Last week we began studying chapter 10 of the Fourth Gospel. As I said last week, this is not a good place for a chapter break, chapters 9 and 10 are connected. In chapter 9 John records the healing of the man born blind, and then he records the circumstances by which the man born blind came to understand the person and work of Yeshua the Christ. The blind man was first healed physically and then was healed spiritually and he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped the Lord Yeshua. Because of this, he was cast out of the synagogue.
Chapter 10 allegorically and symbolically pictures what happened to the blind man when he was cast out of the synagogue and came into fellowship with Yeshua. So, what is historically set out in John chapter 9 is symbolically and allegorically set out under the figure of the shepherd and the sheep in John chapter 10., which symbolically pictures the deliverance of the blind man from the false shepherds; the Jewish religious leaders of the time. The leaders of the religious life in the land were for the most part unbelievers. There were a few exceptions like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who came to faith in Yeshua, but for the most part the nation was unbelieving and ultimately was responsible for Yeshua's crucifixion.
As we saw in our last study John 10 really draws on the shepherd imagery which must be understood in the light of passages in the Tanakh that criticize Israel's shepherds who have failed in their duty and promises a coming good Shepherd. Last week we looked at Ezekiel 34, which is no doubt the background of John 10. This morning let's look at Jeremiah, which also gives us background for John 10:
"Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: "You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds," declares the LORD. "Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. "I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD. "Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.' Jeremiah 23:1-6 NASB
The religious leaders were familiar with this passage. They knew that the Branch, the Messiah, was coming to save Judah. And they knew that the miraculous works that Yeshua did, such as healing the blind, were things that only Messiah could do. But they still didn't get it; they were themselves blind as Yeshua has said:
And Yeshua said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." John 9:39 NASB
The religious leaders who could see physically were blind spiritually. So Yeshua illustrates what had just happened to the blind man by using a familiar story of sheep and a shepherd, and they still don't get it:
This figure of speech Yeshua spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. John 10:6 NASB
The Pharisees who were our Lord's audience still don't get it. But how can they, they are not His sheep. In response to the lack of understanding by His audience, Yeshua goes on. His remarks do not constitute an explanation of what He has previously said so much as an expansion.
In verses 7-18, Yeshua shifts from the third person ("the one who," "He," "Him," "His") to the first person singular ("I," "Me"). He makes it very clear from here on that He is speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd. Yeshua describes Himself in verses 7-10 as the door of the sheep:
So Yeshua said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. John 10:7 NASB
There were several types of sheepfolds in use in Palestine. There were large sheepfolds for which a door-keeper was employed, and in which a number of shepherds kept their flocks. There were also small, one-shepherd sheepfolds, with no doorkeeper. In verses 1-5 He was talking about the large communal sheep pen, but now Yeshua moved from talking about the communal village sheep pen to the shelters that each shepherd constructed specifically for his own flock, which was either a cave or a fenced-in area with a gap in the fence. Once the sheep have been brought into the sheep pen for the night, the shepherd slept across the mouth of the cave or the gap in the fence so that no sheep can leave or predator enter without awaking him; he literally served as the door of the sheep pen.
"Truly, truly, I say to you"—His double "Amen" found in the initial position in a sentence is always used to draw our attention to something important. The NET Bible renders it, "I tell you the solemn truth…"
"I am the door of the sheep"—both here and in verse 9, Yeshua claims, I am the door. In vv. 1-5, Yeshua the shepherd enters the sheep pen through the door; here, He is the door. The "door of the sheep" is to be distinguished from the "door of the sheepfold" in v. 1. The latter was the Divinely appointed way by which Christ had entered Judaism. The "door of the sheep" was Christ Himself, by which the elect of Israel passed out of Judaism.
Yeshua uses seven metaphorical "I am" statements to define His role as Savior and Messiah. These sayings also carry strong overtones of being claims to divinity. "I AM" recalls the divine name revealed to Moses in the experience of the burning bush. He identifies Himself as the bread of life (vv. 35, 48, 51), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the door of the sheep (10:7, 9), the good shepherd (10:11, 14), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way and the truth and the life (14:6), and the true vine (15:1).
Lying down in the opening of the sheepfold the shepherd is the protector and saviour of the sheep; he himself is the door that prevents the entry of any wild animal seeking to destroy and eat the sheep, and provides access to all the sustenance needed for life.
G. Campbell Morgan tells of a conversation he had with Sir George Adam Smith, a scholar who had spent much time in the Near East. Smith told of meeting a shepherd there who showed him the fold where the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls with a way in. Smith asked, "That is where you go at night?" "Yes," the shepherd said, "and when the sheep are in there they are perfectly safe." "But there is no door," said Smith. "I am the door," the shepherd replied. He was not a Christian man, but rather an Arab shepherd. But he was using the same language that Yeshua used. He explained further, "When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door." (The Gospel According to John [Revell], p. 177)
Believer, Yeshua, the Door, stands between us and all that would destroy us in the spiritual sense. In addition Yeshua supplies us with everything we will ever need spiritually. He provides salvation, safety, and sustenance for all who enter through Him by faith.
In the Greek text there is an emphasis upon that personal pronoun, "I." "I am the door," almost as if He were saying, "Others who claim to be the door by which we enter into life are not true doors." "I (and I alone) am the door." And that is further stressed by the definite article, "The door." What Yeshua is saying is that He is the one and only, exclusive entry point, the only effective entry point, to salvation, spiritual security and eternal life. The whole of the Bible stresses the fact that there is only one way to eternal life. Peter put it this way:
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 NASB
Paul put it this way:
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Yeshua, 1 Timothy 2:5 NASB
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 1 John 5:11 NASB
Yeshua the door is the sole means by which the sheep may enter the safety of the fold or the pasture. The thought is the same as what Yeshua will say later in John's Gospel:
Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASB
Yeshua's claim to be the "door" renders invalid all other offers of spiritual life and salvation. The exclusive and judgmental nature of this claim is abhorrent in our humanistic, post-modern, post-Christian society, with its non-discriminatory, live and let live, all-roads-lead-to-god, all-religions-are-mere-human-inventions, mentality. It was equally offensive to the Pharisees . The church of Yeshua must not allow itself to be intimidated by the charge of exclusivism or discrimination.
"All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. John 10:8 NASB
"All who came before Me are thieves and robbers"—this does not refer to the prophets and men of God in the Old Covenant. Yahweh gave Israel prophets like Moses and Jeremiah, priests like Aaron and Samuel, and kings like David and Solomon to "shepherd" them. He is referring to those who preyed on the sheep and used them for their own selfish ends. The false shepherds that Ezekiel and Jeremiah castigates.
The use of the present tense "are" thieves and robbers is an important clue that the thieves and robbers are the religious leaders of Yeshua's own day. Yeshua is referring to the Pharisees who have come to challenge His authority and His origins in front of the people. The Pharisees certainly thought of themselves as the "gatekeepers" of the Kingdom of God in Yeshua's day:
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Matthew 23:13 NASB
Yeshua goes on to say, "But the sheep did not hear them"—He repeats the truth that He stated in 10:5, that His true sheep will not hear or follow a false shepherd. Sheep will only follow the voice of their shepherd:
"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 NASB
Lazarus has already described Yeshua as the source of living water (water of life) and as the bread of life. Now, within the metaphor of sheep, Yeshua provides the pasture of life.
"If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved"—the verb "saved" in this context probably relates to the Old Covenant connotation of physical deliverance, being saved refers to protecting the sheep from predators that would kill them. But Lazarus often chooses terms that have two overlapping meanings. Yeshua obviously has the idea of spiritual salvation behind His words.
"And will go in and out and find pasture"—William Barclay says that this "was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe." If the country was under siege, people had to stay inside the city walls. But when they were at peace and the ruler was upholding law and order, people were free to come and go as they wished. Moses used this language in praying for his successor:
"May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd." Numbers 27:16-17 NASB
This is speaking of security and safety. We see this same language used in:
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, "Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. "Previously, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in. And the LORD said to you, 'You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel.'" 2 Samuel 5:1-2 NASB
David was the one who gave them security and safety.
"Will go in and out and find pasture"—is referring to freedom, safety and provision. "Going in and out" pictures safety. And, "finding pasture" pictures the sustenance our good shepherd provides. Believer, we have security in Christ:
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 Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NASB
In Ezekiel 25:5, "pasture" refers to the rest of the Kingdom. Yeshua is the only means of entry into the Kingdom and all its blessings:
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 NASB
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly"—Yeshua not only came to bring spiritual life to His people, but He came to bring the best quality of life to them. What is being emphasized here is the abundant and overflowing quality of the life which Yeshua came to give.
I don't think that Yeshua is making a distinction between two levels of Christian life, one being superior and more abundant than the other. What Yeshua is talking about here is the life that He gives to all who believe in Him. Just as He has said that those who believe in Him will never hunger or thirst ever again, and that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness, so here His promise is abundant life. When He gives life, He gives it to the max.
So I think abundant life is available to all believers. It's available, but I don't think all believers enjoy abundant life. Within Christianity everyone has life, but there are few that have abundant life.
There may be two people who are alive, but one may be very sick. They both have life, but one does not have abundant life. Or we may think of an individual who is healthy and another individual who has life and health, but for some reason or other he may be in prison, and he doesn't have liberty. Both have life, both have health, but one does not have the same freedom that the other has. There is a great deal of difference in the experience of life.
Now that which is true in the physical life is true in the spiritual life. Every individual who has believed in the Lord Yeshua has spiritual life, but not many have an abundant spiritual life. Why? If the abundant life is available to all, why don't all have it? I think it has to do with obedience. The abundant life is only available to those who walk in obedience to Christ. It is only for the sheep that follow Him.
Let me just say that the abundant life has nothing to do with material things. It is about joy and peace and contentment that comes from walking with Christ. Let's look at some New Testament texts that show us the blessings that come from obedience.
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Yeshua the Christ to eternal life. Jude 1:21 NASB
"Keep yourselves in the love of God"—the word "keep" here is tereo, from teros—a guard or warden; it means: "to keep an eye on, to keep something in view, to hold firmly, to attend carefully, or to watch over it." Yeshua uses this word in His prayer to the Father for His disciples:
"I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. John 17:11 NASB
Tereo speaks of guarding something which is in one's possession. It means: "to watch as one would guard some precious possession." "Keep" is an aorist imperative, a command calling for urgent attention. "Yourselves" (heautou) is plural indicating that Jude is addressing not just individuals, but the entire Church body. Jude is calling for the saints to "keep" themselves "In the love of God"—"in" is locative of sphere, indicating as Wuest translates it: "within the sphere of God's love."
What does this mean? Is he saying that we need to keep God loving us? No, look at verse 1:
Jude, a bond-servant of Yeshua the Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Yeshua the Christ: Jude 1:1 NASB
"Called" is from the Greek word kletos, which is a verbal adjective from kaleo (to call). Every time this term is used in the Epistles and Revelation, it means the same as "chosen." It's a synonym for chosen, and it is the main word in this sentence. The other perfect passive participles are in apposition or explanation of this main one. Because we are the called, we are beloved in God the Father and kept by Yeshua. That's the way you would understand the grammar here.
We know that once God loves and saves someone, once God does the work of salvation in the life of a sinner, it means that the person then has their sins forgiven—past, present, and future. Every sin, every offense, every transgression they will ever commit against God has been paid for.
Jude is not telling the believers to keep themselves saved, he's not saying, "Don't get yourself in a position where God will no longer love you." We know he's not saying that because verse 24 says:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, Jude 1:24 NASB
He begins with our security, he ends with our security. He's not questioning our security and telling us that we must do something to stay saved.
So Jude made it clear in verse 1 that the called are kept. The word for "kept" in verse 1 and "keep" in verse 21 are the exact same Greek words. So in verse 21 Jude is telling those who are kept in Christ to keep themselves in the love of God.
Wuest translates this: "With watchful care keep yourselves within the sphere of God's love." To keep yourself in the love of God simply means: "keep yourself in the place where you experience the blessing that God's love brings." It means: "to stay in the sphere of God's love."
William MacDonald writes, "The love of God can be compared to sunshine. The sun is always shining. But when something comes between us and the sun, we are no longer in the sunshine."
Keeping yourself in the love of God requires consistent self-discipline on your part. You can never get out from under the love of God as far as God is concerned, but you can get out from the blessings that the love of God bestows upon you as you live your life on this earth.
What does it mean to be in the love of God? What do we have to do to keep ourselves in the love of God?:
Whoever believes that Yeshua is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:1-3 NASB
What does it mean to keep yourself in the love of God? It means you walk in obedience to His revealed will. And when you remain obedient, you will enjoy all the fullness of God's love:
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 NASB
"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." John 14:21 NASB
Christ says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments," that is, do the will of God. Obey the Father; obey what the Bible tells us. Be obedient—do not be rebellious or usurp the authority of the Word of God. God is admonishing us and encouraging us, "Keep yourselves in the love of God."
So when a believer walks in obedience, he is demonstrating that he loves Yahweh. And when we are obedient, we abide in His love:
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. John 15:10 NASB
Keep yourselves in the love of God is synonymous with keep His commandments. Notice what Paul said to the Thessalonians:
We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:4-5 NASB
God is telling us that the demonstration of a believer's love for God is in the keeping of the commandments. What commandments? Torah? Are we subject to the 613 laws of Torah? No, as believers we are not under the Old Covenant Law, but we are under the Law of Christ:
Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NASB
The Law of Christ is the law of love. We are to love Yahweh and love our neighbor as our self. We are under the laws of the New Covenant.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yeshua has set you free from the law of the sin and of the death. Romans 8:2 NASB
"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yeshua"—this is Torah of the Spirit. This introduces us to a new facet of Torah, this is New Covenant Torah. Paul says that the Torah of the Spirit "has set you free"—he is talking of setting slaves free in exodus language. Those in Christ are brought out of the Egypt of sin and death and made citizens in the Kingdom of God. Through the death of Christ, they become dead to the Law of sin and death. The Law of sin and death was the Old Covenant Law.
Believers often ask the question, "Since we are saved by grace through faith and faith alone, does it matter how we live once we are saved?" Absolutely! It makes a tremendous difference—not in your eternal destiny—but in your quality of life, here and now.
Let's look at Yeshua's "Sermon on the Mount." In this sermon Yeshua delivered a message that contained all the great ethical precepts of His teaching. In it, Yeshua lays it all out: "love your enemies, forgive those who wrong you, forgive those who wrong you time and time again, do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Then, as a conclusion to the message, He tells this little story; what's known as a parable:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall." Matthew 7:24-27 NASB
Now let me ask you," What is the essence of this parable? What is it illustrating? What separates the wise builder from the foolish builder?" It is a one word answer, obedience!
In this parable Yeshua says NOTHING about believing. His stress here is on DOING. This is very important! We are saved by faith alone, but here Yeshua is talking to those who believe in Him and stressing the importance of obedience. Yeshua says something like, "It's important to actually do these things, I've told you, not just think it's a good idea to do them, but to actually follow through and do them."
There are some questions that we must answer to understand this text: What do the "houses" of the wise and foolish builders represent? What "storms" is Yeshua talking about? How can we "build" so as to be able to withstand the storms?
Let's begin by identifying the "houses." I suggest that the houses represent our lives. Each of us is building a life. A life that will respond to the many ups and downs that come our way. Yeshua is saying in this parable, "If you want to protect your life from damage, you've got to be wise and obey my commandments and my rules for your life." Please notice that this obedience results in quality of life and preservation of life, and abundant life. This teaching about obedience and life preservation runs all through the Scriptures. Later in the Gospel of John Yeshua says:
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:10-11 NASB
It is through keeping the commandments that we find full joy, an abundant life. God delights in our obedience, because everything God commands us is for our own good. And so what God is really delighting in when He delights in our obedience is our deep and lasting joy.
"And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:25 NASB
What "storms" is Yeshua talking about? I think that the storms are things that threaten our well being. This could be literal storms: such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc., which may take away all we own, perhaps even our loved ones. How we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building." Will we be emotionally devastated? Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair?
It may also involve figurative storms: such as illness, loss of loved ones, financial setbacks, which may take away our health, family, or possessions. Again, how we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building." Will we be emotionally devastated? Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair?
Now, you may be wondering how obedience to God helps us weather storms. The answer is that when we live in obedience, we live in fellowship with God:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 NASB
What does Paul mean when he says, "I can do all things through Christ"? He means that because he is in communion with Christ, the power of Christ is available to him for every need. Paul cannot do "all things" simply because he is a Christian. He can do all things because he is living in a dependant relationship with Christ. He is abiding in Christ.
Philippians 4:13 gives us the positive, and John 15:5 gives us the negative:
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NASB
With Me (living in dependance on Me), you can do all things, but without Me, you can do nothing. Philippians 4:13 cannot be claimed by every Christian. It is only for those believers who are abiding in Christ. When we walk in fellowship with God, we have His power available to help us deal with life. Out of fellowship, we have no power.
Yeshua doesn't say, You'd better obey my words, or the Father is going to punish you. He says, "You'd better listen to and follow through on my words so that you'll be able to survive the storms of life."
The Christian life is compared to walking. Walking becomes a visual aid to teach us how to live:
Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Yeshua, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NASB
When we talk about pleasing God, we must make a distinction between our position and our practice. As believers, we stand "righteous" before God. The good news of the Bible is that our debts were paid in full by Yeshua the Christ. And not only has the Christian's debt been paid in full, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Yeshua paid the debt of all our sins; past, present, and future. This is GRACE!
So, when I talk about pleasing God, I'm talking to Christians about how they live. We are to live in such a way to please God by all that we do. Pleasing God is a way of life. Learning to walk or live to please Yahweh is a matter of biblical instruction. It is neither natural nor innate. Without the Word, there is simply no way any of us are going to be able to walk as we should so we are able to please the Lord. Over and over again in the Tanakh, we read that God's people are to walk in His ways, statutes, and laws, i.e., according to the Word (Lev. 26:3; Deut. 5:33; 8:6; 10:12; Josh. 22:5). So if we are not in the Word, we are not being reminded of what we are to do. We need reminders!
So, living the abundant life is a matter of living obediently to the commands of Christ. Christ's commands for our lives are given for the purpose of our protection and our happiness. There is a wide host of commands that God has for us that the world says are ridiculous—commands about the sanctity and exclusivity of the marital relationship, about the restriction of sexual activity to marriage, the emphas is on others before self, on forgiveness freely given when asked for, that honesty is always the best policy, that materialism is not the road to real happiness—every last one of these "rules," plus all the others that are found in God's Word, are given to us for our own good. And if we're smart, we'll realize that and seek to live by God's guidelines, and live the abundant Christian life.
Matthew Henry, the well-known pastor and Bible commentator, was on his deathbed in 1714, at age 52. He had suffered the loss of his first wife and of three children. He could have complained about his early death. But he said to a friend, "You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men. This is mine—that a life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world" 0Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible [Revell], p. 1:xiv)
The abundant life is available to all believers, but is only experienced by those who walk in fellowship with Christ. Obedience brings blessings.