John 10 is a common text of contention between the Reformed and non-Reformed camps. The question that is brought up is “For whom did Christ die?” And that is exactly what Christ answers for us in his parable here. Lets jump in…
**Editors note- Scripture quotations will be in Italics while the commentary will be in Bold type.** **All Scripture is taken from the ESV**
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
In this passage I want us to notice the three categories of people here. There is the shepherd, sheep, and the other men. The shepherd is the good keeper of the sheepfold, the gatekeeper opens the door for him and allows him in. Christ is this shepherd (vs 11) and the door (vs 7). The sheep are Israel (Matthew 15:24). Then there are those who are not sheep: the thief who climbs in another way. The stranger is also not the shepherd or the sheep. The sheep hears his voice and will not follow him.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
Christ is the door. He is the only way of salvation (John 14:6). Those who came before him were thieves and robbers (not sheep), and the sheep (true Israel) did not listen to them. Enter by the door (Christ and his salvation) and you will have life.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…
The thief (who is not a sheep) comes to steal kill and destroy. This is probably a reference to Satan, but, by extension, the tools of Satan as well. False teachers and false prophets can be this thief. Christ came that “They” may have life… Who is the “they”? The sheep! Why? Because Christ is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the SHEEP. Who is the hired hand? Well, not a sheep, either. Someone who the shepherd has trusted with the sheep. This is probably the Pharisees who gave into Rome and hypocrisy. The hired hand saw the wolves coming and fled instead of fighting for them. But Christ promises not to flee but to lay down his life. He knows his sheep and his sheep knows him.
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Christ brings in his relationship with the Father to show the unity of him and the sheep in verse 14. He mentions other sheep of another fold. This is most likely the Gentiles (Romans 9:24ff) who are to be grafted in later (Romans 11). When the other sheep are brought in they are to be one flock (Church) under one shepherd (Christ). Christ speaks of the Fathers love for him due to his obedience of laying down his life. I am convinced this is not the surface level reason, but to show the complete obedience of Christ and the Father’s love of Christ. Christ willingly does this (vs 18). No one is offending his will. It was his will to lay down his life before it was the Pharisees will to kill him. This was the will of the Father and the Son from all eternity.
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
It is obvious that there were divisions among the Jews as to the validity of his words. Some saw him as possessed and others saw him as being from God.
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 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. 30 I and the Father are one.”
This was not the same teaching as above. This occurrence came after the previous section. But I believe there is a reason for it’s placement. The Jews are asking for an answer. Is Jesus the Christ? He says that he has told them, but they do not believe. He has done many great works from the Father, but they do not believe because they are not of his sheep. These are of another kind than the sheep. Christ has not laid his life for them. Because his sheep hear his voice and know him, he knows them, and follow him. These are the ones who will receive eternal life, they will never die. The Father, who gave the sheep to Christ (John 6:35-44), is greater than all, and no one will snatch them out of his hand… Christ and the Father are one… I believe what this is referring to isn’t necessarily trinitarian, but the unified will to save the sheep.
Soli Deo Gloria!