisees, proudly choosing blindness while pretending to see and leading others astray - after Jesus healed the man born blind.
Jesus appears to continue speaking to this group of Pharisees... but there is a drastic subject change. All of a sudden, He stops talking about light and begins talking about sheep... and gates... and shepherds. What doesn't change is the continued rebuke and refutation of the Pharisees' arrogant claims to be the rightful religious leaders of God's chosen people.
In the first 6 verses, the Pharisees are compared to thieves and robbers because they do not enter in an authorized fashion; rather, they climb in subversively rather than walking openly through the gate. Jesus is the only one with the both the authorization and authority to enter by the gate - and I looked at that last week.
Now, Jesus compares Himself to the actual gate. This is not so much an explanation of His previous words... rather, it appears to broaden His original statement. Jesus is the gate : the way through which His sheep must pass when leaving the protection of the paddock to find provision and pasture, but also the only way back from the abundance of the field to shelter in the rest and security of the fold.
I appreciate what W. Hall Harris III says as he considers the transition from chapter 9 to chapter 10: "...chapter 9 [provides] a perfect illustration of these very actions: instead of properly caring for the man born blind, the Pharisees [threw] him out (9:34). Jesus, in contrast, as the good Shepherd, found him (9:35) and led him to safe pasture. Just like the sheep in 10:4-5 will not follow a stranger because they do not know his voice, so the man born blind refused to listen to the Pharisees, but turned to Jesus, an illustration of the sheep who recognize the voice of their true master."
If the Pharisees did not recognize what Jesus was talking about at this point, Jesus' next statements are unmistakably clear. Look at these words, from Ezekiel:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.'"
The priests, scribes and Pharisees had had literally hundreds of years to shepherd God's people - to care for them, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, return the strays, search for the lost - and they hadn't. Instead they saw them only as a resource, an acceptable sacrifice all the while burdening them with impossible additions to the law that they themselves were not always necessarily subject to. As a result, God's people scattered, became victims, wandered lost, felt helpless. Rather than acting as a shepherd should, they acted as a hired hands would.
God was not pleased.
And just as He had always planned, He sent the Good Shepherd. He sent His Son... Jesus. He sent "I am."
this week's gratitude list