Jesus has been harassed and pursued constantly in Jerusalem. The Pharisees have acted like the thugs who attack individuals with fists and boots. But, Jesus held His own and, time and again, caused them to be ridiculed by their own words and unbelief. Christians should not be afraid to do the same, not for their own glorification and pride, but because the ‘thugs’ are godless and dishonour the Lord.
The second part of this study looks at the power struggle between Hellenistic Jews and traditional Jews, which led to the Maccabee Revolt.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Jesus continues his assault on the Pharisaical mindset by emphasising His Godhood. He sternly warned that there was only one way to God, Heaven and salvation, and that was by the main door. Only thieves and robbers try to get in by other routes. This comparative approach was not lost on the already-angered Pharisees, who KNEW this analogy is rooted in ancient Hebrew theology!
In His parable, Jesus referred to the only Door in a wall that kept sheep safe. They could go in and out only through the one Door. There are NOT ‘many doors’ to Heaven, God, or salvation! In this text Jesus Himself is the Door, the only way to Heaven. And the Door imposes conditions on use of the Door. Thieves and robbers (unbelievers) try to bypass the legitimate Door.
We see huge numbers of these thieves and robbers in our local churches and in denominations. They sit in pews looking like genuine Christians; they dress the same way and use the same language and ideas. But, they are fakes. It is likely that 90% of all churchgoers are fakes, trying to steal their way into Heaven. But, they try to enter by the back door, a window, or a hole in the wall! And when they reach Judgment Day and continue in their pretence, Jesus will utter those awful words that will send them to Hell: “I never knew you”! This goes for large numbers of so-called pastors, preachers and teachers, too.
When you enter some venues, such as fairs, etc., very often your hand is stamped with indelible ink. It proves you have complied with the conditions (paid) and have not tried to sneak through. Jesus imposes conditions on all mankind before individuals can enter Heaven. The most basic is that they must be elected in eternity and predestined to be saved at a precise moment in their history.
To make everything even worse for unbelievers who pretend their way through life, Jesus Christ is the Door and also the Shepherd who opens the Door! And the One Who controls the opening of the Door, the porter, is either the Father or the Holy Spirit. So, the very idea of pretending to be saved is impossible. The pretender might well dupe fellow human beings for a while, but he cannot dupe God.
Initially, Jesus was speaking of the lost Jews of the chosen people of God, who believed. The same category was then used of Gentiles who believed (see later note). When the Shepherd enters the fold, the sheep recognise Him. If a stranger walks towards sheep they will scatter (try it)! But, sheep who intimately know their Master instantly know Who He is. This is a big part of God-given discernment.
Not only do the sheep know their Master, but their Master/Shepherd knows them all by name, and calls them by that name. In eternity the Father loudly calls out the names of each and every one who will be saved. The calling-out of individual sheep by the Shepherd is also done loudly, so no other man can take the saved person’s place, nor pretend to be a sheep. Jesus calls each man out, and when the man (sheep) approaches he is recognised to be one of the elect. And all the sheep (who belong to God) will be led out of the fold by the Shepherd. No others can follow.
Jesus leads the way, and the saved follow: Jesus knows those who belong to Him, and those who belong to Him know His voice. Jesus leads the way – He does not follow. Whatever we go through, He has already gone through, so we cannot claim He does not know our circumstance. The only way a Christian can go stray is if he ignores the Shepherd’s voice, which constantly calls His sheep. These will deliberately follow a strange voice (Satan) for a few nibbles of fresh green grass, which will soon be depleted, leaving the foolish sheep standing on arid soil!
Very often Christians hear the voice of strangers, but ignore them. They know that the strangers are not of God. Their protection is in following the One True voice. The word ‘strangers’ means that the true sheep KNOW who is a stranger – allotrios; foreign, strange, alien, an enemy. To follow such a one takes a suspension of truth and faithfulness. All Christians who take the wrong path KNOW they are sinful.
When Jesus finished this parable, His listeners did not know what He was talking about. Yet, it was obvious that He was referring to Himself as the Shepherd, and to those who were fake believers. The Pharisees were blind indeed.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The Pharisees did not understand the parable because they were unbelievers. This is why unbelievers are never going to understand what a preacher tells them, even in the most simple of terms. It has nothing to do with their intelligence. It is because their spirits are dead and so they cannot understand what is vital to them, though they can hear the words.
So, Jesus repeated His claim, this time being very specific: “I am the door of the sheep”. He told them that all who came before Him - such as the Pharisees – were fakes, thieves and robbers. For this reason the sheep belonging to God by election did not hear what they commanded. Rather: “I am the door” and if anyone entered through Him to the fold, he will receive nourishment. Unbelievers cannot by any means understand God or His word, though they might read it a thousand times. They can have a temporal and superficial academic understanding, but nothing of depth or reality... the lowest uneducated man will know far more, if he is elect!
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
One day, my wife and I arrived home to find we could not unlock our front door from outside. It seemed that the mechanism had been locked from the inside. I walked up next door’s driveway, climbed over the wall and got in to the house by a window. After unlocking the door, I realised we had just been burgled. I then glimpsed a man jumping over the fence next door. I went back around to the driveway to confront him, but he was too quick for me. Next thing I knew, he had punched me in the face with coins between his fingers... resulting in facial injuries, swollen mouth and a reeling backwards. By the time I recovered he was running far away, leaving our home ‘light’ of possessions and myself feeling very angry and damaged!
That is what thieves do! They come to steal and do damage, and even in Jesus’ day it appears that they also killed, just as many do today. Mostly they enter homes or offices by a back door, a loose window, or by some other nefarious way. They enter this way because they have no right to enter in the first place, and their activities are illegal. And even if these thieves get what they want they often leave a place utterly destroyed, for no other reason than their sinful malice. The only reason they come, is to cause misery and to destroy.
Jesus was speaking this way about fake Jewish preachers, teachers, and believers. And it is very obvious that He was referring to the Pharisees. But, despite their earthly power and stolen authority, they would not deceive the doorkeeper/porter to the fold! They would be refused entry, just as they would be refused entry to Heaven. The picture Jesus is giving, then, is an intense, serious warning. It is a warning that does not lose its seriousness even to this day. This verse, with many others, shows us that there is only ONE way to God, not many. ALL other religions are false, and all their gods.
Then, Jesus said what the Shepherd can do – He brings life, eternally, beginning with salvation on this earth. Jesus openly said that this Shepherd was Himself: “I am come...”. The fake, the intruder, only brings havoc and destruction; the Lord only brings peace, love, and life abundantly. ‘Life’, zōē, is REAL life, making the spirit alive, animated. Without this life, the soul is useless and has little to offer. Along with this comes ethical and moral awareness, and an inner love for the things of God. While the fake, the thief, brings an earthly lack of joy, Jesus brings the opposite, in an overflowing amount.
Furthermore, the Shepherd is ‘good’ and gives His life for the sheep. ‘Good’, kalos, gives life quality – what is best, excellent, eminent, precious, of use, commendable. The unsaved thief brings nothing of this kind, only what is bad. The kalos life is genuine, accepted by God. When men with office (whether public or private) have this kind of life, they act in a way approved by God, they are competent, and they work at giving what is right, holy and honourable. And, what is honourable leads others to act in the same way. Thus, when Jesus said He was the “good shepherd” the title conveys His absolute holiness. On top of all this, the Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. An ordinary shepherd will take great risks to protect his flock, but Jesus allowed Himself to be killed for them.
The “hireling” or person hired as a servant to take charge of the sheep, will not feel an attachment to them, because they are not his own, and, as the word ‘hireling’, misthōtos, implies, he is not faithful in his duties. This describes one whose heart and mind are far from useful or genuine. It applies to many today who claim to be God’s servants, but who teach heresy and lies, or bad behaviour.
Such an hireling will not protect the sheep, but will run away when an enemy (human or animal) comes to attack the sheep. Thus, a wolf will have easy access to meat, and can scatter the panicked sheep, if he does not kill them. The hireling disappears and leaves the wolf to do its job, because the hireling does not care. This is what happened in the 1990s with the advent of the infamous Toronto Blessing, which destroyed the lives of many thousands of Christians, and led to others being deceived into Satan’s bosom. It happened because hirelings were ‘in charge’ of their churches (and many still are). They were and are false teachers and pastors, interested only in their own authority or in money or in status.
By contrast, Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”. He knows His sheep because He called each one of them by name, having chosen them to salvation in eternity. Note that He says these sheep (those who are saved) are “my” sheep – He knows each one by name, and each one knows their Master intimately.
Sadly, many Christians today do not have this intimacy. They are slothful when it comes to church attendance; they do not place much importance on meeting with other believers; their idea of Bible reading is more like that of reading a novel; they do not spend their time thinking on the things of God. To all intents and purposes, their lives are secular, showing little evidence of the Holy Spirit within. So, while Jesus certainly knows them, they appear not to know Jesus... at least not experientially or constantly. Their lives thereby suffer from this remoteness of belief and behaviour.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Human beings only ‘know’ others insofar as those others are open and honest, which most are not. Or, they keep certain facts secret. With the Father and the Son there is no such secrecy, for each is God and the Three Persons each know the mind of each other. They ‘know’ each other to the fullest extent, without reservation. And, as God, Jesus gave His earthly life to save His sheep, those who are elect before time began.
Some make a big deal about verse 16, implying that one can reach God without being saved. But, is Jesus’ statement so mysterious? No, it is not. The word ‘”other”, allos, denotes a numerical difference. That is, ‘another of the same sort’. If Jesus had meant those who were not of the fold could enter Heaven, He would have used ‘heteros’. Hence Jesus said He would send ‘another’ Comforter – One like Himself. Therefore, Jesus was referring to ‘others’ who were equal to those in His fold.
Those in the fold were believing Jews. The ‘others’ were equal but not in the Jewish fold – Gentiles. Jesus was thus pointing to the elect not found amongst Jews but amongst the general population (‘Greeks’/Gentiles). When the Gentiles were also brought in, both Jew and gentile elect would then be part of the same spiritual fold.
Because of Jesus’ willingness to die for the elect, the Father loved Him, agapaō, here meaning to be well pleased with, as scripture says elsewhere. As Jesus also said, He first had to die (like a seed) before He could arise again. Notice that Jesus said He would make Himself arise by His own power as God.
Jesus adds a powerful and vital note – that no man can do this. No man can take His life, just as no man was able to attack Him physically during His preaching, though they wanted to. Rather, Jesus came to die, and would die when He wished to die, not because Pharisees wanted Him dead. Jesus was not a pawn in their hands – THEY were pawns in HIS hands! They exactly followed prophecy and did what God wished them to do. Jesus had divine power to die for a specific purpose on the right day and in the precise hour known in Heaven.
The statement also said that Jesus would, after death, resurrect Himself again, by His own divine power. In a very real sense, then, Jesus the Messiah could see His human self in the tomb, knowing that He would cause His renewed body to rise again on the third day, in compliance with prophecy. Not only was this prophesied, but it was a command of the Father that He should do so. It is vital for Christians to understand these words as they were given and meant, by Jesus Himself. We must remember that nothing can happen to us unless God commands it.
19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21 Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
All these things were said openly before the Jews, including the Pharisees. As Jesus had said, He came to bring a sword that would cut asunder even families. No man can be neutral when it comes to God’s word and demands! The Pharisees and unbelievers angrily wanted others to refuse to listen to one they considered to be a man made mad by demons. Why listen to such a man? But, others equally enthused over His claims, saying that a demon possessed could not open the eyes of the blind! Evidently, there had to come a point of no return for Jesus... but that point was only reached because He commanded it to be so.
Side note: Demons can heal and can mimic genuine godly acts. However, their healings are never 100% or continued, and always bring spiritual negatives with them. This is because demons produce copies and not the genuine thing, copies that usually fade away fairly soon, whereas God’s healings are genuine and last. One big effect of demonic healings, for example, will be spiritual decline. Charismatic incidents are filled with such fakeries and sad spiritual demise. Follow ANY demonic fakery and spiritual life slides into obscurity and false security.
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
Jesus was in Jerusalem during the feast of the dedication (Hanukkah). This is an historical remembrance rather than God’s immediate command. The feast lasts eight days starting on the 25th of Chislev (December, but sometimes late November, depending on the lunar cycle).
The feast was initiated by Judas Maccabaeus and the elders of Israel in 164/5 BC, to commemorate the cleansing of the Temple after its pollution by Antiochus Epiphanes four years previously. In Greek the festival translates as ‘the renewals’. The main activity is the lighting of houses and synagogues.
Antiochus (originally known as Mithridates) was a Greek king (died 164 BC) of the Seleucid Empire, who was dubbed ‘The Mad One’ by his contemporaries. His desecration of the temple was a punishment for an uprising by Jewish Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army that took over Judaea, which was, at the time, under Seleucid dominance which lasted 100 years. Unfortunately, the Macabees imposed Judaism over the people with forced conversions. For a while they had power and expanded their territories, thus diminishing Hellenistic influence over the people and Judaism.
Antiochus was fighting Egypt, when the deposed High Priest, Jason, attacked Jerusalem with a 1000-man force. The High Priest appointed by Antiochus, Menelaus, fled the city. In 167 BC, when Antiochus returned, he attacked the city and put Menelaus back in power. Then he executed many Jews (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 1:1:1–2). More than that he then banned Jewish rites and traditions, before ordering the Jews to worship Zeus instead. They refused, and Antiochus sent an army to destroy Jerusalem and slay large numbers of Jews. After that the Acra (military citadel) was built and staffed by soldiers, but it was destroyed by Simon Maccabeus during the revolt.
Much of the war came about because of interference from Hellenistic Jews, who had the support of Antiochus. Some modern scholars believe the war was not so much against Antiochus, as between genuine Judaism and Hellenistic versions of Judaism. Even so, rabbinical sources usually name Antiochus, harasha, ‘The Wicked One’, who, they claim, is the eleventh horn in Daniel 7-12.
(Note on Hellenistic Judaism: It was considered a breach of genuine Judaism because it combined Jewish beliefs with Greek culture. Its main centre was Alexandria [coincidentally, the centre of corrupt New Testament manuscripts] and Antioch. They also had a large presence in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, but began to decline in the second century AD. Their influence changed biblical Aramaic to koine Greek, the main language of early Christians (most of whom were converted Jews). So, though this feast was not instituted by God, or Moses, we can understand why the feast came about.
During this feast time Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Porch in the Temple precinct. It was a large, covered porch or colonnade, built on the eastern side of the Temple. Because of its sheer size, it was used as a meeting place for speakers and listeners.
He was recognised by the crowd, who immediately surrounded Him, demanding that He settled His credentials once and for all. “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” How appalling was their deliberate ignorance! Christ had told them time and again that He was the Messiah, Son of God. He replied, “I told you, and ye believed not.”, and He pointed to His miracles, which were a sure proof of Who He was.
They could not believe what He said, for one reason only – they were not of His sheep and so did not hear His voice, though He spoke openly and plainly. This is significant for all who pretend to preach the Gospel. They do not understand or accept election and predestination, and think that constant pleading will somehow change a listener from unbeliever to believer. This is not so. The problem is not how the message goes forth, but that those being preached to cannot hear the voice of Christ. They are blind to Christ and are deaf to His voice. Thus, false preachers (usually of the Arminian kind) keep on and on, changing their approach to suit the person, without any regard to election!
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
I and my Father are one.
By contrast, Jesus said, the elect instantly know His voice and will respond. Many today hear a preacher speak and know the words in their own language, but the words have no spiritual effect, because their spirits are dead. Only those who are elect will hear His voice and follow Him. Verse 28 tells us that no saved man or woman can ever lose their salvation: “they shall never perish”, and nobody can cause them to do so. This is because no created being can remove them from the Father’s hand. And because the Father and Son are One, Jesus’ words hold true also.
Never lose sight of the fact that anyone who preaches otherwise is preaching a false Gospel which is “no gospel”. They are liars and cheats, false prophets who God will punish. They are NOT equal to other preachers, and their Arminianism is NOT of biblical origin. For this reason no true Arminian is our brother or sister, and should not be treated as such.
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Once more the Jews wanted to stone Jesus! If His words were empty, without physical proofs, then they would have been justified. But, Jesus had proved His divinity many times. So, He asked which ‘good works’ did they want to stone Him for! You will remember that previously they said they did not want to stone Him for healing anyone, but because He had done so on a Sabbath. Now they told Him they did not want to stone Him for good works, but because He said He was the Son of God, God Himself. This single text is enough to prove Jesus told people He was God.
The charge, then, was of “blasphemy”, speech liable to bring reproach upon God. But, how could they justify such a charge, when everything done by Jesus brought glory to the Father, and He Himself said He did everything by His Father’s command?
They could do it by closing their minds and acting blindly. This is how, today, evolutionists can live and act. They say they are willing to leave Neo-Darwinism behind them if they had a better alternative. But, they reject anything that does not have a natural foundation, so Creation is automatically rejected! This is not scientific reasoning, but philosophical meandering. Jesus did not make Himself to be God – He WAS/IS God, and proved it by His works. So, the Jews wanted Him dead not for true religious reasons, but because of their philosophical assumptions.
Such assumptions are behind EVERY godless movement today, whether ‘religious’ or not... and they are usually accompanied by violence and hatred. In this case, the Jews had carried the large stones with them from an unnamed place, ready to perform swift ‘justice’ against Jesus.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
What do you make of verse 34? Do you think Jesus is saying the Jews were ‘gods’? (After all, this is what many charismatics believe). For those who tend to believe what heretics believe, please remember that nowhere are we told we are ‘gods’ in the regal or divine sense. So, we must bear this in mind when looking at this text.
“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalm 82:6). Do not presume that ‘gods’ always refers to divine things. They do not, any more than ‘angels’ always refers to heavenly beings. In this text they refer to the way God gives responsibility for being magistrates and rulers to mere men (as ‘god’ implies, being less than ‘God’). As we well know, magistrates and leaders can defy the Lord, so being a ‘god’ in the official sense does not mean they were necessarily god-like, or godly. Jesus reminded them (Pharisees) of the provision of rulers acting on behalf of God, and then asked them why they should accuse Him of blasphemy when all along He was doing the Father’s will? His works proved His claim!
The Pharisees were not acting in an honourable or a just way. They could SEE Jesus was divine, from His works. They were, then, acting against logic and evidence... as so many unbelievers do today. Jesus challenged them to admit that He was doing what was of God, divine. Miracles do not just appear out of nowhere! Do not believe me, He said, if what I do is godless!
Jesus then gave an interesting ultimatum – even if they did not believe Jesus, at least believe their own eyes, and acknowledge the miracles to be of God. And if that is accepted, they would have no option but to believe in Jesus as God. Today, many heretics DENY God’s actual word, even when it is easy to read. They replace it with their own ‘interpretations’ so-called. That is, they are unbelievers.
Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,
And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.
And many believed on him there.
Once more they took up stones to kill Him, but again He escaped their evil. He left Jerusalem (for it was not yet His time to die) and walked “beyond Jordan”. That is, to the other side (the Eastern shore), not far from where John began to baptise the Jews. And there He lived for a while, avoiding the violent intentions of the Jews.
While He was there, many people visited Him. These tended to be Jews baptised by John, who pointed out Jesus to be the Messiah. They spoke amongst themselves, saying that John was great, but he did not do a single miracle. On the other hand, Jesus did many miracles, so what John had told them was obviously true. For this reason, and hearing Him speak for themselves, “many believed on him there”.
This is a fact of spiritual life. Most reasonable and open people, on hearing the Gospel and genuine Bible teaching, will simply accept what is said and believe. It is usually only when false teachers arise that seeds of doubt are planted and faith is ruined. As has happened on a grand scale, especially via charismaticism.
This is why true preachers and teachers must never spread doubt or fear. They must teach what God says, unequivocally, without favour, and without personalised ideas. Their words must be firm and solid, taken from scripture itself. And, interpretation must arise from the texts, not from one’s philosophy. (Remember, there can be only ONE interpretation of God’s word).
© March 2015