The Thirty-Fourth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
When Jesus entered Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths, he began teaching regularly in the temple. Although his hour has not yet come, it is drawing near. Jesus’ messianic mission is reaching its conclusion. Through a series of discourses and debates with the Jews, Jesus is preparing his disciples for that day just months away when he will depart from them. There is much for them to learn and not much time remaining for Jesus to teach them. But through these discourses and debates, Jesus is also bringing God’s covenant judgment upon unbelieving Israel. His words do two things–they give life to his sheep, who hear his voice in his word, and his words serve to harden the hearts of the Pharisees who have opposed Jesus’ messianic mission from the moment he first set foot in the city. During the Feast of Dedication, once again, Jesus demonstrates that he is Israel’s Messiah and one with YHWH. And once again the Pharisees seek to arrest him.
In John 10:1-21 Jesus gives the “Good Shepherd” discourse in which our Lord affirms that he is the faithful shepherd over God’s messianic flock, that one who was foretold by Moses and Israel’s prophets (especially Ezekiel and Jeremiah). Throughout the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah, Israel’s unbelieving kings and rulers are described as false shepherds who seek to exploit the people of God. Many are singled out for God’s judgment in the form of covenant curse. When Jesus gives the “Good Shepherd” discourse in John 10, it is clear to all listening to him that Jesus sees the Pharisees as false shepherds (strangers, thieves, and robbers). These are men who, barring repentance, can expect to face the same covenant curses meted out upon Israel’s unbelieving kings as in the days of the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the southern kingdom of Judah. The Pharisees’ mistreatment of the people of God is exemplified in John 9 by the cruel and callous way they treated the man who had been blind from birth, and who had been healed by Jesus. These men are nothing but hirelings who care nothing for God’s sheep.
The “Good Shepherd” discourse takes up the first half of John 10, while the second half (vv. 22-41) serves as an elaboration and an extension of the themes set forth by Jesus in vv. 1-21, who has identified himself as the “Good Shepherd” of Israel, who has come to tend to God’s scattered flock, and who, unlike the false shepherds and hirelings, will lay down his life for the sheep. Jesus will not abandon God’s people when savage wolves approach. He will do whatever is necessary to protect God’s flock, and lead God’s people into those green pastures spoken of by the Psalmist in the 23rd Psalm.
As we have seen throughout the last several discourses in John, whenever Jesus speaks, those listening to him are divided among themselves as to whether or not Jesus is a dangerous false teacher, or the coming of God’s prophet as predicted by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). There are messianic implications to virtually everything Jesus says and does. As we saw last time, when Jesus finished his “Good Shepherd” discourse, we read in verses 19-21, “there was again a division among the Jews because of [Jesus’] words. Many of them said, `He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ Others said, `These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”
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