One reason why some do not clearly apprehend the Lord's teaching in this beautiful discourse is, because they do not consider the circumstances under which it was delivered; and another difficulty sometimes arises from not distinguishing between the three doors here spoken of.
In the previous chapter, the Lord had given sight to a man who had been born blind. This raised the jealousy of the Pharisees; so that when he faithfully confessed that it was Jesus who had opened his eyes, they cast the man out of the synagogue. When the Lord heard that the man had been cast out, He found him, and revealed Himself to him as the Son of God, which drew forth the confession, "Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him." He was evidently one of Christ's sheep, and heard His voice. It was under these circumstances that our Lord delivered this searching and memorable discourse of the shepherd and the sheep. He began by saying, in the hearing of the Pharisees, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." It was indeed a striking utterance, in which the Lord, in His perfect wisdom, used the case of natural blindness, just marvellously cured, to show that some who were blind needed spiritual sight. That is, one effect of Christ's having come as the Faithful Witness and the Light of the world, was that those who were blind, spiritually blind, might so receive sight as to be able to see Him with the eye of faith; and on the other hand, that those who, like the Pharisees, judged themselves competent to discern and enter into divine things might become thoroughly conscious of their blind condition. These searching words evidently touched the consciences of some of the Pharisees; for we are told that when they heard these words, they said unto Him, "Are we blind also?" Our Lord replied, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." (John 9:39-41.) How pointed and penetrating were these brief sentences of our adorable Lord; for here, speaking again with spiritual signification, He connects the consciousness of being thoroughly dark and blind with forgiveness of sins. As. long as a man leans on his own competency to perceive and judge of the things of the Spirit, he gives the most unquestionable proof of his being in nature's darkness and guilt, or spiritually blind. But when he takes his place before God as blind, and totally incompetent to discern and judge, of the things of God, he becomes an object of divine grace and power, and is assured of the remission of his sins through faith in the Lord Jesus. What folly and self-deception for men to say, "We see," when they are really blind, and in their sins! These probing utterances of our Lord forcibly remind us of Elihu's words to Job: "He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light." (Job 33:27, 28.) How forcible and emphatic then are the words, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth!"
Thus we learn that it was the self-confidence and creature-competency of these Pharisees which proved them to be blind, and in their sins. Thereon our Lord proceeds, "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." (vv. 1, 2.) The subject here is the door into the sheepfold. The Pharisaic rulers and teachers were in the sheepfold - the Jewish nation - but had not entered it by the divinely-appointed way. Instead of entering by the door, which they were unable to do, they by their own efforts climbed up some other way. They had thus thrust themselves into the office of caretakers of those who were in relation to God. But with all their official trappings, human credentials, and distinctive rank among men, they were not accredited of God; for they had not entered in by the door; the sheep did not hear them. Instead of really caring for the sheep, they were thieves and robbers.
The first door then to which our Lord calls attention is "THE DOOR INTO THE SHEEPFOLD." Into this door our Lord entered, and the porter opened to Him, because He brought all the credentials belonging to the Shepherd of Israel, the true Shepherd of the sheep. Prophets had long ago marked out His characteristics. Moses wrote of Him as "The Shepherd, the Stone of Israel," and said unto the people, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear." (Gen. 49:24; Acts 7:37:) We are further told that He who should stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord, would be of Abram's seed, out of David's loins, the virgin's Child, and born in Bethlehem, "whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting." (See Gen. 22:18; Ps. 132:11; Acts 3:20; Isa. 7:14; Micah 5:2-4.) Wise men announced His coming into the world, as His star in the heavens had guided them. The angel of the Lord visited the shepherds, who were watching their flock by night, and while the glory of the Lord shone round about them, announced the glad tidings, saying, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," when suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host gave glory to God in the highest. (Luke 2) The faithful remnant too, divinely taught, welcomed Him into the sheepfold with great delight. Simeon took Him up in his arms, and joyfully exclaimed, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared," &c.; while "Anna spoke of Him to all them who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." But it was for John, when Jesus was about thirty years old, publicly to announce Him as the Son of God, and the Lamb of God, saying, "I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God." (John 1:33, 34.) Thus the man Christ Jesus brought every proof with Him that He was Jehovah's Shepherd, the fellow of the Lord of hosts, and to Him the porter opened. Besides, He called His own sheep by name, whether it was Matthew, the publican; Mary of Magdala, out of whom He cast seven devils; a Samaritan adulteress, or industrious fishermen, those whom He called heard His voice, and followed Him. He loved His sheep; He came to give them life more abundantly; to feed them, care for them; lead them out of false things; do everything for them - without money and without price. In purest love He freely laid down His life for them, and His purpose was to gather them together into one flock. (John 10:16.) Thus we see clearly that He entered into the sheepfold by the door, and that He manifested in every way that He was "the Shepherd of the sheep."
The second door mentioned in this beautiful discourse is "THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP" - Christ Himself, the door by which the sheep would be led out of Judaism; for we are informed that the Shepherd of the sheep not only calleth His own sheep by name, but leadeth them out. (v. 3.) It is very important to see this clearly. We are told that Jesus came to His own (His loved nation), and His own received Him not. They were so sunk in sin that they hated Him without a cause, and at length openly declared that they preferred a murderer to their own Messiah whom God had sent. The loved nation had terribly departed from God. Though they contended for the outward observance and sanctity of the Sabbath day, and the periodical observance of certain feasts, yet they had so far forgotten God, and corrupted His truth, that these became mere formalities. Instead, therefore, of reading in the gospels of "the feasts of Jehovah," as they are called in Leviticus, we find "the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh;" and again, "the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand." (John 6:4, 7:2.) The nation, too, had been given up to the Gentiles, in God's governmental displeasure, because of their sins. We do not therefore find our Lord re-establishing Judaism, or restoring the sheep to that from which the nation had so manifestly fallen, but He led them individually outside corrupt things with Himself. When they knew Christ, and became associated with Him, they not only heard His voice, but knowing that He putteth forth His own sheep, and goeth before them, they were. constrained to follow Him. It is important to see not only that Christ is the Good Shepherd, but that He is "the door of the sheep" - the door whereby the sheep were led out of a corrupted Judaism; through His calling them to have to do with Himself.
Early in Israel's history, when Jehovah's name had been dishonoured by the sin of the golden calf, and judgment had fallen upon the people, we find that "Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one that sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp." There it was that they found Jehovah's presence; for "it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and Jehovah talked with Moses." (Ex. 33:7-11.) Thus we see that Moses, the servant of the Lord, led the faithful OUT; and every one who sought the Lord went out, and that the way of truth in this evil time was without the camp for all who sought the Lord.
Again we see in the epistles, that in the last days, when the profession of Christianity would be associated with all kinds of evil, and "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," the path of the faithful is clearly marked out, "From such turn away." The Lord thus leads His own out. (2 Tim. 3:1-5.) Elsewhere the faithful are enjoined to "go forth therefore unto Him (Christ) without the camp, bearing His reproach." (Heb. 13:13.) It is in the very last epistle Paul wrote that He contemplates terrible corruption and departure from the truth, and declares that things will be so bad under the name of Christianity, that "seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." It is there he appeals to saints for individual faithfulness to the Lord, and urges them to separate themselves from evil. "If a man therefore purge himself from these (vessels to dishonour), he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (2 Tim. 2:21.) These and other Scriptures show that when evil and corruption have come in, the faithful are to purge themselves from it, because it cannot be purged out, and that the Lord would still, by His word and Spirit, be leading them out. In this the Lord is "the door of the sheep," as well as their Leader. Therefore no one can possibly be in a right position here without having personal intercourse with the Lord - the door of the sheep - and being subject to the guidance of His word and Spirit. Difficulties and uncertainty soon become removed when souls really get before the Lord, and are willing to be led by Him. It is easy enough to mingle with others who are taught of the Lord, and led by Him; but how can any one be really honouring Christ, except he is acquainted with His mind, and subject thereto, because it is His mind, and is acting on it for His glory, whatever the reproach may be? The Lord is the Leader; the Door, and the Object for those who go forth unto Him; and we may be assured that His special presence and blessing will be outside of that which men try to accredit with the name of Christ, but which is corrupt and evil. Thus we see that Christ being the door of the sheep for leading His own out of corrupted Judaism is in accordance with a divine principle of action, which is equally incumbent in these days of corrupted Christianity. The path of the faithful now is surely to go outside of that which dishonours His name, and there to find His presence and His blessing. Happy indeed are they who know what it is to be before the Lord, what it is to be led by Him, and to be outside with Him, in separation from everything which dishonours His name.
The third door mentioned by our Lord in this discourse is THE DOOR OF SALVATION. He said, "I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." (John 10:9.) This door is Christ. Thus the Lord presented Himself as the only way of salvation, the only door of escape from coming wrath; and the door stands wide open now, not to Jews only, but also to Gentiles - "any man." It is, "Whosoever will, let Him take the water of life freely." His arms are here thrown open, and He welcomes all, and casts, out none that come to Him. Observe, He is "the door;" there is no other. It is not a long, dreary, circuitous passage, but a door; and we know that to enter a door, one step only is needed. A person who is outside the door takes one step, and he is inside; he has entered in. And so the soul that now believes God's testimony to the truth of salvation by Christ alone at once enters into God's presence by faith, through Jesus the Saviour, who died to save sinners. Salvation then is only by Christ - "By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." It is also free to all; no exception is made. No one who desires it is debarred from this wondrous blessing; for it is open to "any man." "If any man enter in, he shall be saved." Having received Jesus as the door, and having entered in by faith, he is entitled to salvation - salvation from sins, from condemnation, from wrath, from hell; he is saved with an everlasting salvation. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess. 5:9.) When the soul thus knows the blessedness of having entered in by "the door," taking the Lord at His word, he finds peace with God, is reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and is a child of God through faith in Christ Jesus. He knows the Good Shepherd, having heard His voice; and being willing to be led by Him, is blessed indeed.
Lastly, observe that such "shall go in and out, and find pasture." He can go into the presence of God inside the veil, and find strength and comfort there, where the good, great, and chief Shepherd is. He can also go out in the Lord's service, and find His presence and blessing in seeking to feed and refresh His sheep and lambs, according to that word, "He that watereth shall be watered also himself." (Prov. 11:25.) H. H. Snell.
We have then in these sacrifices: Christ in His devotedness unto death, burnt-offering; Christ in the perfection of His life of consecration to God, meat-offering; Christ the basis of the communion of the people with God, who feeds, as it were, at the same table with them, peace-offering; and finally, Christ made sin for those who stood in need of it, and bearing their sins in His own body on the tree, sin-offering.
J. N. Darby.