Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pastoral Parables: The Gate to the Sheepfold ~ John 10:1-10

Although John, the evangelist, was a faithful narrator, we do not know the place or moment when Christ spoke these parables. The Jews could not at their will get rid of Christ or keep Him from speaking.  He most likely withdrew to the hills of Judea wandering among those of the pastoral life. John makes it clear it was in the autumn that Christ resumed to the countryside of Judea, teaching in parables which he had taught in Galilee.  

We view an enticing sketch of the customs connected between the sheepfold, and the intimacy which reigns between the shepherd and the flock: two tableaux of which each presents its own comparison, the gate to the sheepfold, and the shepherd. 

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"He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep."

John 10:1-5
 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, 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.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them."
Christ traces the tableau of this scene with a simple art such that one would be tempted to say that He had practiced this way of life. All the flocks of a village or clan were grouped together and shut in for the night behind a fenced enclosure, which had a porter as its guardian. On occasion, thieves would merely jump over the fence, snatch a few animals, and move on.

Contrast this behavior with that of the shepherd of his own flock, who, upon opening the gate, calls to the animals by name, each one hears the voice of the shepherd and comes to him. They follow him; whereas they will not follow a stranger.

Christ could find no better fruitful terrain on which to build His expositions in order to reach His listeners. It was in the best quality of allegory, in conformity with color of the environment, accessible to the more educated, and the lesser, of the Judeans. He was able to draw, to the profit of His disciples, precious lessons upon His role, of His attitude, of the communion which should be established between Him and them.

The crowd, or flock, forms but one reality with its Pastor, now gathered around Him; nevertheless, the listeners fail to comprehend this profound meaning. It is not the literal that escapes them, for they understood well the pastoral life; it was the spiritual significance attached to these humble things, and the application which Christ makes of them.

John tells us that such then was the subject of the parable which Jesus laid before them, but they did not grasp what it was concerning which he conversed with them. This is why, once again, He declared to them:

John 10:7-10

"Jesus therefore said unto them again, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture.

The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have [it] abundantly.' "
  
The gate to the sheepfold is, of itself alone, a mysterious symbol to those who are outside of the fold. Christ tells us, I, I have come so that it might have life... all that I have gathered, sheep and shepherds, are called to receive this Life procured by Him who, being the Gate to the fold, is also its refuge. It is through Him that it proceeds to pasturage.

If Christ is the sheepfold, he is also the Shepherd. 
 
The gate, I am the gate, He says.

But who are the intruders, the thieves? Surely not the prophets or good Kings of the past, neither the scribes, nor the Pharisees.  Christ, more probably, was not looking behind Him, based on preachings of His imminent death. 
  
He was more likely speaking of pseudo-messiahs who, without Godly authority, force themselves into the fold, and present themselves as such to the death, achieving the massacre of many thousands, slaughtering sheep, in the name of religion. 

In essence, they ravage His Flock. Is this not happening in present day with the persecution of His believers? 





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