Hidup Berkelimpahan – Makna Dasar

Hidup Berkelimpahan: Tekun, Ulet, dan Sabar

Renungan Pertama: Makna Dasar dan Hakikat Hidup Berkelimpahan, 20 Februari 2016

Hidup berkelimpahan dalam Yesus Gembala yang baik (Yohanes 10: 1-10, 11)

Injil Yohanes mewartakan kehadiran dan peran Yesus sebagai Gembala yang diutus oleh Allah Bapa ketengah umatNya. Gambaran tentang Yesus sebagai Gembala itu sangat bermakna dan mengungkapkan nilai-nilai rohani yang kaya tentang hubungan Allah dan umatNya seperti ikatan-hubungan perjanjian Allah dan umatNya sejak masa perjanjian lama. Hubungan itu mengungkapkan aktualitas perjanjian Allah dan umatNya, yaitu perjanjian yang senantiasa memastikan “kuasa dan kehadiran Allah yang menyertai umatNya sepanjang masa.” Kuasa dan kehadiran Allah itu memberikan hidup berkelimpahan bagi umatNya sepanjang masa pula (Yohanes 10: 10). Bagaimanakah hidup berkelimpahan bagi umat harus dimaknakan menurut konteks perjanjian Allah dan umatNya menurut perjanjian baru bersama Yesus dan gerejaNya? Kelimpahan macam apakah yang dinyatakan oleh Allah dalam diri Tuhan Yesus dan Gerejanya?

Dengan belajar dari sejarah keselamatan menurut perjanjian lama, maka Hidup Berkelimpahan untuk umat Allah dapat dimaknakan sebagai hidup yang penuh oleh  macam-macam anugerah dan berkat sebagai berikut:

1. Kasih Allah yang mengampuni dosa asal Adam-Hawa dan bukan kutukan yang memusnahkan.

Setelah hubungan Allah dan manusia terputus akibat dosa yang dilakukan oleh Adam dan Hawa, ternyata Allah masih memberikan kesempatan kepada mereka (manusia) untuk melanjutkan hidup kendati dengan banyak kesulitan dan kerja keras di dunia yang jauh berbeda dengan hidup bahagia di surga. Selanjutnya, perjuangan mengatasi kesulitan dan kerja keras diluar Surga yang bahagia itu dapat menghasilkan kesejahteraan bagi keturunan Adam dan Hawa. Tetapi, kelimpahan yang boleh diterima manusia bukan sekedar hasil perjuangan dan kerja keras manusia itu, melainkan lebih dari itu kelimpahan selalu diberikan kepada manusia dalam bentuk keterbukaan Allah yang mencintai dan mengasihi manusia.

2. Perjanjian Allah yang mengikat manusia menjadi umatNya yang terpilih.

Anugerah dan berkat yang berupa keterbukaan Allah dalam mencintai dan mengasihi manusia dinyatakan dalam kelanjutan hidup Adam dan Hawa. Keberlanjutan hidup manusia setelah Adam dan Hawa tidak hanya dialami dalam kesulitan dan kerja keras yang sia-sia, tetapi semua itu diteguhkan dengan anugerah perjanjianNya kepada Abraham dan keturunannya: Hitunglah bintang-bintang dilangit bila kamu bisa, dan sebanyak itulah keturunanmu akan kuberikan kepadamu dalam bimbingan dan kesejahteraan yang Aku berikan juga. Dari Abraham dituntut iman kepada Allah, sehingga oleh karena iman Abraham itu maka seluruh keturunan Abraham diteguhkan menjadi kawanan domba israel yang dipilih menjadi umat Allah yang dijanjikan untuk masuk ke tanah terjanji;

3. Manusia boleh mengalami bimbingan lanjut dan perlindungan Allah melalui orang-orang pilihanNya, yaitu Allah mengutus para gembala Israel dan memberi perlindungan kuasaNya melalui para raja Israel.

Perjalanan umat Allah ke tanah terjanji dibimbing oleh para gembala pilihan Allah seperti Nabi Musa dan nabi-nabi lainnya, dan gembala yang memimpin umat seperti Raja Daud dan raja-raja Israel lainnya. Sehingga keterbukaan Allah dalam mencintai dan mengasihi manusia diwujudkan juga dalam cinta kasih kegembalaan dari Allah melalui pendampingan dan bimbingan para Nabi serta dalam kepemimpinan para raja Israel. Allah selalu terbuka bagi manusia, dan kepada manusia diberikan kebebasan serta kuat-kuasa untuk mengalami pemenuhan kelimpahan janjiNya. Manusia dipanggil untuk mewujudkan kesanggupannya atau akontabilitasnya untuk taat kepadaNya seperti iman Abraham dan seperti kesetiaan umat Israel. Kesetiaan dan pengorbanan para nabi menjadi model akontabilitas manusia dalam menjawab dan menanggapi janji Allah. Kearifan dan kebijaksanaan para raja Israel yang dipilih Allah menjadi model akontabilitas manusia yang arif dan bijaksana dalam mengelola hidup keseharian yang diberikan kepada manusia sesuai nama masing-masing dan sesuai kesejahteraan yang diperlukan.

4. Semua anugerah dan berkat Allah sepanjang masa perjanjian lama diberikan kepada manusia melalui Yesus Gembala yang baik dalam perjanjian baru. Belajar dari perjalanan dan perjanjian umat Israel dengan Allah, maka umat perjanjian baru boleh mengalami hidup berkelimpahan melalui kehadiran, peran, dan kuasa Allah yang mengutus PuteraNya yang tunggal. Kehadiran, peran, dan kuasa Allah itu menyatu dalam hidup Yesus yang menjadi Gembala umat dengan mengorbankan hidupNya (Yohanes 10: 11). Sehingga, hidup Yesus itu menjadi wujud kasih Allah yang melimpah bagi umat yang beriman kepadaNya. Hidup berkelimpahan merupakan wujud hidup keseharian yang diwarnai oleh cara hidup Yesus yang menjadi karakter umat perjanjian baru. Sehingga, hidup berkelimpahan bagi umat kristiani yang dibabtis dalam nama Bapa, Putera, dan Roh Kudus harus diwujudkan sebagai hidup yang berpusat pada Yesus Kristus dalam persatuan cinta trinitaris yang illahi. Hidup yang berpusat pada Kristus bernilai kelimpahan dalam segala sesuatu dan diperuntukkan bagi kesejahteraan umat sebagai kawanan domba yang saling mengasihi seperti Allah mengasihi mereka masing-masing sesuai nama mereka satu per satu dalam kebersamaan umat Allah.

Selanjutnya gambaran Hidup Berkelimpahan dapat direnungkan sesuai dengan gambaran tentang Yesus sebagai Gembala yang mengorbankan hidupNya (Yohanes 10: 11). Gambaran Yesus sebagai Gembala itu berakar dalam tradisi kegembalaan dan kesatuan kawanan domba seperti dialami oleh umat Israel dalam tradisi perjanjian lama. Berikut ini kutipan dari Agape Bible Study (Bagian I dan II) yang menjabarkan perspektif nilai rohani dari tradisi-tradisi itu.

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 10, Part I
OLD TESTAMENT BACKGOUND OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD DISCOURSE

Disaster for the shepherds who lose and scatter the sheep of my pasture, Yahweh declares.  This, therefore, is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says about the shepherds who shepherd my people, ‘You have scattered my flock, you have driven them away and have not taken care of them.  Right, I shall take care of you for your misdeeds, Yahweh declares!  But the remnant of my flock I myself shall gather from all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; they will be fruitful and increase in numbers.  For them I shall raise up shepherds to shepherd them and pasture them.  
Jeremiah 23:1-4a

I shall assemble the whole of Jacob, I shall gather the remnant of Israel, I shall gather them together like sheep in an enclosure.  And like a flock within the fold, they will bleat far away from anyone, their leader will break out first, then all break out through the gate and escape, with their king leading the way and with Yahweh at their head.
Micah 2:12-13

For the Lord Yahweh says this: ‘Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.  As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. […] ‘I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.’
Ezekiel 34:11-12 & 23

Fall: the Feast of Jesus in JUDEA –JERUSALEM (Fall)
T III. OPPOSITION IN JERUSALEM 7:1-10:21
A
B
          A.  Feast of Tabernacles:
Jesus leaves the Galilee to travel to Jerusalem
7:1-13
E           B.  The Middle of the Feast 7:14-36
R           C.  The Last Day of the Feast 7:37-53
N           D.  After the Feast 8:1-10:21
A           1.  The Adulteress 8:1-11
C
L
          2.  The Light of the World discourse – #2
I AM the Light of the World
8:12-59
E           3.  SIGN #5 Healing of the man born blind 9:1-40
S           4.  The Good Shepherd discourse –
# 3 “I AM the Door of the sheep“;
#4 “I AM the Good shepherd
10:1-21
Winter: The Feast of Dedication           CONTINUES IN JERUSALEM
during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah)
10:22-42
Jesus in BETHANY (near Jerusalem)

 

THE OLD TESTAMENT BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD DISCOURSE

Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me declares Yahweh Sabaoth!  Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep! Zechariah 13:7 (bold type = quoted by Jesus in Matthew 26:3 at the Last Supper, the night before His crucifixion our time and the day of His crucifixion Jewish time)

Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees on the day of Assembly after the Feast of Tabernacles continues.  It is the Sabbath and He teaches them with a parable comparing God’s relationship to His Covenant people with a shepherd’s relationship to his sheep.  You may have noticed that throughout the Bible God has had a special love for shepherds.

Question: Can you think of men in the Old Testament who were shepherds and who were especially close to God?  Hint: there are 7

Answer:

  1. Abel, son of Adam was a shepherd who “found favor with God” (Genesis 4)
  2. Abraham in Genesis 21 is described as a chieftain with many herds of sheep
  3. Jacob is a shepherd for his uncle Laban in Genesis 30
  4. Joseph was shepherding his father Jacob’s flocks in Genesis 37
  5. Moses went from prince of Egypt to shepherd of Midian in Exodus 3
  6. David was a shepherd of his father’s flocks in 1 Samuel 16:11
  7. Amos the Judean shepherd was God’s prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 1:1

 

Question: In the New Testament who are the first men of Israel/Judah to come and worship the Christ Child?

Answer: The shepherds from the fields around Bethlehem.  Bethlehem,  “house of bread, in Hebrew, is the hometown of King David.  It is located just 5 miles from Jerusalem.  It was in Bethlehem that scholars believe the lambs for the daily Tamyid [or Tamid] sacrifice were kept.  These shepherds may have been the very shepherds who kept the flocks for the daily sacrifice to Yahweh.

The 23rd Psalms, which is traditionally attributed to King David, is probably the most beautiful literary expression of the comparison between a shepherd’s care for his sheep and Yahweh’s faithful, merciful love for His people.  This is a toda psalms, in Hebrew “thanksgiving psalms”.  A toda psalms, like the toda or peace sacrifice [see the document The Levitical Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant] offers thanksgiving to God for salvation from danger or a life threatening event.  The 23rd Psalm gives thanks to God for His faithful love [hesed in Hebrew; agape in Greek] to the righteous, which is illustrated by the image of the “good shepherd” in verses 1-4 and the loving host of the messianic banquet which is the foreshadow of the Eucharistic banquet and the Communion of Saints in verses 5-6.  Please read the 23rd Psalm.

Weldon Keller’s book A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23 [Zondervan Publishing, 1997] he gives some very interesting insights into the habits of a flock sheep of that can be compared to Jesus’ role as God’s Supreme Shepherd of the New Covenant Church, and the Old Covenant  priests, who were responsible to God as the shepherds God’s flock, which was the Old Covenant Church.

  1. Sheep depend on the shepherd for their wellbeing.
  2. Sheep are sociable animals that travel together in a large flock but not too close together; they like their personal space.
  3. Sometimes sheep loose their connection to the flock and tend to stray which can lead to disaster.
  4. Often sheep are unaware of the dangers of the world.  At the beginning of the spring just before sheering when the streams and rivers are full and running deep the shepherd must keep the sheep away from swiftly moving water.  Sometimes it is even necessary for the shepherd to dam up a portion of the stream so his animals can drink [Palms 23:2b “He leads me beside streams of still water…“]. If the shepherd doesn’t protect them in this way the sheep, in their thirst, will wade out into the swiftly moving water and when their thick wool coats absorb too much water they will fall over and drown.
  5. The sheep learn the sound of the voice of their shepherd so that when he calls to them they will come to him, but they will run from the voice of a stranger. In the same way that the shepherd understands his flock our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows our weaknesses as well as our strengths and needs.

In Sacred Scripture God the Father has often expressed His Covenant relationship to His people as a shepherd caring for his flock:

  1. In terms of God the Good Shepherd caring for His sheep the Covenant people: Genesis 48:1549:24Numbers 27:17Psalms 23:128:974:179:1380:195:7Isaiah 44:1;53:6Micah 7:14Jeremiah 17:16Ezekiel 34:16Zechariah 11:9.  Jacob son of Isaac who God renamed Israel,  and who became the father of the 12 tribes of God’s people, spoke of God in this way in Genesis 48:15 and 49:24 as …the God who has been my shepherd all my life” and as …the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.
  2. In the terms of God the Father extending this title of “shepherd” to His representatives, the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel who “shepherd” God’s people in His name: 2 Samuel 5:27:71 Chronicles 11:217:6Psalms 78:70-72Isaiah 63:11Zechariah 11:4-516:1117. In 2 Samuel 5:2 the 12 tribes of Israel acknowledged David as their king  by declaring: …and to you it was that Yahweh promised, ‘You are to shepherd my people Israel and be leader of Israel.’
  3. In the terms of the final Shepherd, the Messiah who was promised to come from the house of David as God’s prophet, priest and king to “shepherd” the Covenant people:
    • Isaiah 40:11I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.
    • Ezekiel  37:24:  My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my judgments, respect my laws and practice them.;
    • and the prophecy of Christ’s passion in  Zechariah 13:7a-d: Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me declares Yahweh Sabaoth!  Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!

 As sheepherders before and during their sojourn in the land of Egypt the Israelites readily understood the “shepherd” imagery and looked to Moses as God’s representative sent to “shepherd” Yahweh’s people out of Egypt and to both Moses and Aaron, as God’s appointed covenant mediator and High Priest, shepherds of the flock which was the Old Covenant Church established at Sinai:

  • In Isaiah 63:11 the 8th century BC prophet recalls Moses’ mission in these terms: But he called the past to mind, Moses his servant.  Where is he who saved them from the sea, the Shepherd of his flock? 
  • And in Psalms 77:20You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

And when Moses was coming to the end of his ministry as God’s holy prophet he requested that Yahweh appoint another “shepherd” in Numbers 27:15-17Moses then said to Yahweh, ‘May it please Yahweh, God of the spirits that give life to all living creatures, to appoint a leader for this community, to be at their head in all their undertakings, a man who will lead them out and bring them in, so that Yahweh’s community will not be like a sheep without a shepherd.’

Yahweh continued this analogy when He established the priesthood of the Old Covenant Church in the Covenant formed at Mt. Sinai.  The ministerial priesthood was established in the Sinai Covenant as God’s representatives to his people.  They are God’s “shepherds” of His holy flock, the Church.  It was their responsibility to “shepherd” His people and they were accountable to God for the success or failure of their shepherding.  In Ezekiel chapter 34, just prior to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the city of Jerusalem [587/586BC], Yahweh commands His prophet Ezekiel to rebuke the Old Covenant priesthood for being failed “shepherds” to God’s people. It is because of this failure of the ministerial priesthood that Yahweh promises the day will come when He will come Himself to shepherd His Covenant people.

Background history on the holy Prophet Ezekiel: In the 8th century AD the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and the people were taken into exile and were scattered among the Gentile peoples of the Assyrian Empire [2 Kings 17:1-6].  The Southern Kingdom of Judah remained independent until the 6th century when it became a vassal state of the Babylonians when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 597BC, ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587/6BC [2 Kings 24:10-17].  In 597BC the Babylonians took 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and their families as hostages, forcing them into a forced migration to Babylon [2 Kings 24:16]. Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a young priest who was sent into exile with other Judahite refugees who were resettled along the Chebar canal, one of the tributary canals of the River Euphrates [mentioned 8 times in Ezekiel 1:1,33:152310:15202243:3].  The refugees were located southeast of the city of Babylon, near the ancient city of Nippur [Ezekiel 3:15], in settlement they called “Tel Aviv” [Akkadian = til abubi / til avuvi], which means “mound of the flood” [Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume I, page 893; HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, page 175].

Ezekiel’s prophetic visions from God begin in exile from the site of this community circa 593BC with his vision of God’s throne as a chariot of fire at his commissioning as God’s prophet in Ezekiel chapter 1.  It is significant that he was 30 years old [Ezekiel 1:1] when he was called to be Yahweh’s holy prophet.  Age 30 was the when a priest ended his training and assumed his full priestly duties in the Temple [Numbers 4:3].  Ezekiel’s visions lasted from the time of his call until some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6BC [2 Kings 25:8-21Jeremiah 39:1-1052:12-14].  During the time of his ministry Ezekiel was called as the prophetic “Watchman” in service to Yahweh [3:16-2133:1-9] to perform a series of symbolic acts to demonstrate God’s judgment on Judah and Jerusalem.  Each symbolic act, or ot, in Hebrew, was a dramatic “acting out” of each prophecy which often left Ezekiel afflicted with fits of dumbness and paralysis [3:23-2724:25-2733:21-22], and which made him an object of curiosity and ridicule among his contemporaries.  It was only after the fulfillment of his prophecies that his true greatness as a holy prophet was realized.  His mission began in the fifth year of exile which Ezekiel links to his fellow refugee and Babylonian prisoner, the Davidic King Jehoiachin of Judah [Ezekiel 1:2-3]. The most active part Ezekiel’s ministry lasted from 593 to 585 BC; however it may have continued until about 571 BC according to Ezekiel 29:17.  Archaeologists have discovered a Babylonian tablet which records the date of the deportation of exiles to March 16th, 597BC and a tablet with lists the provisions for the household of the captive King Jehoiachin of Judah which confirms 2 Kings 25:27-30 that Jehoiachin was a state prisoner of the Babylonians [Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 2, page 714].

Please read Ezekiel chapters 34-37.

Focusing on 34:1-31The Judgment Against the Priesthood and the Prophecy of the Good Shepherd:

1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, “Shepherds, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!  Are no shepherds meant to feed a flock?  3 Yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock.  4 You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones.  You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost.  On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and harshly.  5 For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the wild animals; they have been scattered.  6 My flock is astray on every mountain and on every high hill; my flock has been scattered all over the world; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.  7 Very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 8 As I live, I swear it declares the Lord Yahweh’since my flock has been pillaged and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of every wild animal, since my shepherds have ceased to bother about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, 9 very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 10 The Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am against the shepherds.  I shall make my flock out of their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock.  And the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths to stop them from being food for them.  11 For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.  12 As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep.  I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness.  13 I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land.  I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.  14 I shall feed them in good pasturage; the highest mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing grounds; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel.  15 I myself shall pasture my sheep, I myself shall give them rest declares the Lord Yahweh.  16 I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the injured and make the sick strong.  I shall watch over the fat and healthy.  I shall be a true shepherd to them.

17″As for you, my sheep, the Lord Yahweh says this: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.  18 Not content to drink the clearest of the water, you foul the rest with your feet.  19 And my sheep must graze on what your feet have trampled and drink what your feet have fouled.  20 Very well, the Lord Yahweh says this: I myself shall judge between the fat sheep and the thin sheep.  21Since you have jostled with flank and shoulder and butted all the ailing sheep with your horns, until you have scattered them outside, 22 I shall come and save my sheep and stop them from being victimized.  I shall judge between sheep and sheep.

23 “I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.  23 I, Yahweh, shall be their God, and my servant David will be ruler among them.  I, Yahweh have spoken.  25 I shall make a covenant of peace with them.  I shall rid the country of wild animals.  They will be able to live secure in the desert and go to sleep in the woods.  26 I shall settle them round my hill; I shall send rain at the proper time; it will be a rain of blessings. 27 The trees of the countryside will yield their fruit and the soil will yield its produce; they will be secure on their soil. And they will know that I am Yahweh when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the clutches of their slave-masters.  28 No more will they be a prey to the nations, no more will the wild animals of the country devour them.  They will live secure, with no one to frighten them.  29 I shall make splendid vegetation grow for them; no more will they suffer from famine in the country; no more will they have to bear the insults of other nations.  30 So they will know that I, their God, am with them and that they, the House of Israel, are my people declares the Lord Yahweh.  31 And you, my sheep, are the flock of my human pasture, and I am your God declares the Lord Yahweh.“‘  [bold print words are my addition].

Question: Who is Ezekiel, addressed by Yahweh as “son of man,” told to prophesy against in Ezekiel 34:1-2?

Answer: The shepherds (priesthood) of Israel: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel… Ezekiel 34:2.  In this passage the title “son of man” only identifies Ezekiel as a “son of Adam” ‘a Semitic expression for a human being.

In the Old Testament the title “son of man,” in Hebrew ben adam, and in Greek huios anthropou, is only used for the Prophet Ezekiel with the exception of Daniel 7:13 where “Son of man” is used for the one who appears to be a human being but who is identified as the divine Messiah who will rule the nations, it is in the context of the Daniel 7:13 passage that Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of man.”  It is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself, but it is used always with the definite article “the”.  The words “son of man” are also applied to the Prophet Daniel in Daniel 8:17 where God uses the title as He did in the case of Ezekiel, for one who is a “son of Adam”‘and a member of the human family.  In the Book of Ezekiel, God addresses Ezekiel as “son of man” 93 times [Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 6, page 137].

Question: When you consider that Ezekiel lived in the 6th century BC what is significant about this prophecy which is directed to Israel and not just to Judah?  See 2 Kings 17:5-18].

Answer: The Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist in 722BC.  The 10 Northern tribes were deported eastward by the Assyrian conquerors and except for a small remnant who returned to settle in the Galilee, the 10 tribes never returned to Israel. They were scattered and absorbed among the Gentile nations like lost sheep.

Question: What does God identify as the failure of the priesthood in 34:1-6?

Answer: …you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock.  You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones.  You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. In other words, the priesthood failed “feed” the people spiritually, therefore, the people became weak in their faith and some were even lost to the Covenant.

Question: What 3 promises does Yahweh make in 34:11-16?

Answer: 

  1. In verse 11 Yahweh promises that He will take care of His sheep: For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.
  2. In verse 13 He promises to bring them back from where they have been scattered: I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land.
  3. In verse 16 He promises to be a true shepherd to His people: I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the injured and make the sick strong.  I shall watch over the fat and healthy.  I shall be a true shepherd to them.

The prophet Jeremiah (ministry from 626-580?BC), an older contemporary of Ezekiel, also prophesized the judgment of Yahweh against wicked shepherds/priests.

Please read Jeremiah 23:1-6: Prophecy of the Coming of the Davidic Messiah:

22:1 Yahweh says this: […].  23:1 ‘Disaster for the shepherds who lose and scatter the sheep of my pasture’, Yahweh declares.  2 This, therefore, is what Yahweh, God of Israel says about the shepherds who shepherd my people, “You have scattered my flock, you have driven them away and have not taken care of them.  Right, I shall take care of you for your misdeeds, Yahweh declares!  3 But the remnant of my flock I myself shall gather from all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; they will be fruitful and increase in numbers. 4 For them I shall raise up shepherds to shepherd them and pasture them.  No fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost, Yahweh declares!  5 Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall raise an upright Branch for David; he will reign as king and be wise, doing what is just and upright in the country.  6 In his days Judah will triumph and Israel live in safety.  And this is the name he will be called, “Yahweh-is-our-Saving-Justice.'”  [bold print is my addition].

In the books of the Old Testament prophets, most of the prophets use reoccurring symbolic imagery associated with covenant faithfulness, rebellion, judgment, and restoration.  One of these reoccurring images is that of Yahweh as the master of His domestic animals: i.e. the divine Shepherd who cares for His flock.  This is the symbolic imagery both Jeremiah and Ezekiel are using.  For more on the use of this type of symbolic imagery see the study “How to Study the Old Testament Prophets” in the Agape Bible Study list of available studies.

Question: What promise does Yahweh make through His prophet Jeremiah that is similar to the promise of Ezekiel chapter 34:1-211, concerning the bad shepherds and the lost sheep?

Answer: God the Father promises that the bad priests (shepherds) will face judgment for their neglect of the “flock” (the Church) and as for the “flock” He promises in both Ezekiel and Jeremiah: “I myself” will come to the covenant people:

  • Jeremiah 24:3I myself shall gather from all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds….

Question: In the New Jerusalem translation of Ezekiel 34:11-22 above, how many ways will Yahweh come Himself to His people?

Answer:

  • I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.
  • I myself shall pasture my sheep
  • I myself shall give them rest
  • I myself shall judge between the fat sheep and the thin sheep

Question: What promise does God make in Jeremiah 23:5-6 that is similar to the promise is Ezekiel 34:23?

Answer: God promised that the day will come when He will raise up the Messiah: “The Branch”, from the line of King David and He will reign as king uniting Israel and Judah.

These prophecies were imperfectly fulfilled in the return from the Babylonian captivity in the late 6th century.  Only a remnant of the nation of Judah returned to the Promised Land, the remnant prophesized in Jeremiah 23:3 [Ezra 2:64-67].  There was no return of the lost 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom, with the possible exception of the remnant who returned to the Galilee, and there was no unification of Israel and Judah as God promised in these passages.  There was also no Messiah from the house of David who had come to “shepherd” His Covenant people after the return. Evidence that this is a future prophecy not fulfilled in the return from Babylon is even more evident in Ezekiel chapter 37 where God gives Ezekiel the vision of a restored Israel and Judah untied together under the rule of the one shepherd.

Please read Ezekiel 37:24-28:   24 My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my judgments, respect my laws and practice them.  25 They will live in the country which I gave to my servant Jacob, the country in which your ancestors lived.  They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever.  David my servant is to be their prince forever.  26 I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them.  I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever. 27 I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people.  28 And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them forever.

Question: According to verse 26 what are the conditions of the New Covenant of peace?

Answer: It will replace the Old Covenant and will be an eternal Covenant of peace.

Question: How has the promise that Yahweh’s sanctuary [Temple] will be with His people forever [verse 26] fulfilled in Christ?

Answer: It is fulfilled in the perpetual sacrifice of the Most Holy Eucharist.  When we receive Christ in the Eucharist the risen Savior lives in us.  Our bodies become the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Question: Return to the Ezekiel passage and look at Ezekiel 34:17-22.  This is an interesting passage.  How does it relate to Jesus’ ministry?

Answer: This passage is being fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry to Judah in John chapters 7-10.  Jesus is judging between the “sheep” of Judah.  These “sheep” are all of the same flock, members of the Old Covenant Church, but some will come to Him and some will not.  It is what Jesus is saying in John 9:39It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind.   Those who come to Him will be the foundation of the New Covenant people of God.  All the first bishops [Apostles] of the Catholic [Universal] Church were Jews including the first 15 Christian bishops of Jerusalem [see the chart of the Bishops of Jerusalem in the chart section, subsection: Church History].  The Jews and Israelites of the Old Covenant faith are the roots of the Church, the Jews who came to Christ are the trunk and the Gentile converts are the branches who will be grafted into the “Tree” of the New Covenant Church that was promised in Jeremiah in 31:31Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah)…  It is important for us to remember the Jewish roots of our “tree” of faith.  For more on this subject readRomans chapters 9-11.  The Jews were and still are, the “first” chosen people, the “firstborn sons” of God [see Exodus 4:23].

Question: In Ezekiel 34 verses 23-25 God promises to restore His people and to make a Covenant of peace with them.  How does He identify the one shepherd who will lead the Church?

Answer: He will be from the line of King David: I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.  I, Yahweh, shall be their God, and my servant David will be ruler among them [verses 23-24]. The Old Covenant people understood from this passage that this shepherd chosen by God to be the promised Messiah would come from the family of the great King David.

Please read Ezekiel 36:23-27: The Promises of Restoration and Purification:

36:23 I am going to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them.  And the nations will know that I am Yahweh declares the Lord Yahweh ‘when in you I display my holiness before their eyes.  24 For I shall take you from among the nations and gather you back from all the countries, and bring you home to your own country.  25 I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols.  26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.  27 I shall put my spirit in you and make you keep my laws, and respect and practice my judgments.’

Question: Please refer to Ezekiel 36:23-27.  What promises does Yahweh make and what does the promise of verse 25 prefigure?  5 promises are listed in this passage.

Answer:

  1. He promises to bring His covenant people back from the nations where they were scattered
  2. To reveal to the Gentile nations that He is the one true God
  3. To bring His covenant people “home” [meaning in perfect Covenant union with God]
  4. To “pour clean water” over them to cleanse the people of their sins
  5. To put His Spirit and a new heart in them.

This passage prefigures Christian baptism and the establishment of the universal Church with the restoration of the “lost tribes” which were disbursed into the Gentile world.  There is also the promise that the Gentile nations will be brought back into the family of God.

The Jews saw these Ezekiel and Jeremiah passages as prophecy of the restoration of the people after the Babylonian captivity which began in 538BC, and indeed at that time these prophecies were partly fulfilled.  The people were allowed to return to their land after 70 years of exile.  But the prophecy was only imperfectly fulfilled at that time because only a remnant of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah from the Southern Kingdom of Judah returned.  The majority of the Jews stayed in Babylon and Persia and the 10 Northern tribes were still scattered sheep.  In addition, Judah was still under the domination of a foreign power and was not restored as a Davidic kingdom.  The people of God in the first century were hungrily awaiting the promised everlasting 5th Kingdom prophesized by the Prophet Daniel in Daniel 2:44 …the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last for ever…  and the promise of the Messianic king who would rule them promised in Daniel 7:13-14…I say coming on the clouds of heaven, as it were a son of man.  He came to the One most venerable and was led into his presence.  On him was conferred rule, honor and kingship, and all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.  His rule is an everlasting rule which will never pass away, and his kingship will never come to an end.

Question: When would this prophecy finally be fulfilled?  Please read the promises of Ezekiel 37:2125c-28… say ‘The Lord Yahweh says this: “I shall take the Israelites from the nations where they have gone.  I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil.  [..].   David my servant is to be their prince for ever.  I shall make a covenant of peace with them an eternal covenant with them.  I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever.  I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people.  And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.”‘

Answer: This prophecy is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, son of David, the Good Shepherd when all the nations of the world are restored by the redeeming work of Christ on the cross and are invited back into God’s Covenant family, to rule over the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, their own country.

In the first century the people of Judah who suffered under the domination of the Roman Empire were still waiting for this prophecy to be fulfilled.  They were still waiting for the son of David to come and “shepherd” his people.  But there was another Old Testament prophet who spoke of “wicked shepherds” as well as of the promised “good shepherd” from the house of David who will establish a New Covenant with the God’s people.  In this next passage Yahweh has required the prophet Zechariah (ministry began in 520BC) to perform anot, a prophetic act to instruct the people of future events. Please read Zechariah chapters 11-14; focusing on Zechariah 11: 4-69-1215-1712:10-1113:17-9; and finally the strange prophecy about the Feast of Tabernacles [Shelters] in Chapter 14 verses 16-19. Zechariah was prophesizing between 520BC and 518BC, after the return to Judah from the Babylonian captivity.  His prophecies were not fulfilled until the first century AD in the ministry and self-sacrifice of Jesus and the establishment of the New Covenant Israel, the Universal Church.

Read Zechariah 11:412-17: The Two Shepherds of the Covenant People:

11:4 Yahweh my God says this, ‘Pasture the sheep for slaughter, [..].  12 I then said to them, ‘If you see fit, give me my wages, if not, never mind.’  So they weighed out my wages: thirty shekels of silver.  13 Yahweh said to me, ‘Throw it to the smelter, this princely sum at which they have valued me!’ Taking the thirty shekels of silver, I threw them into the Temple of Yahweh, for the smelter.  14 I then broke my second staff, ‘Couplers,’ in half, to rupture the brotherly relationship between Judah and Israel.  15 Next, Yahweh said to me, ‘This time, take the gear of a good-for-nothing shepherd.  16 For I am now going to raise a shepherd in this country, who will not other about the lost, who will not go in search of the stray, who will not heal the injured, who will not support the swollen, but who will eat the meat of the fat ones, tearing off their very hoofs.  17 Disaster to the shepherd who deserts his flock! May the sword attack his arm and his right eye!  May his arm shrivel completely and his right eye be totally blinded!’

Question: The Fathers of the Church saw verses Zechariah 11:12-13 as prophecy of what event?  Hint: see Matthew 27:3-10.

Answer: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Question: Referring to Zechariah 11:15-16.  Who fulfilled this role in the time of Jesus?

Answer: The former High Priest Annas and his son-in-law the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas who conspired to have Jesus killed, had Him arrested and condemned Jesus before the Jewish law court the Sanhedrin on the testimony of false witnesses.  Because they could not impose the death penalty, they forced the Roman governor to condemn Jesus to death.

Please read Zechariah 12:10-1113:17-9: Restoration of the Covenant people:

12:10 But over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me.  They will mourn of the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child.  11 When that day comes, the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad Rimmon in the Plain of Megiddo.  [..].  13:1 ‘When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash sin and impurity away.  [..].  7 Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me declares Yahweh Sabaoth!  Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!  And I shall turn my hand against the young!  8 So will be throughout the country declares Yahweh Sabaoth, two-thirds in it will be cut off and the other third will be left.  9 I shall pass this third through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, test them as gold is tested.  He will call on my name and I shall answer him; I shall say, ‘He is my people,’ and he will say, ‘Yahweh is my God!’

Question: In 12:10-11 and in 13:1 what prophesy did Christians see fulfilled in these verses?

Answer: The baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the Church praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the Feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ Resurrection and 40 days after His Ascension.  In the Upper Room praying were Mary and Jesus’ kinsmen, all descendants of the House of David, and also Jesus’ Apostles and disciples.  In Peter’s homily to the crowd of Jews in the street outside the Upper Room, he testified that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead and was the promised Messiah [Acts 2:1-36]. After his homily the Jews realized they had rejected the Messiah and were “cut to the heart” [Acts 2:37].  They cried out to Peter and the other disciples: What are we to do, brothers? In obedience to Jesus command to spread the Gospel of salvation, many of His New Covenant believers were persecuted and many were martyred for their faith, the first Christians were all “passed through fire” and were “refined” in their suffering and testing.  These were the ones about whom Jesus said “These are my people” and they could say “Yahweh is my God!”

Question:  What is significant about Zechariah 13:7-9?

Answer: Christians saw 13:7 as prophecy of the passion of Christ, the Good Shepherd who was struck down, and of His disciples who, with the exception of St. John, were “scattered” in their fear.  The Zechariah 13:8-9 passage was fulfilled in the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by 2/3rds of the Old Covenant Church and His acceptance by the remnant of Jews who became the nucleus of the New Covenant universal Church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 “Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!” at the end of the Last Supper in Matthew 26:31.

Read Zechariah 14:16-19: 16 After this, all the survivors of all the nations which have attacked Jerusalem will come up year after year to worship the King, Yahweh Sabaoth, and to keep the Feast of Shelters (Tabernacles).  17 Should one of the races of the world fait to come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh Sabaoth, there will be no rain for that one.  18 Should the race of Egypt fail to come up and pay its visit, on it will fall the plague which Yahweh will inflict on each of those nations which fail to come up to keep the feast of Shelters (Tabernacles).  19 Such will be the punishment for Egypt and the punishment for all the nations which fail to come up to keep the feast of Shelters (Tabernacles). 

Question: How do you suppose the Fathers of the Church interpreted Zechariah 14:16-19 in the references to the Feast of Tabernacles [Shelters]?

Answer: The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated God’s sovereignty and looked forward to the coming of the Messiah; therefore, the Fathers of the Church saw in this passage the spread of the Gospel in the world, the Gentile nations coming into the Covenant and joining with Old Covenant Jews to worship God as One Holy Covenant people/ One universal, the etymology of the word “catholic” Church.  Egypt represents the Gentile nations; those Gentile nations who acknowledge Yahweh’s sovereignty and Christ as King of the Kingdom of God will become part of the covenant family and those who do not will be rejecting the gift of salvation; there will be salvation only through the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

Question: Can you recall a passage in the Gospel of Matthew early in Jesus’ ministry, when Jesus makes a comparison between the Old Covenant people of the 1st century AD Church that compares them to sheep and the priesthood to her shepherds that is similar to Ezekiel 34:5? Hint: see Matthew 9:36

Answer: Jesus observed the crowds of Jews coming to see Him … And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.

Before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BC, the prophet Micah prophesized Yahweh’s promise of restoration for the faithful remnant of the Old Covenant people: I shall assemble the whole of Jacob, I shall gather the remnant of Israel, I shall gather them together like sheep in an enclosure.  And like a flock within the fold, they will bleat far away from anyone, their leader will break out first, then all break out through the gate and escape, with their king leading the way and with Yahweh at their head.  Micah 2:12-13

This is the context in which Jesus begins to preach His “Good Shepherd Discourse” on the Sabbath, which is the 8th , and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Sacred Assembly and a day of rest.

Resources used in this lesson:

  1. A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23, Weldon Keller [Zondervan Publishing, 1997]
  2. The Anchor Bible Commentary- The Gospel of John,> vol. I, Fr. Raymond Brown
  3. The Navarre Biblical Commentary – St. John
  4. Homilies on St. John, St. John Chrysostom
  5. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – The Gospel of John
  6. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  7. The Feasts of the Lord, Howard and Rosenthal [Thomas Nelson, 1997]
  8. Anchor Bible Dictionary

Catechism References [* indicates verse quoted in CCC passage]

Old Testament References

Psalms 23 1293*
Ezekiel 34:11f 754*
Ezekiel 34:36 64*, 2811*
Ezekiel 34:36:20-21 2812*, 2814
Ezekiel 36:25-28 1287*, 1432*, 368*715*
Ezekiel 37:1-14 715*, 703*
Zechariah 12:10 1432*, 2561*
Zechariah 13:1 2561*
Zechariah 14:8 694*
Jeremiah
Jeremiah  31: 1611*
Jeremiah  31:31-34 64*; 715; 762*; 1965*

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

CHAPTER 10, Part II
THE GOOD SHEPHERD DISCOURSE and
THE DECISION IS MADE TO KILL JESUS AT THE FEAST OF DEDICATION

Moses then said to Yahweh, ‘May it please Yahweh, God of the spirits that give life to all living creatures, to appoint a leader for this community to be at their head in all their undertakings, a man who will lead them out and bring them in, so that Yahweh’s community will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’  Yahweh then said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua (Yeshua) son of Nun, a man in whom the spirit dwells, and lay your hand on him. 
Numbers 27:15-18

So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
Mark 6:34

You had gone astray like sheep but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:25

St. Peter’s advice to the shepherds of Christ’s flock: I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you; watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it.  Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock.  When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:1-4

Fall: the Feast of Jesus in JUDEA –JERUSALEM (Fall)
T III. OPPOSITION IN JERUSALEM 7:1-10:21
A
B
          A.  Feast of Tabernacles:
Jesus leaves the Galilee to travel to Jerusalem
7:1-13
E           B.  The Middle of the Feast 7:14-36
R           C.  The Last Day of the Feast 7:37-53
N           D.  After the Feast 8:1-10:21
A           1.  The Adulteress 8:1-11
C
L
          2.  The Light of the World discourse – #2
I AM the Light of the World
8:12-59
E           3.  SIGN #5 Healing of the man born blind 9:1-40
S           4.  The Good Shepherd discourse –
# 3 “I AM the Door of the sheep“;
#4 “I AM the Good shepherd
10:1-21
Winter: The Feast of Dedication           CONTINUES IN JERUSALEM
during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah)
10:22-42
Jesus in BETHANY (near Jerusalem)

THE GOOD SHEPHERD DISCOURSE

Background: The man born blind, healed by Jesus and questioned by the chief priests and Pharisees was rejected from the covenant community by the Old Covenant authorities.  Jesus seeks him out and brings him to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and then accuses the Scribes and Pharisees of being the ones who are “blind.”

 Please read John 9:40-10:1-6: The Good Shepherd Parable

9:40 Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘So we are blind are we?’  9:41 Jesus replied: ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but since you say, ‘We can see,’ your guilt remains.  10:1 In all truth (Amen, amen), I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a bandit.  2He who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; 3 the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out.  4 When he has brought out all those that are his, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know this voice.  5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.’ 6 Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he was saying to them.

John 10:1In all truth I tell you [Amen, amen] anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a bandit.

Question: In this parable what is the sheepfold?  Hint: see verse 7.

Answer: The sheepfold is the Church, the community of God’s re-born New Covenant people.  It is the Church as the sheepfold who brings the covenant people together, and through the Sacraments into union with Christ.

Question: What then is the way or gate into the New Covenant of holy believers?
Answer: The gate is Jesus Christ, the one through whom believers have access to the community which is Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in citation # 754: The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ.  It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.

Question: In this parable, what connection is there to the shepherd discourses of the Old Testament prophets?

Answer: Entering through Christ is the only way into the New Covenant He is establishing in fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets Jeremiah [31:31], Ezekiel [34:37], and Zechariah [9-14].  Jesus is the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise when He said “I myself” will shepherd my sheep in Ezekiel 34:1115, and 20.  Jesus is the one promised in Ezekiel 34:23 when God promised:  I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them, to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.

Question: Are there other ways to enter the sheepfold/ Covenant?

Answer: No, only one way; though the gate.  There is only one gate and the gate is Christ. St. Augustine wrote of his role as a shepherd of Jesus’ flock: I seeking to enter in among you, that is, into your heart, to preach Christ: if I were to preach other than that, I should be trying to enter by some other way.  Through Christ I enter in, not to your houses but to your hearts.  Through him I enter and you have willingly heard me speak of him. Why?  Because you are Christ’s sheep and you have been purchased with Christ’s blood.  St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium  [The Gospel of John] 47, 2-3

Question: What is the significance of the use of the reference to thieves and bandits or robbers?

Answer: Those who try to enter the Church other than through Christ Jesus are not legitimate members of the Covenant and do harm to the Church through their cunning [thieves] by deceiving the people and violence [robbers] when they separate people from the Covenant in Christ through false teaching.  They enter “some other way” on a road or agenda of their own instead of through Christ.

Question: Why is this “other way” an important difference?

Answer: This is a significance difference because in the 3 previous discourses in chapter 7 [see 7:234244] Jesus has laid great stress on the source from which He comes and that His origin from the Father.  This is the major difference between Himself and His opponents. Thieves and robbers do not come from a known location or origin like a home or the pasture but instead from some unknown, unfamiliar direction and by a “origin” and authority of their own.

John 10:2-3He who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out.

Question: Who is the flock?  See Ezekiel 34:6

Answer: The chosen people of God’s holy Covenant.

Question: Who is the “gatekeeper”?  See verses 7 & 9.

Answer: Jesus is both the “gate” and the “gatekeeper.”  It is only through Him that the shepherds/ministerial priesthood can enter in to shepherd the Covenant people.

Question: Who were the “shepherds” of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament?  Hint: there is more than one answer.

Answer: In the Old Testament God gave the people prophets like Moses and Jeremiah, priests like Aaron and Samuel, and kings like David and Solomon to “shepherd” them.

Question:  Who is promised to come as the Good Shepherd to the chosen people and how does this “Shepherd” fulfill the imperfect roles of the Old Testament “shepherds”?

Answer: Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, who was promised to come as prophet, priest, and king of Israel.

Question:  Why is Jesus identified with the gate, the gatekeeper, and the Shepherd?  What is the “sheepfold” and the “flock” in Jesus’ parable?

Answer: Jesus identifies Himself as the “shepherd” and the “gate” as well as the “gatekeeper” while the Church is both the sheepfold and the flock in this parable. He applies to Himself the image of the gate or door with the understanding that He is the only way into the “sheepfold” which is the Church and those who shepherd His flock only do so under His, “the gatekeeper’s” authority.  The documents of Vatican II teach: The Church is a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (cf. Jn. 10:1-10).  It is also a flock, of which God foretold that He himself would be the shepherd (cf. Isaiah 40:11Ez 34:11ff), and whose sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pastor by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds (cf. John 10:111 Peter 5:4) who gave his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-15). Lumen Gentium 6.

John 10:4-5When he has brought out all those that are his, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice.  They never follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

In Wendell Keller’s book A Shepherd Looks at the 23 Psalms, Keller speaks of this phenomenon. The sheep that have been raised by one shepherd will indeed run from the unfamiliar voice of a stranger.

Question:  In this parable what is the shepherd leading the sheep out of and what does it symbolize?  Where is He leading them?  Hint: What is the prophecy of Micah 2:12-13?

Answer : Since His ministry is only to the Jews and Israelites of the Galilee at this time, Christ is leading those who recognize Him as the Messiah to follow him out of the Old Covenant and into the New.  This action is fulfilling the prophecy of God’s holy prophet Micah: I shall assemble the whole of Jacob, I shall gather the remnant of Israel, I shall gather them together like sheep in an enclosure.  And like a flock within the fold, they will bleat far away from anyone, their leader will break out first, then all break out through the gate and escape, with their king leading the way and with Yahweh at their head. Micah 2:12-13

The people may also recall another Yeshua, Jesus’ name in Hebrew, who was appointed by Yahweh as Shepherd of the Covenant people in Numbers 27:15-23.

Question:  What is significant about this passage?

Answer: In this passage Joshua is designated as Moses’ successor to be a “shepherd” to the covenant people, to be at their head in all their undertakings, a man who will lead them out and bring them in, so that Yahweh’s community will not be like sheep without a shepherd [Numbers 27:17].  Our English word “Joshua” is in Hebrew the same name which Jesus bore, Yeshua.  Jesus is not only the new Moses but the new divinely appointed Joshua who will “shepherd” His people into the “Promised Land” of heaven.

 the sheep hear his voice: There are dangers for the sheep if they do not recognize the shepherd’s voice.  The flock or individual sheep can be deceived and led astray, just as those within the Church can be deceived and led astray by following the voice of a false teacher. Jesus will address the danger of the flock being threatened by false teachers in the next passage.

Question:  What divine truth does Jesus teach the Church today using this illustration of the shepherd’s voice?

Answer: Since there are “thieves” and “robbers/bandits” who may be calling to us, we must know the voice of Christ so that we are not led astray.  To study Sacred Scripture through the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium, and to faithfully receive the Sacraments is the best way to become familiar with our Shepherd’s voice.  The Apostles’ successors, the Bishops along with Peter’s successor, the Pope, help to guide the faithful people of “Peter’s boat”‘the Holy Catholic Church.  St. Jose Maria Escriva wrote in Christ is Passing By, page 34: Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the Sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the Sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives on a road of faithfulness to God.

Question:  Has Jesus accused some of the priests, Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes of being thieves and bandits as well as poor shepherds?  See Mark 6:34 and 11:17-18.

Answer: Yes He has.  In Mark 6:34 both the priests and scribes heard Jesus accuse them of turning His Father’s house into a den of thieves/ bandits.

Question:  Will you be able to discern the “voice of the stranger” if he calls to you?  Will you recognize his call as false doctrine and will you be able to defend your faith?

John 10:6Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he was saying to them.

They do not understand and so He patiently tries again in John 10:7-18 by extending the sheep/shepherd metaphor of verses 1-5 into another parable.  Jesus’ patience reminds me of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah consoling God’s covenant people after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC and his prophecy concerning the future destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah: Here is Lord Yahweh coming with power, his arm maintains his authority, his reward is with him and his prize precedes him.  He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes. Isaiah 40:10-11

Question:  Why do the people fail to understand?  In what other encounter did they also fail to understand?

Answer: In every encounter since chapter 5 there have been those who have accepted His words and those who did not believe, fulfilling the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2:24 and Jesus’ testimony about Himself in Luke 12:51-13.

Please read John 10:7-15: Jesus Identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd

7 So Jesus spoke to them again: ‘In all truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, I am the gate of the sheepfold.  8 All who have come before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep took no notice of them.  9 I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.  11 I AM the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; 13 he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.’

John 10:7-8So Jesus spoke to them again: ‘In all truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, I am the gate of the sheepfold.  All who have come before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep took no notice of them.’

He begins both His explanation of the parable in verses 1-5 and a second parable with the solemn double “amen.”  “I AM the gate” is the 3rd of the 7 “I AM” metaphors [without a predicate nominative] of John’s Gospel.  Jesus is again stating that only those who “go in” through Him have the authority to guide the flock [Church].  He is also the gate through which the flock must enter to come to salvation.  The imagery Jesus uses in this passage recalls Psalm 118:19-20Open for me the gates of saving justice (salvation), I shall go in and thank Yahweh.  This is the gate of Yahweh, where the upright go in.  I thank you for hearing (answering) me, and making yourself my Savior.  It is significant that this passage precedes Psalms 118:22-24, the passage Jesus applies to Himself in Matthew 21:42The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is Yahweh’s doing, and we marvel at it.  This is the day which Yahweh has made, a day for us to rejoice and be glad.  As well as the next verse [Psalms 118: 24-26] which the people will shout out the Jesus as He enters the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: We beg you, Yahweh, save us (Hosanna); we beg you Yahweh, give us victory! Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming! [see John 12:13Matthew 21:9]; and verse 26 which Jesus will quote of Himself in Matthew 23:39

Question: Jesus’ reference to all who have come before me in verse 8 does not refer to the prophets and men of God in the Old Testament but to whom?

Answer: There are two different ways to interpret this passage.  Jesus may be referring to the Pharisees who have come to challenge His authority and His origins in front of the people, or to false messiahs who have preceded Him and will come after Him. But “true Israelites” do not heed the voices of those who oppose Him [John 5:458:4246-47].

In 10:5 Jesus spoke of the “stranger” or false shepherds which the true sheep of the shepherd will run away from “because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  In this passage He now turns to the other threat to the flock and identifies that threat as thieves and robbers/bandits, those who want to attack the Church lead the flock astray.  He also mentions the threat of thieves His last week in Jerusalem in Matthew 21:13Mark 27:38; and Luke 19:46 when He accuses the authority of the Old Covenant Church of making His Father’s house,  the Temple in Jerusalem, a “den of thieves.”

History has shown that enemies of the fold/Church have attacked the sheepfold in 2 ways in the attempt to deceive the faithful and to scatter the flock:

  1. Sometimes they enter the Church (as a member of the covenant people) and attack stealthily from within = thieves.
  2. Sometimes they attack openly from outside the fold/Church = robbers/bandits.

Question:  Can you think of some examples of these two forms of attack?

Answer:

  1. The Protestant Reformation when unfaithful priests scattered the “sheep” and stole them from the “fold.” Catholic politicians who vote in favor of abortion.  Catholics who teach false doctrine or stand in opposition to the teaching of the Magisterium.
  2. Governments that openly persecute Catholics and put priests into prison.  Adolph Hitler was both a thief from within and a robber by violence.  He was a baptized Catholic who promoted paganism and used the German government to persecute the Church.

John 10:9-10: Jesus repeats the message that He is the gate and tells the crowd: ‘I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’ 

Explaining the meaning of His parable in verses 1-5, Jesus now identifies Himself as “the gate” to the sheepfold using the significant words “I AM” which recalls the divine name revealed to Moses in the experience of the burning bush, this is a “burning bush” experience for these people but few will recognize the significance and come to belief.

Question:  In verse 9 Jesus speaks about giving abundant pasture; what does He mean?  What does Christ give to the Church in abundance?

Answer: He gives the abundant graces that will flow from Christ to His Church in the Sacraments to enrich the lives of each individual on their journey of salvation and the Church’s journey through time to the final hour of mankind.

John 10:11-13I AM the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; he runs away because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.
Jesus identifies Himself as the “good shepherd” using the significant words “I AM” [without a predicate nominative] for the fourth time.

Question:  What prophecy from the books of the prophets in last week’s lesson would the people listening to Jesus connect to His statement?

Answer: Probably Ezekiel 34:1-12 especially verse 9-12The Lord Yahweh says this:  ‘Look, I am against the shepherds.  I shall take my flock out of their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock.  And the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths to stop them from being food for them.  For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.  As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep.’

Question:  What future event is Jesus speaking of in verse 11?
Answer: His death.  In his Homilies on St. John St. John Chrysostom writes: “..he is speaking of his passion, making it clear this would take place for the salvation of the world and that he would go to it freely and willingly” [59,3]. In verse 10 Jesus spoke of the riches of the Sacraments and now He speaks of the laying down of His very life.  Pope St. Gregory the Great comments on this passage: He did what he said he would do; he gave his life for his sheep, and he gave his body and blood in the Sacrament to nourish with his flesh the sheep he had redeemed [In Evangelia homiliae, 14].

This is the first of 5 times that St. John will repeat Christ’s willingness to lay down His life for His sheep:

1). 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
2). 10:15 I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.
3). 10:17 The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
4). 10:18a No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will.
5). 10:18b …and as I have power to lay it down so I have power to take it up again…

Question:  In the context of the shepherd caring for the sheep analogy why is Jesus’ statement shocking to the crowd listening to Him?
Answer: A good shepherd is expected to defend and protect the flock but he is not expected to die for the sheep.

Although it may seem contradictory to us that Jesus calls Himself both the Good Shepherd in verses 11-18 as well as the Gate in verses 7 and 9, this sheepfold imagery was very familiar to Jesus’ audience.  It is still common in many parts of the world, as it was in 1st century AD Judea, to bring a number of flocks of sheep together at night into one stone enclosed sheepfold where they could be watched over by a few shepherds who protected them from predators.  It was common for stone-enclosed sheepfolds not to have a gate so the shepherd would sleep in the opened entrance to the sheepfold to protect the sheep.  The shepherd in effect used his own body as the protective “gate” to the sheepfold.  In the morning the others shepherds would return, the gateway would be opened and each shepherd would call his own sheep.  Each sheep knew the sound of its own shepherd’s voice and so they would come to him to be led out of the pen.

Question:  How will Jesus’ body become the “gate” into the sheepfold?
Answer: It is from His body on the cross that water and blood will flow, the water and blood of the Church in baptism and Eucharist.

Question:  What characterizes a “hired man”?

Answer: The “hired man” only works for his wage.  He does not have any emotional attachment to the sheep and in times of inconvenience, danger or risk will leave or not live up to the task at hand.

Question:  Who are those who are symbolized by the “hired man” in verse 12? How is the “hired man different from the “good shepherd” and who is the “wolf”?
Answer: The hired man is the priest who does not unselfishly “shepherd” God’s flock.  He avoids unpopular issues and does not teach on controversial topics but leaves the flock to fall into sin. The “wolf” is the world in opposition of the Word of God.  Unlike the hired man the good shepherd is the one who seeks Christ’s glory.  He is the priest who does not fear to reprove sinners.  St. Peter addressed this difference in his letter of 1 Peter 5:1-4I urge you […] give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it” . […] “When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory.

St. Jose Maria Escriva reminds us: The holiness of Christ’s Spouse has always been shown, as it can be seen today, by the abundance of good shepherds.  But our Christian faith, which teaches us to be simple, does not bid us be simple-minded.  There are hirelings who keep silent, and there are hirelings who speak with words which are not those of Christ.  That is why, if the Lord allows us to be left in the dark even in little things, if we feel that our faith is not firm, we should go to the good shepherd.  He enters by the door as of right.  He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behavior a soul in love.  He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.  Christ is Passing By, 34

John 10:14-15I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.

For a second time Jesus identifies Himself of the good shepherd of Ezekiel chapter 34 and for the second time promises to die for His sheep.

I know my own and my own know me..  This is the essence of a relationship with Christ. This is knowledge in the sense of the “covenant relationship”. In the Biblical sense “knowledge” is not simply the conclusion of an intellectual process, but it is the fruit of an experience, a personal encounter.  Knowledge of God is an intimate association through the covenant relationship.  In Hosea 2:21-22 the prophet speaks of the day when Yahweh will redeem Israel as His Bride and when she will call Yahweh “my husband” and no longer call Him “my baal,” which is the address of a concubine or a slave to her master [see Hosea 2:18-20/16-18]: I shall betroth you in uprightness and justice, and faithful love and tenderness.  Yes, I shall betroth you to myself in loyalty and in the knowledge of Yahweh.  Knowledge of Yahweh and hesed, in Hebrew = faithful covenant love cannot be separated [also see 4:26:6].  This knowledge is not merely intellectual acknowledgement.  God “makes himself known” to humans when He enters into covenant with them and shows His love [hesed] for them by the blessings He confers.  In this intimate relationship God’s Covenant people “know” Him when they faithfully observe God’s covenant, when they show thankfulness for His gifts, and when they return love for love in a marital covenant relationship between God and His Bride the Church [see Proverbs 2:5Isaiah 11:2; and 58:2].  Jesus will take this definition of divine love further when He calls us not just to love in the context of the covenant but to give ourselves sacrificially and unselfishly as He gave Himself for the Church, redefining the Greek word agape, which meant spiritual love, to mean in the Christian context of self-sacrificial love.

Please read John 10:16-21: The Conclusion of the Good Shepherd Discourse and Jesus’ Prophecy of His Death and Resurrection:
16 And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too.  They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd.  17The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.  19These words caused a fresh division among the Jews.  20Many said, ‘He is possessed, he is raving; why do you listen to him?’  21Others said, ‘These are not the words of a man possessed by a devil: could a devil open the eyes of the blind?’

John 10:16And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too.  They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd.

There cannot be two covenants.  There can only be one covenant and one Church because there can only be one Bride [see Many Religions-One Covenant, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; Hebrews 8:13].  Israel the Bride of Yahweh is transformed into the new Israel, the Bride of Christ when she is born from His side at the cross in the water and the blood just as Eve, the bride came from the side of her bridegroom Adam.  Adam was not willing to die for his bride when confronted by Satan but Christ offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice for His Bride, the Church.  It is the promise of Hosea 2:18-20 and the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31.  There is one flock and one Shepherd who is Jesus Christ the supreme Shepherd over the one universal Church [Hebrews 13:20].  The spiritual authority of those who shepherd the flock as Christ’s representatives [Peter and the other Apostles] is authority that comes directly from Christ who gives them a share in His saving mission [see John 21:15-17 and CCC# 553 and 754].

Question: Who are the “other sheep” who will become part of this New Covenant fold?

Answer: These are the Gentiles who will be gathered into the Messiah’s flock alongside the restored sheep of Israel [John 11:52].  These “other sheep’ come into the covenant relationship through Christ.  All of these who listen to His voice will be gathered into the one flock that Jesus leads to eternal life.  This is Zechariah’s prophecy of the sheep who will be led by their shepherd who break out of the sheepfold and are led by their king.  Jesus is both the shepherd and the king of David’s line.

John 10:17-18The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.

Question: How is this statement proof of Jesus’ divinity?  When is His prophecy fulfilled?

Answer: Only God Himself could have such absolute power over life and death.  This prophecy is fulfilled on the cross with His sacrifice and in His Resurrection after 3 days.
and this is the command I have received from my Father.  CCC# 607:  The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life, for his redemptive passion was the very reason of his Incarnation….

The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  The sacrifice of Jesus for the redemption of the whole world expressed His unity of will and His loving communion with God the Father.  At the end of the parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:14 Jesus states that the Father’s love excludes no one: it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.   In this statement Jesus affirms that He came to give his life as a ransom for many, and that His sacrifice is not limited but is intended for all of humanity.  The Church, following the teaching of the Apostles, affirms that Jesus died for all humanity without exception: There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.  See CCC# 605.

John 10:19-21These words caused a fresh division among the Jews.  Many said, ‘He is possessed, he is raving; why do you listen to him?’  Others said, ‘These are not the words of a man possessed by a devil: could a devil open the eyes of the blind?

The crowd continues to be divided over who is this man from the Galilee but with each encounter He wins more disciples.

THE FEAST OF DEDICATION

[The decision is made to kill Jesus]

Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness. 
1 Maccabees 4:59

As with all the other feast days on which Jesus has come to Jerusalem to teach, He makes a direct link between Himself and the core significance of the festival.  This is the first time Jesus will use the title “Son of God” when speaking about Himself, even though He has repeatedly contrasted Himself as the Son who does the will of God the Father.  The use of the title “Son of God” at this festival [verse 36] is a virtual synonym for “Messiah” and would be understood by 1st century AD Jews in that way.

Please read John 10:22-30: The Decision to Kill Jesus is Made During the Feast of Dedication
22It was the time of the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.  It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the portico of Solomon. 24The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us openly.’ 25Jesus replied: ‘I have told you, but you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness; 26but you do not believe, because you are no sheep of mine.  27The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand.  29The Father, for what he has given me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal anything from the Father’s hand.  20The Father and I are one.

John 10:22-24It was the time of the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the portico of Solomon.  The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us openly.’

Jesus has gone to the Temple to teach.  He is pacing up and down in the portico of Solomon, a covered colonnade on the eastern side of the outer court of the Temple.  According to the 1st century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus the people believed this porch was all that remained from Solomon’s original Temple destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6thcentury BC [Antiquities of the Jews, 1511.3; 20.9.7; Jewish Wars 5.5.1].  The portico formed the boundary of the Temple precincts and in Acts 3:11 it is the area where Peter and John are standing with the crippled man they have healed: Everyone came running towards them in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called…

The Feast of Dedication, known by the Hebrew word for dedication “Chanukah” [also as Hanukkah] is celebrated in our month of December.  It was not a Sacred Feast ordained by God, but it was instead a national feast instituted by the people.  It was instituted by the great military leader Judas Maccabeus to celebrate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164BC after it had been desecrated by the Syrian-Greek army and later liberated by the victorious Jewish army.  For three years from 167-164BC the Syrian Greeks had desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by erecting the idol of Baal Shamen [the Mesopotamian version of Zeus] on the sacrificial altar [1 Maccabees 1:54 and 2 Maccabees 6:1-7].  This profaning of the Temple came to an end when Judas Maccabeus drove out the Syrians on the 25th of Chislev [1 Maccabees 4:41-61].   The history behind this feast is recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees, two books that are no longer part of the Jewishor Protestant canon.  The Jewish Tanach [Old Testament] no longer has any record of the events that led to the formation of this feast.

Please read 1 Maccabees 4:36-59 and 2 Maccabees 10:1-8.

The celebration of the rededication of the Temple became a feast similar to the 8 day Feast of Tabernacles [Shelters] which was celebrated in the early fall and which commemorated the giving to the Tabernacle in the desert and the sovereignty of God.  It was also during the Feast of Tabernacles [Shelters] that Solomon’s Temple had been dedicated [2 Chronicles 5:3-7:1]. The dedication of Solomon’s Temple was accompanied by the coming of the shekinah glory of God and resulted in the divine lighting of the fire upon the sacrificial altar [2 Chronicles 7:1]. As a result this feast developed an impressive light celebration enacted each night during the feast [discussed in chapter 8].   Like the Feast of Tabernacles, Chanukah became a “feast of lights” and even the palm and willow branches of the Tabernacles [Shelters] celebration became part of the ritual of this new feast: They kept eight festal days with rejoicing, in the manner of the feast of Shelters, remembering how, not long before at the time of the feast of Shelters, they had been living in the mountains and caverns like wild beasts. Then, carrying thyrsuses, leafy boughs and palms, they offered hymns to him who had brought the cleansing of his own holy place to a happy outcome.  They also decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate those same days every year.  
2 Maccabees 10:6-8.

However, God did not light the sacred altar of sacrifice in 165BC at the re-taking of the Temple nor did He light the altar at the dedication a year later but according to the Talmud [Megillat Taanit 9] there was a miracle.   It took 8 days to rebuild the altar and during that time the one vial of consecrated olive that was found provided a continuous supply of oil to light the golden Menorah until the priests could return to the Temple with more oil 8 days later.  Therefore, this feast was celebrated with lights, with recognition of the ministerial priesthood as the shepherds of Yahweh’s flock, and as a fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel 8:1-12 and 11:22-32.  These prophecies were fulfilled in the defeat of the Syrian Greeks and the restoration of Judah to national independence for the first time since 586BC. Since this feast also celebrated freedom from foreign oppression Jews in the first century AD, suffering under the domination of the Romans, naturally were consumed with thoughts of national deliverance.  The biblical promises of the Messiah as a conquering Davidic king were foremost in the minds of the people which led to the question posed to Jesus in verse 24 which demands “don’t give us parables…tell us plainly are you the Messiah?”

John 10:24-25: Jesus replied: ‘I have told you, but you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness; but you do not believe, because you are no sheep of mine.’

Once again we have the reoccurring theme of “listening” to the voice of Jesus which is the command of Yahweh in Deuteronomy 18:19I shall put my words into his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him.  Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me.  Jesus has taught with authority and He has performed miracles greater than any former prophet of Israel.  He has done enough to provide his interrogators with an answer to their question.  These teachings and “signs” are greater than any verbal statement because they are all in fulfillment of the prophesies of the holy prophets of God concerning the identity and mission of the Messiah.  In Luke 22:67b Jesus tells them, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me.’  Here in verse 25 He tells them they are not His sheep therefore they do not follow Him.  It is the blindness of the Jewish leadership that prevents them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David.  There spiritual defect is contrasted in Matthews Gospel by two different sets of blind men; one set in Matthew 9:27 and a later set in Jericho in Matthew 20:32.  In both incidents the blind men all call out, Have pity on us, son of David.  To call Jesus “son of David” is the same as calling Him the Messiah.  The irony is that these men who are physically in darkness have seen the “Light” spiritually while the Pharisees and others have physical sight yet walk in darkness.

Question: But what is the other reason He will not give them a definitive answer to their question: “Are you the Messiah, the son of David?”
Answer: Because when He does give a definitive answer that He is the Messiah that statement will be the final seal to His death sentence and He still needs a little more time.

John 10:26-30The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand.  The Father, for what he has given me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal anything from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

For the 3rd time Jesus declares that He and the Father are one!  He makes the same claim He made in John 5:17 and 8:58.  Jesus and the Father are one because they do the same work and stand in the same relation to the “sheep”.  God the Father accomplished His work in the world uniquely through the Son.

Question: How do the sheep “know” Jesus?
Answer: They know Him in a covenantal relationship.

Question:  To know Christ in a covenant relationship promises what blessings?
Answer: Eternal life and a bond with Christ which cannot be broken, unless the baptized believer personally rejects Christ as Savior and Lord.  The protection that Jesus provides for those who believe in Him and remain faithful is equivalent to the Father’s divine protection.

Notice Jesus says I give them eternal life’in the present tense; not  “I will give”. The gift is present and continuous!

Question:  What does Jesus mean when He says The Father and I are one.?
Answer: Jesus is claiming unity and equality with the Godhead.  God the Father and God the Son are united in the loving embrace of the God the Holy Spirit.  The unity of the most holy Trinity cannot be divided even when we distinguish between the three Divine Persons.  St. Augustine instructs us: Listen to the Son himself, ‘I and the Father are one.’  He did not say, ‘I am the Father’ or ‘I and the Father are one [Person].’  But when he says ‘I and the Father are one,’ notice the two words ‘we are’ and ‘one’..[..] for if they are one, then they are not diverse; if ‘we are’, then there is both a Father and a Son.  [In Ioannis Evangelius- The Gospel of John, 36,9].

Jesus is one in substance with the Father as far as divine essence or nature is concerned, but the Father and the Son are distinct Persons.  Paul VI, Creed of the People of God, 10: We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son; in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal Love. 

The Jews do not miss the implication of His words.

Please read John 10: 31-42:
31The Jews fetched stones to stone him, 32so Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’  33The Jews answered him, ‘We are stoning you, not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy; though you are only a man, you claim to be God.’ 34Jesus answered: Is it not written in you Law: ‘I said, you are gods’?  35So it uses the word ‘gods’ of those people to whom the word of God was addressed and Scripture cannot be set aside. 36Yet to someone whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said, ‘I am Son of God.’ 37If I am not doing my Father’s work, there is no need to believe me; 38but if I am doing it, then even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for certain that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.  39They again wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded their clutches.  40He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to the district where John had been baptizing at first and he stayed there. 41Many people who came to him said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

John 10:31-33: The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’  The Jews answered him, ‘We are stoning you, not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy; though you are only a man, you claim to be God.’

The Jews understand Jesus to be saying that He is God but they interpret His words as blasphemy.  The punishment for blasphemy under the Sinai covenant is death by stoning [Leviticus 24:16].

Question:  As they pick up stones to execute Him, Jesus sarcastically asks them what question?
Answer: He asks them for which of His many good works will they kill Him.

Question:  What is their answer?  Hint: see verse 33
Answer: They respond that it is for His claims for divinity –the sin of blasphemy that they condemn Him.

John 10:34-36: Jesus answered: Is it not written in you Law: ‘I said, you are gods’?  So it uses the word ‘gods’ of those people to whom the word of God was addressed and scripture cannot be set aside.  Yet to someone whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said, ‘I am Son of God.’

In referring to “the Law” Jesus could be referring to the Old Testament in general or just to the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of Moses as a whole.  The Scripture Jesus quotes is from Psalms 82:6.  This psalms is a prayer for God to punish the corrupt shepherds of Israel whose function as instruments of God’s justice made them in a sense ‘gods’ [Deuteronomy 21:6Deuteronomy 1:1719:17Psalms 58].  In His reply Jesus applies exegetical technique to Scripture and uses a “from lesser to greater” kind of logic that was a standard formula for debate among 1st century AD Jewish scholars.  His argument is: if corrupt leaders of Israel, who are mere mortals, can be given the title ‘gods’ in Scripture when they serve in their duties as God’s representatives, how can they bring charges of blasphemy against Him when it is in His position as the consecrated envoy of Yahweh that He calls Himself “Son of God”?  This is classic 1st century AD rabbinical logic.  Note: Jesus might also have quoted Exodus 7:1 where Moses is called ‘god’.  The Hebrew word for gods, elohim, could refer to any exalted individual who yielded great power without implying that Yahweh wasn’t the one true God.

Question:  What does Jesus mean when He says Scripture cannot be set aside..?

Answer: Jesus is affirming, as He has in past references to Sacred Scripture, that Scripture consists of the very words of God, and its teaching is as true as God Himself and is reliable testimony which cannot be ignored or set aside.

Question:  When Jesus says, to someone to whom the Father has consecrated, it is an interesting choice of words considering the feast the people are celebrating. What is the irony in Jesus’ words?

Answer: The people are celebrating the rededication of the Temple.  The word “consecrated” means “to be set apart as holy”.  Jesus, God the Son, is “set apart” by God the Father to consecrate the world to truth [John 17:19].  This is a feast that celebrates the consecration of the Second Temple.  This old sanctuary is to be replaced by the new and consecrated Temple that is Jesus’ body.  The building may be holy but its holiness cannot compare with the holiness of Jesus’ body, the true Temple [John 2:21].

John 10:37-38: If I am not doing my Father’s work, there is no need to believe me; but if I am doing it, then even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for certain that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

Question:  What do the “works” of Jesus reveal about Him?
Answer: The “works” of Jesus are to authenticate His mission in the eyes of the people and to support His claims to divinity.  He has show absolute power over creation and that He can suspend the laws of nature.  These works give testimony to His true nature.

John 10:39-40: They again wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded their clutches.  He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to the district where John had been baptizing at first and he stayed there.  Many people who came to him said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

Jesus’ ministry is drawing to a close.  It is December and in March He will make His last journey to Jerusalem.  Therefore, He returns to the site where His ministry began on the far or east side of the Jordan River where He was baptized by His kinsman John.  John’s work of preparation is still producing results.  The crowds who accepted the Baptist’s message are now following Jesus.  They believe John’s testimony of Him: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God [John 1:34].

As we close this chapter perhaps it is time to reflect on our own “works”.  What do our “works” reveal about us?  Are we living in union with the will of God working in our lives?  My prayer for you is from Hebrews 13:20: I pray that the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant, may prepare you to do his will in every kind of good action; effecting in us all whatever is acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.

Resources used in this lesson:

  1. A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23, Weldon Keller [Zondervan Publishing, 1997]
  2. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel, Craig Blomberg
  3. The Anchor Bible Commentary- The Gospel of John, vol. I, Fr. Raymond Brown
  4. The Navarre Biblical Commentary – St. John
  5. In Ioannis Evangelius [The Gospel of John], St. Augustine
  6. Christ is Passing By,  St. Jose Maria Escriva
  7. Homilies on St. John, St. John Chrysostom
  8. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – The Gospel of John
  9. Many Religions – One Covenant, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [Ignatius Press, 1998]
  10. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  11. The Feasts of the Lord, Howard and Rosenthal [Thomas Nelson, 1997]
  12. The Works of Josephus

Catechism References  [* indicates verse quoted in CCC passage]

Gospel of John chapter 10 references

John 10:1-10 754*
10 :1-21 764*
10::3 2158*
10:11-15 574*, 553, 754*
10:16 60*
10:17-18 606, 614*, 649, 609
10:19-21 595*, 596*, 574*
10:22-23 583*
10:25 548*, 582*
10:30 590
10:31 574*
10:31-38 548*, 574*, 589*, 594,591*
10:36 437, 444*, 1562
10:37-38 582*, 548*