The Good Shepherd
( Originally Published 1915 )
AT THE SIDE of the Temple buildings toward the east stood a long balcony or archway, roofed over, with a row of pillars on each side. It was called "Solomon's Porch." On the eastern side it looked over the valley of the brook Kedron, and beyond the valley to the Mount of Olives. In the west it fronted on the great court of the Gentiles. This porch was about a thousand feet long.
At the time of the Feast of the Dedication, it was winter, and Jesus was walking with his disciples in this porch. The Jews gathered around him and asked :
"How long are you going to keep our minds in uncertainty? If you are really the Christ, the King of Israel foretold by the prophets of old, tell us plainly."
"I have already told you," answered Jesus, "and you do not believe me. The works that I do in the name of my Father, they speak for me; but you do not listen because you do not belong to my flock. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me; and I give to them the life everlasting; and they shall not be lost, and no one will ever snatch them out of my hands. My Father who has given them to me is stronger than all; and no one can snatch anything out of my Father's hand."
Then Jesus gave the parable or story of "The Good Shepherd." He said :
"I tell you in truth, whoever does not go into the sheepfold through the door, but climbs up somewhere else, that man is a thief and a robber. But the man who goes through the door is a shepherd of the sheep. The watch-man opens the door for him; and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by their names, for he knows each one of them, and leads them out. When he has brought all his sheep outside, he walks in front of them; and his sheep follow him, for they know his voice. When a stranger speaks to them, they will not follow him, but will run away from him, for they do not know a stranger's voice."
Jesus spoke to them this parable, but they did not understand its meaning. So he explained it to them.
"In truth I tell you," he said, "I am the Door for the sheep. All who ever came before me and not in my name, were thieves and robbers, but the sheep would not listen to them. I am the Door, whoever enters by me will be safe; and he shall go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
"I am not only the Door, but also the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his own life for his sheep. The hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, when he sees a wolf coming, runs away and leaves the sheep. Then the wolf tears them and scatters the flock. The hired man does this, just because he is only a hired man, and does not care about the sheep.
"I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep, and my sheep know me must as the Father knows me, and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep.
"I have other sheep, too, which do not belong to this these also I must lead, and they will listen to my voice; and so it will be one flock and one Shepherd.
"On this account my Father loves me because I lay down my life, to take it up again. No one took it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This is the command which my Father has given me. I and my Father are one."
Suddenly, as he spoke these words, the Jews began again to pick up stones to throw at him. Jesus said to them:
"I have done many good works of God. For which of these works would you now stone me?"
The Jews answered, "It is not for any good work that we would stone you, but for those dreadful words, words that would make you, a mere man, to be God!"
Jesus answered, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'? If the law calls those `gods' to whom God spoke his word—and God's book must speak the truth—then why is it such a terrible thing for one whom God has set apart and sent into the world as his messenger, to say of himself `I am God's Son'? If I am not doing the work of my Father, do not believe me; but if I am doing it, even though you will not believe me, believe what my work shows. Then you will learn and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."
Once again they tried to seize him, but he escaped from their hands and went away from Jerusalem.