The Good Shepherd.

John 10.

This chapter gives us the love of Christ so wonderfully displayed as the Good Shepherd - but it is exceedingly necessary to get a clear apprehension of the striking contrast between Judaism and Christianity, and this distinction has been greatly lost sight of. The way Christianity is unfolded in the word of God is an immense help to the child of God, because when it is acted on, it separates from that which is contrary to it.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you" connects it with the preceding chapter; for these Pharisees who said, "We see," taking the ground of seeing and knowing, had no sense of need, and so the Lord utters that solemn word, "Therefore your sin remaineth." (John 9:41.) Then He takes the occasion given Him by their pride to give a short history of His ways with the children of Israel. Judaism is spoken of in the first six verses; then in verse 7, He comes to Christianity.

"He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." Everything that was foretold of the Lord Jesus He answered to; every rightful ordinance for Him to pass through He recognized and fulfilled, and He passes into the sheepfold by the door, and "to Him the porter openeth." The people of Israel were shut off from all other people, still the sheepfold was only Judaism, and into this sheepfold the true Shepherd of Israel comes. He enters into this system, which God had organized, answering to every claim of Scripture. Then "to Him the porter openeth" - the porter, Jehovah acting by the Spirit of God in Israel, the one who had the care of Israel opened to the Messiah; and the moment He entered the sheep recognized His voice, "the sheep hear His voice" as the promised One, such as Simeon and Anna in Luke 2. There was the full, distinct recognition of Christ when He entered in.

All this has not to do with us Gentiles, but it is an immense thing to contemplate something that has nothing to, do with us. We were Gentiles entirely outside it; we never were in it, or shall be. Then it. goes on, "He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out." It was not to be a continuation of this system, for "His own received Him not," and it is about to be set aside as no longer God's system, on the earth. The Lord Jesus calls out from Israel, and in. chap. 9 a man is found outside in the company of Christ. "He calleth His own sheep by name." After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, what a moment of recognition there was between Him and Mary! "Jesus saith unto her, Mary." There should be such personal acquaintance between Christ and His sheep; and if there is anything necessary in this day it is individual acquaintance with Christ. He leads His sheep outside the recognized systems of earth. It is not at all a question of what they are coming to, but He calls them by name, and leads them out. That word "leadeth" is beautiful; it is. not, drive them out. He never drives anybody out. If we are stubborn He deals with us, and chastens us; but He delights to lead His people, only there must be on our side real confidence in Vim to confide ourselves to His guidance - no resistance, but a beautiful spirit of subjection.

"And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them," and that is one thing that ever marks Christ, whether in Judaism or in Christianity. He loved His sheep in that day, and He loves them in this day, and He never allows them to face a difficulty alone. He faces the difficulty. We never shall find ourselves in circumstances where He has not been before us. - "He goeth before them" all the way. We travel no uncertain path, not groping in darkness, but walking in the light of heaven, where He has gone before as. There may be difficulties, cares, and exercises, but the fact is that Christ has gone before, and "marked out the path that we tread." It was true in Judaism too, as in Christianity; but the one great thing for our souls now is acquaintance with Christ. You and I know the Lord Jesus Christ better than the disciples on earth knew Him: it seems much to say, but it is true. When Jesus said to the disciples, "Will ye also go away?" Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." It was as much as saying, "We have no shelter without Thee." They knew the Lord, but not in the full measure we can know Him now. The Holy Ghost had not been given as in this day. The Holy Ghost has come down to dwell in all those that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have by Him a more wonderful knowledge of the perfectness of the work of Christ and His love. He said when here, ` You will be better off when I go away; "for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." (John 16:7.) We are gainers by the absence of Christ, because of the Holy Ghost. "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." (John 14:20.) He spoke of a day that was future then. There is then a character of blessing in this day which the disciples had not, but they knew the voice of Christ. There is nothing that so blinds the understanding as self-sufficiency. There is one bright, beautiful avenue to our understanding, and that is the moment we are down in the sense of our own weakness and in dependence. Then there is no opposition; but when we say, "We see," that is the greatest barrier. By taking the place of ignorance and of dependence on Him, then we understand.

The Lord does not go on now to explain the parable, but He tells something perfectly new, which had never been known before. And it is a serious question for the consideration of our hearts; for in Christendom at large the immense distinction between Judaism, on the one hand, and Christianity on the other, is lost sight of. In Judaism it was a ceremonial religion, the observing of ordinances, etc.; everything to touch the natural man was done; but you get nothing of the kind in Christianity. This new system - and I say system because we cannot do what is right in our own eyes; and the way to find our place in the Church of God is to get our places as individual sheep, hearing His voice and guided by Him. There must be individual association with Christ, the knowledge of His own person.

"Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep." Think for a moment what a wonderful thing that is. You are shut up to something, or rather to Someone; and what a moment, never to be forgotten by the soul, when I find out that I am for time and for eternity shut up to Christ, nothing but Christ! And He stands and says, "I am the door of the sheep." You ask, "What does Christianity begin with?" It begins with the "I" of this verse. And what does it go on with? With the "I" of this verse. And it ends with the "I" of this verse. What is Christianity to us? The "I" of this verse. "I set everything else aside, I have called my sheep out from this fold, and I announce and declare to you that I am the only door into everlasting blessing." I know that this is the gospel in its simplest character. The door into what? and out of what? What do we leave? and what do we enter? I pass out of a standing where there is nothing but ruin, and I pass into a sphere of everlasting joy and blessing. But oh, what a door to pass through! what a threshold to cross! Judaism and ordinances over for ever; no longer a question of Jew or Gentile, but from the queen on her throne to the poorest peasant in the land, there is no other way in but by the Lord Jesus Christ. The door is open wide at this hour, and you may enter in. If you pass inside what joy there! Don't tell me what you have outside. It is death, sorrow, misery, and unsatisfying things; but oh, if you were inside for one single hour, in all the joy of His presence, you would know the wonderful difference between inside and outside! What do you leave outside? All your sins put away by the death of Christ. And what are you inside? A "saved" person. And you "shall go in and out and find pasture." That is a beautiful figure of liberty. It is not that you can do as you like, but there is nothing but liberty in Christianity and pasture. Oh, it is a real thing this salvation! But the only liberty is in subjection; no joy apart from subjection to Christ. Pasture and food are found for us. No person is practically found in Ps. 23 who is not in a state of subjection to Christ. You can say, "The Lord is my Shepherd," and stop there; but can you say, "I shall not want"? That is subjection. There may be trouble, want, and difficulty; but do you know "I walk beside still waters"? "He leadeth me beside still waters." If He leads you, you have no will; it is a question of what the Lord wants and wills, not you. Do you think He cares more for your happiness in this world, or you yourself? Which do you think cares most? Does not He know best? Oh, that is the work to go through in your soul! There is nothing gloomy in Christianity; there is nothing but the radiance of the light of heaven. You must be alone with Christ, and know Him in heavenly light and glory, and the radiance of the Father's house; and if you know Him, and "go in and out," and know the green pastures and the still waters, it is a real thing. You are independent of everything, because you are dependent only on Christ.

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." A dark background, but He draws only the brighter contrast. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Eternal life is a thing that is possessed in this world, and it is Christ Himself. "Everlastingly secure," people say it means, and it is true; but it is Christ. There are three things about eternal life. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." And then there is such a thing as "Lay hold of eternal life;" and I believe that means a person so set upon God that he is enabled to lay hold of eternal life; it is the soul's embrace of Christ. I apprehend the person of Christ in heaven, who is the eternal life, and that's "laying hold." The more you are in faith and "following after faith" - that principle which we have within - viewing things as God sees them (that's faith), and then these things that cramp and deaden us, the soul rises above, them and lays, hold on eternal life. You must go in for something; not spending your life in ordinary visits, etc.; but you must have an object in your life, and this is it - "Lay hold on eternal life." And the third thing is in Romans 6 "And the end everlasting life." There is the end to it all, to my path, and journey, and service. We get into a sphere marked and characterized by all that belongs to Christ, and that's "the end."

"That they might have it more abundantly." If you study Scripture as to "abundance," you will see that God delights in abundance. "Abundance of grace" (Rom. 5:17), "Life more abundantly" (John 10:10), "The Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly." (Titus 3:6.) And He delights to look on the servant passing along through this world, and looking at everything in relation to the kingdom, where its counterpart will be produced. I say the kingdom, not heaven, for we get into heaven on one common title - the blood of Christ; but when it becomes a question of the Lord Jesus Christ coming out from heaven, and bringing His saints with Him to reign, He looks that not only may you have "abundance of grace," and "life more abundantly" (His own victorious life), but He says, "I want you to have an "abundant entrance" (2 Peter 1:11); "for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Enter that kingdom with flying colours; the fight well fought; the race well run. Here rejection and scorn may be, but the kingdom is there; and if you have ever known a sorrow because of faithfulness to Christ, there will be a most abundant answer to it all there. If you have ever stood aside, and said, "I can't go here and there," He will own it abundantly. And I am not surprised, nor are you surprised, at anything that the Lord Jesus can do for us after dying for us. You are not surprised at any character of blessing He does for you after dying for you. If He wants to bless you He must have His own way, and do it after His own heart. If He calls us out of our hiding-places in this world, and gives us eternal life, it is according to His own everlasting grace.

"I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." You will notice, of course, how the Lord calls attention to what He is so much. We are shut up to Christ, and that is God's thought for us, and the Holy Ghost's object in coming. The hireling flees when he sees the wolf coming; the sheep are not his. The Good Shepherd does not flee; the sheep belong to Him. So the Lord Jesus stays by us because we belong to Him.

Verses 14, 15, should be read as one verse: "I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father." There is a character of knowledge between the Father and the Son - "so I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." It is not a question of whether you are up to it, but it is an abstract truth, because you have the life of the Son of God, and a nature in which the Spirit of God acts. You are brought into this place of blessing, so that all the character of blessing that exists between the Father and the Son is what exists between the Shepherd and His sheep. How much have we learnt of Christ? Is it not only just this - that we all stand on the shore of the ocean, and we stoop (as we must if we want blessing) and take of the water; but it is only a taste, though it is an infinite, unknown depth from which we shall drink for ever? Rev. 7:13-17 comes in in connection with it. It is the day of blessing which awaits His earthly people, and there is something for us which exceeds it. The mind of man never could have wrapt together blessings so marvellous as verse 17 - they will be wonderful - "shall feed them and shall lead them." You will never get anything without being led. They are led unto living fountains of waters. Do you say there could be nothing more wonderful? In this day we have fountains of waters inside us. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14), rising up to its own level in heaven. You may say this Rev. 7 is a marvellous picture, but we have something in this day that transcends it altogether, because we have the Spirit of God, we are the children of God, we have the Good Shepherd, and are the sheep; and there is not a single thing that He can bestow upon us that He has not given us, and it would be casting a question on the perfectness of His love, if we thought He could do something more for us than He has done.

"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd." The Lord refers to us "must bring." Don't you delight in that word must? It is a strong word of power, but it is a strong word of divine affection too. "Bring" them from where? From wherever their hiding-places are "I must bring them out," and He has "brought us to God." Think of it! Brought from the lowest depths of misery to those everlasting heights of blessing, from "beggars from the dunghill" to "inherit the throne of glory." He has brought us to His own elevation. "As He is, so are we in this world." He says, I take no refusal. Do not ask to stay in the world any longer; I want you. "And they shall hear my voice," and my voice shall hush other things that charmed them. Have you heard His voice?

"And there shall be one flock, and one shepherd." A company of sheep passing through every possible danger, with no outward fold, or wall, or organization of man to protect them. There is but one flock. You cannot divide it before God, though before man you may. In 1 Peter 5:2 we are told to "feed the flock of God which is among you." Look over them, and take care of them; don't disturb the sheep, but feed them, and "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." I believe this is within the reach of all, if we seek to take care of one another, and help one another. An unfading crown of glory! Think of such an end! To go on through this world feeding the flock, giving them the food with heavenly freshness, building them up. Danger everywhere, and what do you want? You want the almighty, sheltering, watchful care of our Shepherd in heaven. Carry away with you this one thought - I have Someone in heaven who cares for me; my Saviour, my Lord, my Master in heaven cares for me. Oh that we may know more what it is to confide in His love! Every real Christian belongs to that one church, flock, and Shepherd. We are not to be looking one at another, but all looking to the Shepherd - looking for the eye of the Shepherd in heaven; and He says at the close, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all." Whatever difficulties may await you, or exercises, this we do know, that we have a Shepherd in heaven never failing us, ever ministering to us; and remember these three words, "Greater than all." No man or power of the devil can take us out of the hand of Him that holds us for ever, and He is "greater than all." The Lord give us to treasure His word in our souls. E. P. C.