3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 10

Contents

Chapter 10: The Voice of the Shepherd

Door-of-the-SheepfoldThis is part 10 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

In this chapter, Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd talking to his sheep to illustrate his point. Much as been said over the centuries about the fact that shepherds really do this and it really works… but we won’t be discussing that. We’re just looking at the See/Hear/Believe theme.

He opens the chapter talking about those who know his voice and follow it, Goes on to describe those who come “to steal, kill and destroy”, and would abandon the flock in a crisis. In the end of the chapter the Jewish leaders in the audience fulfil the description of the usurpers, proving Jesus’ sayings to be authoritative.


REVIEWING THE TEXT – CHAPTER 10

Those who have been following this Bible study series will have no trouble spotting our “hearing” motif in the first section of John 10:

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

– John 10:1-6

Why did they “not understand what he was saying to them”?

Many times through the Gospel of John the disciples are clueless in the moment, but will later understand. A clear and classic example is John 2:22, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

So then, there are smatterings of comprehension by the disciples and some others throughout Jesus’ ministry as people come to believe. But it is Jesus’ Resurrection that provides the final key to understanding his words. Of course, one cannot comprehend the Resurrection in the first place without having heard, as we discussed in Week 3 of the series. Jesus said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

… and who would the “stranger” be, in Jesus’ metaphor?

All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.

– John 10:8

The stranger is the religious leaders who “came before me and the sheep did not listen to them”. Jesus goes on to say, “I have other sheep…”, which is a reference to the lost and scattered Israelites (who ‘did not listen’ to the Jewish authorities), and of course, all who will hear his voice and follow him, including Gentiles.

The Good Shepherd

In a classic, “I am” statement (these are worth a separate study on their own, but that’s been done endlessly and it falls outside our present line of enquiry), “Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd”. He is making the clear distinction between himself and those, “who came before me”.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”

– John 10:11-15

Although this passage has not mentioned “hear my voice” yet, the references to “my own know me” are clearly drawing on what Jesus said above about those who hear his voice. In the next breath he makes the connection explicit:

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

– John 10:16

The crowds were muttering among themselves, but what was the measure by which they figured out he was not demonic? It was first his words, and then his miraculous sign:

These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?

– John 10:21

Next, in preparation for the Jews rejecting him, Jesus combines all of the hear/see/believe concepts in one tight little passage:

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep”. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

– John 10:24-27

Hopefully by now, at week 10 of our study, it is getting easy to see these themes. In the above passage the Jews have seen the “signs” (remember – this is what they always ask for), and they also have been told by Jesus himself. They don’t believe. They aren’t his sheep.

An irony here is that although the Jews effectively reject Jesus, it is obvious that in fact, he has rejected them on the grounds that they refuse to listen. Not that he pushes them away, but he effectively announces the fact that they are on the outside of the “flock”.

He even invites the Jews to assess him on their own terms: “signs”, or “the works of my father”, as Jesus displayed in the previous chapter by curing blindness.

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

– John 10:37-39

Finally, as is often the case, the crowds understand what the Jewish authorities could not. Not only do they believe in Jesus, but they recognise that John, a man who performed no miracles, spoke truly about Jesus… so even in the case of John it is all about what he said, not what he did. His testimony was true.

Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

– John 10:41-42

 


Questions to Ponder from Chapter 10

Have you heard his voice?

Who are the “thieves” (V1,7, 10), and who are the “hired hands”(v12-13), and who is the “wolf”(v12)?

What is the “everything John said about this man” (v41)?


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