By Tyson Thorne

August 7, 2019

John 32 Large

Chapter ten brings us half way through the fourth section of John's gospel, the conflict of men against the Messiah. Even when Jesus tells two parables about the good shepherd and the shepherd's gate, controversy arises. Perhaps it was the speaker and to the message that caused such dispute? Only the text can answer that. Even though this passage may be familiar, there are three more obscure truths that are important to note. Before we get to that, however, we ought to first examine Jesus' teaching and what was so contentious about it.

Jesus' first parable is about the good shepherd. He contrasts the theif, who comes over the fence, with the shepherd who enters through the gate. The shepherd knows his sheep, and his sheep know and follow him. The sheep do not stray. To the modern reader the illustration appears an obvious one, but the people of Jesus' day didn't understand the meaning.

The second parable is about the shepherds gate. Like the first parable, the object of discussion is Jesus. This time Jesus makes it easy, explaining, "I am the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture." The message being clear, he decided to clear up the confusion caused by the first parable. "I am the good shepherd," he explained. So far so good, but there is more to the story.

Jesus is talking about salvation, to be sure, but he is also drawing a comparison. In both parables the contrast is between the shepherd and thieves. In verse 12 he adds another character, the hired hand. The thief who comes to steal and kill is easy enough to understand, it is Satan and the evil powers of this world. But who is the hired hand? This is the first obscure truth. In this case Jesus is speaking of the religious leaders. They do not love the sheep and will abandon them to save their own skins. Only the good shepherd will fight to save every sheep, even unto death. Jesus would prove these words to be true a few chapters later. The lesson here is that the only person one can trust with your eternal life is Jesus, the Word of God.

The second obscure truth about the flock. In verse 16 Jesus states, "I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold." This is foreshadowing, Jesus preparing his audience that salvation is not for the Jews only; some of the flock will come from the Gentile world.

We know from years of church experience that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus alone, but how often do we think about how that plan came together? John gives us insight into this process. Earlier Jesus made an interesting statement that I wanted to wait to address until now. Back in chapter eight (verse 42) Jesus said, "I have come from God and am now here. I have not come on my own initiative, but he sent me." The plan for mankind's salvation was the Father's brainchild. Often people think of the Father as stern, judgmental and very Old Testament. Jesus tells us that the Father loves us. Go back to John 3.16 which could correctly read, "For God the Father so loved the world..." God sent the Son to be our sacrifice. Lest we believe Jesus had no choice in the matter, or that he became our sacrifice unwillingly, Jesus says in 10.18, "I lay [my life] down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again." So the Father came up with the plan to save humanity from sin, and Jesus put it into action willingly. Who could reject such a God as this? And yet much of the time mankind does just that.

Despite these amazing teachings, the people began to debate. Maybe "debate" isn't strong enough a word; John describes it as a shapr division. Some accused Jesus of teaching satanic lies, while others declared that no demon can make a blind man see. Division and rejection. The sheep know their shepherd, their shepherd being Jesus or the devil.

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