Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of John/Chapter 10< Biblical Studies | New Testament Commentaries | The Gospel of John
Jesus begins the Chapter with a parable. His imagery begins with a description of a sheep pen. Jesus then describes the duties of the shepherd, and the gate over the sheep. The text then breaks because those who are listening to Jesus' parable do not understand. Jesus then clarifies further that he represents the gate and that "whoever enters through [him] will be saved" (Verse 9). Jesus testifies that he is also the kalos shepherd. Kalos means beautiful or faithful. Good is a bad translation. Upon hearing this, those listening to Jesus begin to argue amongst themselves. Though they have yet to take in the bulk of Jesus' teaching (thus far hinting that he is close if not one with God), his listeners ponder whether or not he is demon possessed. Nevertheless, Jesus' testimony is heavily laced with language that suggests foreknowledge of his crucifixion.
Through his use of words and phrases, Jesus makes the assertion that he is God's agent, His faithful shepherd as opposed to all the unfaithful leaders of Israel at that time. God is the shepherd of Israel and only God is good. So Jesus in making himself the gatekeeper to God is clearly showing that his position is inferior to God. He is the one who opens the door, but God is the owner of the sheep who calls them forth and they hear his voice and follow him.
The good shepherd John uses the word "kalos" and the normal Greek word for good Agathos is not included in verses 11 and 14. It might be preferable to translate "good" as the "model" or "noble" shepherd. The "noble" shepherd could be defined as the "genuine" shepherd. Here in vv 11-13, the noble relates to the readiness of the shepherd to lay down his life for the sheep. Verses 15-17 reveal that the shepherd, laying down his life for sheep, is doing this in obedience to the command of the Father.
A faithful shepherd will fight to his last breath to save the sheep. One must not get the idea that Jesus just laid down and died. No shepherd prostrates before the wolf but fights the wolf with every ounce of strength. Jesus fought sin and temptation to his last breath. By winning the victory over sin he saves his flock from the Land and Power of death.
The shepherd incident (10:1-10:18) begins negatively. The first question to answer is "who is the thief and bandit?" Every prophet who came before Jesus teaching that salvation came through obeying the old Torah. Jesus suggests, however, that the thief who comes into the pen is concerned only with stealing and killing; in essence, the thief is only concerned with things pertaining to himself. Jesus, the faithful Shepherd, is interested only in his sheep and their well being.
Chapter 10 also seems to have a foretelling of Jesus as being the way to eternal life. In the first verse it states: "Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way he is a thief and a robber." Then again in verse 9 Jesus says: "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (NAS) He was simply saying that Jesus is the only way to the Father and to eternal life. Pasture might even refer to life, since sheep graze on it for nutrients. Then in verse 10 "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." (NAS) The word “abundantly” was referring to eternal life not to the earth life. With that said, these are all predictions of the more direct words in John 14:6. "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me." (NAS) With this verse and these meanings behind the verses in 10, we can now better understand why the Jews, who did not believe Jesus to be the messiah, are dueling. (See "The Controversy" below) There is also other cross references to take into consideration with this theory that this was a foretelling of Jesus being the only way to eternal life. They are: John 10:15, 17, 18, Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:8 etc.
Jesus says that the only true way to heaven is through him, and anyone who says otherwise is false. He also foreshadows his own death by saying that a faithful Shepherd would lay down his life for his flock, and that he is, in fact, a faithful Shepherd. Only some of the people listening to him, however, believed his words. Everyone else still claimed that he was possessed by the devil and mad.
God's Saving Grace In another reference to the good shepherd/thief theme, in verse 8 there is talk of another type of thief that is trying to steal the flock from Jesus, and they come in the form of false prophets. Jesus was the last prophet and he warns us that many false ones would come after him. These false prophets, through their "smooth" talking would try and convince the flock to follow them instead of the ways of God. However because God is sheltering and protecting his flock they are not deterred by false prophets and what they say. Instead they are kept safe by God and remain His followers.
The Controversy The issue of Jesus' relationship to God is once again controversial in Chapter 10. Jesus claims in Verses 25-30 "The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep...What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." There are definitely some different interpretations of this situation. Some scholars and religions use this section as evidence of the Trinity, and the claim that God and Jesus are one in the same. However, there is so much language stating Jesus' obedience to his Father in other chapters of John (for example John 9:28: "...I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me."). Considering the emphasis on Jesus' obedience throughout the Gospel of John, it is possible that the narrator of John believed the Jews were misinterpreting Jesus' claims: While the Jews possibly believed Jesus was saying he is the same as God, Jesus was actually saying he is equal to God in terms of having the same mission and heart. He prays that God will make the disciples one with himself the same way that he and Jesus are one.
Also, it is interesting here to take a look at the response that Jesus gives to the Jews who accuse him of blasphemy. John 10:32-34, "Jesus replied, 'I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?' The Jews answered, 'It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God." Jesus answered, 'Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are gods' (elohim)?" Smith postulates that what is actually meant here is something along the lines of, "Your law says that the ones to whom God gave His word are gods"
Angels are Elohim and God's agents like Moses and the Judges are elohim. What Jeus is saying is > If Moes and the judges can bear the title of elohim God, then you cannot stone men who might say "I am elohim."., but I have never claimed to be elohim. I have told you repeatedly God is greater than me. I am his agen I am the son of Elohim. You yourselves claim God for your father. In fact David wrote that everyone in Israel was supposed to be God's agents to the gentiles. Ye are God's all of you."
The Lack of Faith in John Chapter 10 The Jewish people were tired of being kept in the dark about the nature of Christ's person, so in Verse 24, they ask him directly: "The Jews gathered around him, saying, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.'" This kind of demand calls into question the strength of the Jews' faith, which at this point seems weak. They are demanding to know whether or not Christ was the Messiah, which, if He answered, would negate the necessity of faith. He only revealed himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman at the well. He even mentions the miracles that He performed in God's name, but it is as though the people around Him have forgotten that these things have occurred. They begin to pick up stones with which to kill Christ, but He rebukes them: "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" It is disarming speech, designed to make the people aware of the severity of their reaction, but it does not work. The people simply choose to make another claim (that Christ is a blasphemer), and once again they have put off acknowledging the necessity of faith in Christ.
This chapter is another example of the so-called "unforgivable sin." Jesus has told the people that God will forgive all sin through belief in Jesus except for one. The one that is unforgivable is ascribing the work of God's spirit to the devil.. The Jews seemingly commit this sin by saying that Jesus is demon-possessed and raving-mad. Another time when Jewish leaders made this claim about Jesus, Jesus told his disciples that they were sinning against the Holy Spirit and this sin was the "unforgivable sin."