2.13 John -- The Shepherd and his Flock
We discussed Jesus as the Lamb of God in John 1. In John 12:1-18, he calls himself the Good Shepherd. This term was used in the Old Testament about God Himself, or a ruler over Israel:
But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel (Gen 49:24).
"And the Lord said to you, 'You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler'" (2 Sam 5:2).
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want (Ps 23:1).
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock (Ps 80:1).
Jesus first calls himself "the gate" of the sheep pen:
"whoever enters by me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture" (Jn 10:9).
He contrasts himself with the thief who climbs into the pen, with the intention of stealing, killing, destroying. Neither is he the hired sheephand who runs away when the wolf attacks. Instead, he is the shepherd of the sheep:
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep" (Jn 10:14-16).
There is some explicit racial teaching in this chapter, once again unique to John:
"I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd" (Jn 10:16).
Only one verse, but of great importance. "This sheep pen" is also translated "fold" or "courtyard" and refers to his present hearers. A very narrow interpretation would be that there are other Jews in other cities that Jesus wants to include. But see Jn 11:52 (following section). The commonsense understanding would be that there are other future believers outside of Israel. "They will listen" indicates that they haven't yet heard his teachings. But the plan of God is to include them -- "I must bring them." The objective is to replace the dichotomy of the Old Covenant's holy Israel/rejected Gentiles with a new commonwealth that is focused on listening to the voice of the shepherd.
There are no details here -- how and when is this to be brought about? How will the Gentiles hear his voice? How are the foreign sheep to be brought together with Jews into one flock? Not important yet -- Jesus is laying down the foundations of his Kingdom on earth, and it is the work of the Spirit (after Jesus' ascension) to bring about the accomplishment of God's purpose. The important point here was for his hearers to grasp the vision, to understand God's intent, and to tune in to the voice of the shepherd. God would bring his plan about through the people who learned to know and follow the shepherd. Instead, many of his listeners preferred the words of his critics and enemies:
At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"
But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" (Jn 10:19-21).
This was really the point of his teaching, to winnow the wheat from the chaff, to make each person choose sides:
"He who is not with me is against me" (Mat 12:30).
His words were intentionally provocative. By their responses to his words, the people revealed whether they were part of his flock.