Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
I. There is no difficulty in the general interpretation of the language of the text. Christ has a personal knowledge of His disciples of the most complete and intimate kind, calling each by name, treating him as an individual, according to the nature he possesses and the actual circumstances of his life. What, without exaggeration, may be called a personal friendship, is established between the Lord and each of His disciples. By how few is this truth realised and fully accepted as true for himself, in his own daily life! You can understand how He might name your name in condescension, or in pity, or in reproof; but how He should name your name in pure warmhearted love—in love to you, to your own very self, as cherishing a real, heartfelt, personal attachment to you,—that altogether baffles your comprehension, because you feel that there is nothing in you which is deeply suitable to His love. But He loves the goodness that is begun in you. In one word, He loves the ideal "you," and resolves by His own grace to make it in due time the real "you."
II. The calling and the leading are always united. He calls that He may lead. He utters the name that he, that she, who answers to it may, at the thrilling word, arise and follow Him whithersoever He goeth. There are some who wait for the calling, who listen eagerly for the sound of the name, and who would be more than satisfied to hear it spoken in kindness by the Shepherd every day, but who are far from having any corresponding readiness to accept the leading of the Shepherd. "He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out"—out, of course, from the whole natural sinful life, from all its darkness and misery, into the light and joy of acceptance; out of infantine feebleness into manly strength; out of narrow views into wider; out of mistakes and disappointments into wiser ways and better fortunes; out of besetting sin into waiting duty; sometimes out of safety into perils which lie on the way to a higher safety; and so on and on in a movement which cannot cease until at length, in His own time and way, it will be out of earth into heaven.
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 44.
John 10:4Christ the Shepherd of His people
I. Christ goes before His people in the path of holy obedience.
II. He goes before them in the path of suffering and tribulation.
III. He goes before them to the grave.
IV. He goes before them to the judgment.
V. He goes before them to glory.
A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 196.
References: John 10:4.—J. Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 371. Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 242. John 10:7-9.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 225. John 10:7-19.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 221. John 10:8.—J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 210. John 10:9.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ii., p. 125; J. N. Norton, The King's Ferry Boat, p. 25; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 354; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 148; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 166; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 274; vol. xix., p. 299; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 263; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 323; Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 356. John 10:9-11.—D. Fraser, Metaphors of Gospels, p. 316.
John 10:10I. The gift of the Spirit of life dwells in those who are united to Christ in a fulness more abundant than was ever revealed before. And the gift of life is not a power, a principle, but a very true Person dwelling in us. This is the regeneration for which all ages waited till the Word was made flesh—the new birth of water and of the Spirit, of which the baptism of Christ is the ordained sacrament. Here, then, we see a part of this great promise. In one word, it is the fulness of life given to us by the personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost, which Christ by His indwelling has bestowed upon us.
II. And besides this, the gift of life is abundant, not only in its fulness, but in its continuance. We cannot die in our Head, because He is life eternal; nor can we die in ourselves, except we cast out the Giver of life who is in us. Our first head fell, and drew us with him into the grave; our second Head is in heaven, and "our life is hid with Him in God." We can die no more by any federal death, but only by our own several and personal death. If sinners die eternally, they die one by one, of their own free choice, even as Adam. And we die now no more by single acts of disobedience, but only by a resolved and deliberate course of sinning. This reveals to us the wonderful love and miraculous longsuffering of Christ, and of the Spirit who dwells in us. Where once He enters, there He abides with divine endurance.
Let us draw from what has been said one or two practical truths of great importance in our daily life. (1) And, first, we hereby know that in all our acts there is a Presence higher than our own natural and moral powers. We were united to Christ by the presence of the Holy Spirit from our baptism. There has never been a moment, from the first dawn of consciousness, from the first twilight of reason and the first motions of the will, when the Spirit of life has not been present with us. The working of the Spirit is, so to speak, co-extensive with our whole moral being. He presides over all the springs of thought, word and deed, by His gracious presence endowing us with power and will to mortify sin and to live in holiness. What, then, is our life but the presence of the Spirit dwelling in us? (2) Another plain and practical truth is, that this Presence works in us according to the revealed and fixed laws of our probation. (3) Lastly, we may learn that the union of this Divine Presence with us in our probation issues in the last and crowning gift of this life—the gift of perseverance. "Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it."
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 159.
Assuming inequalities of power to reign through every department of life, from the lowest to the highest, what I gather from Jesus' words is this, that God is not satisfied with any lower form of vitality where a higher can be attained, and that it has been one design of the Gospel to intensify human life, if I may so say, through every region of it; not to damp, impair or enfeeble a man's life-powers at all, but on every side to exalt them. The Son of God visited us in our far-off and, spiritually speaking, half-dead world, to make ours a more abundant life, as though He had come to bring a spiritual sunshine with Him, or had swept us with Himself into the regions of eternal day.
I. First of all, I think this has come true even in the ordinary and natural experiences of men. The effect of Christianity has not been to deaden men to the interests of this life, with its common joys and sorrows, but, on the contrary, to render our earthly life larger and more intense. The world itself is surely a graver, vaster thing since Jesus Christ died upon it. Common business rises in importance when by it you have the task set you to glorify your Saviour and serve your brother men. Our little life, obscure or petty as it may be, is no longer as a landlocked lake, set by itself apart; but, lo! it is an inlet, with open channel uniting it to the awful ocean beyond, and into it also there pour day after day those mysterious tides of life and passion which come from the infinite heart of the most high and loving One.
II. In the second place, Jesus Christ makes life to His disciples a more abundant thing by conferring upon us a new sort of life, and one which has fuller pulses and a deeper and stronger vitality about it than merely natural or unregenerate men can possess. The experiences of Christian—that is, spiritual life—are more intense than those of nature, because they are awakened in the new-born soul by a far grander and more mighty class of of facts and relationships; eternity is vaster than time, God mightier than the world. Unregenerate men touch time and the world; we, if we are Christ's, touch God and eternity. A man's conversion to God adds a fresh region, a new department, to his being; it gives him new thoughts, it quickens in him new emotions, it begets new motives, it sets before him new ambitions. The new life must be a fuller one, a deeper one, than the old, giving birth to thoughts more grave, feelings more deep,—in a word, "life more abundant."
J. Oswald Dykes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 177.
References: John 10:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1150; J. F. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 388; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 340; C. Short, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 261; Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 65; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 302; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 130; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xvii., p. 237; G. Dawson, Sermons on Disputed Points, p. 93; F. Tucker, Penny Pulpit, No. 606; E. Mellor, In the Footsteps of Heroes, p. 172; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 423.
John 10:11The Shepherd of our Souls
In those countries of the East where our Lord appeared, the office of a shepherd is not only a lowly and simple office, and an office of trust, as it is with us, but moreover, an office of great hardship and of peril. Our flocks are exposed to no enemies such as our Lord describes. The shepherd here has no need to prove his fidelity to the sheep by encounters with fierce beasts of prey. The hireling shepherd is not tried. But where our Lord dwelt in the days of His flesh it was different. There it was true that the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
I. From the time of Adam to that of Christ a shepherd's work has been marked out with special Divine favour, as being a shadow of the Good Shepherd who was to come. The shepherds of old time were such as Jacob, Moses and David—men at once of peace and of war; men of simplicity indeed, "plain men living in tents"; the "meekest of men," yet not easy, indolent men, sitting in green meadows and by cool streams, but men of rough duties, who were under the necessity to suffer, while they had opportunity to do exploits. And if such were the figures, how much more was the Truth itself, the Good Shepherd, when He came, both guileless and heroic. Jacob endured, Moses meditated, and David wrought. Christ, too, not only suffered with Jacob and Was in contemplation with Moses, but fought and conquered with David. Jacob was not as David, nor David as Jacob, nor either of them as Moses; but Christ was all three, as fulfilling all types—the lowly Jacob, the wise Moses, the heroic David—all in one, Priest, Prophet and King.
II. Christ is our Shepherd, and His sheep know His voice. Let us beware of not following when He goes before. Let us not be content with ourselves; let us not make our own hearts our home, or this world our home, or our friends our home; let us look out for a better country, that is, an heavenly. Let us look out for Him who alone can guide us to that better country; let us call heaven our home, and this life a pilgrimage; let us view ourselves as sheep in the trackless desert, who, unless they follow the shepherd, will be sure to lose themselves, sure to fall in with the wolf.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. viii., p. 230.
Of all the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are none more deeply engraven in the mind of the Church, none more dear to her than these. This is one of the Divine sayings in which there is so much of truth and love, that we seem able to do little more than to record it and ponder on it, to express it by symbols, and to draw from it a multitude of peaceful and heavenly thoughts. Let us, then, consider the surpassing and peculiar goodness of the One True Shepherd.
I. And this He has revealed to the world by His voluntary death. There was never any other but He who came down from heaven, that He might lay down His life for the sheep. While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us, "that He might gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad."
II. Again, His surpassing goodness is shown in the provision He has made of all things necessary for the salvation of His flock in this state of mortality and sin. There can no soul fail of eternal life, of reaching the rest of the true fold in heaven, except by his own free will. As the blood-shedding of the Good Shepherd is a full and perfect ransom for all His flock, so has He pledged the perpetual exercise of His unseen pastoral care, to give us all that is needed for our salvation. (1) And for this He has provided, first of all, in the external foundation and visible perpetuity of His Church. He has secured it by the commission to teach all nations, by the universal preaching of His apostles, by shedding abroad the Holy Ghost, by the revelation of all truth, by the universal tradition of the faith in all the world. For the perpetuity of the Church, He has pledged His Divine word that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it;" and in this He has provided for the perpetuity both of truth and grace. What the Church does on earth, it does in His power and name; and He, through it, fulfils His own shepherd care. This, then, is the external ministration of His goodness. (2) But once more. His love and care are shown, not only in the external and visible provision which He thus made beforehand for the perpetual wants of His flock, but in the continual and internal providence wherewith He still watches over it. When He says, "I know My sheep by name," He means that there is nothing in them which He does not know; there is not one forgotten, not one passed over, as He telleth them morning and evening. His eyes are upon us all. And all the complex mystery of our spiritual being, all our secret motions of will, our daily sorrows, fears, and thoughts, are seen and read with the unerring gaze of our Divine Lord. So let us follow Him now "whithersoever He goeth." Be our path through joy or sorrow, in the darkness or in the light, let us follow on to the fold which is pitched upon the everlasting hills; where the true flock shall "pass under the hand of Him that telleth them one by one, till all the lost be found and all His elect come in.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 1.
When our Lord calls Himself the Good Shepherd, is He using a title which has lost its value since He has ceased to live visibly upon earth, or has this title a true meaning for us Christians—for you, for me, at the present day?
I. Here we cannot but observe that, writing some forty years after the ascension, St. Peter calls Jesus Christ the Shepherd, as well as the Bishop of Souls; and St. Paul calls Him the Great Shepherd of the sheep. And in the earliest ages of the Christian Church, when the cruel stress of persecution drove the faithful from the streets and public places of Rome down into those catacombs which were burrowed out beneath the busy life of the vast pagan city, there was one figure above all others which, in the depths of their dark prison homes, Christians delighted to draw in rude outline upon the vaults, beneath which they prayed. It was the figure of the Good Shepherd. And ever since those days of persecution, when Christmas been asked to bless from His throne some work of mercy for relieving suffering, or for teaching the ignorant, or for delivering the captive, or for raising the fallen, it has been as the Great Shepherd of Christians—the Good Shepherd of humanity.
II. Let us briefly reflect what this truth involves as to our relations with our Redeemer. (1) As the Good Shepherd, He knows His sheep. He knows us individually; He knows all about us. It is because He knows us thus perfectly that He is able to help us, to guide us, to feed us—if we will, to save us; ay, to the very uttermost. (2) And besides this knowledge, He, the Good Shepherd, has a perfect sympathy with each of us. He is not a hard guardian, who sets Himself to keep us in order without any bit of feeling for our individual difficulties. He is touched, as His Apostle says of Him, with a feeling of our infirmities. Nothing that affects any one of us, is a matter of indifference to His tender heart. (3) Above all, as the Good Shepherd, the Christ, He is disinterested. He gains nothing by watching, by guarding, by feeding such as we. We can contribute nothing to His majestic glory. He seeks us for our own sakes, not for His.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 575.
I. Consider this subject, first of all, in its widest possible range. The vast family in heaven and earth, all created being, is under His guidance as the risen and exalted Redeemer. Not only has He created all things, not only does He uphold all things by the word of His power; but, by virtue of redemption, He exercises a peculiar and special government over all things. However little we may be able to enter into the meaning of such a closer relationship being established by redemption, of the fact itself there can be no doubt. Our blessed Lord has become, in a closer sense than before, the guide and overseer and shepherd of the vast and innumerable flock of created beings, since He was born at Bethlehem, since He was crucified on Calvary, since He rose triumphant over death and hell, and was received up into glory. The Christian claims for His own Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, the lordship and rule over all the chances and changes of human affairs, and the ordering of the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, to the furtherance of His own high and glorious purposes.
II. We have advanced thus far; but it is plain that, so far from exhausting, we have not even yet approached the full and proper meaning of the term "Shepherd," and the office thus designated. Christ rules and orders the universe, and thus He may be said to be its Shepherd; He governs and arranges the nations and events of the world, and, so far, He may be said to be its Shepherd; but there is a sense even closer than any of these, in which our risen and ascended Saviour is the Good Shepherd; in which all the tenderness of that character, all the individual nearness, all the constant personal vigilance felt and leaned on, may be filled up and realised. Let us note His pastoral care of His people, and the consequent condition of and effect on themselves. (1) He is their Almighty Shepherd. (2) He is an ever-watchful Shepherd. (3) He is a tender and compassionate Shepherd. (4) He is an all-wise Shepherd. Lie still, then, little flock, assured by His almightiness, guarded by His watchfulness, rooted in His sympathy, and safe in His unerring wisdom. Seek no other shepherd, for He is all-sufficient. Question Him not, nor distrust Him. However unpromising life may be, He will bring out of it blessing and joy; for thus saith the Lord God, "Behold I, even I, will both search My sheep and seek them out."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermon, vol. vi., p. 226.
Our Saviour mentions three evidences, which He gave to entitle Him to the name of the Good Shepherd. And
I. He says, "I know My sheep." The Lord Jesus not only knows the number of His great flock, but His acquaintance is so close and intimate, that "He calleth His own sheep by name."
II. "I am known of Mine." We speak of knowing an earthly friend, not because his name, his position, his character, or his occupation, are known, but because we have tested his sincerity, his liberality, his affection. So, too, in regard to the knowledge which Christians have of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. The third proof which Jesus gives that He is the Good Shepherd, is the most convincing one of all: "I lay down My life for the sheep." He entered the sheepfold by the same door with them; and, having led them through the gate of death, He will go before them also through the gate of the resurrection, to the better land beyond. J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 171.
Christ is the Good Shepherd
I. Because He owns the sheep. He is the proprietor of the flock. It follows naturally, that He would exercise greater vigilance, and risk greater danger, on their behalf. (1) They are His by the gift of the Father. Over and over again in the course of the Gospels, He gives utterance to this truth: "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me." (2) They are His by creative ties. This probably is the deep meaning of the phrase, "His own sheep"—sheep which are His, even before they are called. The anthem of redemption excites reminiscences in the soul of the melody of creation; the Shepherd's voice is not strange, for we have heard it before. The sheep know His voice. (3) They are His also by purchase. He shed His blood, not in His own defence, but for the sake of those whom He came to rescue.
II. Because He knows His sheep. "I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine." (1) He knows the sheep by their faces. When a sinner is converted, he is brought face to face with the Saviour; he looks the Saviour in the face, and the Saviour looks him in the face; and He never forgets any face, once He has a full, fair view of it. (2) He knows you by your names. When men are comparative strangers, they surname and master one another; but the Saviour surnames and masters no one. Like the mother, the sister, or the wife, full of tenderness and affection, He calls you by your Christian names. (3) He, furthermore, is perfectly acquainted with your circumstances. (4) This word "know," means something deeper yet; it means thorough, complete apprehension of your deepest character.
III. Because He feeds His sheep. "They shall go in and out and find pasture." They go in first to the fold. This supposes that they shall rest awhile after their weary wanderings in the desert. (2) They shall go out to graze, Here is safety and satisfaction.
IV. Because He leads the sheep. He leads them (1) Gently, (2) Safely, (3) Through life and death.
J. C. Jones, Studies in St. John, p. 282.
References: John 10:11.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 282; S. Baring Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 154; A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 85; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 301; H. P. Liddon, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 85. John 10:11-16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., pp. 239-241; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 222; vol. iv., p. 224; Homiletic Magazine, vol. i., p. 195.
John 10:14The True Sheep
Our Lord here says that He and His sheep know each other; that His knowledge of them is one of the tokens of the Good Shepherd; and that their knowledge of Him is one of the tokens of the true sheep. Now, what is this knowledge by which His true sheep are known? It is the knowledge of friendship and love. It is something living and personal, arising out of the whole of our inward nature, and filling all our powers and affections. As He knows us, through and through—all that we have been and are, all that we desire and need, hope and fear, do and leave undone, all our thoughts, affections, purposes, all our secret acts, all our hidden life, which is hid with Him in God—so do His true sheep know him; His love, care, tenderness, mercy, meekness, compassion, patience, gentleness, all His forecasting and prudent watchfulness, His indulgent and pitiful condescension. It is the knowledge of heart with heart, soul with soul, spirit with spirit; a sense of presence and companionship; so that when most alone, we are perceptibly least alone; when most solitary, we are least forsaken. Let us consider how we may attain this knowledge.
I. First, it must be by following Him. "My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me." By living such a life as He lived. Likeness to Him is the power of knowing Him: nay, rather, it is knowledge itself—there is no other. It is by likeness that we know, and by sympathy that we learn. If we would only take the Sermon on the Mount and read it, not as the world has paraphrased it, but as He spoke it; if we would only fulfil it, not as men dispense with it, but as He lived it upon earth, we should begin to know somewhat of those deeper perceptions of his love, tenderness, and compassion which are the peace of His elect.
II. And further than this, there are peculiar faculties of the heart which must be awakened, if we would know Him as He knows us. There can be no true obedience without the discipline of habitual devotion. Meditation is the proof of prayer, and prayer is the life of meditation; and they are therefore inseparable.
III. And lastly, this true knowledge of Him is not a transitory state of feeling. Out of obedience and devotion arises an habitual faith which makes Him, though unseen, yet perceptibly a part of all our life. With this we shall not run great risks of deceiving ourselves. This strong and sustained consciousness of His presence makes all things within the veil more real than those we see. The unseen Head of the Church living and glorified; the mystical body knit in one by the Holy Ghost; the Good Shepherd tending His one fold on the everlasting hills; the familiar image of His loving countenance; and these, all day long, in the midst of work and in their hour of rest, at home or abroad, among men or in solitude, are spread before the sight of hearts that know Him by love.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 21.
I. Observe, first, that there is a double knowing spoken of here, and that double knowing is distinctly spoken of in the two clauses, there being two correlative clauses, the one depending upon the other. There is (1) the Shepherd's general knowledge of His flock. He sees them all. They are all before Him. He can tell at a glance whether any are missing. He can tell at a glance whether strangers are in the flock. All are before Him. But (2) there is beyond this a particular knowledge. He calls His sheep by name. Each one in his own personality, each one is before Him as though there were no other in this crowded world. The Shepherd, especially in this land, had this intimate knowledge of his sheep. And this knowledge thus intimate was a knowledge of care and love. It was not a love for humanity; it was a love for the separate souls of which humanity is made up. His care bosoms itself upon His love for each one.
II. "I am known of Mine." That second is the answering image of the first, as it is cast from Christ upon the heart of man. As there is a general knowledge of all the sheep, so there is a general knowledge of Christ. You all have it. As there is in Him not only the general knowledge, but also the particular knowledge, so there must be in you, not that general knowledge only, but the personal, unworked, unwrought knowledge of Him, if you take to yourself the comfort of being amongst those He loves. And observe how that branches forth. As love is the very characteristic of His knowledge of His own, so love bred of His love is the very characteristic of this personal knowledge of Him—love, that master passion, that to which alone the will of man bows, as the iron casts itself into the liquid stream under the breath of the furnace—that which alone can make the hard heart of fallen humanity break into the stream of obedience; personal love to Him, the return of His personal love to you, bred of it. "We love Him because He first loved us." "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." There must be this ring concentric within ring, the general knowledge running out into the particular personal knowledge, and that personal knowledge the knowledge of love.
J. Mackarness, Penny Pulpit, No. 362.
I. Christ's knowledge of us—the Shepherd's knowledge of His sheep. That this knowledge, which passes reciprocally between Christ and believers, is something exceedingly wonderful indeed is evident from the affinity of the line of thought. For these two acts of knowledge are only two links of a chain, which only runs on to other two. And see what these two are. "I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep." There is plainly a balance, there is clearly an argument running up. The knowledge which the Son has of the Father, and which the Father has of the Son, is, and it must be, infinite, beyond conception; because it is the knowledge of a Divine mind. It is the knowledge of an eternity of existence; it is the knowledge of perfect love; it is the knowledge of actual oneness of being; and yet, in a breath with that, Christ says, "I know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." If Christ knows His sheep, it follows (1) that He knows who are His sheep. Leave it to Him to exercise His own prerogative. His knowledge is both collective and individual. Each of us stands out, this day, as much the object of Christ's mind, as known and as loved, as if He had nothing else in the whole universe to care about except His flock, and as if in that flock He had no sheep but you.
II. Observe one or two of the consequences which result from this minute individualising knowledge. Remember, Christ knows, not of, but you, and therefore Christ is always looking upon you in a completeness, i.e. with reference to your circumstances; and He will take every little circumstance into consideration. He knows what none else can know: He knows each one's future, and He is always working up to that future; and that future stretches on beyond this world. It is not only that you are being prepared and trained at every step for some path that you are to tread in this life; but you are being prepared for the exact place you are to occupy, and for the exact service you are to render in heaven.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 167.
John 10:14-15The Shepherd of the Sheep
Two things come up for consideration in this verse—(1) The good Shepherd in His relation as such; (2) His work.
I. The Shepherd stands in a twofold relation; on the one hand, to Him whose shepherd He is by authoritative appointment, and, on the other hand, to those who are His sheep, by free gift in the gospel, and by personal appropriation in the exercise of faith, wrought in them by the Spirit. (1) The sheep are given to Jesus Christ by the Father; and, as the Father's gift, He knows them. He holds them as a sacred trust, a precious possession. He has them near to Him; He has them in His heart, in His hand. None shall pluck them out of His hand. (2) Jesus knows the sheep as hearing His voice following Him. He cannot but care for them; He cannot but remember them. He knows them by intimate acquaintance with all their infirmities, by sympathy with them in all their sorrows.
II. The work of the good Shepherd. It is His laying down His life for the sheep. (1) Viewing this work in the light of His relation to the Father, we may see in it one chief part, or rather the crowning and culminating instance, the concentrated essence, as it were, of that perfect obedience by which He fulfilled all righteousness. It is all-important thus to regard the one event of the Lord's death and resurrection as the sure sign, the pledge and seal, of the thoroughly good understanding that there is between Him as your shepherd and the Father, whom in that capacity He serves. He is faithful to Him who has appointed Him—faithful for ever to the death. (2) Viewing His death in the light of His relation to the sheep, for whom, in obedience to the Father, He lays down his life, it is to be regarded as forming the principal part, the consummation and essence, of His passive obedience and righteousness—His propitiatory or atoning sacrifice. He lays down His life for the sheep, as not only the obedient servant of the Father, but the representative and surety of the sheep. His life is given freely; it is laid down voluntarily; it cannot be demanded by any right: not by right of judgment, for there is no sin; not by right of conquest, for even when crucified through wickedness He lived by the power of God, and had legions of angels at His command.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 53.
References: John 10:14.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 276; T. J. Rowsell, Church Sermons by Eminent Clergymen, vol. i., p. 379. John 10:14, John 10:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1877. John 10:15.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 293. John 10:15, John 10:16.—H. Platten, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 248. John 10:16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1713; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 314; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 83.
John 10:17-18Christ Comforting Himself
I. These words, although spoken, it would seem, to an audience, read like a soliloquy. Jesus Christ, we may say, is here heard comforting Himself, comforting Himself with the reflection that some one loves Him, and with the sense of His power, He could not get on without the assurance that He was loved, any more than we can, least of all, perhaps, the richest, finest natures among us. Some persons are constantly craving and crying out for affection, and devote themselves to the task of choosing their utterances, and framing their conduct, with the view of gaining and keeping as much of it as possible; they scheme and fret for you to fondle them, and are mortified and unhappy if you do not. That is small and weak, and that was not Christ; but to be loved was sweet to Him, and the thought that He was loved, contributed to sustain and animate Him in His work.
II. But the Lord Jesus comforts Himself also, you see, with His full possession of power. It is quite natural and legitimate to contemplate with satisfaction our unrecognised worth and quality, and to retire upon it for consolation; to feel the excellence of the gift in us that is not perceived. We may need to do this occasionally, in encountering depreciation and disparagement, in the presence of supercilious and scornful glances, in order to preserve our self-possession and to keep ourselves from fainting.
III. Observe (1) what it was in Christ which called forth the Father's love. God loved Him, He states, because He laid down His life in order that He might take it again: not, mark, simply because He surrendered it, but because of the motive that actuated Him, the object He had in view in making the surrender. That was Christ's grand idea: to die out that He might revive; to be lost, that He might be restored, as the first-born of many brethren, no longer separate and solitary in His filial standing, but influential to gather others into it. (2) The power of Christ. He was capable of taking up and bearing this terrible cross. He was certain, not only that He could bear the cross set before Him, but that He should reap the full, the anticipated fruit of it. And what the secret of it was, He tells us in the words, "This commandment have I received of my Father."
S. A. Tipple, Echoes of Spoken Words, p. 1.
Victim and Priest
I. The perfect freedom or voluntariness of Christ's death is most plainly declared by Himself in the words which we have selected for our text. They express the abiding purpose of His life. We measure the strength of anyone's will to suffer, first and most easily, by its deliberate formation and persistent endurance. It is important therefore to see, in the historical evidence of the Gospels, that our Saviour's resolution to lay down His life was neither an impulse, born of excited feeling and liable to fail before calmer thought, nor a thing of necessity for which He was gradually prepared, and to which He was at last shut up through circumstances; but was a habitual purpose quietly contemplated from the very first, steadily kept in view all along; a protracted life-long will which could never be long absent from his mind by night or day, till in the end it grew to be almost a passion, and burst out at times in such words of vehement desire as these: "How am I straitened till it be accomplished."
II. This is not all. To know how strong was Jesus' will to suffer death, we must add a new element: the element of self-determination to die. While resignation was a habitual attitude of his soul, there was always more than resignation; there was choice; there was intention. We are apt, I think, to underestimate the priestly act of Jesus in His passion, by thinking rather of His willingness than of His will to suffer. As the reasonable and acceptable victim, He is willing, He consents. But as the Priest or Sacrificer, He does more; He wills, He offers. Even the martyr's choice of death before sin is less absolute and free by far than the choice of Christ. He was a Martyr; but He was more, a Priest; and offered Himself to His suffering with a perfection of liberty which we most distantly approach by these human parallels, and therefore with an intensity of will which we have no power to measure.
III. The self-sacrificing will of our Victim-Priest was crossed by hindrances from the weakness of the flesh, and it overcame them. Free choice and fixed will triumphed over the last resistance from the flesh, and His strong crying and tears was what the writer to the Hebrews calls it—a sacrificial oblation offered up to Him who could have delivered Him from that great death.
J. Oswald Dykes, Sermons, p. 164.
"I have power to take it again." Of the considerations which our Lord's self-resurrection suggests; let us content ourselves with these:
I. We are reminded by it what Christianity really and truly means. It is, before all things, devotion to a living Christ.—to a Christ who lives now as energetically as He lived on the morning of the resurrection.
II. Next we see the foundation of our confidence in the future of Christianity. It is based on a risen Christ.
III. Easter brings with it a consolation which no serious Christian will miss. He who could at will resume the life which He had laid down on the cross, can surely quicken at pleasure the bodies which have mingled with the dust, and can reunite them to the spirits with which they were joined from the earliest moments of their existence.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 1138.
References: John 10:17, John 10:18.—T. M. Herbert, Sketches of Sermons, p. 199; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 65. John 10:18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 46. John 10:22, John 10:23.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 18. John 10:22-42.—Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 106.
John 10:24The Godhead of Christ
There seems to be much in our Lord's manner of teaching to justify this question. Men who have sought to win the world to their side, have ever made the most of their pretentions, and those commissioned by God to do a work for Him in the world have never lost an opportunity of publishing the commission under which they acted. But it was not so with our Divine Master. Search diligently through His teaching and preaching, and how rarely do you find Him asserting that He is the Christ. All that He says is pervaded by this truth, but it does not lie prominently on the surface.
I. Why was, it that He did not comply with the request of the Jews? It was because those who made the request, those to whom He spake, could not bear the revelation, because without prepared hearts they were incapable of receiving or believing the truth, because they could not really know the doctrine without seeking to do the will. What is the claim that He would have made upon their faith had He directly answered their enquiry and announced that He was the Christ? He would have demanded that they should have believed Him to be what He was, the very and eternal God; that as the Father is God, so He is God, and this in no secondary or technical sense, but in the fullest and broadest meaning of the words.
II. Whence is it that we so often doubt and hesitate, whether it really is necessary for us to obey all the precepts Christ has left us in the Gospel? Is it not because we have not yet really learnt to know that the Christ whom we worship is God, that He is ever present, marking what we do, and recording all for the day of judgment? Whence is it that the busy occupations of life, buying and selling, and seeking to get gain, are made so absorbing, whilst we feel that calls to devotion and to works of charity can be so easily set aside? It is because in our hearts we regard the world as more solid and substantial than the Gospel, because we have not comprehended what is meant by our communion with Christ as God. Whence is it that men are so overwhelmed by sorrow, loss of friends, shipwreck of fortune, and feeble health? It is because they have not really learnt that it is God's providence which rules the world, that Christ our God orders all things according to the counsels of His will, and that by loving submission all may be made to minister to their everlasting happiness.
R. Gregory, Penny Pulpit, No. 339 (new series).
References: John 10:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 995; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 264; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 101. John 10:27-29.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 274. John 10:28.—G. Hadley, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 317; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1056; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 168; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 279. John 10:29.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 61; A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 408. John 10:30.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 525; vol. xv., p. 226. John 10:32.—W. M. Taylor, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 86. John 10:34-38.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 318. John 10:39-42.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 251; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1924. John 10:41.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 33; Parker, The Ark of God, p. 278. John 11:1.—Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 169. John 11:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1518; Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 95; Bishop Thorold, The Yoke of Christ, p. 3.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
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 fold, and one shepherd.
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And 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; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
I and my Father are one.
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,
And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.
And many believed on him there.