Sunday Morning Greek Blog

June 19, 2011

“I Am the Door of the Sheep”; “I Am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:7, 11)

Well, the summer solstice is just around the corner, and so is the end of my time reading through the Gospels. I read the first part of the crucifixion story this morning in John 19, and that has some interesting tidbits I may come back to:

  • Barabbas’s name is Aramaic for “Son of the Father,” or more colloquially, “Daddy’s Boy” (בַּר bar ‘son’ + אַבָּא abba ‘father, daddy’, perhaps with definite article); Jesus is the “Son of God [the Father]”: irony at its finest!
  • Three times, Pilate said he could find no charge against Jesus, and he seems to work tirelessly (and with concern for his own integrity) to try to release Jesus, even justifying his innocense to the Jewish leaders and the crowd, to no avail;
  • Jesus tries to ease Pilate’s worries about handing him over to be crucified by telling him, “The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” Note that Jesus cannot be accusing the God the Father here, but either Judas or the high priest.

But I digress from my intentions this morning. I want to tackle two more of the “I am” statements of Jesus found within a few verses of each other in chapter 10: “I am the Door of the Sheep” (v. 7) and “I am the good shepherd” (v. 11). The two statements are obviously closely related, but I will deal with each one separately, even though there will be some overlap.

“I Am the Door of the Sheep” (John 10:7)

I’m going to reproduce here my table (Table 1) from an earlier post that shows the connections between the seven “I am” statements of Jesus and the seven signs he performed, with today’s two statements highlighted: (2/13/2012: You can click the “I Am” statement to open the blog post for that statement.)

Table 1: Linking the “I Am” Statements with Jesus’ Miracles

“I Am” Statement

Sign/Miracle

John 6:35: I Am the Bread of Life John 6:1–15: Jesus Feeds the 5000+
John 8:12: I Am the Light of the World John 9:1–12: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
John 10:7: I Am the Door of the Sheep John 5:1–15: Healing of the Invalid at Bethesda [Sheep Gate]
*John 10:11: I Am the Good Shepherd John 6:16–24: Jesus Walks on Water
John 11:25: I Am the Resurrection and the Life John 11:38–44: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
*John 14:6: I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life John 4:43–54: Healing of the Official’s Son
John 15:1: I Am the True Vine John 2:1–11: Water into Wine

One of the first connections to note out of the gate (pun intended) is that Jesus’ third sign is healing a man at the pool by the Sheep Gate (προβατικῇ probatikē, literally “of the sheep”; the feminine form is elliptical or shorthand because the word for “gate”, which is feminine, is not in the text there) in the walls of Jerusalem (John 5:1–15). This is the city gate through which the sheep entered when being brought to town for the market or the Temple. I will grant that Jesus’ statement, “I am the door of the sheep” (ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θὑρα τῶν προβάτων egō eimi hē thura tōn probatōn) is more agrarian and rural than it is commercial and political, but the connection is significant nonetheless, because chapter 5 is the only time the Sheep Gate is mentioned in the Gospels. The Sheep Gate is mentioned three times in Nehemiah in connection with rebuilding the wall. It is probably not coincidence, then, that the high priest and his fellow priests had the responsibility to rebuild that section of the wall and rehang the gates (Nehemiah 3:1; cf. Hebrews 4:14, where Jesus is called our “great high priest”).

This “I am” statement has a connection to John 14:6 as well. In John 10:9, Jesus repeats the “I am” statement, this time without the sheep (“I am the door”), and the salvific connection is obvious (TNIV modified to reflect Greek word order): “Through me, whoever enters will be saved.” The phrase “through me” (διʼ ἐμοῦ di’ emou; the emphatic form of the pronoun is used) comes first in 10:9, even before the conjunction, which is a grammatical tool for emphasizing a phrase. The same phrase is found in John 14:6 (“no one comes to the Father except through me“) at the end. (Don’t ask me why, but Greek scholars say that an element of a Greek sentence can be emphasized at the beginning or the ending of a sentence; just one of those quirky things about Greek.) Here’s the beautiful part: normally you might think a prepositional phrase like “through me” should be common enough, right? Want to guess how many times it occurs in John? If you said “twice,” you are exactly right! Because it appears at the beginning of the phrase in 10:9 and at the end of the phrase in 14:6, I would say we have an inclusio here. Was it intentional by John? Perhaps not. Did God have a hand in ordering the text that way? I certainly think so.

Now if we have an inclusio, we need to look at the text in between and see what’s going on. Jesus does make his other statement about being a good shepherd two verses later in 10:11, but two other significant events are bracketed by the “through me” statements. The first is the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead and Jesus’ accompanying “I am the resurrection and the life” statement. More on that in a future post. The other significant event is the Last Supper, in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. In 13:8, Jesus makes another statement about his exclusivity as the Savior: after Peter objects to Jesus washing his feet, Jesus replies (my translation, emphasizing the present continuous aspect of the verbs), “Unless I am washing your feet, you are not having any part with me [μετʼ ἐμοῦ met’ emou].” This act of washing the feet is the act of a good shepherd who cares for his sheep, so we now turn to that “I am” statement.

“I Am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14)

In Table 1 above, I make a tentative link between “I am the good shepherd” (Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos) and Jesus walking on the water in John 6. Here’s the connection, but again, it is tentative: Only Matthew records that Jesus called Peter to walk on the water (14:28–31); perhaps John doesn’t record this because he doesn’t want to call attention to Peter’s lack of faith in that instance. The connection has its “degrees of separation,” but it’s more than just about feet and water.

Jesus had stayed behind when his disciples set out in the boat in John 6. But when he saw the disciples were having trouble managing the boat in the strong winds, Jesus left whatever shelter he had sought out and walked out onto the raging sea to get to those he loved. He was looking out for his sheep. This reminds of the parable of the wandering sheep in Matthew 18:10–14, only in the walking on the water pericope, the wilderness is the sea itself. I can imagine that even for the son of God, walking on the water was not the safest thing to do, let alone doing it in a storm, yet Jesus says in the latter part of John 10:11: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (repeated in vv. 15, 17, 18).

The concept of the good shepherd has its roots in the Old Testament. King David, of course, was a shepherd himself, and Psalm 23 is a popular treatise on how the Lord shepherds us on a daily basis. Ezekiel 34 is an extended treatise on the bad shepherds of Israel, who had led the nation on the path of exile. A few relevant passages from Ezekiel make the connection between Jesus’ “I am the good shepherd” statement and Jesus’ walking on water even more pronounced (all excerpts from the TNIV):

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As shepherds look after their scattered flocks when they are with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness (34:11–12).

As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats (34:17; note parallel to Matthew 25:32–33).

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken (34:23–24).

They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid…. Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord (34:28b, 30–31)

Live It Out

I find no shortage of irony that the one John called “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29b) is also the door (or gate) for the sheep and the good shepherd. Both of these statements emphasize Jesus’ compassion for his flock. He protects us from thieves and bandits who would rob us of our joy. He is a refuge for us in times of storm and disaster. And he is the only one through whom we can be saved and have the promise of eternal life.

In John 21:15, Jesus has an emotional exchange with Peter to restore him to service after his denial. Three times, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Twice Jesus uses ἀγαπάω (agapaō) and once φιλέω (phileō), but Peter always responds with φιλέω. I don’t think much can made of the difference in the different words used for “love” as some have, but that’s not my point here. Jesus responds, “Feed my lambs” or “Feed my sheep.” Can we model the shepherding of the Savior? Some days it’s easier than others, but if Peter was forgiven for his triple-denial and went on to be instrumental in commencing the church, what great things can we do for God?

I had a stormy period this past month. Last month would have been my 19th anniversary with my (now ex-)wife, and I found myself craving the intimacy I once had with her. It was a struggle to get through that, but God, who is never unfaithful, continued to be faithful to me as I worked through my issues. I’ve come out on the other side now, but as much as I know I’m forgiven for the past, I still find that it haunts me at times. I need to trust that my shepherd is watching out for me in those times when I wander into the wilderness and know that as I “bleat” for his presence, protection, and love, he will hear me and come running to me to give me the only comfort that matters.

Peace!

Scott Stocking

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3 Comments »

  1. […] John 10:7 […]

    Pingback by The “I Am” Statements of Jesus « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — November 8, 2011 @ 8:45 pm | Reply

  2. […] John 10:7: I Am the Door of the Sheep […]

    Pingback by “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  3. […] John 10:7: I Am the Door of the Sheep […]

    Pingback by “I Am the True Vine” (John 15:1) « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — February 13, 2012 @ 7:03 pm | Reply


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