The Ministry of the Messiah, 2:13-12:50
6. Jesus the light of life, 8:12-10:42
v] The Good Shepherd, 10:1-21
a) Jesus is the gate for the sheepSynopsis
Following the healing of the blind man and the confrontation with the authorities that developed after his healing, 9:1-41, Jesus describes a pastoral scene to the gathered crowd, a scene which makes the point that sheep follow their shepherd. The shepherd enters the sheepfold by the gate, the sheep recognize him and they follow him. A stranger, on the other hand, someone like a thief or a robber, climbs over the fence, and the sheep, who don't recognize his voice, run away from him.
Jesus is the promised messiah who provides access into the coming kingdom of God.
i] Context: See 9:1-41
ii] Structure: The Good Shepherd - Jesus is the gate for the sheep:
The parable of the Good Shepherd, v1-6;
Jesus is the gate to life in all its fullness, v7-10:
"I am the gate;
whoever enters through me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture."
Having observed the situation where a blind man responds in faith to Jesus, a response that prompts persecution, Jesus goes on to relate a pastoral scene, v1-5. From this illustration he develops two images which he ascribes to himself. First, Jesus is "the gate for the sheep", v7-10, and second, he is "the good shepherd", v11-18. "When Jesus brings us to the Father he calls himself a Door, when he takes care of us, a Shepherd", Chrysostom. When it comes to Jesus as the gate for the sheep, the message is simple; "Jesus is the gate through whom people may enter and be saved", Kostenberger.
Many commentators, including Dodd, think that this parable was created from two separate originals, both of which were cut and pasted to produce a single parable. Beasley-Murray, on the other hand, argues that we are best to work with what we have rather than what might have been. As a single parable the imagery is usually understood in the terms of God's shepherd (a messianic image) authorizing access for his flock (Israel, God's people), a flock that recognizes him and follows him as he leads them to pasture. Not so "a stranger" (Pharisees, Sadducees, ...) whose approach is unauthorized and destructive.
Brown suggests twin parables. Certainly, two ideas seem to emerge from the parable. In v1-3a the focus is on entry to the sheepfold, the shepherd via the gate, the thief/robber over the wall. J.A.T. Robinson argues that the imagery is critical of the Pharisees in terms of not being worthy gatekeepers; they have failed to recognize Jesus' messianic credentials and so have not provided access to him for the people of Israel. Brown, on the other hand, identifies the unworthiness of the Pharisees' approach to the sheep. They approach, not as a shepherd through the gate, but as destroyers over the fence. In v3b-5 the imagery is of "the true shepherd of the flock who leads the sheep out to pasture", Brown, cf. Num.27:16-17.
We are best to follow Carson who suggests that John does not use a synoptic "parable" format in his gospel, rather, he uses observations, here "observations on sheep-farming", with "the symbolic connections spelled out." If Carson is right, we should simply let v1-5 set the scene and not attempt an allegorical interpretation. John then goes on to develop two images from the parable. Carson calls them an expansion on the parable (Beasley-Murray a meditation on the parable, Morris an application of the parable and Brown, an explanation of the parable). Two images are developed, Jesus is the gate/door of the sheepfold, the only way to salvation, v7-10, and Jesus is the good shepherd of the sheep, the one who saves his sheep, even to the giving of his life, v11-18. The parable goes on to prompt the discourse / dialogue on the sheep who hear the shepherd's voice - these are the sheep he protects for eternity, v22-30. A charge of blasphemy ensues, v31-39.
Is the Shepherd the Messiah? There is some argument as to whether this passage is messianic. Although not settled, it seems likely that we are to view the shepherd as the messiah. He is certainly no Davidic king, but he is David like. More particularly, he aligns with the Suffering Servant, Isa, 53:6-8. In fact, his suffering is very pointed; the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. In the terms of classic Johannine theology, Jesus, as God's representative / revelation to mankind, saves / relates / restores mankind to God through faith.
The opening parable is described by Carson as a "sustained metaphor." It is not unreasonable to classify it as an allergy, but its free-flowing nature makes it more a "discourse", Lindars. Allegorical elements may be present when it comes to identifying the players (the thief, shepherd and sheep), but note Carson's observations above. As already indicated, Dodd thinks that the opening parable was created from two separate originals. Of course, we are best to work with what we have rather than what may, or may not, have been.
As Lindars notes, v1-21 is "a highly wrought composition", reflecting both the synoptic tradition and the Old Testament, cf., Matt.18:12-14, Lk.12:32 and Isa.40:11, Jer.31:10, Ezk.34:11-16. So, although a crafted piece of literature, it obviously reflects tradition, if not the memory of an eyewitness. As stated in the introductory notes to John's gospel, the finished work is obviously from the hand of an author-editor, but there is much to commend the view that it rests on the writings or direct testimony of an eyewitness, most likely John the apostle. Anyway, we don't have to go as far as Bultmann who thinks this passage derives from some extraneous source, eg., Mandean literature.
vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 10:1
Jesus, the good shepherd: 10:1-21: i] The illustration of the shepherd and his sheep, v1-6. In the application of Jesus' agricultural illustration / parable, we learn that he is both "the gate", v7 and "the good shepherd", v11. The intensity of Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees at the end of chapter 9 is picked up in this illustration by first mentioning "that one who is both thief and robber." It is possible that Ezekiel 34 lies behind this parable. Ezekiel describes the religious leaders of Israel as those who destroy the Lord's flock, and so he speaks of the day when the Lord "will rescue my flock" and "tend my sheep."
uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you [the truth] / [very truly I tell] you Pharisees" - [amen, amen, i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. The clause indicates that the following words should be given weight. "In very truth I tell you", REB. Note how the NIVII establishes a contextual link with chapter 9 by specifying the subjects, namely, the Pharisees. This probably aligns with John's intent. See 5:24.
oJ mh eisercomenoV (eisercomomai) pres. part. "the man who does not enter / anyone who does not enter" - the one not entering. The participle serves as a substantive. Referring to the thief/robber (= the Pharisees?).
twn probatwn (on) gen. "the sheep [pen]" - [the courtyard/fold] of the sheep. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or attributive, "sheepfold".
dia + gen. "by" - through. Here with a spacial sense; "through".
thV quraV "the gate" - the door [into the fold of the sheep]. Here the entrance of a stone enclosure usually capped with thorn bush for security; "gate".
alla "but" - but. Adversative / contrastive.
anabainwn (anabainw) pres. part. "climbs in" - going up, rising up, advancing [another way]. The participle serves as a substantive, "the one not entering ........ but climbing over from some other quarter" = "gets into the sheep pen by some other means", TH.
ekeinoV pro. "-" - that one / he [is a thief and robber]. Demonstrative pronoun, nominative subject of the verb to-be. Serving to reference back to the one not entering, but climbing; "that one" = "he". A single person who is both thief and robber.
kai "and" - Probably coordinative, as NIV, but possibly adjunctive, "or", "a thief or a bandit."
lhsthV (hV ou) "a robber" - Usually understood as a thief who willingly uses violence to steal, so "bandit", Brown; "marauder, NAB.
Jesus agricultural illustration, paroimia, "parable, proverb", commences with a amhn amhn, "truly, truly", saying, which makes the point that a person who climbs over, or sneaks through, the fence of a sheep pen is up to no good. They are obviously a sheep rustler. The illustration is now developed in two parts indicated in v2 and v5 by a transitional de: First, the shepherd, the non-rustler, who is given access to the sheep pen by the gate keeper - he knows the sheep and the sheep know him, v2-4. Second, the rustler, allotrioV, "stranger" - he does't know the sheep and the sheep don't know him, v5.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue / narrative.
oJ ... eisercomenoV (ercomai) pres. part. "the one who enters" - the one entering. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be.
dia + gen. "by [the gate]" - through [the door]. Spacial; "through".
twn probatwn (on) gen. "[the shepherd] of the sheep" - [is a shepherd] of the sheep. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "shepherd over the sheep." Given that "shepherd" is anarthrous (without an article) it is possibly not definite, "is shepherd of the sheep", NAB, but cf., Colwell's Rule.
The Gk. sentence covers the whole verse, so: "The gatekeeper ...... and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
oJ qurwroV (oV) "the watchman" - the doorkeeper, porter, watchman [opens the door]. Nominative subject of the verb "to open."
toutw/ dat. pro. "for him" - to this one. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage. In the Gk. sentence this pronoun is emphatic by position, "to him the watchman opens the gate", cf. RSV.
akouei (akouw) pres. "listen" - [and the sheep] hear. As is typical, the neuter plural "sheep" takes a singular verb. "They are attentive to his voice", Cassirer.
thV fwnhV (h) gen. "[to his] voice" - the voice [of him]. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear." Schnackenburg notes that the indicative akouw, "hear" + gen, "hear of the voice [of him]", rather than the accusative, "listen to / hear the voice [of him]", is used by John of "a believing and obedient listening"; "give heed to him", Zerwick.
ta idia "his own [sheep]" - [and he calls] one's own = his own [sheep]. It would be typical for a number of shepherds to pound their sheep together. The good shepherd knows "his own" sheep, and they know his voice.
kata onoma "by name" - according to name. A distributive adverbial phrase; "individually", Dodd. Not that he has named each of them, although this was sometimes the case, but he knows them personally.
exagei (exagw) pres. "leads them out" - [and] leads out [them]. Possible allusion to Numbers 27:15-17, Ezekiel 34:13. "Leads them out of the fold", Phillips.
oJtan + subj. "when" - when. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, although usually translated as definite; "when he has brought out ...", ESV.
ekbalh/ (ekballw) aor. subj. "he has brought out" - he casts out = leads out. Obviously here a softer sense is intended, as NIV.
panta "all" - all [his own]. Not found in all texts. "When he has brought all his sheep outside", Moffatt.
emprosqen + gen. "on ahead" - [he goes] before = in front [of them]. Spacial. The shepherd leads his sheep to pasture, the butcher drives them to slaughter.
akolouqei (akolouqew) pres. + dat. "follow" - [and the sheep] follow along with. There is the implication that for those who follow Jesus, there are those who don't. It is unclear if Jesus is making a point about those who don't follow him. He has certainly not underlined the point, and as a general rule we are best not to allegorize an "illustration" like this. The sheep follow the shepherd because they recognize his voice.
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the verb akolouqew "accompany / follow along with."
oJti "because" - because [they know = recognize the voice of him]. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why the sheep follow the shepherd, "because ....".
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating the 2nd. part of the expansion of the illustration commenced in v1; here the sheep rustler, "stranger", one who is not like a shepherd.
ou mh + fut. "[they will] never [follow]" - not not [they will follow]. A future (usually subjunctive) of emphatic negation; "they (the sheep) will never ever follow."
allotriw/ (oV) dat. "a stranger" - a stranger, foreigner. This substantive adjective serves as a dative of direct object after the verb "to follow". The position in the Gk. sentence is emphatic. This "stranger" is probably identified with the thief/robber. A general sense is possible; "they will not follow someone else", TEV.
alla "in fact" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "not not ...... but ....."; "they will not follow a stranger, but run away from him", TNT.
apo + gen. "from [him]" - [will flee] from [him]. Expressing separation; "away from."
oJti "because" - Here introducing a causal clause explaining why the sheep will not follow a stranger; "because ...."
ouk oidasin (oida) perf. "they do not recognize" - they do not know. A dramatic perfect translated as a present. "Know" is best rendered "recognize", as NIV.
twn allotriwn (oV) gen. "a stranger's [voice]" - [the voice] of the strangers. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the voice which belong to strangers", but possibly attributive, "they do not recognize strange voices", Phillips.
Although the illustration / saying / parable / proverb is probably aimed at the Pharisees (ekeinoi, "those" = unbelieving Israel, particularly the religious authorities, and specifically here the Pharisees), they don't understand. So, Jesus now sets out to explain the point of his agricultural illustration. As such, the illustration is similar to a teaching parable in the synoptic gospels, parables with serve to teach a particular truth. The illustration is not like a kingdom parable, a dark-saying with a hidden truth.
thn paroimian (a) "figure of speech" - [this] parable, proverb, cryptic saying. "Pastoral observations", Carson, "cryptic discourse / veiled discourse", Schnackenburg. "Figure of speech", Kostenberger; "Illustration", Phillips.
autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [jesus said] to them. Dative of indirect object. "This figure of speech Jesus used with them", ESV.
de "but" - Transitional, best treated here as an adversative.
h\n (eimi) imperf. "they did not understand" - [those men did not understand what things] they were [which he was speaking to them]. As is typical, a singular verb is used with a neuter plural subject, here an assumed "they" in agreement with tina, "things". "They did not understand the meaning of what he said to them", Cassirer.
ii] Jesus is the gate/door of the sheepfold, the only way to salvation, v7-10. Using his agricultural observations, Jesus makes a messianic claim about himself. Jesus is like the entrance-way that sheep use either to enter the security of a sheepfold, or to move out to pasture. For those with ears to hear, Jesus is saying "I am the gateway through whom the scattered flock of Israel may enter the kingdom of heaven and be saved." All the false messiah's and prophets, the corrupted leaders of Israel, right down to the "blind" religious authorities of Jesus' own day, are like thieves and robbers. The flock is scattered before them, but now, Jesus, like a gateway for the sheep, provides for God's scattered flock a gateway to salvation and eternal provision. God's special people have had to put up with leaders who have brought nothing but destruction, but for no longer. Now there is one in their midst who is the way to an abundant life, a life that is eternal.
That Jesus should now identify himself as "the gate" is particularly disturbing for those who have approached the "parable" allegorically. A variant oJ poimhn "the shepherd" exists in the Sahidic text, replacing hJ qura "the gate", but it is obviously not original.
oun "therefore" - therefore [jesus said]. Either transitional, and so left untranslated, or inferential, establishing a logical connection; "So Jesus said to them", ESV.
palin adv. "again" - again, in so far as. Carrying the sense "going back again to look at what I have just said." "He explained the figure of speech he had used", Junkins.
amhn amhn legw uJmin - truly truly i say to you. An emphatic statement; see 5:24. "I tell you for certain", CEV.
oJti - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of direct speech.
egw eimi "I am" - i am. The "I am" statements (pro. + verb to-be + predicate noun) do seemingly take on a self-declamatory status - "I am the messiah [for those with eyes to see]." See egw eimi without a predicate, 8:24
hJ qura (a) "the gate" - the door, gate. Standing in the predicate position. Given that an Eastern shepherd would often sleep in the gateway of his sheep-fold, it is possible to argue that the image Jesus is conveying here is one of protection, but v9 seems to describe the gateway itself, of Jesus being the way in to security, the way out to pasture/plenty. As such, the image is messianic, of Jesus the redeemer providing access to the kingdom of God. He "is the gate of the Lord and the righteous shall enter through it", Ps.118:20. The point seems to be that Jesus is the door through which people may enter and be saved; "I am the entrance-way for the sheep."
twn probatwn (on) gen. "for the sheep" - of the sheep. The genitive is often classified as objective where the genitive substantive, "of the sheep", receives the action of the noun, "gate/door", so "for the sheep", NIV, RSV, etc. Yet, "gate" is not really a verbal noun so the genitive is probably best classified as adjectival, limiting "gate". It could simply be attributive, "I am like a sheep gate. Numerous idiomatic translations present themselves: "I am like an entrance-way which sheep are able to use to pass through to pasture." This seems more likely than "I am the gate leading to where the sheep are", Cassirer; "I am the door to the sheepfold", Junkins (idiomatic / direction). "Sheepfold", rather than "sheep" is argued by some. This "I am" saying may be similar to "I am the way" = I am the way into the kingdom. So, "I am the gate / door by which the sheep are able to enter the security of the sheepfold." In fact Moffatt replaces "door" with "shepherd" (only found in the Sahidic text), so "I am the shepherd of the sheep", adjectival possessive. He then brackets v9; "(I am the gate; whoever ......)", treating the verse as a parenthesis.
Drawing on the imagery of Ezekiel 34 Jesus alludes to the thieves/robbers of his "illustration", using the image to describe those who came before him, "the shepherds" of Israel. Given the context (ch. 9) this obviously includes the Pharisees, but in the end, extends to all who have led Israel away from God - messianic pretenders, false prophets and teachers, ..... to "their successors in contemporary Judaism", Schnackenburg.
panteV "all" - all. Dropped in some texts. Presumably "all" was a bit strong for some copyists. Alluding to the "shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves" and "do not take care of the flock", Ezk.32:2-4. "All others who have come pretending to take care of the sheep", TH.
pro emou "before me" - [who came] before me. Temporal use of the preposition pro. Variant missing in a number of important texts. Barrett suggests that it may have been added to explain the past tense of "came".
kleptai .... lhstai "thieves [and] robbers" - [are] thieves [and] robbers. Jesus is referring to the Jewish authorities who ministered to Israel before his arrival: Sadducees and their use of religion for profit, the Pharisees for their nomism, the Scribes for their greed, Mk.12:40, cf., Acts 5:36-37, 21:38.
all (alla) "but" - but. Adversative / contrastive.
ouk hkousan (akouw) aor. "did not listen" - [the sheep] did not hear. When this verb takes a genitive, as here, the sense is more likely "obey", "give heed to", Zerwick; see v3. So, in the sense of obey, choose to follow; "the sheep paid no heed to any who came before me", REB.
autwn gen. pro. "them" - them. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to listen to, hear."
The "I am" self disclosures have a touch of the divine about them, a reminder of Moses and the burning bush, but is this what Jesus intends, or would a simile better express what he is saying? "I am just like the gate for the sheep", TH. Barrett notes the distinction between, "I am the door to the sheep", as opposed to "I am the door for the sheep", cf., twn probatwn, v7.
egw eimi "I am" - i am. Again, an emphatic "I am" statement.
hJ qura "the gate" - the gate, door. Predicate nominative. The background of an Eastern shepherd sleeping at the entrance of a sheep-fold when out in the fields at night is possibly applicable here - the shepherd is the gate. Jesus is the way to salvation, the means of entry. The idea of entering heaven / the kingdom of heaven by a gate is a common image both in secular and Jewish circles.
ean tiV + subj. "whoever" - if anyone [enters]. Introducing a relative conditional clause 3rd class, where the proposed condition stated in the "if" clause is assumed a future possibility; "if a certain = whoever, as may be the case, .... then ....."
di (dia) "through [me]" - through [me]. Here spacial, in terms of the illustration, but in regard to Jesus, it expresses agency. The position in the Gk. is emphatic. Jesus is the "way" to salvation; a person enters the kingdom through him. "By means of which the sheep enter into the fold", Barrett.
swqhsetai (swzw) fut. pas. "will be saved" - he will be saved, rescued. Naturally, we lean toward "saved", in the sense of eternally saved, but of course "kept safe and secure" behind the gate may be intended. What image is Jesus promoting here? Is it his providential care, or eschatological salvation ("salvation [in judgment] and [eternal] pasture", Haenchen)? Jesus as "the door of heaven", Barrett, seems more likely, cf. Gen.28.17, Ps.78:23, .... Morris allows both ideas here in that salvation entails "delivered from the consequences of their sin and brought into the blessing of God. Here the blessing is described in terms of secure pasturage."
eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai "he will come in and go out" - [and] he will go in and go out. Morris suggests that the image here is of free access, "he will come and go at will", Knox, ie., "for freedom Christ has set us free."
nomhn (h) "pasture" - [and find] pasture. A strong image of the promised land, its final restoration, and thus of heaven, cf., Isa.49:9-10, Ezk.34:12-15.
oJ klepthV (hV ou) "The thief" - the thief [does not come]. Nominative subject of the verb "to come." The definite article is not identifying a specific thief, since a general class of people is intended here; "a thief", REB.
ei mh "only" - if not = except. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception. The double negative "a thief does not come to steal ......, if not = except to kill and destroy" is better expressed positively, as NIV; "The thief's only purpose in coming is to steal, to butcher and to spoil", Berkeley.
iJna + subj. "to" - that [he may steal and kill and destroy]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that he may steal ... / in order to steal ..."
qush/ (quw) subj. "kill" - murder, sacrifice. "Slaughter", NAB.
apolesh/ (apollumi) subj. "destroy" - ruin. Barrett suggests a possible theological sense to the word here, cf., 3:16.
iJna + subj. "[I have come] that" - [i came] that. Again introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that." "I have come that they may lay hold of life in all its fullness", Cassirer. Note egw, "I", is emphatic by position and use.
ecwsin (ecw) subj. "they may have" - they may have. The subject "they", of course, means the sheep = disciples, but as the "they" can be confused with the "thieves and bandits" a shift in person is reasonable, "you", "everyone", CEV; "for people to have life", Williams.
zwhn (h) "life" - life. Accusative direct object of the verb "to have." Again we are left to wonder in what sense "life" is used. Surely it is "eternal life", that which Christ confers (cf. 5:24, 3:36, 6:40, 50, etc.), and does so abundantly - bigger and better (possibly "much more attractive", Ridderbos).
perisson adv. "[and have it] to the full" - [and may have] abundantly. Adverbial use of the adjective, modal, expressing manner. There is evidence of textual disruption here with the possible repetition of "have", so "that they may have abundance, even superfluity, of life", cf. Barrett. "There is nothing cramping or restricting about life for those who enter his fold", Morris. cf. Rom.5:20. The "life" that Jesus brings is "a life that is superabundant in its quality. Its duration and its quality are both beyond measure", Marsh. "Overflowing life", Barclay.