As we begin our lesson this week, it is important to include the perspective from the previous chapter and the events that revolved around Jesus’ healing of the man who had been blind from birth because it is all part of the same dialogue.
The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the community, had just expelled the now sighted formerly blind man from the temple. Jesus goes to the man (with some Pharisees following and eaves dropping) and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. When Jesus identifies Himself to the man, he responds with “Lord, I believe” and worships Jesus. Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” At which point the Pharisees take offense and confront Jesus, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus responds to them, if you were blind you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” He then continues that dialogue into the beginning of John 10.
In this light, we see the contrast between sheep and shepherds and between the good shepherd and the false shepherds is a continuation of the difference between the blind man and the Pharisees. The blind man didn’t claim to be anything other than blind. He functioned as a blind man. He had neighbors and family who all recognized him as blind. And He was healed not because of what he did, although it did require listening and obedience, but for the glory of God. But the Pharisees were different. They claimed to not only see but to know and to know enough that they judged others. They called themselves leaders, but they did not lead by example, they led with accusation and punishment. Remember, this is the group who, in their “compassionate leadership”, accused the blind man of being blind because “You were steeped in sin at birth. (John 9:34)” They did not only look for what others were doing wrong, but they reveled in it and loved the power it gave them.
But, Jesus, pulling from the one thing they supposedly know, the word of the scriptures, reminds them of the type of leadership God expects pulling forward the analogy of the Shepherd from Ezekiel. While we may not have immediately thought of Ezekiel in a discussion of Shepherding, the Pharisees would have or at least should have. But, according to John 10:6, they didn’t.
But how could that be? How could the highest trained biblical scholars of the day not understand the reference to the scriptures they devoted their life to study? Context, perspective and closed mindedness.
They knew the words of Ezekiel, but for them it was a past event, not a foreshadowing. They placed themselves in the narrative of the story as the shepherds, the ones in charge, not being able to see themselves as anything else, especially not a sheep. They were higher than the others, especially the like of this sinful blind man and it was an insult to have to be associated with such a person, especially if he gets so uppity than he now thinks he can look them in the eye and lecture them, doesn’t he know his place. And this “healer”, who broke the law to heal him, why is he confronting them and questioning their authority, shouldn’t he submit to their authority and accept his punishment, too?
When we read the story as Christians, we know Jesus is the good shepherd, but to the Pharisees, as to non-believers today, the question they have is what does that make me? We know that we are sheep. We do not have the ability to guarantee our safety and security for eternity. Without a shepherd we are simply prey. But other sheep in the world, like the Pharisees, have convinced themselves, they are the shepherds.
The pharisees, the religious leaders who rejected Jesus, entered by a “different way”. Jesus is the true shepherd and people, like the blind man, who believe in Jesus, are the true shepherd’s sheep
Jesus is the shepherd to any and all who believe in Him. He is the only true shepherd, the only one who cares for sheep. All the sheep (us) are rightfully His (since He is the creator), but He allows us to come when He calls our name)
called by name, lead by Jesus, follow Him, know His voice, never follow a stranger, run away from strangers
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