The atmosphere was highly charged. The accusers kept probing trying to find a weakness in their opponent’s knowledge, logic and assertions. They were looking for the one weakness in what he said that would give them good reason to charge him with insurrection and heresy bringing about his death. The accused poured scorn on his accusers understanding of history, their inability to discern God at work, their leadership capacity and the validity of their lifestyle. The listening crowds felt pushed into taking sides and were confused by the conflicting arguments.
‘There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”’ John 10:19-21
What had excited the crowd so much? The answer is the simple gospel as the modern church understands it. Was what Jesus said then so new that one could expect the learned listeners to understand? Very definitely not, it was much more they did not want to understand, from their perspective there was too much to lose without understanding of what they had to gain. Jesus’ words had just opened up an area they found unacceptable because they felt it took away their specialness. To be fair even Jesus’ closest disciples did not really understand until God revealed to Peter through Cornelius in Acts 10 that all peoples had equal rights to salvation and thence equal standing in God’s kingdom.
Jesus words, ‘I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.’ v16 were taken to mean he was detracting from the Israelite status as God’s people. Israel however was always intended to be a blessing and light to all people leading them to worship God and be fully accepted. From God’s first promise to Abraham, ‘in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,’ through the Mosaic law and in the prophets, there was always the statement that the Israelite people were God’s chosen people to bring all nations to the Lord. ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.’ Isaiah 60:1-3 Now here was Jesus announcing himself as the fulfilment of this long line of prophetic messages.
Jesus however, placed this coded statement that he would be the means of salvation for all nations in the middle of twice saying it would cost him his life. vv15,17 There is no salvation without the cross. The sheep in other folds was not a coded message that other religions are acceptable or there are alternative ways to being in the kingdom of God. The only way is through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice on our behalf. This is the message that he then sent his disciples with after his death and resurrection and he sent them into the whole world or as it is termed in this passage other folds. The cross is the great leveller. There is no place for pride or birth right. No special status by race, colour, gender or social standing. The only way into the sheep pen is by the shepherd who chose to lay down his life for the sheep. v15
How does Jesus’ sacrifice change how we view and behave towards, people who culturally, racially and in appearance are very different to ourselves?
Lay Down My Life – Sidewalk Prophets [With Lyrics]