Jesus deemed the pharisees guilty of sin as they were not blind but refused to change their ways. An argument between Jesus and the pharisees ensued ending up with Jesus revealing another aspect of His identity by comparing himself to a shepherd. Parables of Jesus, though rare in John, are frequently quoted by the other gospel authors. They were simple analogies surrounding everyday objects to reveal the secrets of heaven to both the followers and critics of Jesus. The parable of the Good Shepherd is unique to the gospel of John, though parts of it are inferred in another parable.
Parable of the Good Shepherd
Jesus compares the pharisees to robbers who come in the night to steal (Nicodemus, the pharisee who had earlier gone to Jesus came after dark). They steal the sheep that is not theirs and destroy the pen that they did not build. They have no intention to nurture the sheep but want to profit from the hard work of someone else. The rightful owner of the sheep enters through the main gate. The sheep answer to His voice as He leads them to green pastures. David in his psalms calls God as his Shepherd (Psalm 23). But the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23) wrote about another type of shepherd.
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD.Jeremiah 23:1-2
God warns us about wolves in the shepherd’s clothing. People, who act like they are working for the kingdom of God but satan is using them to scatter the sheep. The pharisees had burdened the Jews with laws and traditions and lifted not even a finger to help them. People like those are thieves who try to undo the work that God has done in our lives.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.John 10:11-12
Jesus would lay His life for us, something that the hired hand will never do for the sheep. He is the only one who truly understands and loves us. The hired hand are people that God has put in charge of His flock for a while. These can be the old testament prophets and judges, the apostles from the new testament or priests and leaders from our church. However, all these are mere mortals and cannot compare to Christ or the love He has for us. Christ loved us so much that He left His throne to come to this sinful world and was separated from His Father on the cross. We as humans, inherently look out for ourselves or our near and dear ones. It is different for Christ as we all belong to Him and he lays down His life to save us from eternal death.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.John 10:16
What we must understand is that Christ did not die for a chosen few but for all His creation. Everyone is called by Christ at some point in their lives, no matter their age, colour or religion. Christ is actively working in all our lives and not just in the lives of those who call him by name. He cares for His other sheep as much as He cares for the one in the pen with Him. The Jews who heard Him speak called Him demon-possessed but there were some who refused to be swayed by them and believed in His name.
Festival of Dedication
Jesus was in Jerusalem for another annual Jewish festival, the Festival of Dedication or Hanukkah as it is known today. The day commemorated the re-dedication of the temple after Antiochus IV defiled it as prophecised by prophet Daniel and about whom it is written in the book of the Maccabees. It was the middle of winter and as Jesus was walking in Solomon’s colonnade to find rest from the cold weather, He was bombarded with the same questions as the Jews surrounded Him.
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”John 10:24
The Jewish leaders were building their case against Jesus. They tried to frame Him for inciting an insurrection against the Roman government but were unsuccessful. They now were trying to convince the Jews that Jesus should be stoned for blasphemy, for which the Roman government did not award the death penalty but something that would bring the wrath of their countrymen and probably result in an unsanctioned public execution.
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.John 10:25-26
The Jews were restless and were just itching to stone Jesus. When Jesus again called God His father they picked up stones and claimed that they were stoning Him for blasphemy because He was a mere man claiming to be God. Jesus again quoted from the scriptures written by Israel’s greatest ‘hero’, the mortal David. The pharisees claimed to know the scriptures end to end but did not understand the words that they had been taught since their youth. By quoting a passage from the book of Psalms, Jesus is making the pharisees realize their hypocrisy in not condemning the scriptures when it compared human rulers to gods but were ready to stone the Son of God for simply identifying Himself.
Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.John 10:39
Till that time He could easily evade them as His time had not yet come. Jesus came to die but according to the will and times set by His Father and not on the whims and fancies of the Jewish leaders. Leaving Jerusalem, Jesus went back to the other side of Jordan, where John preached and baptized during his early days, away from the watchful eyes of the temple leaders. But this encounter with the pharisees and seeing how Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth, caused many to put their faith in Him. He is always at work gathering the sheep to bring back to His Father’s Pen.
- V1: How are the pharisees similar to thieves and robbers?
- V12: Who are the hired hands?
- V16: Who are the other sheep?
- V24: Why did the Jews keep asking the same question over and over again?
- V35: Why does Jesus quote David calling mortals ‘gods’?