Lesson 61

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

10:16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd. 10:17 Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. 10:18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father."

10:19 Therefore a division arose again among the Jews because of these words. 10:20 Many of them said, "He has a demon, and is mad! Why do you listen to him?" 10:21 Others said, "These are not the sayings of one possessed with a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

 Today's Lesson 

Today's scripture concludes the lessons that Jesus draws from His parable of the sheepfold. Today's scripture reiterates yesterday's teaching regarding His death and then expands on it. But, before we take up that teaching again, let us look at verse 16.


Jesus teaches here that He has "other sheep, which are not of this fold." This scripture has led to some speculation and several groups have claimed to be these "other sheep". To the best of my understanding and interpretation, the "other sheep" that Jesus is speaking of are the Gentiles that were brought into the predominantly Jewish assemblies. This influx of Gentile believers was the critical issue of the first century church. The tension and problems that were created by the incorporation of the Gentiles cannot be overstated.


This process is chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles and in the letters of Paul. Jewish believers centered in Jerusalem began to insist that Gentiles brought into the church first accept the covenant of Judaism, including circumcision and dietary laws. The full understanding of freedom and grace that was spearheaded by Paul and eventually approved by Peter and the leaders of Jerusalem was not a foregone conclusion. There were bitter arguments and schisms that developed and threatened to split the fledgling church.


The unity of Gentile and Jewish believers is a central theme of many New Testament writings. The fact that the Gospel of John does not deal with it more explicitly is largely due to the fact that by the time this Gospel was written, it was largely a mute issue. By the writing of this book, Gentiles had already begun to outnumber Jews in Christian assemblies. The traditional theory is that this Gospel was written in Ephesus for a largely Gentile church. To accept any other explanation of Jesus' "other sheep" is to overlook this obvious explanation.


After this comment, Jesus returns to the main theme of the story. He is the "good shepherd" because he is willing to lay down His life for His sheep. And, He goes one step further in this section. "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again." As we look back from this side of the resurrection, it is clear what Jesus is referring to in this statement. But, how strange it must have seemed to those who heard it before His death. Jesus declares that His death is intentional and sacrificial. No one forces Him to die. No one has the power to take His life against His will. But, He is willing to lay it down ... for His sheep.


This element of control is essential in appreciating the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth. If we do not understand that he was in complete control of His death and resurrection, then we will miss an essential revelation of His nature. Jesus had the power to escape death, yet He chose to endure suffering for the goal that lay ahead of Him. The reconciliation of God with His creation was of such worth to Him that He was willing to lay down His life for His sheep.


This section concludes with a note that Jesus' words caused controversy and division among the Jews that first heard them. Many did not understand them and they could not understand the man who spoke them either. Our purpose and goal is to come to understand Him more clearly. If we ask, He is willing to open our eyes so that we might see Him. He is willing to be our shepherd. He is willing to lay down His life for us, if we will only let Him.


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