Wednesday 17th May 2023


Chapter 10 continues seamlessly from chapter 9: these Pharisees are not the true shepherds of Israel – they are thieves and robbers, ruling harshly over the flock, using the sheep for their own benefit, and having no meaningful relationship with them.  Ezekiel 34 refers to the false shepherds of Israel and, in exasperation, God says that he himself will become the Shepherd of his Flock and will rescue them, shepherding them with justice and kindness.  Jesus, in claiming to be the Good Shepherd is therefore knowingly claiming to fulfil Ezekiel’s prophecy and in so doing, he is claiming to be God himself!

Jewish shepherds knew their sheep by name and their sheep were familiar with their voice, and so followed willingly (in those days they followed and were not driven).  Jesus was the true, permanent shepherd, not a thief and not a hired man.  As such, he cares for us and is even prepared to die to save his flock!

Jesus is also the gate to the sheep pen, the only way to enter into the safe place of the pen.  Humanly speaking, Jesus is the only way that a person can be saved, and his intention is to give us a full and abundant life, as we entrust ourselves to him.  This life can come only by means of the Shepherd’s death and resurrection – and amazingly Jesus himself has the authority and power to lay down his life and to take it up again.  When later he dies on that cross, he is doing not only his Father’s will, but also his own too!

Who is represented by the ‘Other Sheep’ (v16)?  It seems clear to me that Jesus means the Gentiles – whom he has had virtually nothing to do with; theology that is later explained in Ephesians 2:11-22, and particularly verses 14-16.  There are not two universal churches, but just one, and it is only via that united church – that single flock – that Jesus will bring salvation to the world.  It also means that if orthodox Jews are still looking for their Messiah, there is only one place to find him!

The conversation about sheep continued a little while later at the Festival of Dedication (‘Hanukkah’) in Jerusalem.  The Jewish authorities wanted Jesus to ‘come out’ and declare himself as Messiah or to deny it.  Jesus pointed to the miracles that he was doing in his Father’s Name – as evidence – but made it clear that the authorities could not believe in Him, because they had not committed themselves to Jesus and his teaching.  (See John 8.)  Only Jesus’ own sheep know his voice – the voice of their Shepherd – and follow Him.

Another thing about Jesus’ flock: He gives them eternal life and they shall never perish – no-one can snatch them out of his protection.  That is a great source of comfort as a believer, to know that you are secure in the arms of God and that your salvation is assured, whatever circumstances may arise in the future.  For good measure, Jesus emphasizes that God the Father has given us to Jesus as a gift and that we are also in the Father’s protective hands.  This is not a contradiction as long we realize that Jesus and the Father are one ‘substance’ (but two persons).  Our eternal security is not dependent upon us keeping our grip on the Lord, but on his grip on us – which is a wonderful truth!  When my children were young, and held my hand to cross a dangerous road, they may have imagined that they were holding on to me, but ultimately, I was holding on to them!

At this point (vv31-33) the Jewish authorities were on the brink of stoning Jesus for “…blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God”.  In his own defence, he quoted part of Psalm 82: “I have said you are gods…”.  The whole Psalm is as follows:

God presides in the great assembly;
    he renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust
    and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
    They walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
    you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
    you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
    for all the nations are your inheritance.

This Psalm is describing a fascinating insight into the LORD’s Heavenly Council, where he divides up the world’s peoples amongst the supernatural angelic rulers in the heavenly realms.  Theologians speculate that this first occurred after the ‘Tower of Babel’ incident, when the world was divided up and its peoples fragmented by language, geography, and culture.  There is scriptural corroboration of this occurring in Daniel 10:20 (NIV) and in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (ESV).  The LORD is clearly rebuking the majority of these heavenly rulers for abusing their positions of authority and opposing the LORD himself.  There is the promise that God will take back his full inheritance from the nations.  But the point that Jesus was making in John 10:34-36 was that, if the LORD addresses these heavenly beings as ‘gods’, then it is quite legitimate that God’s own Son should be addressed as ‘God’ too.   

Jesus went on to tell these Jewish teachers that, if they wanted conclusive proof that he was the Son of God, then all the evidence needed was found by looking at his miraculous works:

37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.  38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father”. 

However, a decision about whether to follow Jesus are not made merely with the understanding – or else the vast majority of the Pharisees would have converted – it is a decision to submit one’s will and one’s whole life to the Lord of Lords.  Even Jesus himself has warned us to count the cost first!

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