In this chapter, our Lord treats of the Parable of the good Shepherd (1–6). His hearers understood not its object or tendency (7). He then explains the parable, and applying it to Himself, He states that He is Himself the good Shepherd. He points out the characteristics or qualities of a good Shepherd, and contrasts him with selfish hirelings, who desert their flocks at the first approach of danger (7–15).
He conveys that He is Himself prepared, at His Father’s command, to give His life freely for His flock (15–19).
He reproaches the Jews with refusing to believe in Him, notwithstanding the evidence of works proving His Divinity (19–25).
He asserts His identity with His Father (30). The Jews understanding Him correctly to claim equality with God, threaten to stone Him as a blasphemer. Our Lord confirms this impression, as it was correct on the part of the Jews, by several arguments, and repeats His claim to be regarded as the Eternal Son of God, consubstantial with the Father (31–38).
By an exercise of His Almighty power, He escapes from them and crosses the Jordan into Pærea, where He remained for some time (39–42).
1 AMEN, amen, I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber.
“Amen, amen.” The repetition of the word, “Amen,” when prefixed by our Lord to any assertion, conveys the most solemn asseveration.
“I say unto you, he that entereth,” etc. This parable of the sheepfold, etc., was uttered by our Lord, in connexion with the preceding, including the cure of the blind man, as appears from v. 19.
Some, however, hold that some interval elapsed between what is recorded here and the preceding. But, the words “Amen, amen,” with which the present account commences, would show, that He is not entering on a new subject, as these words are not employed for the commencement of a discourse, and the whole discourse looks like a continuation of what goes before.
Some Expositors, therefore, maintain, that this tenth chapter should begin at v. 19 of c. 9. “For judgment am I come unto the world.” The division of chapters was made, not by the Evangelist; but, by Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caso, about the middle of the 13th century.
The casting out of the man, cured by our Lord, from their place of meeting, possibly, the Synagogue of the Jews (c. 9. v. 34), with the view of showing that our Lord was a false teacher—He and all His followers having been cast out from the Jewish Church, apostates from the Jewish religion, placed outside the Synagogue or true assembly of God’s people—gave occasion to this parable of the sheepfold.
In it, our Lord wishes to convey, the opposite of what they thought, viz., that far from being a false Prophet, in consequence of His exclusion from the Synagogue, He was, on the contrary, on the way into the sheepfold—the authority of the Synagogue being now abolished—and as the Scribes and Pharisees refused to enter into His sheepfold, they were rejected and reprobated by God. The parable continues up to v. 11, and there our Lord Himself makes the application.
“He that entereth not by the door,” that is, the passage open for all who have no sinister design in entering “into the sheepfold,” “climbeth up another way,” whether through a window or any breach in the wall of the enclosure, “the same is a thief,” whose only object is to steal away the sheep privately and unobserved, “and a robber,” whose object is to carry them off forcibly, “to kill and destroy them.” The sheepfold was open above; it was made of hurdles and wicker work. He enters not by the door, who enters not by Christ, the door of the Church, and possessing no legitimate delegation from God, assumes an office to which he is not called by God, like Aaron. Our Lord alludes to such men as Theodas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:36, 37), who claimed to be regarded as the Messias. He also refers to the Pharisees, who were opposing Him and turning away the people from Him. In a word, He refers to all who undertook, unsent, to guide the people, like those referred to by Jeremias, c. 23:21: “I did not send Prophets, yet, they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet, they prophesied.”
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
“He that entereth by the door is the shepherd,” etc. His entering by the door is a proof that He is the owner, who has a right to go in and go out, on His legitimate business, in caring and looking after the flock.
Christ, who is the door, enters through Himself into the sheepfold. It is by His authority, all others legitimately enter into it. Moreover, as our Lord has two natures, Christ, as man, enters through Himself, as God; although, in the literal sense, the door and the Pastor are different. In the application, they are the same thing, “Intrat per Christum, tanquam ostium, qui in illum credit; et qui illum in regimine fidelium imitatur.”—(St. Augustine.)
3 To him the porter openeth: and the sheep hear his voice. And he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out.
“The porter,” designates the man appointed to guard the entrance, to admit all having a claim, and exclude intruders. This true Pastor knows all His sheep, and has a different name for each. The sheep “hear,” that is, recognise “His voice,” His peculiar tone or whistle, leaving their pasture to follow Him; so do the faithful, recognising the voice of Christ, receive His doctrines and obey His precepts.
“He calleth His own sheep by name,” taking special care of each, and attending to their individual wants. So does Christ by Himself, and also through the pastors of His Church, specially attend to the spiritual wants and necessities of each member of His flock.
“The porter,” means the Holy Ghost, who opens the door into the Church to Christ, giving Him authority, by the wonderful works wrought through Him, as also by the descent on Him at Baptism. The same Holy Ghost, it is, that places other pastors over the Church. “Quos posuit Spiritus Sanctus, Episcopos, regere Ecclesiam Dei.” (Acts 20:28)
4 And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.
“The sheep follow Him.” The contrary usage prevails in the West; the shepherd follows the sheep and drives them before him. In the EAST, the shepherd precedes them. Here, it is meant to point out the care which the pastors of the Church should show in protecting their flocks from the inroads of wolves, and guarding them against all dangers. There is allusion also to their holding out before them the light and guidance of a good example.
5 But a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.
The sheep “know not,” the peculiar tone of “voice,” nor the whistling “of strangers.” The true faithful shun those, who deliver doctrines or precepts different from what had been pointed out to them by the voice of their true pastors, whom they recognise as inculcating doctrines and precepts that emanate from God.
6 This proverb Jesus spoke to them. But they understood not what he spoke.
“The proverb.” It may be called a “parable,” which is longer than a “proverb.” By a “proverb,” is meant a trite, short, pithy sentence, expressing some well-known truth, or some common fact, ascertained from experience. The three other Evangelists call such, “parables.” St. John, “proverbs.” The Greek word for “parable” only occurs in the three first Evangelists. St. John, in every instance, terms such illustrations not παραβολαιʼ (parables); but, παρομιαι (proverbs). The Hebrew for both is the same, Marshah. Hence, the Septuagint translators of the Book of Solomon, translate the word, at one time, parable; at another, proverb. Both words are often interchanged and used as convertible terms. The proverb is but a condensed parable; the essence and substance of a parable.
“They understood not what He spoke.” They understood well the familiar allusions literally contained in the parable, as these were drawn from common life, regarding sheep, shepherds and sheepfolds, well known to them. But, the scope and tendency of the parable, or what it was meant to illustrate, they understood not, and this our Lord, very probably, intended, so as to avoid rousing their anger too soon against Him, as “His hour had not yet come.” The foregoing is the parable in its literal sense, containing, like almost all parables, several ornamental parts not meant to illustrate the principal subject for elucidation; and although our Lord applies its most prominent parts in the following verses 7–10; there are, still, several parts, the mystical or spiritual meaning of which is left to be explained by others. On these points, Commentators hold different opinions. Our Redeemer only explains the sense or principal part of the parable; viz., that He Himself is the door; and that no one can be saved except through Him. He Himself explains v. 7, states who or what is meant by “the door.”
7 Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
In the most solemn way, “Amen, amen,” He assures them, that He Himself is “the door of the sheep,” that it is only by faith in Him, as the Eternal, consubstantial Son of God, sent into the world to save sinners, man can be justified. “No other name under Heaven whereby man can be saved” (Acts 4:12). He employs the similitude of the pastor to convey that all others are mercenaries, seeking themselves, and not their flocks, like Him whom alone, therefore, they should follow.
8 All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers: and the sheep heard them not.
“All OTHERS, as many as have come,” of themselves, unsent by Me, not in connexion with Me or subordinate to Me, affecting to be duly commissioned.
“Are thieves and robbers.” The Prophets of old, who were sent, and entered the fold through Christ’s future merits, are not, therefore, referred to.
He also, very probably, refers to those who came, claiming to be the Pastor—the Messias or Christ so long expected—such as Theodas, Simon Magus, etc. This interpretation derives probability from our Lord, calling Himself “the Pastor” (ὅ ποιμην) (v. 14). In this sense only, could it be said, that, “the others” were “thieves,” etc., since the true Prophet did not claim to be the Pastor or Messias. Hence, He speaks of those (the false Prophets) who pretended to be sent by God, as the Messias. He would seem to note specially the Pharisees, etc., who, seeing the mark of the Messiah in Christ, rejected Him, and taking upon themselves to govern the people, burst into the fold in His own time. The word, “are,” gives this interpretation great probability.
“And the sheep heard them not.” The pious and humble portion of the Jewish nation, “did not hear them,” or embrace their teachings. If they followed them, they would cease to belong to Christ’s sheepfold.
9 I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in and go out, and shall find pastures.
“He shall be saved,” by entering through Me and by faith in Me, it being understood that he shall persevere in performing everything necessary, good works, etc.
“And he shall go in, and go out,” not go out from the Church; but, to find pastures without any fear, under my guidance, as Shepherd. Or, it may mean: shall, freely, and with all confidence and a sense of security, discharge the duties assigned to him.
“And shall find pastures,” the pastures and spiritual nourishment of true, sound doctrine. It is disputed among Commentators whether this refers to the sheep or to the Pastors. It is in favour of the former, that it is the sheep, that are saved, the Pastor, that saves.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal and to kill and to destroy. I am come that they may have life and may have it more abundantly.
“The thief,” who does not enter by the door, but privately steals in, the Heretic, the Schismatic, the Scribe and Pharisee, the false Christ, “come not, but to steal,” the flock from Christ and the Church; to carry them off to the synagogue of Satan, and thus “kill” their souls—“and destroy them,” in the everlasting torments which await them. This they, doubtless, do for the selfish purposes of securing pelf and self aggrandizement. My object in coming is, not only that they may have life, bare existence; but also, that they have what is required to make that life supereminently happy, viz., “have it more abundantly,” or superabundantly, that is, have an abundance of heavenly gifts and graces, which stimulate men to perform acts of heroic merit; and, as a reward, an abundance of glory hereafter, in the kingdom of everlasting bliss, and at the final resurrection.