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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Gospel
JOHN 10:11-16
The Good Shepherd. 

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is a 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. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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.  

2. Christ is the shepherd, v. 11, &c. He was prophesied of under the Old Testament as a shepherd, Isa. xl. 11; Ezek. xxxiv. 23; xxxvii. 24; Zech. xiii. 7. In the New Testament he is spoken of as the great Shepherd (Heb. xiii. 20), the chief Shepherd (1 Pet. v. 4), the Shepherd and bishop of our souls, 1 Pet. ii. 25. God, our great owner, the sheep of whose pasture we are by creation, has constituted his Son Jesus to be our shepherd; and here again and again he owns the relation. He has all that care of his church, and every believer, that a good shepherd has of his flock; and expects all that attendance and observance from the church, and every believer, which the shepherds in those countries had from their flocks. 

(1.) Christ is a shepherd, and not as the thief, not as those that came not in by the door. Observe, 

[1.] The mischievous design of the thief (v. 10): The thief cometh not with any good intent, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. First, Those whom they steal, whose hearts and affections they steal from Christ and his pastures, they kill and destroy spiritually; for the heresies they privily bring in are damnable. Deceivers of souls are murderers of souls. Those that steal away the scripture by keeping it in an unknown tongue, that steal away the sacraments by maiming them and altering the property of them, that steal away Christ's ordinances to put their own inventions in the room of them, they kill and destroy; ignorance and idolatry are destructive things. Secondly, Those whom they cannot steal, whom they can neither lead, drive, nor carry away, from the flock of Christ, they aim by persecutions and massacres to kill and destroy corporally. He that will not suffer himself to be robbed is in danger of being slain. 

[2.] The gracious design of the shepherd; he is come, 

First, To give life to the sheep. In opposition to the design of the thief, which is to kill and destroy (which was the design of the scribes and Pharisees) Christ saith, I am come among men, 1. That they might have life. He came to put life into the flock, the church in general, which had seemed rather like a valley full of dry bones than like a pasture covered over with flocks. Christ came to vindicate divine truths, to purify divine ordinances, to redress grievances, and to revive dying zeal, to seek those of his flock that were lost, to bind up that which was broken (Ezek. xxxiv. 16), and this to his church is as life from the dead. He came to give life to particular believers. Life is inclusive of all good, and stands in opposition to the death threatened (Gen. ii. 17); that we might have life, as a criminal has when he is pardoned, as a sick man when he is cured, a dead man when he is raised; that we might be justified, sanctified, and at last glorified. 2. That they might have it more abundantly, kai perisson echosin. As we read it, it is comparative, that they might have a life more abundant than that which was lost and forfeited by sin, more abundant than that which was promised by the law of Moses, length of days in Canaan, more abundant than could have been expected or than we are able to ask or think. But it may be construed without a note of comparison, that they might have abundance, or might have it abundantly. Christ came to give life and perisson ti--something more, something better, life with advantage; that in Christ we might not only live, but live comfortably, live plentifully, live and rejoice. Life in abundance is eternal life, life without death or fear of death, life and much more. 

Secondly, To give his life for the sheep, and this that he might give life to them (v. 11): The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 1. It is the property of every good shepherd to hazard and expose his life for the sheep. Jacob did so, when he would go through such a fatigue to attend them, Gen. xxxi. 40. So did David, when he slew the lion and the bear. Such a shepherd of souls was St. Paul, who would gladly spend, and be spent, for their service, and counted not his life dear to him, in comparison with their salvation. But, 2. It was the prerogative of the great Shepherd to give his life to purchase his flock (Acts xx. 28), to satisfy for their trespass, and to shed his blood to wash and cleanse them. 

(2.) Christ is a good shepherd, and not as a hireling. There were many that were not thieves, aiming to kill and destroy the sheep, but passed for shepherds, yet were very careless in the discharge of their duty, and through their neglect the flock was greatly damaged; foolish shepherds, idle shepherds, Zech. xi. 15, 17. In opposition to these, 

[1.] Christ here calls himself the good shepherd (v. 11), and again (v. 14) ho poimen ho kalos--that shepherd, that good Shepherd, whom God had promised. Note, Jesus Christ is the best of shepherds, the best in the world to take the over-sight of souls, none so skilful, so faithful, so tender, as he, no such feeder and leader, no such protector and healer of souls as he. 

[2.] He proves himself so, in opposition to all hirelings, v. 12-14. Where observe, 

First, The carelessness of the unfaithful shepherd described (v. 12, 13); he that is a hireling, that is employed as a servant and is paid for his pains, whose own the sheep are not, who has neither profit nor loss by them, sees the wolf coming, or some other danger threatening, and leaves the sheep to the wolf, for in truth he careth not for them. Here is plain reference to that of the idol-shepherd, Zech. xi. 17. Evil shepherds, magistrates and ministers, are here described both by their bad principles and their bad practices. 

a. Their bad principles, the root of their bad practices. What makes those that have the charge of souls in trying times to betray their trust, and in quiet times not to mind it? What makes them false, and trifling, and self-seeking? It is because they are hirelings, and care not for the sheep. That is, (a.) The wealth of the world is the chief of their good; it is because they are hirelings. They undertook the shepherds' office, as a trade to live and grow rich by, not as an opportunity of serving Christ and doing good. It is the love of money, and of their own bellies, that carries them on in it. Not that those are hirelings who, while they serve at the altar, live, and live comfortably, upon the altar. The labourer is worthy of his meat; and a scandalous maintenance will soon make a scandalous ministry. But those are hirelings that love the wages more than the work, and set their hearts upon that, as the hireling is said to do, Deut. xxiv. 15. See 1 Sam. ii. 29; Isa. lvi. 11; Mic. iii. 5, 11. (b.) The work of their place is the least of their care. They value not the sheep, are unconcerned in the souls of others; their business is to be their brothers' lords, not their brothers' keepers or helpers; they seek their own things, and do not, like Timothy, naturally care for the state of souls. What can be expected but that they will flee when the wolf comes. He careth not for the sheep, for he is one whose own the sheep are not. In one respect we may say of the best of the under-shepherds that the sheep are not their own, they have not dominion over them not property in them (feed my sheep and my lambs, saith Christ); but in respect of dearness and affection they should be their own. Paul looked upon those as his own whom he called his dearly beloved and longed for. Those who do not cordially espouse the church's interests, and make them their own, will not long be faithful to them. 

b. Their bad practices, the effect of these bad principles, v. 12. See here, (a.) How basely the hireling deserts his post; when he sees the wolf coming, though then there is most need of him, he leaves the sheep and flees. Note, Those who mind their safety more than their duty are an easy prey to Satan's temptations. (b.) How fatal the consequences are! the hireling fancies the sheep may look to themselves, but it does not prove so: the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep, and woeful havoc is made of the flock, which will all be charged upon the treacherous shepherd. The blood of perishing souls is required at the hand of the careless watchmen. 

Secondly, See here the grace and tenderness of the good Shepherd set over against the former, as it was in the prophecy (Ezek. xxxiv. 21, 22, &c.): I am the good Shepherd. It is matter of comfort to the church, and all her friends, that, however she may be damaged and endangered by the treachery and mismanagement of her under-officers, the Lord Jesus is, and will be, as he ever has been, the good Shepherd. Here are two great instances of the shepherd's goodness. 

a. His acquainting himself with his flock, with all that belong or in any wise appertain to his flock, which are of two sorts, both known to him:-- 

(a.) He is acquainted with all that are now of his flock (v. 14, 15), as the good Shepherd (v. 3, 4): I know my sheep and am known of mine. Note, There is a mutual acquaintance between Christ and true believers; they know one another very well, and knowledge notes affection. 

[a.] Christ knows his sheep. He knows with a distinguishing eye who are his sheep, and who are not; he knows the sheep under their many infirmities, and the goats under their most plausible disguises. He knows with a favourable eye those that in truth are his own sheep; he takes cognizance of their state, concerns himself for them, has a tender and affectionate regard to them, and is continually mindful of them in the intercession he ever lives to make within the veil; he visits them graciously by his Spirit, and has communion with them; he knows them, that is, he approves and accepts of them, as Ps. i. 6; xxxvii. 18; Exod. xxxiii. 17. 

[b.] He is known of them. He observes them with an eye of favour, and they observe him with an eye of faith. Christ's knowing his sheep is put before their knowing him, for he knew and loved us first (1 John iv. 19), and it is not so much our knowing him as our being known of him that is our happiness, Gal. iv. 9. Yet it is the character of Christ's sheep that they know him; know him from all pretenders and intruders; they know his mind, know his voice, know by experience the power of his death. Christ speaks here as if he gloried in being known by his sheep, and thought their respect an honour to him. Upon this occasion Christ mentions (v. 15) the mutual acquaintance between his Father and himself: As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father. Now this may be considered, either, First, As the ground of that intimate acquaintance and relation which subsist between Christ and believers. The covenant of grace, which is the bond of this relation, is founded in the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son, which, we may be sure, stands firm; for the Father and the Son understood one another perfectly well in that matter, and there could be no mistake, which might leave the matter at any uncertainty, or bring it into any hazard. The Lord Jesus knows whom he hath chosen, and is sure of them (ch. xiii. 18), and they also know whom they have trusted, and are sure of him (2 Tim. i. 12), and the ground of both is the perfect knowledge which the Father and the Son had of one another's mind, when the counsel of peace was between them both. Or, Secondly, As an apt similitude, illustrating the intimacy that is between Christ and believers. It may be connected with the foregoing words, thus: I know my sheep, and am known of mine, even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father; compare ch. xvii. 21. 1. As the Father knew the Son, and loved him, and owned him in his sufferings, when he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, so Christ knows his sheep, and has a watchful tender eye upon them, will be with them when they are left alone, as his Father was with him. 2. As the Son knew the Father, loved and obeyed him, and always did those things that pleased him, confiding in him as his God even when he seemed to forsake him, so believers know Christ with an obediential fiducial regard. 

(b.) He is acquainted with those that are hereafter to be of this flock (v. 16): Other sheep I have, have a right to and an interest in, which are not of this fold, of the Jewish church; them also I must bring. Observe, 

[a.] The eye that Christ had to the poor Gentiles. He had sometimes intimated his special concern for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; to them indeed his personal ministry was confined; but, saith he, I have other sheep. Those who in process of time should believe in Christ, and be brought into obedience to him from among the Gentiles, are here called sheep, and he is said to have them, though as yet they were uncalled, and many of them unborn, because they were chosen of God, and given to Christ in the counsels of divine love from eternity. Christ has a right, by virtue of the Father's donation and his own purchase, to many a soul of which he has not yet the possession; thus he had much people in Corinth, when as yet it lay in wickedness, Acts xviii. 10. "Those other sheep I have," saith Christ, "I have them on my heart, have them in my eye, am as sure to have them as if I had them already." Now Christ speaks of those other sheep, First, To take off the contempt that was put upon him, as having few followers, as having but a little flock, and therefore, if a good shepherd, yet a poor shepherd: "But," saith he, "I have more sheep than you see." Secondly, To take down the pride and vain-glory of the Jews, who thought the Messiah must gather all his sheep from among them. "No," saith Christ, "I have others whom I will set with the lambs of my flock, though you disdain to set them with the dogs of your flock." 

[b.] The purposes and resolves of his grace concerning them: "Them also I must bring, bring home to God, bring into the church, and, in order to this, bring off from their vain conversation, bring them back from their wanderings, as that lost sheep," Luke xv. 5. But why must he bring them? What was the necessity? First, The necessity of their case required it: "I must bring, or they must be left to wander endlessly, for, like sheep, they will never come back of themselves, and no other can or will bring them." Secondly, The necessity of his own engagements required it; he must bring them, or he would not be faithful to his trust, and true to his undertaking. "They are my own, bought and paid for, and therefore I must not neglect them nor leave them to perish." He must in honour bring those with whom he was entrusted. 

[c.] The happy effect and consequence of this, in two things:--First, "They shall hear my voice. Not only my voice shall be heard among them (whereas they have not heard, and therefore could not believe, now the sound of the gospel shall go to the ends of the earth), but it shall be heard by them; I will speak, and give to them to hear." Faith comes by hearing, and our diligent observance of the voice of Christ is both a means and an evidence of our being brought to Christ, and to God by him. Secondly, There shall be one fold and one shepherd. As there is one shepherd, so there shall be one fold. Both Jews and Gentiles, upon their turning to the faith of Christ, shall be incorporated in one church, be joint and equal sharers in the privileges of it, without distinction. Being united to Christ, they shall unite in him; two sticks shall become one in the hand of the Lord. Note, One shepherd makes one fold; one Christ makes one church. As the church is one in its constitution, subject to one head, animated by one Spirit, and guided by one rule, so the members of it ought to be one in love and affection, Eph. iv. 3-6. 

b. Christ's offering up himself for his sheep is another proof of his being a good shepherd, and in this he yet more commended his love, v. 15, 17, 18. 

(a.) He declares his purpose of dying for his flock (v. 15): I lay down my life for the sheep. He not only ventured his life for them (in such a case, the hope of saving it might balance the fear of losing it), but he actually deposited it, and submitted to a necessity of dying for our redemption; tithemi--I put it as a pawn or pledge; as purchase-money paid down. Sheep appointed for the slaughter, ready to be sacrificed, were ransomed with the blood of the shepherd. He laid down his life, hyper ton probaton, not only for the good of the sheep, but in their stead. Thousands of sheep had been offered in sacrifice for their shepherds, as sin-offerings, but here, by a surprising reverse, the shepherd is sacrificed for the sheep. When David, the shepherd of Israel, was himself guilty, and the destroying angel drew his sword against the flock for his sake, with good reason did he plead, These sheep, what evil have they done? Let thy hand be against me, 2 Sam. xxiv. 17. But the Son of David was sinless and spotless; and his sheep, what evil have they not done? Yet he saith, Let thine hand be against me. Christ here seems to refer to that prophecy, Zech. xiii. 7, Awake, O sword, against my shepherd; and, though the smiting of the shepherd be for the present the scattering of the flock, it is in order to the gathering of them in.