Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Verses 1-21. -
5. Christ the Shepherd of the flock of God. The discourse which now follows was the Lord's parabolic or allegoric reply to the conduct of the Pharisaic malignants. These men, claiming to be infallible guides of the ignorant, to be veritable shepherds of the flock of God, had ignored the advent of the true and good Shepherd, had opposed the Divine call and supreme claim of the Messiah, had set themselves to disturb and dislocate the relations between him and those who saw his glory and found in him the Consolation of Israel. They had excommunicated the adoring disciple who had passed out of lifelong darkness into marvelous light. They had exaggerated the faint glimmer of light which had broken upon their own blindness into true vision. They had said, "We see," and thus shown themselves to be willfully in the wrong. Their sin abode upon them. The fold of God's sheep was something different from their own expectations and definitions. Their way into it proved that they did not know its true nature. To meet this crisis our Lord delivers a triad of related and parallel pictures, which differ from the ordinary parable (παραβολή). The parable is a picture which is complete in its elf, and invites the reader to discover some answering spiritual truth. It consists of a careful setting forth of some physical fact, some fragment of biography, some personal or domestic detail. It is true to life and experience, and embodies some ethical principle or religious emotion; and while it does not explicitly teach either, yet it suggests them to the inquiring mind. The parables of the synoptic Gospels are not exclusive or rigid in their form. The so-called parable of "the Pharisee and the publican" and that of "the good Samaritan" are at once transformable into patterns or principles of action. The element of its own interpretation is also conspicuous in that of "the rich man and Lazarus" and "the rich fool." With these latter specimens of our Lord's teaching may be compared the allegoric illustrations of the present discourse. These pictures are "transparencies" (Godet), through which the Savior's spiritual teaching pours its own illumination. They both alike differ from the "fable," a form of address in which personal characters and activities are attributed (as in the apologue of Jotham, etc.) to the irrational or even to the inanimate creation. The first of the similitudes before us has more of the character of the parable proper, because it does not at once carry its own interpretation with it. Vers. 1-6 represent in parabolic form the claims of those who aspired to provide a "door," i.e. a sure and safe entrance to the theocratic fold. In vers. 7-10 our Lord interprets and expands the first representation by giving special significance to the words he had already used, adding something to their meaning, and contrasting his own position with that of all others. From the eleventh to the eighteenth verse he once more reverts to the original picture, and claims to occupy a relation to the sheep of God's band of far more intimate and suggestive kind than what was connoted by the door into the fold. He is "the good Shepherd." In that capacity he adds other and marvelous features. The parabolic or allegorical language passes away into vivid description of the leading features of his work. The parable at last glows into burning metaphor. In the first paragraph our Lord gives a parabolic picture of flock and fold, door and porter, robber and shepherd. In the second paragraph he emphasizes the relation between the door and the fold, claiming to be "the Door." In the third he illustrates the function and the responsibility of the true "Shepherd," and the relation of the shepherd to the flock, and he claims to be the Shepherd of Israel. Verses 1-6. -
(1) The parable of the fold and flock, the door and the porter, the robber and the shepherd. Verse 1. - Verily, verily, betokens the deep solemnity and importance of the matter in hand, but not a complete break in the circumstances - neither a new audience nor a new theme. The adoption by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-4), by Ezekiel (34.), and by Zechariah (Zechariah 11:4-17) of similar imagery to denote the contrast between the true and false shepherds, and the anticipation by the prophets of a time when the true and good Shepherd would fulfill all Jehovah's pleasure, throws vivid light on these words of our Lord. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. Several commentators of eminence have maintained that by "the door," in this first verse, our Lord (as in ver. 7) meant at once to designate himself. This is not necessary. He rather summons the Pharisees to recognize the fact that there is a door, a way of sure and divinely appointed admission to the "fold of the sheep," through which the veritable Shepherd passes, bringing his flock with him by well-known voice and manner. Later on, our Lord claims to be the one Way' by which all under-shepherds can gain true access to the flock, and all the sheep of God's pasture can find protection and freedom; but here he suggests the principle of discrimination between a true shepherd and a thief or robber. The κλέπτης is one who is selfishly seeking his own ends, and would avoid detection; the λῃστής is one who would use violent means to secure his purpose (Judas was a "thief," Barabbas was a "robber"). The false shepherd disdains the door, and climbs up some other way along his own selfish lines of action (ἀλλαχόθεν is used in this place only, equivalent to "from some other quarter than the ordinary home of the shepherd"). His purpose is not to benefit the sheep, but to seize them, or slaughter them for his own purposes (Ezekiel 34:8). The Lord suggests that many have assumed to sustain the relation of shepherd to the flock and fold of God, with no inward call either of commission or profession. They have been eager to insist on their own rights, have mistaken their own narrow traditions for the commandments of God, have imposed upon starved and worried souls their own selfish interpretations of that commandment, and have shown that they had no legitimate access to the hearts of men.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
Verse 2. - But he that enters in by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. Let him be who he may, Pharisee or priest, prophet or king, pastor or evangelist, unless he approach the sheep by the right "way" he demeans and condemns himself. If he come by the door into the fold, he may be so far presumably a shepherd. One fold might contain several flocks, and a shepherd might lead these flocks into different enclosures according to his wisdom and care for his sheep. Neander, Godet, and Watkins think it possible that the whole imagery may have been borrowed from the eye. The shepherds towards evening were probably gathering their scattered flocks, according to Oriental custom, into their well-known enclosures, and Jesus with his audience might have seen them doing it if they gazed out from the courts of the temple over the neighboring hills (see also Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' 1:301, a passage which provides an admirable commentary on this parable). There is no absolute need that the customary and well-known habit of the country-side should have been visible at the moment. The abundantly attested practice furnished to his hearers all needful corroboration. The deeper significance of the passage lies in the prophetic symbolism of Jeremiah 23:1-4; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 23:1-3; Psalm 78:52; Numbers 27:17; Ezekiel 34:23, 31; Ezekiel 37:24. Jehovah was the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80:1), and he would appoint once more in their Messiah-King a David, who should be his gracious Representative and Agent. All these representations were gathered up in Christ's wonderful parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). Thoma endeavors to credit the author of the Gospel with this ideal picture of the contrast between the true and false shepherd.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
Verse 3. - To him the porter openeth. The doorkeeper of the fold has been variously interpreted. Bengel and Hengstenberg say, "God himself" is meant; Stier, Alford, and Lange, "the Holy Spirit;" against which interpretations may be urged the subordinate position assigned to the "porter," as compared with the shepherds themselves. Lampe and Godet think that "John the Baptist" was intended; while Meyer and De Wette say that it is one of those elements of the parable which is dropped out of our Lord's own exposition for which we need not seek any special application. Westcott thinks it must vary with the special sense attributed to "sheep" and "shepherd," and float we must think of it as "the Spirit working through his appointed ministers in each case." The "doorkeeper," if Christ be himself the "Door," is the keeper of that door - the agency, the ministry, the ordinances by which the excellences and power of Christ were or are manifested. We are reminded of subsequent use of the imagery in Paul's Epistles (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; cf. Acts 14:27); but the full meaning of the phrase is only suggested, and we had better wait for Christ's interpretation of some parts of this allegory. The context provides a specific filling out, first of one part of the imagery, and secondly of another part of it. The two interpretations are not to be forced at one and the same time upon the parable. Our Lord continues: And the sheep hear his voice. When a shepherd approaches the door to fetch the folded sheep which belong to him, the porter opens that door for him i.e. a true shepherd who has at heart the interests of the sheep and of their supreme Owner, finds the way made ready for him. In the fold are many flocks. All the sheep give heed to his voice. He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. They know a shepherd calls, and then that shepherd addresses his own sheep by name, and he leads these forth into the pasture. Even in our own pastures the shepherds know each sheep by name. Aristotle ('Hist. Anim.,' 6:19) tells us the bell-wether knew his name, and obeyed his shepherd. Archdeacon Watkins gives a quotation from Theocritus' 'Idylls,' charmingly illustrating the habit. The shepherd, by the mere call to his own sheep, would separate them from these which did not belong to him, and lead them forth to their pasture in the wilderness. This method of Oriental life illustrates the function of all true shepherds of men. It has had many partial fulfillments in the history of the Church and of the world. Daring the period of the old theocratic dispensation, many "thieves and robbers" made havoc of the flock; still there were prophetic and kingly men who, sent by God, found their way to the heart of Israel; many came to know that a prophet had been among them, and they followed him. It is equally true now, though all the external conditions are changed. The full application of this part of the allegory is only seen when "the good Shepherd" seeketh his sheep; but the meaning of the first picture is obscured by hurrying on to the enlarged and double exposition which Christ gave of the two parts of his own parable, and much is lost by endeavoring to force into a primary exposition of vers. 1-6 the features borrowed from a twofold interpretation of the separate ideas suggested by the composite image.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
Verse 4. - In like manner, our Lord continues to describe what every true shepherd of men has done and ever will do: When he hath put forth all his own, and not another's, drawn them by the music of his voice, or constrained them by the sweet violence of his love, or even compelled them to go forth from a fold in which they may find security, but not pasture; and when he has marshaled them into obedience and into thankful trust by the strength of his sympathy and knowledge of their need, he goeth before them. He is their leader and example; he shows them in his own life the kind of provision made for them; he shares with them the perils of the wilderness, and first of all is prepared to grapple with their fierce foes, "He drinks of the brook in the way." The highest meaning, the only complete interpretation, of this passage is found when Christ himself is the Shepherd, who does summon from the old enclosure "all his own," all who have entered into living harmony with himself. And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. Nothing is here said of "lost sheep" or of "goats;" these are all the "ideal sheep" of the flock, individuals who recognize the voice of the true Leader, and discriminate their own shepherd from all others, whether pretenders to their affections or destroyers of their lives - wolves or butchers, thieves or robbers. Should we persist in interpreting the apologue as it stands, a question arises about the πρόβατα that are not the shepherd's" own." Some have answered it by supposing that the latter are the chief of his own flock, who will bring the rest after them. The truth is not obscurely hinted of that election to highest privileges and duties, which does not declare that the rest are not sheep at all.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Verse 5. - But a stranger will they by no means follow, for they know not the voice of strangers. The negative is strongly expressed. The sheep, who know their shepherd's voice, will not take the lead of a stranger or an alien; i.e. of a "thief or robber." If these secure the sheep at all, it is by violence or stealth, by unfair means, by illegitimate methods.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Verse 6. - This parable spake Jesus unto them. The word παροιμία occurs only in this place and in John 16:25-29; 2 Peter 2:22. It is the LXX. rendering of מָשָׁל proverb, in Proverbs 1:1, a similitude or didactic saying. The Greek word means any speech (ethos) deviating (παρὰ) from the common way (Lange). It may deviate by its sententious or parabolical form, which conceals under a closed metaphor a variety of meanings. But they, the Pharisees, who were confident of their own position, and gloried in their influence over men, and whose moral nature was steeled and armed to resist even a possible reference to themselves as "thieves," or "robbers," or "aliens," and who would not admit any of Christ's claims to their own disparagement, understood not what things they were which he was saying to them. The blind man had heard Ms voice, obeyed, found healing, advanced step by step from a bare knowledge of "a man Jesus" to a confession of him as one empowered by God; to a belief that he was a "Prophet," able to relax Mosaic Law; and finally to a ready acknowledgment that he was the Son of God. The Pharisees were conscious of neither need, nor blindness, nor desire of salvation, nor of the Shepherd's care or grace. They will not go to him for life. They can make nothing of his enigmatic words. They take counsel against him. Their misconception contrasts strongly with the susceptibility of the broken-hearted penitents. So far the parable or proverb corresponds with the parables of the kingdom in the synoptic Gospels, and is open to many interpretations.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
Verses 7-10. -
(2) Allegory of the door and the fold, in which Christ claims to be "the Door of the sheep." Verse 7. - Jesus therefore (οϋν, with its resumptive force, introduces the effect upon Christ of the unsusceptible character of the Pharisees). Some pause may have occurred, during which these men displayed their bitter feeling and utter lack of appreciation, and he proceeds first to give them an explanation of the words, which should leave them in no doubt as to one emphatic meaning which they contained; Said again unto them, I am the Door of the sheep, This exposition of the allegory is introduced by the solemn Amen, amen. Christ first calls attention to the "door" into the sacred fellowship of men with God. On a subsequent occasion (John 14:6), he said, "I am the Way" to the Father; "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." The parable as it stands refers to true and false teachers of the people, and to just and unjust claims to confer upon the sheep of God's pasture safe and sure access to God, and all privileges of Divine life. In interpreting it, he declares first that he is the one Door, not of "the fold" so much as of the sheep, in their individual capacity. This corresponds with every claim made by him and made in his Name, that he, in all the fullness of his Personality, had always been the one Medium by which, in the theocracy or beyond it, men have drawn near to the Father. The Logos is the Angel of the covenant, the Rock in the wilderness, the great High Priest, the Veil over the holy place, the propitiatory Sacrifice, the Prophet, the King. He it is who ever and always has given consolation and peace to his people. He is the one method, agency, reality, by which not only the shepherds, but the sheep, enter into the fold, and go forth thence to pasture.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
Verse 8. - All that came before me are thieves and robbers. Great difficulty has been felt by commentators in understanding "before me." The words clearly gave the early Gnostic heretics a text on which they established their dualistic rejection of the old dispensation. Their absence from certain texts led Augustine and others to emphasize the word "came." "All who came," i.e. in their own strength or wisdom, when not "sent" or authorized by God. Other endeavors have been made (see Meyer and Lunge) to give it a non-temporal meaning, such as χωρίς, "independently of me." Wolf and Olshausen make πρὸ equivalent to ὐπὲρ, "in the place" or "in the stead of me" (so Lunge, Lampe, Schleusner). De Wette and others accept the temporal meaning, "before," i.e. in point of time, and include under it the entire corpus of Old Testament saints and teachers, and therefore regard the saying as inconsistent with the gentleness of Christ. But with John 5:39, 45-47, and many other passages in this Gospel, it is certain the words could not mean to denounce all who came as teachers or shepherds before him in mere point of time as "thieves and robbers," whom the sheep did not hear. Therefore the πρὸ must be to some extent modified in meaning. We agree with Westcott and Godet in limiting πρὸ ἐμού, by throwing the emphasis on the "came," and by adding, moreover, to it the essential point, "came making themselves doors of the sheep" - claiming to have the "key of knowledge," professing vainly to open or shut the door of heaven. That is, no other has ever had the right or claim to be such "a door." The Baptist, the prophets, one by one, Abraham and Moses, in their day made no such profession. The dignity belongs to Christ alone. The language may receive accentuation from the pressing urgency of false Christs, as well as the hopeless system of Pharisaic pride. Theme sees here the mere dressing out of St. Paul's language, condemnatory of false prophets and ravening wolves who would not spare the flock of Christ (Acts 20:29), and Christ's own words in the synoptists (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 23:13, etc.). Special reference is made to the ceremonial superstitions, to "the hedge about the Law," to the cruel slavery of modern Pharisaism, which had done what neither prophets nor priests of old had attempted. Archdeacon Watkins emphasizes the present tense, "are thieves," etc., making Christ's reference obvious to the lawyers and scribes of his own day, who were closing the door, and plundering those whom they kept out of the kingdom. But the sheep did not hear them. The true sheep have not been seduced by them. The teaching of these Pharisees has not prevailed over susceptible souls.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Verse 9. - I am the Door: by me - by living relation to me - if any man; i.e. either shepherd or sheep, for in this part of the interpretation they are not distinguished, and they alike need "salvation" and "pasture." By me if any man enter, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. "Salvation" here spoken of refers primarily to deliverance from dangers, protection from the ravenous wolves without the fold, and from false shepherds within. "Go in and out" is a phrase frequently used "to denote the free use of an abode by one who is at home in the house" (Deuteronomy 28:6; Deuteronomy 31:2; Acts 1:21). The believer who enters into fellowship with God, and is "saved," does not "go in and out" of that state, but can as a child share by turns the Divine repose of the home, and the high privilege of his sonship in the world. "He claims his share in the inheritance of the world, secure of his home" (Westcott).
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Verse 10. - The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy. Christ, elaborating, evolving, what is contained in the image of "thief," regards his rival as the thief of souls; he whose pretension to be a way to God is based on no inward and eternal reality, who comes for no other purpose than to make the sheep his own, not to give them pasture; to sacrifice them to his selfish ends, to use them for his own purposes, not to deal with them graciously for theirs; but to destroy, since in the pursuit of his selfish ends he wastes both life and pasture. A terrible impeachment, this of all who have not recognized the true Door into the sheepfold, who would shut up the way of life that they may exalt their own order, would diminish the chances of souls in order to secure their own position. This forms the transition to the second interpretation of the parabolic words; for he adds, I came that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly; more even than they can possibly use. This is one of the grandest of our Lord's claims. He gives like God from overflowing stores (Titus 3:6). Those who receive life from him have within them perennial sources of life for others - fullness of being (see notes, John 7:38; John 4:14). One of the differentiae of "life" is "abundance" of supply beyond immediate possibility of use. Life has the future in its arms. Life propagates new life. Life has untold capacities about it - beauty, fragrance, strength, growth, variety, reproduction, resistance to death, continuity, eternity. In the Logos is life - and Christ came to give it, to communicate "life to the non-living, to the dead in trespasses, and to those in their graves" (John 5:26).
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Verses 11-21. -
(3) The functions and responsibilities of the veritable Shepherd, and the relation of the Shepherd to the flock. Verse 11. - I am the good Shepherd. The word here rendered "good" means more than the "true" (ἀληθής) or the" veritable" (ἀληθινός); more than ἀγαθός, good, in the sense of being morally excellent and inwardly fulfilling God's purpose that the sheep should be shepherded. The word καλός suggests a "goodness" that is conspicuous, that shows and approves itself to the experience and observation of all. Thus the Lord fills up the meaning of the first parable by emphasizing another element in it. There may be many shepherds worthy of the name, but he alone justifies the designation (cf. Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 53; Ezekiel 34; Jeremiah 23.). This imagery has inwrought itself into Christian literature and art. The earliest representations of Christ in the catacombs depict him as "the good Shepherd" (Tertullian, 'De Fuga.,' c. 11; Hermas, 'Sire.,' 6:2); the earliest hymns and latest minstrelsy of the Church dwell fondly on the image which portrays his individual watchfulness, his tender care, his self-sacrificing love. The good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep; not only does his work with his life in his hand, but he deliberately lays down his life and consciously divests himself of his life, and is doing it now. The Shepherd dies that the sheep may live (cf. 1 John 3:16; John 15:13). Elsewhere Jesus says, "The Son of man gives his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The thought is very grand, and is a strange addition to the claim to be the Shepherd of Israel, and gives intense pathos to the language of our Lord to Simon Peter (John 21:6), "Shepherd my sheep." The further development of the parable shows that in the metaphor he regards his death as no disastrous termination of the Shepherd's function, but as an event in his career. Hence it is not just of Reuse ('Theol. Chretien,' 2.) to contend that our Lord does not here suggest a vicarious or propitiatory death on his part. This is a veritable death, which secures the life of the sheep, and does not arrest the Shepherd's care (see vers. 17, 18).
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.
Verse 12. - He that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth (the word μισθωτὸς occurs in Mark 1:20). The hireling is contrasted with the shepherd. The protector of a flock, who, though, not a thief, or robber, or alien, yet has no unselfish regard for the sheep, is guilty of cowardice, and his shameless flight from danger may do as much harm to the flock as the thief or robber. Godet would, at all events at first, limit the reference to the priestly party, who ought to have had more courage and real care for the sheep, but were utterly unable to bear the brunt of assault from Sanhedrin and Pharisees. The latter represent, as he thinks, the ravening "wolf." But surely all who have merely mercenary or selfish motives in their treatment of souls, and who flee at the approach of danger or death, are here held up to grievous condemnation. All who proclaim themselves to be "the door of the sheep," who, independently of Christ, and without the animating breath of the Divine Spirit, are considering themselves rather than the flock which they profess to instruct and protect, are the hirelings here denounced. In the hour of real peril they turn and flee. "Whose own the sheep are not." They do not seek the destruction of the flock which is not theirs, but they neglect and forsake when they should be faithful unto death. They have not identified themselves with the object of their professed care. The wolf is the deadly power over seeking the destruction of the soul, and even compassing it; it is the metaphor for every sort of power opposed to Christ (cf. Matthew 10:16; Luke 10:3; Acts 20:29). And the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth (them). "The seizing and scattering" shows how these hostile powers not only devastate, but destroy; not only crush individuals, but ruin Churches. The sheep do not belong to a hireling, as they do to a shepherd. No living bond of common interest links them to each other.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
Verse 13. - (The hireling fleeth) because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. He only cares for himself. He is no match for the wolf of temptation, or disease, or death, lie wants to reap the personal advantage of his temporary office, and, if his own interests are imperiled, he can leave them to any other hireling, or to the wolf. Melancholy picture this of much deserted duty.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Verses 14, 15. - The Lord resumes: I am the good Shepherd. He now makes his discourse more explicit. He almost drops the allegory, and merely adopts the sacred metaphor. His self-revelation becomes more full of promise and suggestion for all time. He takes up one of the characteristics of the shepherd which discriminated him from "hireling," "thief," or "robber." And I know mine own, and my own know me, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father. This more accurate text, translation, and punctuation of the Revised Version brings into living comparison the mutual knowledge of Christ and his own sheep, with the mutual knowledge of Christ and the Father. Christ's personal knowledge of his people is that which comes into their religious consciousness. They know his knowledge of them. They know him to be what he is - to be their Lord God, as they realize his personal recognition and care. The one involves the other (see Galatians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 8:3). The particle of transition is more than a mere illustration (καθώς is more than ὥσπερ; κἀθώς introduces not infrequently an explanation, sometimes a causal consideration, or an illustration which accounts for the previous statement; see John 15:12; John 17:21, 23). The knowledge which the sheep have of the Shepherd corresponds with the Son's knowledge of the Father, and the Shepherd's knowledge of the sheep answers to the Father's knowledge of the Son; but more than this, the relation of the Son to the Father, thus expressed, is the real ground of the Divine intimacies between the sheep and the Shepherd (cf. John 15:10; John 17:8). Then the Lord repeats and renews the solemn statement made at the commencement of the sentence, And I lay down my life for the sheep. Such knowledge of the peril of "his own" involves him in sacrifice. Whereas in ver. 11 this is attributed to the "good Shepherd," now he drops the first part of the figure, and says, "I am laying down my life."
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Verses 16-18. -
(a) The continuity of the Shepherd-activity, notwithstanding the laying down of his life. Verse 16. - And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice. "The other sheep," not of this fold, not sheltered by the theocracy, not needing the pasturage of such privileges - Gentiles they may be, earnest souls of many a name, denomination, and profession, are, while he speaks, and went before the formation of his Church, ' his own." "Other sheep I have." Though they have never as yet heard his voice, they are his. His relation with them is personal and direct and spiritual, not dictated or conditioned by "the fold." They will hear his voice. We in vain ask the question, "When?" He alone can answer it. Many a Cornelius in every nation is accepted by him (cf. Acts 10:35; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:27; Acts 28:28). But the passage contemplates a wider application: "Them also I must bring, or lead, among my own." They are scattered abroad now, but eternal Love, by assuming Shepherd-wise relations with them, determines not to bring them to one place or enclosure - to express such a thought we should have had, not ἀγαγεῖν, but συναγαγεῖν (John 11:52) or προσαγαγεῖν (Westcott) - but to bring them into personal relations with himself. They shall become one flock, one Shepherd. The false English translation of ποίμνη, viz. "fold," should be specially noticed. If our Lord had meant to convey the idea of the rigid enclosure into which all the scattered sheep should be gathered, he would have used the word αὐλή. The word ποίμνη is, however, studiously chosen. The error has done grievous injury. There is no variation of the Greek text, or in the earliest versions. It came through the Vulgate ovile into Wickliffe's Version, and into many other European versions. The Old Latin Versions were correct, but Jerome led the way into the inaccurate translation. Tyndale perceived its true meaning, and Luther beautifully preserved the play upon the words. Coverdale, in his own Bible (1535), followed Tyndale; but in 1539, "the Great Bible" followed the Vulgate (Westcott). When naturalized, it sustained the false and growing pretension that outside the one "fold" of the visible Church the good Shepherd was not ready with his care and love (see for the only adequate translation of ποίμνη, Matthew 26:31; Luke 2:8; 1 Corinthians 9:7, where the Authorized Version has correctly rendered it "flock"). Christ, on other occasions, carefully warned his disciples against such narrowness, and here he declares that the sheep, independently of the fold or folds, may yet form one great flock, under one Shepherd. When he described himself as the Door, he was, as we have seen, careful to speak of himself as "Door of the sheep," and not as the Door into the fold. He laid down his life in order to break down the partition between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:13), between God and man, and between man and man. "In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor free." There may be many folds. Different nations, ages, times, and seasons may cause variations in these; but there is but one flock under the watchful guardianship of one Shepherd.
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
Verse 17. - Therefore doth the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. The διὰ τοῦτο points to the whole of the previous statement, and ὅτι to a more complete exposition of the precise point in it on which the Divine Father's love (ἀγαπή) rests. The "I" and "me" refer to the incarnate Son, i.e. to the Divine-human Personality of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father loveth me, because, not merely that I lay down my life, for such might be the consequence of helplessness in the presence of victorious and desperate foes. The love which merely "laid down life" would be a Buddha-like self-sacrifice, producing certain moral effects upon the minds of the onlookers, and revealing a large and loving sense of the need of others. Yet in such expression of his sacrificial love he would have relinquished his undertaking. There would have been no more that he could do for his flock, this Shepherd-functions would, in the consummating act, cease, he would be a beautiful Memory, not a living Energy; a glorious Example, not the Author of eternal salvation. He would cease to be the great Shepherd of the sheep. Now the Father's love contemplated more than this, viz. the Lord's own purpose to take up again that life which he was prepared voluntarily to lay down for the sheep. Thus he would indeed die, that he might be more of a Shepherd to them than he had ever been before. How otherwise would he personally bring the other sheep into his flock, or be known of them, as the Father was known by him? Christ declares that after his death he would still exercise royal rights, be as much a Divine-human Personality as ever. Christ, as a sinless Man, the sinless One, might indeed, after the victory over the tempter in the wilderness, or from the Mount of Transfiguration, have returned to the spiritual world without accomplishing an exodus on Golgotha, but he chose, he willed, to lay down his life. Having done this much, he might have joined the great majority, and been their Head and Chief, and left his work to be commented on by others. But such a consummation would have fallen far short of the true and sufficing object of the Father's love. Christ declares that the very end of his death was his resurrection from death. In retaking his life, he is able to continue, on perfectly different terms, the shepherding of his people he becomes in the highest sense, the great Shepherd, the good Shepherd, the archetypal, and the veritable Shepherd of the flock of God.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Verse 18. - No one taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. Should the aorist be the true reading, then the whole of the Incarnation must have been regarded by the Lord as already accomplished, as a completed fact. The οὐδεὶς, "no one" neither God, nor man, nor evil spirit - taketh it, i.e. my life, away from me, from myself, in the exercise of my sovereign will, in the full consciousness of spontaneity. I am laying it down, not in consequence of my impotence before the powers of darkness, but "from myself." This proceeding is in perfect harmony with the will of God the Father; but it is Christ's free act notwithstanding, and of all things the most worthy of the Father's love (cf. here John 5:30, which appears at first to be in contradiction with the statement of this verse; but the closing words of the verse rectify the impression; see also John 7:28; John 8:28). Christ justifies his extraordinary claim to lay down and after his death (retaining then the full possession of his Personality), to reassume the life which for a while, in submission to the doom on human nature, he had resolved to sacrifice, he says, I have (ἐξουσίαν) right - or, power and authority combined - to lay it down, and right to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father. I have power to do both these things. No other has ever put forth such a claim, and the discharge of it "from himself," i.e. spontaneously, is stated to be in consequence of an ἐντολή, an appoint-merit, an ordinance, he had received from the Father. The Divine purpose was realized in his perfect freedom and his perfect and absolute fulfillment of the Father's will. The narrative of the agony in the garden, given by the synoptists, confirms the blending of his own freedom with the Divine order; but the language of this Gospel (John 18:6 (cf. Matthew 26:53), and Matthew 19:11), and the best researches into what is called "the physical cause of the death of Christ" (see Dr. Stroud's valuable work on that subject), all confirm the voluntary nature of our Lord's suffering and death. "To cover this incomparable privilege with a veil of humility, he thought good to call it a command. The Father's mandate was, Thou shalt die or not die, thou shalt rise again or not rise again, according to the free promptings of thy love" (Godet). It was, however, the Father's appointment that Christ should freely exercise this stupendous consequence of his perfect obedience. So that all the assurances that God raised him from the dead are confirmed by the mode in which he speaks of his Divine right.
There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
Verses 19-21. -
(b) The twofold effect of this declaration. Verses 19, 20. - There arose a division again among the Jews because of these words. And many of them were saying, He hath a daemon, and is mad; why hear ye him? The division among the Jews had repeatedly taken place. In John 7:12, 30, 31, 40, 41, and John 9:8, 9, 16, we see different stages of the hostility and different aspects of opinion. They reached a similar point of expression in John 7:20; John 8:48. With bitter madness the Pharisees charged the Lord with being under the power of a "daemon," and with consequent raving, i.e. with irrationality and even evil motive. By this means "the Jews" sought to dissuade the people from any attention to such λόγους (sermones, Vulgate), discourses. They would not have done this if the impression on some had not been conspicuous and overpowering. "Why hear ye him?" This was not the first time such division had occurred, and hence the πάλιν, again (see notes, John 8:48). Some were listening with eager, bewildering excitement. They knew not what to think. Their nascent faith is rebuked by the authorities.
And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
Verse 21. - There was a twofold reply: one drawn from their own experience. Others said, These (ῤήματα; verba, Vulgate) sayings - "things said" - are not those of one who is possessed by a daemon. Their majestic calm, their conscious strength, the strange thrill they sent through human hearts, and which we feel to this hour, discriminate them from the scream of the maniac, with which some of the more astounding statements taken by themselves might have suggested comparison. They give another argument drawn from the miracle which had just taken place, which proves that his friends on this occasion were very far from the mad wickedness of those whose moral sense had been so perverted as to say that "he casts out daemons by the prince of daemons" (see Matthew 12:24, etc., and parallel passages). Can a daemon open the eyes of the blind? It is not in the nature of a damon to heal disease, and pour light on sightless eyes. The goodness of the Lord triumphs over the vile insinuation. We must have better explanation than this of his mysterious claims. The contest was sharp. The conflict for a while silenced opposition, only to break out again with greater malice and fury.
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
Verses 22-42. - 6. The oneness of Christ with the Father. The discourse at the Feast of Dedication, with its results. Verses 22-26. -
(1) The Feast of Dedication, and the excitement of the people. The paragraph is pregnant with meaning, arising from the place, the time, and the action of the Jews. It contains the discrimination between the Jews and those who were in spiritual union with himself, viz. his sheep. Then follow the characteristics and privileges of his sheep, which lead up to the climax in which he risks the deadly animosity of his hearers, by claiming identity of saving power with the Father. tic accounts for this by asserting what is expressive of positive consubstantiality with the Father. On any exegesis, this solemn announcement is a stupendous assumption of personal dignity, and was regarded by his hearers as blasphemous madness. Verse 22. - Now, the Feast of Dedication (the enkainia) was (celebrated) in Jerusalem. This feast is not elsewhere noticed in the New Testament. The account of its origin is found in 1 Macc. 4:36, etc.; 2 Macc. 10:1 - 8; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:07. 7. And it was winter. It was held on the 25th of Chisleu, which, in A.D. , would correspond with the 19th of December, in commemoration of the "renewal," reconsecration, of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus after the gross profanation of it by Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Macc. 1:20-60 1 Macc. 4:36-57). It occupied eight days, was distinguished by illumination of the city and temple and of other places throughout the land, and hence was called the "Feast of Lights." Many interesting peculiarities of this feast are detailed in Edersheim's 'Life of Jesus,' 2:228, etc. One feature was the increase night by night of the number of lights which commemorated the restoration of the temple. All fasting and public mourning were prohibited (see 'Moed. K.,' 3:9). The high enthusiasm of the people made them long for deliverance from the Roman yoke. The Jews would probably have eagerly accepted Jesus as Messiah if he had been ready to take up the role of a political leader. Doubtless he was the Christ of the Hebrew prophecies, and in his own human consciousness his high position swelled his loftiest thought; but he was not the Christ of their Jewish expectation.
And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
Verse 23. - And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. He walked in Solomon's portico - that part of the temple of Herod which the apostles afterwards adopted as the scene of some of their most explicit assertions of the gospel (Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12). It was associated with the grandest events in their national history; for it was reared on the substructions of Solomon's temple, which even to the present day are intact (Robinson's 'Palestine,' 1:289; Palestine Exploration Society's Reports; 'Recovery of Jerusalem,' frontispiece, pp. 17, 226, 309-319). The Lord walked there because it was winter, and wintry weather. This reveals a little touch of the hand of an eye-witness. We need not ask for any more transcendental explanation. The note of time, moreover, implies that two months had elapsed since the Feast of Tabernacles. Wieseler calculates that the Feast of Tabernacles closed on October 19, and the Feast of Dedication began on December 20, and, if so, time is left for a portion of the Galilaean ministry cited in Luke 10. - 13. Ezra 10:9-13 shows that the time referred to was after a period of heavy rain, and may account for Jesus walking in the shelter of the portico.
Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Verse 24. - Then the Jews came round about him. Not necessarily (with Godet) separating him from his disciples, but in a threatening and imperative fashion, demanding an immediate answer. It is probable that he had absented himself for two months in the neighborhood, had even been in Peraea (cf. Luke 9.), and met the multitudes coming up to the feasts. The πάλιν πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου of ver. 40, is best understood by his having been there before. The difficulty of his making retrospective reference to the similitude and allegory of the first part of this chapter is removed by the simple supposition that he saw in this group of his interrogators many of those who had heard his former discourse. And said unto him, How long dost thou hold our soul in suspense? - αἴρειν τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν; used in the sense of "lift up the soul," and so used in similar connection in the classics (Eurip., 'Ion,' 928; 'Hec.,' 69; AEschylus, 'Sept.,' 198; also Josephus, ' Ant.,' 3:2. 3) - If thou art the Christ (simple supposition), tell us plainly. Observe in John 16:25 our Lord's own contrast between speaking ἐν παροιμίαις and speaking παῥῤησίᾳ, with open, clear utterance. They had heard his parables, and say, "Let him drop all reserve, and deliver himself in categoric form." Archdeacon Watkins has well recalled the various utterances which fell on the more susceptible of the Jerusalemites. This was the Feast of Lights, and has he not called himself the Light of the world? This was a feast commemorative of freedom from the Syrian yoke, and had he not said, "If the Son set you free, ye shall be free indeed"? ' This was the Feast of the Purification of the Temple; had not his first act been a cleansing of the courts of the temple? We cannot wonder at the summons and challenge of the people.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
Verse 25. - Jesus answered them. The reply of Jesus is full of wisdom. If he had at once given an affirmative answer, they would have misunderstood him, because he was not the Christ of their expectations. If he had denied that he was the Messiah, he would have been untrue to his deepest consciousness of reality. The answer was: I spake with you - told you what I am - and ye believe not. To the woman in Samaria, to the Capernaites, to the blind man, to Peter and the other apostles, and in several emphatic forms, he had admitted his Messiahship. In John 8. he had claimed the highest honors and announced his [Divine commission, and appealed to his great Messianic works, but his endeavor to rectify their Messianic ideal had, through their obtuseness, failed of its purpose. So now once more he referred them to works done in his Father's name, which hitherto had failed to convince them: The works that I do in my Father's name (John 5:19, 36), they bear witness concerning me.
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
Verse 26. - He gives the reason of their insensibility or lack of appreciation and faith: But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep (for similar construction, ἐστὲ ἐκ, see Matthew 26:73; John 6:65). The clause (καθὼς εϊπον ὑμιν), [as I said unto you], is rejected by powerful arguments, and commentators cease to discuss whether it belongs to the previous or following clause. In neither case does it appear entirely relevant, although the difficulties felt in either application may be reduced by supposing either one saying or the other to have been virtually embodied in the statements of the parables of John 10:1-18.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Verses 27-30. -
(2) Christ's claim to equality of power and essence, and similarity of gracious operation with the Father. Verses 27, 28. - My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand. Commentators have differed as to the arrangement of these two verses - whether the six assertions should be regarded as two triplets, in the first of which the sheep of Christ are made prominent, and in the latter of which the Shepherd; thus -
(l) The sheep -
"My sheep hear my voice" (their receptivity).
"And I know them" (the Lord's response to their faith).
"And they follow me" (their active obedience).
(2) The Shepherd -
"I give them eternal life" (involving freedom from peril and death).
"They shall not perish forever."
"No one (not man or devil, wolf or hireling)
shall pluck them out of my hand."
This is not so satisfactory as the arrangement which puts this weighty saying into three couplets instead of two triplets; in which the sheep are the prominent theme of each proposition. The three couplets display the climacteric character of the wondrous rhythm and interchange of emotion between the Divine Shepherd and the sheep-
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them" = mutual recognition.
"They follow me, and I give them eternal life" = reciprocal activity.
"They shall not perish forever, and no one shall pluck them out of my hand" = an authoritative assurance, and its pledge or justification.
Christ's knowledge of the sheep corresponds with their recognition of his supreme claims; theft active trust is rewarded by his greatest gift; their indefeasible birthright is guaranteed by his limitless authority and power to protect them. It would be gross perversion of the passage to urge this indefeasible birthright on the ground of a few occasional flashes of conscious assurance and without any recognition of all the terms of the relation.
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Verse 29. - The last statement is sustained by a still loftier assumption. Before translating, it is necessary to notice the three readings of the text.
(1) That of the T.R. and the Revisers' Text: My Father who gave (them) to me is greater than all the powers that can possibly be arrayed against them.
(2) The reading of א, D, With reference to that which my Father, One greater than all, gave me, and no one is able to pluck from the hand of the Father. Meyer, however, translates this differently; he supposes the μεῖζον to refer to the Father "a something greater, a greater potence." Westcott and Hort prefer the reading with ὅ and μείζον; and Westcott translates, That which my Father has given me is greater than all, and regards it as a reference to the sheep as a collective unity. The internal reasons compel Luthardt, Godet, and Lange to fall back on T.R., and surely the extraordinary strain of the meaning justifies them. Our Lord would sustain with even stronger assurance the safety of his sheep. The Father's gift to himself, the Father's own eternal love and power, the Divine omnipotence of the Lord God himself, is pledged to their security. "My hand" becomes "my Father's hand." He seems to say, "If you question my capacity, you need not question his power. Sacrilegious violence may apparently nail my hands to the cross; the sword may awake against Jehovah's Shepherd. But none can outwit, surprise, crucify, conquer, my Father, none can invalidate his care."
I and my Father are one.
Verse 30. - Then follows the sublime minor premise of the syllogism, I and the Father (we) are one. As Augustine and Bengel have said, the first clause is incompatible with Sabellianism, and the second clause with Arianism. The Lord is conscious of his own Personality as distinct from that of the Father, and yet he asserts a fundamental unity. But what kind of unity is it? Is it a unity of wish, emotion, sentiment, only? On the contrary, it is a oneness of redemptive power. The Divine activity of the Father's eternal love did not come to any arrest or pause when he gave the sheep to the Son, but with its irresistible might is present in the "hand" of Jesus (no one "can," not no one "shall"). Therefore the ἕν, the one reality, if it does not express actual unity of essence, involves it. Some have endeavored to minimize the force of this remarkable statement by comparing it with John 17:21-23, where Jesus said believers are "to be in us," and "to be one, even as we are one," i.e. to have the same kind of relation with one another (being a collective unity) as the Father and Son sustain towards each other, "I in them, thou in me, that they may be perfected [reach their τέλος, by being blended] into one;" i.e. into one Divine personality by my indwelling. Now, it is nowhere there said that believers and the Father are one, but such a statement is scrupulously avoided. Numerous attempts have been made to escape from the stupendous assumption of this unity of power and essence with the Father. The whole gist of the assertion reveals the most overwhelming self-consciousness. The Lord declares that he can bestow eternal life and blessedness upon those who stand in close living relation with himself, and between whom and himself there is mutual recognition and the interchanges of love and trust. He bases the claim on the fact that the Father's hands are behind his, and that the Father's eternal power and Godhead sustain his mediatorial functions and, more than all, that the Father's Personality and his own Personality are merged in one essence and entity. If be merely meant to imply moral and spiritual union with the Father, or completeness of revelation of the Divine mind, why should the utterance have provoked such fierce resentment?
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
Verses 31-39. -
(3) Resented and challenged, but vindicated by word and sign. Verse 31. - That the Jews supposed him to speak of an essential unity is obvious from what follows. The Jews (then) took up - should rather be carried or bore in their hands - stones again, huge pieces of marble lying around in the public works then proceeding. There is an increase of malice over and above what was involved in simply lifting stones from the pavement (cf. John 8:59), and the alteration of the word is another hint of the eye-witness. The word "again" reminds the reader that this was a second and more desperate attack upon the life of Jesus.
Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
Verse 32. - Jesus answered them, Many good (καλά) works have I shown you from the (my) Father. The works of Christ were lovely and radiant with Divine beneficence; they were revelations of the Father. "I showed you many of them," says he; "I gave you signs thus of the intimate relation between the whole of the self-revelation I am making and the Father" (cf. John 6:65; John 7:17; John 8:42). For which work of these (works) are ye stoning me? i.e. preparing by your gesture to carry this into effect. By these words, uttered with smiting irony and terrific though quiet indignation, Jesus answered their threat.
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Verse 33. - The Jews answered him (saying), For a good (excellent, obviously, radiantly so) work we do not stone thee; but for blasphemy; and because thou, being man, makest thyself God. (Περὶ καλοῦ ἔργου and περὶ βλασφημίας contrast with the causal διὰ ποῖον of the previous verse. This preposition was used for formal indictments of offence before the tribunals.) The Jews felt the force of this indignant reproach, and would not admit that his Divine and goodly work was without meaning to them. It was, however, a melancholy reality that his beneficent work had roused their malice into fiercer activity, but they credit themselves with a higher and a doctrinal motive and with a jealousy for the honor of God. They charge him with blasphemy, and the charge is reiterated before Pilate (John 19:7). The Jews were in one sense right. He had declared his essential unity with the Father; he had "made himself, represented himself (cf. John 8:53; John 19:7), as equal with God." In the opinion of his hearers, he conveyed the idea that he possessed and was wielding Divine powers. He was making himself to be God. "Good works" by the score were no vindication of one who dishonored the Name of God by claiming equality with him.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
Verse 34. - The justification of Jesus which follows is often supposed to be a retraction of the claim - a repudiation of the inference which the Jews drew from the words recorded in ver. 30. On the contrary, our Lord took up one illustration from among many in Holy Scripture, that the union between man and God lay at the heart of their (νόμος) Law. True, he quoted from Psalm 82:6 with reference to the high official title given by the Holy Spirit to the false and tyrannical judges of the old covenant. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your Law? The Psalms are here spoken of as "the Law," showing that they did form part of the revelation and law of the Divine kingdom (John 7:49; John 12:34; John 15:25). Jesus does not imply that the Law was theirs and not his. There is not a shadow of disrespect cast on the Law by the pronoun, but such an identification of it with his hearers that they ought, by its aid, to have been saved from utterly misconceiving his words I said, Ye are gods (elohim, θεοί). To stand in close relation with the theocracy was to be covered with its glory. He seems to force upon them thus a host of similar blendings of the Divine and human in the age-long preparation for himself, and to free all these from the suspicion of blasphemy. The Hebrew thought was really calculated to prepare the world for this high intercommunion, not to abolish it. Judaism, rabbinism, had widened the chasm between God and man. Christ came to fill up the chasm; nay more, to show the Divine and human in living, indissoluble union.
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Verse 35. - If he (the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Lawgiver, the subject is left indefinite) called them gods (elohim), to whom the Word of God came - the personal "Word" need not be excluded here; the "Word of God" was the Divine agency by which prophets spoke and psalmists sang - and the Scripture (γραφή is singular, and has reference, not to all the γραφαί, but to this one word) cannot he broken; loosed, destroyed. A fine testimony to the confidence which our Lord exercised in the Holy Scripture. He was accustomed to educe principles of life from its inward structure, from its concealed framework, from its underlying verities. The very method adopted by Jesus on this occasion revealed the fact that both he and his biographer were born Jews. These tyrannical judges were "to die like men," yet, since "the Word of God came to them," there was a sense in which even they, without blasphemous assumptions, might receive the title of elohim.
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
Verse 36. - If it be so, Say ye of him whom the Father sanctified (or, consecrated), and sent into the world. The order of these words requires us to conceive of this consecration as occurring previously to the incarnation of the eternal Son. Before his birth into the world he entered into relations with the Father to undertake a work of indescribable importance. He was destined, or designated, or appointed, and then sent to do this sublime deed of redemption. Unlike those to whom the eternal Logos came, conferring thereby honorific titles, and calling them to occasional and alas! His discharged duties, he was the eternal Word himself, and he was moreover (as those old judges (lid) "to die like men," to lay down that life in order that he might take it again; consequently, he asks, with sublime self-consciousness, "Say ye of him, thus consecrated, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am Son of God?" It is remarkable that Christ should, instead of repeating the phrase, "I and the Father are one" - one as we have seen, in power and purpose and attribute - imply that in that former saying he had but told them he was "Son of God," in a sense to which the old Hebrew kings, notwithstanding their theocratic symbolism and mysterious names of honor, could not aspire. This is clearly a bold utterance of the Messianic dignity (cf. John 1:49; John 5:19, 20). The fact that he continually treated the two ideas of Father and Son as correlative (John 8:19; cf. John 9:35-37; John 14:7-13, etc.) makes the one assertion an equivalent of the other. This is a much greater claim than that yielded to the judges of old, and it is a new revelation of the Father and of the Son. Moreover, he showed them that there were many anticipations, foreshadowings of the incarnation of God in their own Scripture. We have an argument from the less to the greater, but one which, while it technically freed him from the charges of blasphemy, revealed the age-long preparation that had been made for the union between the Infinite and finite, between the Creator and creature, between the Father and his child, which was effected in himself. Some may have supposed that in the leveling up of the theocratic adumbrations of the Incarnation, he was virtually relinquishing the uniqueness of his own; but the following words, and the interpretation put on them by his hearers, answer such a charge.
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
Verse 37. - "I and the Father are one," and "I am the Son of God." These two mighty utterances are equivalent to the following: "I do the works of my Father." My works are his works, his works are mine. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The recognition of the Divine is a sign of the regenerated mind, and a test of fitness for a place in Christ's flock (cf. "I know my sheep, and my sheep know me"). The Jews had not recognized the true reciprocal relation between the Father and Son. He had come out from God, and been sent from the Father to produce this impression, to make known the Father by his Sonship; and he had taken steps to convince even unbelieving men of the identity of his nature and Spirit with that of the Father. He is content to rest his claims upon their belief, on the character of his works. He is content to leave the question as to whether he be a blasphemer or one with the Father, a sinner of sinners or Son of God, on the evidence of his works - on the God-like, Father-like character of his entire ministry (cf. ver. 32; John 5:17, 36; John 9:3). If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. "If the evidence be insufficient, I acquit you of blame in not taking me at my word. My own words and Person and life might be enough for you; but if my works are not in perfect harmony with the best you know of the Father, believe me not." Christ's appeal to the reason of his hearers, to the sufficiency of the evidence he had given, would justify unbelief in case of a proved failure.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Verse 38. - But if I do - if I am performing the works of my Father, if these acts of healing and helping, of mighty consolation and symbolic grace, are obviously such as you can recognize as the Father's, believe them; learn that much, - it is for your life - and if you make that acquisition, though ye believe not me - though you do not credit my assertion on my own authority, though you do not take me at once on my own word - believe the works; you may then take the further step, and both know and understand, or know broadly and completely, and then learn in details, that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. Between the assertion of ver. 30, "I and my Father are one," and that of this verse, "the works" are introduced - works that are recognized as Divine, "the Father's," but seen and known also to be Christ's own works. Why should they stone him for blasphemy if they have evidence so resistless as this, even if it comes short of proof, that he is absolutely one with the Father? The intuitive perception of the Divine in Christ is the highest and noblest spiritual experience. His word should be, might be, enough; but, suppose it should fail, miracles, "works," come in to link the Divine Personality of the Speaker with the supreme Father. The works may teach them that he is in the Father, and the Father in him. Not by a flash of light, but by growing intellectual conviction, they must come to a conclusion which the great assertion," I and the Father are one," finally confirms.
Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,
Verse 39. - (Therefore) they sought (again) to seize him, and he escaped out of their hands. This appeal roused their animosity, and, though they dropped their stones, they were preparing to lay violent hands on him. The πάλιν points back to John 7:30, 32, 44. His escape was facilitated by the strange moral power he could exert to render their assaults upon him vain. They stretched out hands which dropped harmlessly at their side - another confirmation of the solemn statement of ver. 18. There is no need to suppose a miracle, still less to justify the preposterous notion that the body of Jesus was, in John's Gospel, docetic merely (cf. John 8:59; Luke 4:30; Mark 11:18).
And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
Verses 40-42. -
(4) Beyond Jordan. The susceptibility of those who had been prepared for his Word by the early ministry of John. Verse 40. - And he went away again (see John 1:28, note) beyond Jordan, to the place where John at first baptized; a place enriched for him by many solemn associations. There he submitted to baptism, to fasting, and temptation. There he had heard the first testimonies of John. There he had gathered round him his most susceptible and appreciative hearers. There Andrew and Simon, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, came under his mighty spell. There the first intuition of his Messiahship dawned on the noblest of his followers. The entire suggestion, is unquestionably historic. That special scene of our Lord's ministry was indelibly impressed on the memory of the beloved disciple. The place where John at first baptized; i.e. the place occupied by John before he came to OEnon, and therefore in the district where he delivered his most solemn testimonies to the people, to the Sanhedrin, to the first disciples. And there he abode. How long, we know not. The repose was soon broken.
And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.
Verses 41, 42. - "The posthumous fruit of John's labors" (Bengel). Many came to him, and they said, one to another, rather than to the Lord, John indeed did no sign. It was not John's function to work miracles or startle the world with visible proofs of his Divine commission. John stood on the natural sphere, found a place in contemporaneous history, and exerted all his influence by the force of his prophetic word. But as a remarkable confirmation of the whole revelation enacted by the life and deeds of Christ, we read, But all things that John spake of this Man were true. The testimonies of John were to the effect that Jesus was "mightier" than he - that he was the Son of God, the "Baptizer with the Holy Ghost and with fire," and "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." The absence of the miraculous nimbus from the record of John's ministry is one of the subsidiary evidences we possess of the supernatural power wielded by our Lord Jesus Christ. John was a historic contemporary of Jesus, whose following survived for some centuries, but not until comparatively recent times did credulity or the mythopceic tendency clothe him in a supernatural glory. He was believed to be the Elijah of the new covenant, but he was not supposed to have gone to heaven, like his prototype. A rumor grew up that Jesus was John raised from the dead, but nothing came of it. There was all the material for a splendid myth, but no evolution of one. The reasoning, therefore, is fair - since Jesus is reported by John's disciples to have wrought great signs; these reports are not to be put down to credulity or fiction. The evangelist distinctly asserts that all these testimonies which he had himself recorded in John 1, when followed up by the visible and wonderful presence of the Son of God himself, were held to be true. We need not wonder, then, that many believed on him there.
And many believed on him there.