I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I am the good shepherd.—The central point of the allegory has now passed from the “Door,” through the last verse as the connecting-link, to the “Good Shepherd.” If we think that the whole discourse was suggested by a scene actually occurring (comp. Note on John 10:1), then the prominence of an actual shepherd passing before them would suggest the turn which it now takes.
The word “good” means that which is fair, and is in a physical sense that which is in its own nature excellent, and in a moral sense that which is beautiful and noble. St. John uses the word only in John 2:10, of the “good wine,” and in this chapter here and in John 10:14; John 10:32-33. (Comp. Note on Luke 8:15.) The passage of the Old Testament referred to above has prepared our minds for this thought of Christ, especially Psalms 23; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24. He is the Shepherd who is ideally good, fulfilling every thought of guidance, support, self-sacrifice that had ever gathered round the shepherd’s name. No image of Christ has so deeply impressed itself upon the mind of the Church as this has. We find it in the earliest Christian literature, as in Tertullian (Works, vol. i., p. 371, in Ante-Nicene Library), or Clement of Alexandria (Works, vol. i., pp. 149, 462, A.N. Lib.). We find it in the very earliest efforts of Christian art, in painting, embroidery, and even statuary. (See Kugler’s Handbook, Italian Schools, Lady Eastlake’s Trans., 4th Ed., pp. 5 and 6.) It comes to us naturally in our hymns and prayers. The pastoral staff is the fit emblem of the Bishop’s work, and the Pastor is the name by which the humble way-side flock thinks of him who in Christ’s name is appointed to be their guide.
Giveth his life for the sheep.—This was true of the actual shepherds, of whose devoted bravery many instances are told. A striking one is that of David himself who rescued the lamb of his father’s flock from the mouth of the lion and the bear (1Samuel 17:34-37). That self-sacrifice that would lead the shepherd to risk his own life for that of his flock has its ideal fulfilment in Him who is the Good Shepherd, and will give His life for mankind. The word rendered “giveth is life,” should be almost certainly layeth down His life. They are found only in St. John’s writings. The other passages are John 10:15; John 10:17-18; John 13:37-38; John 15:13; 1John 3:16 (twice).John 10:11-15. I am the good shepherd — Jesus, having represented himself as the door of the sheep, and intimated the regards which ought to be maintained to him as such, particularly by those that professed to be teachers of others, now changes the similitude, and represents himself, by way of eminence, the good shepherd, namely, the person frequently foretold in Scripture under that character, (see the margin,) and the proprietor of the sheep. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep — win expose himself to any danger for their safety, because they are his own property; but he that is a hireling — Who attends the sheep merely for hire, who is employed as a servant, and paid for his pains; whose own the sheep are not — Who has neither profit nor loss by them, and proposes nothing to himself but his own gain; seeth the wolf — Or some other savage beast; coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth — Deserts them; because, instead of loving them, he loves himself, and therefore will not expose himself to any danger on their account; in consequence of which, the beast of prey, meeting with no resistance, catcheth, and scattereth the sheep — Seizes on some and disperses the rest; the two ways of hurting the flock of Christ. The wolf signifies an enemy who by force or fraud attacks the Christian’s faith, liberty, or life. Observe, reader, it is not the bare receiving hire, which denominates a man a hireling, (for the labourer is worthy of his hire, Jesus Christ himself being judge: yea, and the Lord hath ordained that they who preach the gospel should live by the gospel,) but the loving hire; the loving the hire more than the work; the working for the sake of the hire. He is a hireling who would not work were it not for the hire; to whom this is the great, if not only, motive of working. O God! if a man who works only for hire is such a wretch, a mere thief and a robber; what is he who continually takes the hire, and yet does not work at all! The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling — Because he loves the hire, not the sheep; and takes the work upon him merely for the wages he is to receive. From what our Lord here says, it plainly appears to be the duty of every minister of the gospel, intrusted with the care of a flock, to reside ordinarily among them. For, if approaching danger to himself, or them, is no excuse for his fleeing away and leaving them, far less will interest, or pleasure, or any lesser matter, be an excuse for such unfaithfulness. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep — With a tender regard and special care. Being the good shepherd, and the owner of the sheep, I pay such earnest and constant attention to my flock, and take such care of it, that I not only know every particular sheep, but I know every thing relating to each. I know the circumstance, wherein they are placed, am well acquainted with their wants, and can judge what aids they stand in need of. Besides, I love them all with an ardent affection, and approve of their obedience to me, because, though it is imperfect, it is sincere. And am known of mine — With a holy confidence and affection. As I know, love, and approve my sheep, so I am known and beloved of them in return, for they have just apprehensions of my dignity and character; in particular, they know that I am their Shepherd and Saviour, sent from God, and that I am able to feed them with knowledge, and to deliver them from the punishment of sin, and to bestow on them everlasting life. As the Father knoweth me, &c. — That is, I know my sheep, and am known of mine, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; for so the passage ought to be rendered, and construed in connection with the foregoing verse; as if he had said, The mutual knowledge subsisting between me and my sheep, is like that which subsists between the Father and me. It is a knowledge which implies an inexpressible union. See John 17:21-22. And I lay down my life for the sheep — He speaks of the present time: for his whole life was only a going unto death. I show the greatness of the love which I bear to my sheep by dying for them, which no hireling did, or ever will do.
Giveth his life - A shepherd that regarded his flock would hazard his own life to defend them. When the wolf comes, he would still remain to protect them. To give his life, here, means the same as not to fly, or to forsake his flock; to be willing to expose his life, if necessary, to defend them. Compare Judges 12:3; "I put my life in my hands and passed over," etc.; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21. See John 10:15. The Messiah was often predicted under the character of a shepherd.
the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep—Though this may be said of literal shepherds, who, even for their brute flock, have, like David, encountered "the lion and the bear" at the risk of their own lives, and still more of faithful pastors who, like the early bishops of Rome, have been the foremost to brave the fury of their enemies against the flock committed to their care; yet here, beyond doubt, it points to the struggle which was to issue in the willing surrender of the Redeemer's own life, to save His sheep from destruction.Isaiah 40:11. I cannot agree with those who think that Christ here speaketh not of himself as the good Shepherd, with reference to his office, as he was the Messiah, but only in opposition to the hirelings after mentioned. I can allow that he thus calleth himself, both in the one respect and the other; but I cannot allow the latter sense exclusively to the former; for what followeth is peculiar to the Messiah, of whom it was prophesied, Daniel 9:26, that he should be cut off, but not for himself: and though it be true, that the true shepherd will hazard his life for his sheep, as David did, when he encountered the lion and the bear, 1 Samuel 17:34,35; yet it cannot be said to be the duty of the best shepherd to lay down his life for the sheep, for the life of a man is much more valuable than the life of any beast. Our Saviour therefore, doubtless, in this place showeth wherein he was the most excellent Shepherd, far excelling the best shepherds in the world, because he was come, not only to expose, hazard, and adventure his life, but actually, willingly, and freely to lay it down. Genesis 49:24. And discharging his office aright, he is the good shepherd; as appears in his providing good pasture, and a good fold for his sheep; in protecting them from their enemies; in healing all their diseases; in restoring their souls when strayed from him; in watching over them in the night seasons, lest any hurt them; in searching for them, when they have been driven, or scattered in the dark and cloudy day; in caring for them, so that he lose none of them; and in nothing more than in what follows,
the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep: not only exposes it to danger, as David did his, for the sake of his father's flock, but gives it away freely and voluntarily, for the sake of the sheep; in their room and stead, as a ransom for them, that they may be delivered from death, and might have eternal life: the Ethiopic version renders it, "the good shepherd gives his life for the redemption of his sheep"; so Nonnus paraphrases it, the "ransom price of his own sheep": this belongs to Christ's priestly office, and with the Jews priests were sometimes shepherds hence we read (q) of , "shepherds that were priests". Philo the Jew speaks (r) of God as a shepherd and king; and of his setting his word, his firstborn Son, over the holy flock, to take care of it: and a good shepherd is thus described by the (s) Jews;
"as , "a good shepherd", delivers the flock from the wolf, and from the lions, (see John 10:12) so he that leads Israel, if he is good, delivers them from the idolatrous nations, and from judgment below and above, and leads them to the life of the world to come, or eternal life; (see John 10:10).''
Which description agrees with Christ, the good shepherd; and so the Lord is said to be , "the good shepherd", and merciful, and there is none like him (t).I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 10:11. Ἐγώ] Repeated again with lively emphasis. It is no other.
ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός] the good, the excellent shepherd, conceived absolutely as He ought to be: hence the article and the emphatic position of the adjective. In Christ is realized the ideal of the shepherd, as it lives in the Old Testament (Psalms 23; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34; Jeremiah 23; Zechariah 11; also Micah 5:3). With the conception of καλός compare the Attic καλὸς κἀγαθός (also Tob 7:7; 2Ma 15:12), and the contrary: πονηρός, κακός, ἄδικος.
In the following specification of the things in which the good shepherd proves himself to correspond to his idea, ὁ ποιμ. ὁ καλός is solemnly repeated.
τιθέναι τ. ψυχήν] As to substance, though not as to the meaning of the words, equivalent to δοῦναι τ. ψ. (Matthew 20:28). It is a Johannean expression (John 13:37 f., John 15:13; 1 John 3:16), without corresponding examples in Greek classical writers (against Kypke, I. p. 388); and must be explained, neither from the simple שׂוּם, Isaiah 53:10 (Hengstenberg), nor from שׂוּם נֶפֶשׁ בְּכַף (Jdg 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5), where בכף is essential; but from the idea of the sacrificial death as a ransom that has been paid (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). Its import accordingly is: to pay down one’s soul, impendere, in harmony with the use of τιθέναι in the classics, according to which it denotes to pay (so frequently in Demosthenes and others; see Reiske, Ind. Dem. p. 495, ed. Schaef.; Dissen, ad Dem. de Cor. p. 271). Compare Nonnus: καὶ ψυχῆς ἰδίης οὐ φείδεται, ἀλλὰ ἑθήσει λύτρον ἑῶν ὀΐων.
ὑπέρ] for the good of, in order to turn aside destruction from them by his own self-sacrifice. Compare John 11:50 f. It is less in harmony with this specific point of view, from which the sacrifice of the life of Jesus is regarded throughout the entire New Testament, to take τιθέναι, with De Wette, Ebrard, Godet, as denoting merely lay down (as in John 13:4); or to assume the idea which is foreign to the passage, “to offer as a prize for competition” (Ewald).John 10:11-18. In these verses Jesus designates Himself “the Good Shepherd” and emphasises two features by which a good shepherd can be known: (1) his giving his life for the sheep, and (2) the reciprocal knowledge of the sheep and the shepherd. These two features are both introduced by the statement (John 10:11) ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός, “the good shepherd”; “good” probably in the sense in which we speak of a “good” painter or a “good” architect; one who excels at his business. The definite article claims this as a description applicable to Himself alone. Cf. Psalms 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34, etc. For other descriptions of the ideal shepherd, see Plato’s Repub., p. 345, and the remarkable passage in the Politicus, 271–275, and Columella (in Wetstein), “Magister autem pecoris acer, durus, strenuus, laboris patientissimus, alacer atque audax esse debet; et qui per rupes, per solitudines atque vepres facile vadat”.—ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλὸς, the good shepherd, whoever he is, τὴν ψυχὴν … προβάτων, “lays down his life for the sheep”. τιθέναι τὴν ψυχήν is not a classical phrase, but in Hippocrates occurs a similar expression, Μαχάων γέ τοι ψυχὴν κατέθετο ἐν τῇ Τρωάδι, Kypke. Ponere spiritum occurs in Latin. Of the meaning there is no doubt. Cf. John 13:37.—ὑπὲρ τῶν προβάτων, “for the good of the sheep,” that is, when the welfare of the sheep demands the sacrifice of life, that is freely made. Here it is evident Jesus describes “the good shepherd” as revealed in Himself.11–18. The Allegory of the Good Shepherd
11. I am the Good Shepherd] The word translated ‘good’ cannot he adequately translated: it means ‘beautiful, noble, good,’ as opposed to ‘foul, mean, wicked.’ It sums up the chief attributes of ideal perfection. Christ is the Perfect Shepherd, as opposed to His own imperfect ministers; He is the true Shepherd, as opposed to the false shepherds, who are hirelings or hypocrites; He is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep, as opposed to the wicked thief who takes their lives to preserve his own. Thus in Christ is realised the ideal Shepherd of O.T. Psalms 23; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 34, Ezekiel 37:24; Zechariah 11:7. Perhaps no image has penetrated more deeply into the mind of Christendom: Christian prayers and hymns, Christian painting and statuary, and Christian literature are full of it, and have been from the earliest ages. And side by side with it is commonly found the other beautiful image of this Gospel, the Vine: the Good Shepherd and the True Vine are figures of which Christians have never wearied.
giveth his life] Better, layeth down His life. The phrase is a remarkable one and peculiar to S. John, whereas ‘to give His life’ occurs in the Synoptists (Matthew 20:20; Mark 10:45). ‘To lay down’ perhaps includes the notion of ‘to pay down,’ a common meaning of the words in classical Greek; if so, it is exactly equivalent to the Synoptic phrase ‘to give as a ransom.’ It occurs again, John 10:15; John 10:17, John 13:37-38, John 15:13; 1 John 3:16. In this country the statement ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep’ seems extravagant when taken apart from the application to Christ. It is otherwise in the East, where dangers from wild beasts and armed bands of robbers are serious and constant. Comp. Genesis 13:5; Genesis 14:12; Genesis 31:39-40; Genesis 32:7-8; Genesis 37:33; Job 1:17; 1 Samuel 17:34-35.John 10:11. Ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός, the Good Shepherd) He, concerning whom it was foretold by the prophets. The Shepherd, whose peculiar property the sheep are: good, as being the One who lays down His life for the sheep; also as being He to whom they are an object of care, John 10:13, “The hireling careth not for the sheep.” In our day, they who tend for pay the flocks of one town, or one village, are called pastors; but in this passage the signification of the term, pastor, is more noble. [The whole and complete office of Christ is contained in this parabolic discourse concerning the pastor and the door.—V. g.]—τίθησιν, lays down) This is five times said, thereby there being expressed the greatest force. In this, the highest benefit, all the remaining benefits conferred by the Shepherd are presupposed, included, and are to be inferred [Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:6, When Thou shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His clays, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way: and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all],—ὑπὲρ τῶν προβάτων, for the sheep) Christ here declares what kind of a shepherd He evinces Himself towards the sheep: for which reason, it cannot be inferred from this, that He did not die also for the rest of men.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).
Literally, the shepherd the good (shepherd). Καλὸς, though not of frequent occurrence in John, is more common than ἀγαθός, good, which occurs but four times and three times out of the four in the neuter gender, a good thing, or that which is good. Καλὸς in John is applied to wine (John 2:10), three times to the shepherd in this chapter, and twice to works (John 10:32, John 10:33). In classical usage, originally as descriptive of outward form, beautiful; of usefulness, as a fair haven, a fair wind. Auspicious, as sacrifices. Morally beautiful, noble; hence virtue is called τὸ καλὸν. The New Testament usage is similar. Outwardly fair, as the stones of the temple (Luke 21:5): well adapted to its purpose, as salt (Mark 9:50): competent for an office, as deacons (1 Timothy 4:6); a steward (1 Peter 4:10); a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3): expedient, wholesome (Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47): morally good, noble, as works (Matthew 5:16); conscience (Hebrews 13:18). The phrase it is good, i.e., a good or proper thing (Romans 14:21). In the Septuagint καλὸς is the most usual word for good as opposed to evil (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 24:50; Isaiah 5:20). In Luke 8:15, καλὸς and ἀγαθός are found together as epithets of the heart; honest (or virtuous, noble) and good. The epithet καλὸς, applied here to the shepherd, points to the essential goodness as nobly realized, and appealing to admiring respect and affection. As Canon Westcott observes, "in the fulfillment of His work, the Good Shepherd claims the admiration of all that is generous in man."
Giveth his life (τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ τίθησιν)
The phrase is peculiar to John, occurring in the Gospel and First Epistle. It is explained in two ways: either (1) as laying down as a pledge, paying as a price, according to the classical usage of the word τίθημι. So Demosthenes, to pay interest or the alien tax. Or (2) according to John 13:4, as laying aside his life like a garment. The latter seems preferable. Τίθημι, in the sense of to pay down a price, does not occur in the New Testament, unless this phrase, to lay down the life, be so explained. In John 13:4, layeth aside His garments (τίδησι τὰ ἱμάτια) is followed, in John 13:12, by had taken His garments (ἔλαβε τὰ ἱμάτια). So, in this chapter, giveth (τίδησιν) His life (John 10:11), and I lay down (τίδημι) my life (John 10:17, John 10:18), are followed by λαβεῖν "to take it again." The phrases τὴν ψυχὴν He laid down His life, and τὰς ψυχὰς θεῖναι to lay down our lives, occur in 1 John 3:16. The verb is used in the sense of laying aside in the classics, as to lay aside war, shields, etc. Compare Matthew 20:28, δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν, to give His life.
For the sheep (ὑπὲρ)
On behalf of.
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