Jesus the Shepherd.

John 10:1-30.

1877 198 Jesus was the light of the world, but men knew Him not. They perceived not the light, for they were born spiritually blind. By nature they were incapable of discerning Him, whose glory was "as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Even the Jews, with all their privileges, did not receive Him. Still He was the light, the true light, and there was no other. What men needed was to have their eyes opened. This Jesus was able to do, even for those born blind, as the miracle in the previous chapter sets forth. The Pharisees, being offended at such grace and power, only showed by it how blind they were; but the one who could now see Him who was the light of the world boldly and perseveringly testified of Christ to them. He was blessedly conscious that his eyes had been opened, and he soon perceived in Jesus the glory of the Son of God. His parents were called as witnesses, who, as far as facts were concerned, simply confirmed his testimony; and every inquiry from the man himself only brought out firm and truthful witness of the power and grace of Christ. All this so drew forth the enmity of their hearts, that they cast him out of the synagogue. Jesus, however, soon found the one who had been cast out for His sake, and brought him into personal acquaintance and intercourse with Himself. The Shepherd knew the sheep, and this loved one knew the Shepherd's voice and would not follow a stranger; they were together now, outside the powerless forms of human religiousness and tradition. The faithful one in Israel was thus outside the camp but with Christ, and there he learned, to his heart's joy, precious instruction as to the person of Christ, and knew that He who had opened his eyes was the Sent One of God.

The Lord of glory had, in the Pharisees' judgment, encroached on the sacred rites of their religion by opening the eyes of the blind on the sabbath-day. They would rather the man had remained blind than such a miracle had been wrought on that day; for take away the observance of days from religious formalists, what have they left? Besides, this act of Christ on the sabbath-day, to their minds, made little of them and of what they taught. So blind were they, that, though boasting of themselves as being Moses' disciples, they could not discern the glory of Him of whom Moses wrote; and such enmity to the Lord did they manifest, with all their religiousness, that one of their rules was that, "if any one confessed him to be the Christ, he should be excommunicated from the synagogue." (Chap. ix. 22.) Thus their religion excluded Christ (alas! how solemn) and consequently all who took sides with Christ. On this account they cast him out, where the Lord met with him, revealed Himself to him, and drew forth his heart in worship outside the Jewish fold. The Jews were thus left in darkness, and what darkness, which had excluded the light of the world! How very solemn this is! And yet we cannot fail to trace the analogy between the last days of Israel's history and the last phase of the church on earth, which is content to go on with self-gratulations at its own imaginary religious progress; while it has virtually put Christ outside, but where He presents Himself as waiting to give His companionship and blessing to any individual who will open the door to Him. (Rev. iii. 17-20.)

The Jews had not heeded the Shepherd's voice. They saw no beauty in Him But Jesus is at home with the cast-out one, who delights in his new-found Saviour and Friend; and the one who had been unwavering and truthful in his witness to the Pharisees now cleaves to the Son of God in the spirit of an earnest worshipper.

All this brought from the lips of Jesus the conscience-searching words which follow, as well as His own blessed testimony to the characteristics of the good Shepherd, looked at both in contrast with false professors, as well as what He is intrinsically in Himself. Deeply moved as the Lord must have been by the circumstances of this scene, He could not forbear saying, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind." (Chap. ix. 39.) True, the Lord had not come to judge the world, but to save; but being "the light of the world," it could not but make manifest the moral qualities of those around Him. Thus the one who was born blind receives sight — the one who saw not sees; and that those who thought they saw (like Nicodemus, for instance, when he came to Jesus by night) might be convicted of their own natural and religious blindness — thus those who saw would be made blind. No doubt the Lord alluded to the Pharisees in this latter class; and it seemed to arouse them, for when they heard these words, "they said unto him, Are we blind also?" To which He replied, "1f ye were blind, ye should have no sin;" that is, if they took their true position before God as utterly helpless and needy, He would make the sin-forgiving Saviour blessedly known to their souls; but taking the ground of their own competency to judge and teach divine things, it was the most positive proof of their being still in their sins — "but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth." (Chap. ix. 41.) The fact is the light of the world was there, and they preferred their own darkness rather than have the light of life.

But the Lord does not stop there. He goes on to expose the hollow pretensions of the professed shepherds of Israel. Self-appointed, and having obtained their official position by their own efforts of climbing up some other way, they morally were only thieves and robbers. The voice of such was therefore strange to the sheep, as we have just seen in the one who had proved the Saviour's love. These were some of the features of those who professed to be shepherds of Israel.

The true Shepherd, of whom Moses and the prophets had spoken — the One whom God had sent — we may observe in the first place, entered into the sheepfold by the door. He brought all the credentials of the Shepherd and Stone of Israel. (Gen. xlix. 24.) The woman's Seed, the Seed of Abraham and of David born in Bethlehem, the virgin's Son, the Child born, and Son given, meek and lowly and yet called Immanuel, He was joyfully received by Jehovah's faithful remnant, such as Simeon and Anna, who were waiting for redemption in Israel. Bringing also afterwards, as He did, the qualities of the true Messiah, according to the testimony of prophets, He was manifested as Jehovah's Shepherd, the true Shepherd of the sheep, to whom the porter opened, and He entered in by the door. (Chap. x. 1, 2.)

Secondly, He called His own sheep by name, whether His true apostles or teachers, men, women or children, they were called individually by Him. Those therefore who were of faith, true to God and cast out by false shepherds, became objects of His care and companionship. His way with the man to whom He had given sight in the previous chapter is a sample of this. He addressed hint personally, saying, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?"

Thirdly, He led them out, as we learn from the end of verse 3. He did not bless them, or save them, and lead them back to the Jewish fold; on the contrary, He led them, and blessed them, outside of its national religiousness, which shows that the Jewish nation was in an incurably bad state, not only corrupt and leprous but so dark as to he unable to discover "the light of the world," when He so brightly shone upon them, It was therefore not a question of mending the old garment, or of healing a corrupt nation, notwithstanding its rigid attention to outward observances, for it was so full of rottenness and death, as to compel the Good Shepherd to lead His own outside in companionship with Himself, the rejected One. An important principle to notice, that, when God's people corporately depart from Himself as the source of all their blessing, and from His word as their sole authority, the place of a faithful one is to be outside with Christ. This was His way of leading, and it is still His will that we should "go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." (Heb. xiii. 13.)

Fourthly, He goes before His sheep. He does not drive them before Him, but He draws them after Him by going before them. Christ was, and still is, despised and rejected of men, and the path of the sheep is to be with Him. If He were cast out of the synagogue, those who confessed Him were cast out also; but the sheep — the faithful in Israel — knew His voice, followed Him, and refused the voice of strangers.

All this the Pharisees heard, but could not understand. If John vi., vii. showed the formal and dead state of the nation in professing to celebrate the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles, while rejecting the true bread from heaven, and the living Fountain of all joy and blessing, chapter ix. shows at least the blind and degraded condition of the professed shepherds and guides of the people.

But the Lord proceeds, fifthly, and now speaks of Himself as the door of the sheep, that is, that He alone is the way of admission into God's favour and blessing. Many teachers and guides had been in Israel before Him, and, however popular and esteemed among the people they might have been, the solemn fact is, that "the sheep did not hear them." (Vers. 7, 8.) But now He is the door, and open wide, so that any one may enter in and be saved — thus enter into God's presence by faith in Him, and know intercourse with Him, and come out into His service and find blessing and refreshment — "go in and out, and find pasture." (Ver. 9.) Thus Jesus not only entered by the door, but is the door of the sheep, the door for any man to enter in and be saved.

The way is thus cleared for now entering more fully on the characteristics of the Good Shepherd; and this the Lord sets before us by contrasting Him with the thief and the hireling, as also by plainly declaring His own moral excellences and ways.

As to the thief, he came to steal, to kill, and to destroy. His object was to benefit himself, and that by covetous and dishonest means, and by inflicting suffering and loss on the sheep; whereas the Good Shepherd came to save, to give life, and that more abundantly: all through the priceless cost of laying down His own life for the sheep.

The hireling also serves for wages, but has no real love for the sheep, no concern for their welfare, and only thinks of his own gain, so that in time of danger, when he sees the wolf coming, having no claims higher than self-interest, he runs away, leaving the sheep in the enemy's cruel hands; and though he cannot devour the lambs and sheep of Christ, yet he can and will scatter them. On the contrary, Jehovah's Shepherd knows His sheep, loves them, died for them, to redeem them to God, rescue them for ever from death and Satan, and have them with Himself in everlasting glory and blessing.

The Good Shepherd then knows His sheep, and they know Him; He calls them, and they hear His voice. He goes before, and leads them, and they follow Him. He is the door by which they entered in and are saved. He delivered them from the wrath to come by His death on the cross. He gives them eternal life — risen life now in Himself. He keeps them so secure, that they can never perish, nor be plucked out of His hand or His Father's hand. Wondrous grace! How widely all these ways of divine love stand in contrast with the thoughts of men! No marvel that the Saviour should have said, "All that ever came before me were thieves and robbers."

The Lord, as we have seen, met with a solitary "sheep" here and there, and He led such out from the Jewish "sheepfold;" but He said He had other sheep not of that fold (evidently referring to those to be called out from among the Gentiles), which He intended to bring by hearing His voice, and then there would be one flock (not "fold," it is a different word in the original), and one Shepherd. (Ver. 16.) This no doubt the Lord is doing now by His gospel, so that before Him His sheep are not now looked at as in folds here end there, but as "one flock," all under the guardian care and blessing of "one shepherd." All Jewish believers, and all Gentile believers, at this time are brought into the same character of association and blessing, born of, taught by, and indwelt by the same Spirit, forming one flock — God's assembly. Hence Paul, in addressing the elders of the assembly at Ephesus, says, "Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God. For I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." (Acts xx. 28, 29.) Peter also, exhorting elders, says, "Shepherd [or feed] the flock of God which is among you . . . . being ensamples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:2.)

Having thus glanced at some of the moral glories of Jesus the Shepherd, we may now look a little at what scripture teaches us of the official glories of this Good and Great and Chief Shepherd of the sheep. As we have noticed, it was "the good Shepherd's" part to lay down His life for the sheep. Nothing less could express His love, nothing less supply our need, nothing less meet the claims of divine righteousness; and so infinitely acceptable was this wondrous act to the Father that He said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." (Ver. 17.) What goodness and mercy, while we were sinners, helpless and lost, that Christ died for us and brought eternal glory to God Wondrous glory, which will shed its unfading lustre on the new heavens and new earth throughout all eternity!

He is also spoken of as "the great Shepherd of the sheep," in being raised from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant; in which not only the value of his one offering in perfecting for ever them that are sanctified was publicly declared, but He triumphed over death and Satan. And in Him who is raised from the dead God has given us life — risen life — life more abundantly than could have been given to man before.

But in the One who has ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, His glorious office of Shepherd is still active on our behalf. Now He is known as the "Chief Shepherd," because He has many under-shepherds, to whom He has given grace and qualification to shepherd the flock, to feed and tend them during His absence. He is the "Chief Shepherd," and Peter, who was an under-shepherd, speaks of Him as "the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls."

It is He who sought us when, like sheep gone astray, we wandered in wilfulness and pride over the dark mountains of sin and folly, and, having found us, exercised His own matchless grace and power in securing us for ever for Himself. He went after us when we were lost, and having found us, laid us upon His shoulders, and took us home rejoicing. The Shepherd rejoiced, and the Father rejoiced, because the lost one had been received safe and sound, for "there is joy in heaven, in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth;" but when by-and-by He presents us before the presence of His glory, it will be with exceeding joy. The sheep, then, are the objects of the Shepherd's care. He feeds our souls. By His Spirit and word of truth, either with or without other instrumentality, He does comfort and bless us. He has given gifts, having sent down the Holy Ghost, for the blessing and edification of His people. Real care for His flock is the special proof of love to the Lord Himself, as He said to Peter, when he confessed his love and attachment to Him, "Feed my lambs!" "Shepherd my sheep!" "Feed my sheep!" Not one of the flock is overlooked by the "Chief Shepherd;" every circumstance and peculiarity of each is duly regarded by Him. The weak are supported and encouraged; the little ones kept near His heart; all fed and guarded by the all-seeing and unchangeably loving Shepherd. As the prophet said, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." (Isa. xl. 11.)

We are admonished to beware lest any man rob us; but looking to the "Chief Shepherd," and owning thankfully the under-shepherds of His giving, and the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, content to be guided by Him, we shall be assuredly led into green pastures beside the still waters, and find rest and blessing there. He restores our souls, and renews our strength, for "he giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." He will never fail nor forsake us; He leads in paths of righteousness for His name's sake, though it may be in the midst of paths of judgment; and all through the valley of the shadow of death we have nothing to fear: His rod and staff will comfort us. He knows how to feed and cheer us, and bless us with an overflowing cup in the presence of our enemies; and, as He is faithful and true, looking to Him our Shepherd, we may well sing, "I shall not want," but "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever." It surely then becomes us to go onward, rejoicing in Him, whose love to us knows neither measure nor end.

And if it be said of David that "he fed the people according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them according to the skilfulness of his hands," how fully and perfectly it can be so said of David's Lord, who, though now in the glory, takes account of every hair of our heads, and is never unmindful of the smallest need of any sheep of His pasture How sweet to think of the unwearied activities of this tender and gracious Shepherd, so patient with us, so forbearing, so pitiful and wise! Happy indeed are those who are subject to His guidance and instruction; for such not only grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but they learn that wisdom's "ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." Precious Shepherd! ever mindful of Thy poor sheep. H. H. Snell.