We are continuing our study of the Fourth Gospel, we are working our way through chapter 10, which deals with the sheep/shepherd imagery. We are about half way through this book, but we are nearing the end of Yeshua's public ministry. In the life of Yeshua we're three months from the end. Because the last half of the Gospel of John is devoted to events that take place, for the most part, in the last week of His life.
The literary structure of verses 22-39 of chapter 10 is built around two basic questions dealing with the identity of Yeshua. Verse 24 asks whether Yeshua is the Messiah. Verses 25-30 contain Yeshua's response. Verse 33 raises the question of whether Yeshua makes Himself to be God. Verses 34-38 present Yeshua's answer to that question. Verses 40-42 provide Lazarus' summary to this section of Yeshua's ministry. This section is strongly Christological and focuses on Yeshua's deity.
In verses 22-30 the subject matter is the same as verses 1-21, it is about the Good Shepherd and His sheep. The subject is the same, but this is a different occasion, the Lord is back in Jerusalem, but it is now winter and the Feast of Dedication:
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; John 10:22 NASB
"At that time"—the time difference between verses 21 and 22 is about ten weeks. So it is now about ten weeks after the Feast of Tabernacles. Lazarus tells us that Yeshua came back down to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Dedication:
"Feast of the Dedication"—where in Scripture do we find this feast? We don't! It's not in the Jewish or Protestant canon, but you can find it in the Apocrypha. "Apocrypha" comes from the Greek word, which means: "things that are hidden, secret." "The Apocrypha" refers to two collections of ancient Jewish and Christian writings: the Old Testament Apocrypha, which are still viewed as canonical by some Christians, and the New Testament Apocrypha, which are not.
The Old Testament Apocrypha is a collection of Jewish books that are included in the Old Testament canons of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, but not of Protestants. Most of the books were composed in Hebrew prior to the Christian era, but they apparently never were accepted by the Jews as part of the Hebrew canon. They were eventually included in Christian copies of the Greek Old Testament and, later, the Latin Vulgate. The Protestant Reformers, while affirming the unique authority of the Hebrew canon, allowed that the books of the Apocrypha were useful for reading. Over time, however, the Apocrypha has fallen into disuse among Protestants.
The Apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees outline the history of the Maccabees, Jewish leaders who led a rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucid Dynasty from 175 BC to 134 BC. The first book portrays the effort by the Jews to regain their cultural and religious independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes after his desecration of the Jewish Temple.
1 Maccabees 4 tells us about the establishment of the feast of dedication:
There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed. 59 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev. 60 At that time they fortified Mount Zion with high walls and strong towers all around, to keep the Gentiles from coming and trampling them down as they had done before. 1 Maccabees 4:58-60 NRSV
Hall Harris writes, "The Greek name for the Feast literally means 'renewal' and was used to translate Hanukkah, which means 'dedication.' The Greek noun, with its related verbs, was the standard term used in the LXX for the consecration of the altar of the Tabernacle (Num 7:10-11), the altar of the Temple of Solomon (I Kgs 8:63; 2 Chr 7:5), and the altar of the Second Temple (Ezra 6:16). The word is thus connected with the consecration of all the houses of God in the history of the nation of Israel."
So the Jews instituted this feast during the inter-testamental period. The Feast of Dedication, known by the Hebrew word for dedication "Chanukah" [also as Hanukkah] is celebrated in our month of December. It was a national feast instituted by the people. It was instituted by the great military leader Judas Maccabeus to celebrate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164BC after the Syrian invader Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) had profaned the Temple, three years earlier, by replacing the brazen altar with a pagan one, on which he offered a pig as a sacrifice to Jupiter. Antiochus attempted to Hellenize Judea, but the Jewish patriot Judas Maccabeus ("Judas the Hammer") was able to lead a guerilla revolt that has borne his name ever since. After three years he defeated the Syrians and liberated the Jews.
Antiochus Epiphanes, means: "Antiochus the supreme one," but the people changed one letter and called him Antiochus Epimanes, which means: "The Madman."
According to the Talmud [Megillat Taanit 9] a miracle took place in the rebuilding of the alter. It took 8 days to rebuild the altar and during that time the one vial of consecrated olive that was found provided a continuous supply of oil to light the golden Menorah until the priests could return to the Temple with more oil 8 days later. Therefore, this feast was celebrated with lights.
From a historical standpoint, it was the last great deliverance the Jewish people had experienced, and it came at a time when least expected. Josephus ends his account of the institution of the festival with the following statement: "And from that time to the present we observe this festival, which we call the festival of Lights, giving this name to it, I think, from the fact that the right to worship appeared to us at a time when we hardly dared hope for it."
This feast was also called the Feast of Lights, because of the lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes to celebrate the Feast. Both the use of lights and the joyousness of the occasion caused it to be compared with the Feast of Tabernacles; in fact, it was called "a Feast of Tabernacles in the month Kislev" (2 Macc. 1:9). Unlike Tabernacles, however, it could be celebrated at home.
Since this feast also celebrated freedom from foreign oppression, Jews in the first century AD, suffering under the domination of the Romans, naturally were consumed with thoughts of national deliverance. And it may well be that Lazarus records this here in order for us to gain the distinct impression that true deliverance comes from the Messiah, the Lord Yeshua the Christ. Lazarus , who loves symbolism, may want us to see that Yeshua fulfills all that this feast stands for. He is the new Temple (2:19). Just as God delivered His people under the Maccabeans, so He delivers His people under Yeshua.
it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. John 10:23 NASB
"It was winter"—because "it was winter," Yeshua taught what follows in Solomon's portico:
"Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon"—Yeshua has gone to the Temple to teach. He is walking up and down in the portico of Solomon, a colonnade on the eastern side of the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple complex. It was a roofed structure supported on columns or pillars, and would have given shelter from the wind in the winter weather. According to the 1st century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, the people believed this porch was all that remained from Solomon's original Temple destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC ("Antiquities of the Jews," 1511.3; 20.9.7; Jewish Wars 5.5.1).
The portico formed the boundary of the Temple precincts and in Acts 3:11 it is the area where Peter and John are standing with the crippled man they have healed.
The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." John 10:24 NASB
How long will you keep us in suspense?—The Jews were not seeking for clarity in order to worship Him. The reason the Jews wanted Yeshua to make His claim clear, here, appears to have been so they could accuse and eventually kill Him. The Jews' are clearly antagonistic.
Yeshua had often alluded to being the Messiah when He spoke publicly to the Jews. But not once in public discourse in a Jewish context had He explicitly declared Himself to be the Messiah. But He did in private conversation with the Samaritan woman:
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Yeshua said to her, "I who speak to you am He." John 4:25-26 NASB
Yeshua identified Himself to this woman as the Messiah, whom she hoped for. This is the only time that Yeshua clearly identified Himself as the Messiah before His trial. Yeshua did not reveal Himself to the Jews as the Messiah because of their identification of Messiah to mean someone who would come and exercise military and political power. And that was not what true Messiahship was about. That was not what Yeshua had come to achieve. So at this feast that celebrated a military victory over a foreign overlord, Yeshua refused to fit into their wrong categories and accommodate Himself to their false assumptions.
Earlier when Yeshua said, "Before Abraham was, I Am." They picked up stones to throw at Him, they wanted Him dead. They knew exactly who He claimed to be. But again, this is all pretense to extract what they deem as a blasphemous declaration so they can stone Him to death.
Yeshua answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. John 10:25 NASB
"I told you, and you do not believe"—He did not give them a definitive answer to their question: "Are you the Messiah?" Because He knew that that statement will be the final seal to His death sentence. and He still needs a little more time. But He did tell them in a figure of speech about the door and the good shepherd.
He had told them that He was the one who (like Isaiah 53) lays down His life. The one who has supernatural authority to take back His own life from death. The one who is gathering His sheep to live forever in His presence. He had told them, but they cannot hear. This brings up again the reoccurring theme of "listening" to the voice of Yeshua, which is the command of Yahweh in Deuteronomy 18:
'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 'It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NASB
They saw the miracles that Yeshua did, they viewed Him in some sense at least to be a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18, but yet they still did not listen to His words.
Yeshua didn't say out right to the Jews, "I am Messiah," but He had pointed at it in many other ways. For someone with ears to hear Yeshua has made many clear claims about His identity. Notice what He said in:
But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. John 5:17-18 NASB
The Jews clearly understood that He was making Himself equal with God. Yeshua also told them:
so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:23 NASB
Over and over Yeshua claimed to be Yahweh. He does it all through this text. He insists that He is to be worshiped in the same way Yahweh is. He is to be honored, praised, adored, respected, trusted, obeyed in the same way as God the Father:
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:38-39 NASB
He claims to have come down from heaven and have the power to resurrect the dead.
Over and over again, He has made statements which make it clear that He is claiming to be the Messiah. I think it is safe to say that our Lord has been more than clear in His claims to be Messiah. It is the blindness of the Jewish leadership that prevents them from recognizing Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of David.
Not only had he told them who He was, He also showed them, "The works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me"—not only could the Jews not hear or understand what Yeshua was saying, they couldn't see the evidence that was before them. Yeshua was continually performing miracles in their midst. It was these miracles that caused Nicodemus to recognize that Yeshua had come from God:
this man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2 NASB
Yeshua makes the claim to be God and then backs it up with a public display of supernatural power. Yeshua claims to be God and supports that claim with public miracles. So the miracles that are described in the Fourth Gospel are not simply described in order to show that our Lord possesses supernatural power. The miracles were the authenticating signs of His deity and His Messiahship.
In John chapter 5 Yeshua heals the lame man. Yeshua speaks and immediately the man becomes well. Thirty eight years of disability healed in an instant. The prophets had predicted that when Messiah came, He would heal the lame, Isaiah 35:5-6. Here was proof—for all Jerusalem to see—that Messiah had appeared. And they say, "Tell us plainly."
In chapter 9 Yeshua says:
"While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." John 9:5 NASB
And then He gives sight to a man who was blind from birth. One of the signs of the coming of the Messiah would be that He would open the eyes of blind:
On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Isaiah 29:18 NASB
And the Jews say, "Tell us plainly." It really can't get any clearer, but people who are spiritually blind just can't see it. But these signs did cause Yeshua's sheep to believe:
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. John 2:23 NASB
So why didn't all these miraculous signs cause all the Jews to believe? They knew the prophecies of Messiah, and they saw Yeshua fulfilling them right in front of them. Why didn't they believe? Yeshua tells us, but many don't like His answer:
"But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. John 10:26 NASB
Here Yeshua returns to the sheep/shepherd metaphor of verses 1-18. Sheep follow the shepherd; the Jews refuse to follow Yeshua because they are not His sheep (10:3, 4, 5, and 16).
"When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:4 NASB
Here He says His "own sheep" follow Him because they know His voice. The Jews will not follow Yeshua because they don't know His voice because they are not His sheep.
"But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. John 10:26 NASB
The ultimate reason they did not understand Yeshua was that they were "not of" His "sheep." To many, who are arminian in their soteriology, this is offensive. Yeshua was telling His listeners that He had not called them. They had not been given to Him by the Father. They did not belong to His flock. So their unbelief was no surprise. And the reality is this: You can't come to God unless God calls you. Yeshua was emphasizing their inability to believe. We saw the same thing back in 6:43-44, where speaking to His unbelieving opponents Yeshua said:
Yeshua answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:43-44 NASB
In case they missed it, He says it again:
And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:65 NASB
Over and over Yeshua emphasized to unbelievers their inability to believe in Him. Why would He do that? To demonstrate man's total inability to come to God:
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; John 10:27 NASB
Yeshua repeats what He had taught earlier in this chapter: His sheep listen to His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him. They follow Him because they are His sheep:
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. John 10:28 NASB
"I give eternal life to them"—this is another claim to deity. No one but God can give eternal life. Notice that He doesn't say, "They have earned eternal life." Eternal life is a gift. We do not earn it. We do not deserve it. It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, that we are saved. As Paul puts it in Romans chapter 4:
Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:4-5 NASB
So, we do not earn eternal life. We do not deserve eternal life. If man can in some way save himself then the coming of the Lord Yeshua was not necessary.
If Christ gives us life, what does that imply? That means we didn't have life, spiritual life. That means we were dead, spiritually dead. Think about this; it is only those who have spiritual life can communicate with those who have spiritual life. There is a barrier between the spiritual life that we possess as a gift from Yeshua Christ and the natural life that we possess by reason of the relationship of our mother and father.
"They will never perish"—what does it say will not happen to His sheep? They "will never perish." It doesn't say, they won't go to hell, or they won't suffer throughout eternity. It says they will not perish. See John 3:16 for a study on the word perish. The clear contrast here is "perish" and "eternal life." Those who trust in Christ don't perish. The construction of the Greek clause "they shall never perish," literally it reads, "they will indeed not ever perish." It is an especially strengthened expression. You couldn't emphasize it more in the Greek if you tried. Yeshua had previously said that part of the task, that the Father had given Him to do, was to preserve all those whom the Father gave Him (6:37-40).
A question that is frequently asked is, Can a Christian loose their salvation? If a person receives eternal life from the Lord, and then later at some point looses that eternal life, Yeshua could never have said, "They will never perish." Luther once said, "If we perish, Christ perisheth with us." It is impossible for His sheep to ever "perish." Our eternal salvation rests in God's eternal decree. We will live forever because God chose us to live forever. Our ultimate security rests with the Good Shepherd: "No one will snatch them out of My hand"— over and over Yeshua has asserted His deity, He is the sovereign Lord of the universe and in His hand His sheep are safe.
"My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:29 NASB
"My Father, who has given them to Me"—how does anyone get to be one of Yeshua's sheep? The Father has to give the sheep to Yeshua. He said the same thing in 6:37: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me…." He says it again in 6:39: "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing…" In His high priestly prayer in chapter 17, Yeshua repeatedly refers to those whom the Father gave Him (17:2, 6, 9, 24; 18:9).
"My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all"—this opening phrase has several different readings in the Greek manuscripts. Many of them have as we see here in the NASB, "My Father who has given them me, is greater than all." But several of the older manuscripts have something like this, "That which my Father has given me is greater than all." As you can see there is quite a difference in meaning. In one case we are speaking about the Father and the fact that He is greater than all. In the second case it is what the Father has given that is greater than all. Big difference! Scholars claim that the older manuscripts have stronger textual support. They have that second type of reading, which is probably the better reading.
NRSV "What my Father has given Me is greater than all else"
TEV "What my Father has given Me is greater than everything"
NJB "The Father, for what He has given Me, is greater than anyone"
So if the older reading is true then what He is saying is that the body of Christ, the church, the flock of God is greater than all. Yeshua is declaring how precious His sheep really are to Him. They are "greater than all." It is so great that He gave His life for it:
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28 NASB
That is the greatness of the body of Christ, the great regard that the Father and Son has for the sheep guarantees that the shepherd will do all that he can to preserve them.
"No one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand"—Yeshua just said "No one can snatch them out of my hand." And then to strengthen the idea of security He says, "No one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." So when the Father gives His sheep into the omnipotent hand of the Son, they are still in His hand.
In verse 12 Yeshua said that wolves would attack His flock, and the word He used for "attack" there is the same word that is translated "snatch" here. This is one of the clearest promises of the eternal security of the believer that God has given us in His Word. Concerning our text, A. W. Pink says, "No stronger passage in all the Word of God can be found guaranteeing the absolute security of every child of God." [monergism.com]
Paul put it this way in Romans:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Yeshua our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NASB
This is security! Our salvation is eternally secure; God is for us! Nothing can separate us from His love. Our salvation is ultimately due to God's faithfulness, not ours.
Another term for eternal security would be what Calvinist call the, "Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints." This is one of the five points of Calvinism. The acronym —Tulip—is used for the five points of Calvinism. It stands for: "Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints."
When someone says that they believe in the perseverance of the saints, you have to find out what they mean by that, because this doctrine is interpreted in two different ways:
View 1. A true Christian will never fall away, but will live a life of holiness and obedience. They will always persevere in holiness, they will always live a holy life.
View 2. The other interpretation, which I hold to is basically that no one whom God has brought to a saving knowledge of Yeshua will ever be lost. The term "Perseverance of the saints," is to me synonymous with "eternal security." Spurgeon used to say, "It's not so much the perseverance of the saints that is prominent as it is the preservation of the saints by God."
The majority of Church goers do not understand that our salvation is not based upon what we do, but upon what Christ did. They think that their relationship with God is based upon their performance. They think that as long as they live "right" that God will not condemn them. This is a "works" system. To attempt to live the Christian life by works is to live under constant guilt and condemnation. But to understand that salvation is by grace through faith, and that we are absolutely secure because of Christ's work will bring great peace to your soul. Security is vital to peace.
If you think a person can loose their salvation, then you do not understand salvation. And you certainly don't understand what we have studied so far in this Fourth Gospel. Yeshua makes it clear that the salvation and security of the sheep are not the result of the sheep's efforts, but rather the sovereign will and working of God. Our salvation is dependant upon the choice of the Father in eternity past. He chose out the mass of humanity a people to give to His Son. The only ones who believe in the Son are the ones the Father has given Him. The Son dies for the salvation of the sheep that the Father gave Him. And all the sheep that the Father has given to the Son will believe in the Son and be given eternal life, they will never perish. The elect sheep are kept safe in the hands of the Father and the Son. It is the sovereignty of God which assures our salvation. No one overrules His will. No one overpowers Him. No one nullifies what He has achieved. No one takes away those He has purchased. Our God is sovereign and our salvation is secure.
"I and the Father are one." John 10:30 NASB
For the third time Yeshua declares that He and the Father are one! He has made this same claim in John 5:17 and 8:58. Yeshua is claiming unity and equality with the Godhead.
Some commentators say that Yeshua only means that He and the Father are united in their resolve to keep all the sheep. They are united in that, but that view doesn't take into account the Jews' reaction:
The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Yeshua answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." John 10:31-33 NASB
They got the point: They probably understood this as an allusion to Deuteronomy 6:4 and a claim to divinity. Yeshua was claiming to be one with the Father in His divine essence.
When Yeshua said, "I and the Father are one," He did not mean that He and the Father were the same person of the Godhead. Yeshua is one in substance with the Father as far as divine essence or nature is concerned, but the Father and the Son are distinct Persons.
Augustine wrote, "Listen to the Son himself, 'I and the Father are one.' He did not say, 'I am the Father' or 'I and the Father are one [Person].' But when he says 'I and the Father are one,' notice the two words 'we are' and 'one'.. for if they are one, then they are not diverse; if 'we are', then there is both a Father and a Son. (In Ioannis Evangelius- The Gospel of John, 36,9).
The Jews had asked Yeshua for a "plain" statement about His messiahship. Yeshua gave them far more: a claim that He and the Father were one. The Jews understood this as a claim to deity and said, "You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." Verses 34-38 gives us Yeshua's defense of His claim to be God.