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The Good Shepherd: Symbolic Picture of the Man Born Blind in John 9

December 7, 2012 1 comment

In listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, I have now come to the great 10th chapter, the discourses about Jesus as the Shepherd over the Sheep.  Previous teaching that I’ve heard on this subject focused on a few ideas, such as the reference to shepherds in Ezekiel’s prophecy, or comments about the major features of sheep and how we are like sheep.

As always, S. Lewis Johnson went further, with many interesting observations.  Throughout this chapter we see a shepherd who knows us intimately, who knows everything about us, and yet is not ashamed to be our shepherd.  In fact, this great Shepherd delights in being our Shepherd.

Also, the following point, which I had never noticed before: John 10 is connected with the event in John chapter 9, the healing of the blind man.  The words at the beginning of chapter 10 (“Truly, truly” in the ESV) in John’s gospel never occur at the beginning of a new discourse, never introduce any new material.  Rather, the first verses in John 10 give a symbolic picture of John 9.  From this message in the John series:

 Now, in chapter 9 we have the blind man who is healed.  He was blind from his birth.  He’s remarkably healed.  Then we have controversy between the blind man and the Pharisees.  And finally the blind man is thrown out of the synagogue.  But Jesus finds him and unveils himself to him fully, and it is climaxed by his confession, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.  So when we read John 10 we are to think of that particular action.  For example, in John chapter 10 we read of false shepherd in verse 1.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”  In verse 5 we read, “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him.”

Now these strangers and robbers that he refers to in this symbolic picture, these are references to the cruel actions of the Jews in chapter 9 towards the blind man.  In John 9: 22 we read, ” These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”  These are men who seek to come in some other way, so we are think then when we read of the thieves and robbers, of the Jewish men who sought to keep the blind man from coming to Jesus Christ.

In John chapter 9 we notice the remarkable response of the blind man, and that of course is designed to represent the response of the sheep, referred in chapter 10 and verse 3 and 4.  “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”  So the response of the sheep is like the response of the blind man in John chapter 9.  And the care of the shepherd for the sheep, referred to in chapter 10, is like the care of the Lord Jesus for the blind man for when he was thrown out of the synagogue, according to John 9:34 we immediately read, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of Man?” and brought him to faith in himself.  So what we have then in chapter 10 is an allegorical or symbolic picture of the event of chapter 9 with further suggestions as to the meaning of what had happened.

Hebrews 13: The Great Shepherd of the Eternal Covenant

January 12, 2012 Comments off

From the depths of scripture passages, comes this interesting insight regarding Hebrews 13 and a reference to Isaiah 63.  Hebrews 13:20 contains this phrase in the benediction:   the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant.

S. Lewis Johnson observes here a reference to Isaiah 63:11 (“​​​​​​​Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people.  Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit”):

Now, who is the shepherd?  Well, the shepherd is Moses.  And what is the flock?  Well, the flock is the people of Israel.  They have been brought out of the land of Egypt; they have been brought through the Red Sea, they have been brought out into the land.  And this, as you know, was the great deliverance to which the prophets and others pointed Israel, to remind Israel of their beginnings and how God had performed that mighty miracle of the exodus, bringing them out of from bondage to the Egyptians, bringing them through in a miraculous way through the sea, out onto dry land.

Spurgeon also noted this in reference to Isaiah 63.  SLJ read portions from this text, of which we can read the full sermon online here.

Turn to Isaiah 63:11—“Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock? Where is He that put His Holy Spirit within them? That led them by the right hand of Moses with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make for Himself an everlasting name?”

See how this making to Himself an everlasting name tallies with the last clause—“To whom be glory forever and ever”? But let us proceed—“Who led them through the deep as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble.” Truly, those do not stumble in whom the Lord works “that which is well-pleasing in His sight.” “As a beast goes down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest”—there is the God of Peace—“so You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name”—there again is the doxology, “To whom be glory forever and ever.” The historical event to which he alludes is the deliverance from Egypt and the coming up from the Red Sea!

Having saved His people by the blood of the Covenant which was smeared upon their doorposts, He led them to the Red Sea, their foes pursuing them. Into the Red Sea they descended—not to its banks, alone, did they go, but into its very depths they passed and there were they buried—the sea was as the place of death to them. Between its liquid walls and beneath the cloudy pillar which hung over the passage, they were baptized unto Moses and buried in Baptism as in a liquid tomb! But lo, they come up out of it again, led safely up from what became the grave of Pharaoh, with songs and shouts and rejoicing!

The parallel is this—“That Great Shepherd,” who is far greater than Moses and Aaron, must go down into the place of death on behalf of His people. He must, as the Representative of His flock, descend into the sepulcher. This He did, for He bowed His head and died. But lo, the Lord led Him up, again, from the deeps and He arose to life and glory—and all His people with Him! On that day the song might have been jubilant as that of Miriam when she chanted, “Sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously. Your right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power.” But now, in this greater deliverance by “the blood of the Everlasting Covenant” the Psalm is not to the Lord who is a man of war, but to “the God of Peace.” The honor is ascribed to the same Lord, but under a gentler name and to Him be glory forever and ever.

S. Lewis Johnson continues with Hebrews 13, observing that the writer of Hebrews is using the same words in the Septuagint, “Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.” The writer of Hebrews was thinking of the same analogy noted by Spurgeon and S. Lewis Johnson:

In other words, just as Moses led the children of Israel out, then led them down through the sea that had been parted by the Lord God, and led them through so, our Lord Jesus, by going to Calvary’s cross, by giving up his life, by entering into the grave and coming up in resurrection, has delivered his people, his flock, and he’s delivered them as their representative.  So brought again from the dead.

It’s also interesting to note that the term resurrection is only mentioned once in all of the book of Hebrews: only here in the benediction.  Hebrews focuses on Christ’s exaltation, which assumes the resurrection.  But only here in Hebrews 13 is the resurrection actually mentioned.