THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 10, Part I
OLD TESTAMENT BACKGOUND OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD DISCOURSE

Disaster for the shepherds who lose and scatter the sheep of my pasture, Yahweh declares.  This, therefore, is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says about the shepherds who shepherd my people, 'You have scattered my flock, you have driven them away and have not taken care of them.  Right, I shall take care of you for your misdeeds, Yahweh declares!  But the remnant of my flock I myself shall gather from all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; they will be fruitful and increase in numbers.  For them I shall raise up shepherds to shepherd them and pasture them. 
Jeremiah 23:1-4a

I shall assemble the whole of Jacob, I shall gather the remnant of Israel, I shall gather them together like sheep in an enclosure.  And like a flock within the fold, they will bleat far away from anyone, their leader will break out first, then all break out through the gate and escape, with their king leading the way and with Yahweh at their head.
Micah 2:12-13

For the Lord Yahweh says this: 'Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.  As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. [...] 'I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.'
Ezekiel 34:11-12 & 23

Fall: the Feast of

Jesus in JUDEA –JERUSALEM (Fall)

 

T

III. OPPOSITION IN JERUSALEM

7:1-10:21
A
B

          A.  Feast of Tabernacles:
               Jesus leaves the Galilee to travel to Jerusalem

7:1-13
E

          B.  The Middle of the Feast

7:14-36
R

          C.  The Last Day of the Feast

7:37-53
N

          D.  After the Feast

8:1-10:21
A

          1.  The Adulteress

8:1-11
C
L

          2.  The Light of the World discourse - #2
               "I AM the Light of the World"

8:12-59
E

          3.  SIGN #5 Healing of the man born blind

9:1-40
S

          4.  The Good Shepherd discourse -
               # 3 "I AM the Door of the sheep";
               #4 "I AM the Good shepherd

10:1-21
Winter: The Feast of Dedication

          CONTINUES IN JERUSALEM
               during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah)

10:22-42
 

Jesus in BETHANY (near Jerusalem)

 

THE OLD TESTAMENT BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OF

THE GOOD SHEPHERD DISCOURSE

Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me declares Yahweh Sabaoth!  Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!
Zechariah 13:7

(bold type = quoted by Jesus in Matthew 26:3 at the Last Supper, the night before His crucifixion our time and the day of His crucifixion Jewish time)

Jesus' dialogue with the Pharisees on the day of Assembly after the Feast of Tabernacles continues.  It is the Sabbath and He teaches them with a parable comparing God's relationship to His Covenant people with a shepherd's relationship to his sheep.  You may have noticed that throughout the Bible God has had a special love for shepherds.

Question: Can you think of men in the Old Testament who were shepherds and who were especially close to God?  Hint: there are 7

Answer:

  1. Abel, son of Adam was a shepherd who "found favor with God" (Genesis 4)
  2. Abraham in Genesis 21 is described as a chieftain with many herds of sheep
  3. Jacob is a shepherd for his uncle Laban in Genesis 30
  4. Joseph was shepherding his father Jacob's flocks in Genesis 37
  5. Moses went from prince of Egypt to shepherd of Midian in Exodus 3
  6. David was a shepherd of his father's flocks in 1 Samuel 16:11
  7. Amos the Judean shepherd was God's prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 1:1

Question: In the New Testament who are the first men of Israel/Judah to come and worship the Christ Child?

Answer: The shepherds from the fields around Bethlehem.  Bethlehem,  "house of bread, in Hebrew, is the hometown of King David.  It is located just 5 miles from Jerusalem.  It was in Bethlehem that scholars believe the lambs for the daily Tamyid [or Tamid] sacrifice were kept.  These shepherds may have been the very shepherds who kept the flocks for the daily sacrifice to Yahweh.

The 23rd Psalms, which is traditionally attributed to King David, is probably the most beautiful literary expression of the comparison between a shepherd's care for his sheep and Yahweh's faithful, merciful love for His people.  This is a toda psalms, in Hebrew "thanksgiving psalms".  A toda psalms, like the toda or peace sacrifice [see the document The Levitical Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant] offers thanksgiving to God for salvation from danger or a life threatening event.  The 23rd Psalm gives thanks to God for His faithful love [hesed in Hebrew; agape in Greek] to the righteous, which is illustrated by the image of the "good shepherd" in verses 1-4 and the loving host of the messianic banquet which is the foreshadow of the Eucharistic banquet and the Communion of Saints in verses 5-6.  Please read the 23rd Psalm.

 Weldon Keller's book A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23 [Zondervan Publishing, 1997] he gives some very interesting insights into the habits of a flock sheep of that can be compared to Jesus' role as God's Supreme Shepherd of the New Covenant Church, and the Old Covenant  priests, who were responsible to God as the shepherds God's flock, which was the Old Covenant Church.

  1. Sheep depend on the shepherd for their wellbeing.
  2. Sheep are sociable animals that travel together in a large flock but not too close together; they like their personal space.
  3. Sometimes sheep loose their connection to the flock and tend to stray which can lead to disaster.
  4. Often sheep are unaware of the dangers of the world.  At the beginning of the spring just before sheering when the streams and rivers are full and running deep the shepherd must keep the sheep away from swiftly moving water.  Sometimes it is even necessary for the shepherd to dam up a portion of the stream so his animals can drink [Palms 23:2b "He leads me beside streams of still water..."]. If the shepherd doesn't protect them in this way the sheep, in their thirst, will wade out into the swiftly moving water and when their thick wool coats absorb too much water they will fall over and drown.
  5. The sheep learn the sound of the voice of their shepherd so that when he calls to them they will come to him, but they will run from the voice of a stranger. In the same way that the shepherd understands his flock our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows our weaknesses as well as our strengths and needs.

In Sacred Scripture God the Father has often expressed His Covenant relationship to His people as a shepherd caring for his flock:

  1. In terms of God the Good Shepherd caring for His sheep the Covenant people: Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Numbers 27:17; Psalms 23:1; 28:9; 74:1; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; Isaiah 44:1; 53:6; Micah 7:14; Jeremiah 17:16; Ezekiel 34:16; Zechariah 11:9.  Jacob son of Isaac who God renamed Israel,  and who became the father of the 12 tribes of God's people, spoke of God in this way in Genesis 48:15 and 49:24 as ...the God who has been my shepherd all my life" and as ...the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. 
  2. In the terms of God the Father extending this title of "shepherd" to His representatives, the prophets, priests, and kings of Israel who "shepherd" God's people in His name: 2 Samuel 5:2; 7:7; 1 Chronicles 11:2; 17:6; Psalms 78:70-72; Isaiah 63:11; Zechariah 11:4-5; 16:11; 17. In 2 Samuel 5:2 the 12 tribes of Israel acknowledged David as their king  by declaring: ...and to you it was that Yahweh promised, 'You are to shepherd my people Israel and be leader of Israel.'
  3. In the terms of the final Shepherd, the Messiah who was promised to come from the house of David as God's prophet, priest and king to "shepherd" the Covenant people:

 As sheepherders before and during their sojourn in the land of Egypt the Israelites readily understood the "shepherd" imagery and looked to Moses as God's representative sent to "shepherd" Yahweh's people out of Egypt and to both Moses and Aaron, as God's appointed covenant mediator and High Priest, shepherds of the flock which was the Old Covenant Church established at Sinai:

And when Moses was coming to the end of his ministry as God's holy prophet he requested that Yahweh appoint another "shepherd" in Numbers 27:15-17: Moses then said to Yahweh, 'May it please Yahweh, God of the spirits that give life to all living creatures, to appoint a leader for this community, to be at their head in all their undertakings, a man who will lead them out and bring them in, so that Yahweh's community will not be like a sheep without a shepherd.'

Yahweh continued this analogy when He established the priesthood of the Old Covenant Church in the Covenant formed at Mt. Sinai.  The ministerial priesthood was established in the Sinai Covenant as God's representatives to his people.  They are God's "shepherds" of His holy flock, the Church.  It was their responsibility to "shepherd" His people and they were accountable to God for the success or failure of their shepherding.  In Ezekiel chapter 34, just prior to the destruction of Solomon's Temple and the city of Jerusalem [587/586BC], Yahweh commands His prophet Ezekiel to rebuke the Old Covenant priesthood for being failed "shepherds" to God's people. It is because of this failure of the ministerial priesthood that Yahweh promises the day will come when He will come Himself to shepherd His Covenant people. 

Background history on the holy Prophet Ezekiel: In the 8th century AD the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and the people were taken into exile and were scattered among the Gentile peoples of the Assyrian Empire [2 Kings 17:1-6].  The Southern Kingdom of Judah remained independent until the 6th century when it became a vassal state of the Babylonians when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 597BC, ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587/6BC [2 Kings 24:10-17].  In 597BC the Babylonians took 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and their families as hostages, forcing them into a forced migration to Babylon [2 Kings 24:16]. Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a young priest who was sent into exile with other Judahite refugees who were resettled along the Chebar canal, one of the tributary canals of the River Euphrates [mentioned 8 times in Ezekiel 1:1,3; 3:15, 23; 10:15, 20, 22; 43:3].  The refugees were located southeast of the city of Babylon, near the ancient city of Nippur [Ezekiel 3:15], in settlement they called "Tel Aviv" [Akkadian = til abubi / til avuvi], which means "mound of the flood" [Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume I, page 893; HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, page 175]. 

Ezekiel's prophetic visions from God begin in exile from the site of this community circa 593BC with his vision of God's throne as a chariot of fire at his commissioning as God's prophet in Ezekiel chapter 1.  It is significant that he was 30 years old [Ezekiel 1:1] when he was called to be Yahweh's holy prophet.  Age 30 was the when a priest ended his training and assumed his full priestly duties in the Temple [Numbers 4:3].  Ezekiel's visions lasted from the time of his call until some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6BC [2 Kings 25:8-21; Jeremiah 39:1-10; 52:12-14].  During the time of his ministry Ezekiel was called as the prophetic "Watchman" in service to Yahweh [3:16-21; 33:1-9] to perform a series of symbolic acts to demonstrate God's judgment on Judah and Jerusalem.  Each symbolic act, or ot, in Hebrew, was a dramatic "acting out" of each prophecy which often left Ezekiel afflicted with fits of dumbness and paralysis [3:23-27; 24:25-27; 33:21-22], and which made him an object of curiosity and ridicule among his contemporaries.  It was only after the fulfillment of his prophecies that his true greatness as a holy prophet was realized.  His mission began in the fifth year of exile which Ezekiel links to his fellow refugee and Babylonian prisoner, the Davidic King Jehoiachin of Judah [Ezekiel 1:2-3]. The most active part Ezekiel's ministry lasted from 593 to 585 BC; however it may have continued until about 571 BC according to Ezekiel 29:17.  Archaeologists have discovered a Babylonian tablet which records the date of the deportation of exiles to March 16th, 597BC and a tablet with lists the provisions for the household of the captive King Jehoiachin of Judah which confirms 2 Kings 25:27-30 that Jehoiachin was a state prisoner of the Babylonians [Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 2, page 714].

 

Please read Ezekiel chapters 34-37.

Focusing on 34:1-31: The Judgment Against the Priesthood and the Prophecy of the Good Shepherd:

1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, "Shepherds, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!  Are no shepherds meant to feed a flock?  3 Yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock.  4 You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones.  You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost.  On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and harshly.  5 For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the wild animals; they have been scattered.  6 My flock is astray on every mountain and on every high hill; my flock has been scattered all over the world; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.  7 Very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 8 As I live, I swear it declares the Lord Yahweh'since my flock has been pillaged and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of every wild animal, since my shepherds have ceased to bother about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, 9 very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 10 The Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am against the shepherds.  I shall make my flock out of their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock.  And the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths to stop them from being food for them.  11 For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.  12 As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep.  I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness.  13 I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land.  I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.  14 I shall feed them in good pasturage; the highest mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There they will rest in good grazing grounds; they will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel15 I myself shall pasture my sheep, I myself shall give them rest declares the Lord Yahweh.  16 I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the injured and make the sick strong.  I shall watch over the fat and healthy.  I shall be a true shepherd to them.

17"As for you, my sheep, the Lord Yahweh says this: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.  18 Not content to drink the clearest of the water, you foul the rest with your feet.  19 And my sheep must graze on what your feet have trampled and drink what your feet have fouled.  20 Very well, the Lord Yahweh says this: I myself shall judge between the fat sheep and the thin sheep.  21Since you have jostled with flank and shoulder and butted all the ailing sheep with your horns, until you have scattered them outside, 22 I shall come and save my sheep and stop them from being victimized.  I shall judge between sheep and sheep.

23 "I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.  23 I, Yahweh, shall be their God, and my servant David will be ruler among them.  I, Yahweh have spoken.  25 I shall make a covenant of peace with them.  I shall rid the country of wild animals.  They will be able to live secure in the desert and go to sleep in the woods.  26 I shall settle them round my hill; I shall send rain at the proper time; it will be a rain of blessings. 27 The trees of the countryside will yield their fruit and the soil will yield its produce; they will be secure on their soil. And they will know that I am Yahweh when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the clutches of their slave-masters.  28 No more will they be a prey to the nations, no more will the wild animals of the country devour them.  They will live secure, with no one to frighten them.  29 I shall make splendid vegetation grow for them; no more will they suffer from famine in the country; no more will they have to bear the insults of other nations.  30 So they will know that I, their God, am with them and that they, the House of Israel, are my people declares the Lord Yahweh.  31 And you, my sheep, are the flock of my human pasture, and I am your God declares the Lord Yahweh."'  [bold print words are my addition].

Question: Who is Ezekiel, addressed by Yahweh as "son of man," told to prophesy against in Ezekiel 34:1-2

Answer: The shepherds (priesthood) of Israel: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel... Ezekiel 34:2.  In this passage the title "son of man" only identifies Ezekiel as a "son of Adam" 'a Semitic expression for a human being.

In the Old Testament the title "son of man," in Hebrew ben adam, and in Greek huios anthropou, is only used for the Prophet Ezekiel with the exception of Daniel 7:13 where "Son of man" is used for the one who appears to be a human being but who is identified as the divine Messiah who will rule the nations, it is in the context of the Daniel 7:13 passage that Jesus refers to Himself as the "Son of man."  It is Jesus' favorite title for Himself, but it is used always with the definite article "the".  The words "son of man" are also applied to the Prophet Daniel in Daniel 8:17 where God uses the title as He did in the case of Ezekiel, for one who is a "son of Adam"'and a member of the human family.  In the Book of Ezekiel, God addresses Ezekiel as "son of man" 93 times [Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 6, page 137].

Question: When you consider that Ezekiel lived in the 6th century BC what is significant about this prophecy which is directed to Israel and not just to Judah?  See 2 Kings 17:5-18].

Answer: The Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist in 722BC.  The 10 Northern tribes were deported eastward by the Assyrian conquerors and except for a small remnant who returned to settle in the Galilee, the 10 tribes never returned to Israel. They were scattered and absorbed among the Gentile nations like lost sheep. 

Question: What does God identify as the failure of the priesthood in 34:1-6?

Answer: ...you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock.  You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones.  You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. In other words, the priesthood failed "feed" the people spiritually, therefore, the people became weak in their faith and some were even lost to the Covenant.

Question: What 3 promises does Yahweh make in 34:11-16?

Answer: 

  1. In verse 11 Yahweh promises that He will take care of His sheep: For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.
  2. In verse 13 He promises to bring them back from where they have been scattered: I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land.
  3. In verse 16 He promises to be a true shepherd to His people: I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the injured and make the sick strong.  I shall watch over the fat and healthy.  I shall be a true shepherd to them.

The prophet Jeremiah (ministry from 626-580?BC), an older contemporary of Ezekiel, also prophesized the judgment of Yahweh against wicked shepherds/priests. 

Please read Jeremiah 23:1-6: Prophecy of the Coming of the Davidic Messiah:

22:1 Yahweh says this: [...].  23:1 'Disaster for the shepherds who lose and scatter the sheep of my pasture', Yahweh declares.  2 This, therefore, is what Yahweh, God of Israel says about the shepherds who shepherd my people, "You have scattered my flock, you have driven them away and have not taken care of them.  Right, I shall take care of you for your misdeeds, Yahweh declares!  3 But the remnant of my flock I myself shall gather from all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; they will be fruitful and increase in numbers. 4 For them I shall raise up shepherds to shepherd them and pasture them.  No fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost, Yahweh declares!  5 Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall raise an upright Branch for David; he will reign as king and be wise, doing what is just and upright in the country.  6 In his days Judah will triumph and Israel live in safety.  And this is the name he will be called, "Yahweh-is-our-Saving-Justice.'"  [bold print is my addition].

In the books of the Old Testament prophets, most of the prophets use reoccurring symbolic imagery associated with covenant faithfulness, rebellion, judgment, and restoration.  One of these reoccurring images is that of Yahweh as the master of His domestic animals: i.e. the divine Shepherd who cares for His flock.  This is the symbolic imagery both Jeremiah and Ezekiel are using.  For more on the use of this type of symbolic imagery see the study "How to Study the Old Testament Prophets" in the Agape Bible Study list of available studies.

Question: What promise does Yahweh make through His prophet Jeremiah that is similar to the promise of Ezekiel chapter 34:1-2, 11, concerning the bad shepherds and the lost sheep?

Answer: God the Father promises that the bad priests (shepherds) will face judgment for their neglect of the "flock" (the Church) and as for the "flock" He promises in both Ezekiel and Jeremiah: "I myself" will come to the covenant people:

Question: In the New Jerusalem translation of Ezekiel 34:11-22 above, how many ways will Yahweh come Himself to His people?

Answer:

Question: What promise does God make in Jeremiah 23:5-6 that is similar to the promise is Ezekiel 34:23?

Answer: God promised that the day will come when He will raise up the Messiah: "The Branch", from the line of King David and He will reign as king uniting Israel and Judah.

These prophecies were imperfectly fulfilled in the return from the Babylonian captivity in the late 6th century.  Only a remnant of the nation of Judah returned to the Promised Land, the remnant prophesized in Jeremiah 23:3 [Ezra 2:64-67].  There was no return of the lost 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom, with the possible exception of the remnant who returned to the Galilee, and there was no unification of Israel and Judah as God promised in these passages.  There was also no Messiah from the house of David who had come to "shepherd" His Covenant people after the return. Evidence that this is a future prophecy not fulfilled in the return from Babylon is even more evident in Ezekiel chapter 37 where God gives Ezekiel the vision of a restored Israel and Judah untied together under the rule of the one shepherd. 

Please read Ezekiel 37:24-28:   24 My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my judgments, respect my laws and practice them.  25 They will live in the country which I gave to my servant Jacob, the country in which your ancestors lived.  They will live in it, they, their children, their children's children, for ever.  David my servant is to be their prince forever.  26 I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them.  I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever. 27 I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people.  28 And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them forever.

Question: According to verse 26 what are the conditions of the New Covenant of peace?

Answer: It will replace the Old Covenant and will be an eternal Covenant of peace.

Question: How has the promise that Yahweh's sanctuary [Temple] will be with His people forever [verse 26] fulfilled in Christ?

Answer: It is fulfilled in the perpetual sacrifice of the Most Holy Eucharist.  When we receive Christ in the Eucharist the risen Savior lives in us.  Our bodies become the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Question: Return to the Ezekiel passage and look at Ezekiel 34:17-22.  This is an interesting passage.  How does it relate to Jesus' ministry?

Answer: This passage is being fulfilled in Jesus' ministry to Judah in John chapters 7-10.  Jesus is judging between the "sheep" of Judah.  These "sheep" are all of the same flock, members of the Old Covenant Church, but some will come to Him and some will not.  It is what Jesus is saying in John 9:39: It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind.   Those who come to Him will be the foundation of the New Covenant people of God.  All the first bishops [Apostles] of the Catholic [Universal] Church were Jews including the first 15 Christian bishops of Jerusalem [see the chart of the Bishops of Jerusalem in the chart section, subsection: Church History].  The Jews and Israelites of the Old Covenant faith are the roots of the Church, the Jews who came to Christ are the trunk and the Gentile converts are the branches who will be grafted into the "Tree" of the New Covenant Church that was promised in Jeremiah in 31:31: Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah)...  It is important for us to remember the Jewish roots of our "tree" of faith.  For more on this subject read Romans chapters 9-11.  The Jews were and still are, the "first" chosen people, the "firstborn sons" of God [see Exodus 4:23].

Question: In Ezekiel 34 verses 23-25 God promises to restore His people and to make a Covenant of peace with them.  How does He identify the one shepherd who will lead the Church? 

Answer: He will be from the line of King David: I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd.  I, Yahweh, shall be their God, and my servant David will be ruler among them [verses 23-24]. The Old Covenant people understood from this passage that this shepherd chosen by God to be the promised Messiah would come from the family of the great King David.

Please read Ezekiel 36:23-27: The Promises of Restoration and Purification:

36:23 I am going to display the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them.  And the nations will know that I am Yahweh declares the Lord Yahweh 'when in you I display my holiness before their eyes.  24 For I shall take you from among the nations and gather you back from all the countries, and bring you home to your own country.  25 I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols.  26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.  27 I shall put my spirit in you and make you keep my laws, and respect and practice my judgments.'

Question: Please refer to Ezekiel 36:23-27.  What promises does Yahweh make and what does the promise of verse 25 prefigure?  5 promises are listed in this passage.

Answer:

  1. He promises to bring His covenant people back from the nations where they were scattered
  2. To reveal to the Gentile nations that He is the one true God
  3. To bring His covenant people "home" [meaning in perfect Covenant union with God]
  4. To "pour clean water" over them to cleanse the people of their sins
  5. To put His Spirit and a new heart in them. 

This passage prefigures Christian baptism and the establishment of the universal Church with the restoration of the "lost tribes" which were disbursed into the Gentile world.  There is also the promise that the Gentile nations will be brought back into the family of God.

The Jews saw these Ezekiel and Jeremiah passages as prophecy of the restoration of the people after the Babylonian captivity which began in 538BC, and indeed at that time these prophecies were partly fulfilled.  The people were allowed to return to their land after 70 years of exile.  But the prophecy was only imperfectly fulfilled at that time because only a remnant of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah from the Southern Kingdom of Judah returned.  The majority of the Jews stayed in Babylon and Persia and the 10 Northern tribes were still scattered sheep.  In addition, Judah was still under the domination of a foreign power and was not restored as a Davidic kingdom.  The people of God in the first century were hungrily awaiting the promised everlasting 5th Kingdom prophesized by the Prophet Daniel in Daniel 2:44 ...the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last for ever...  and the promise of the Messianic king who would rule them promised in Daniel 7:13-14: ...I say coming on the clouds of heaven, as it were a son of man.  He came to the One most venerable and was led into his presence.  On him was conferred rule, honor and kingship, and all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.  His rule is an everlasting rule which will never pass away, and his kingship will never come to an end.

Question: When would this prophecy finally be fulfilled?  Please read the promises of Ezekiel 37:21, 25c-28: ... say 'The Lord Yahweh says this: "I shall take the Israelites from the nations where they have gone.  I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil.  [..].   David my servant is to be their prince for ever.  I shall make a covenant of peace with them an eternal covenant with them.  I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever.  I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people.  And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever."'

Answer: This prophecy is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, son of David, the Good Shepherd when all the nations of the world are restored by the redeeming work of Christ on the cross and are invited back into God's Covenant family, to rule over the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, their own country.

In the first century the people of Judah who suffered under the domination of the Roman Empire were still waiting for this prophecy to be fulfilled.  They were still waiting for the son of David to come and "shepherd" his people.  But there was another Old Testament prophet who spoke of "wicked shepherds" as well as of the promised "good shepherd" from the house of David who will establish a New Covenant with the God's people.  In this next passage Yahweh has required the prophet Zechariah (ministry began in 520BC) to perform an ot, a prophetic act to instruct the people of future events. Please read Zechariah chapters 11-14; focusing on Zechariah 11: 4-6; 9-12, 15-17; 12:10-11; 13:1, 7-9; and finally the strange prophecy about the Feast of Tabernacles [Shelters] in Chapter 14 verses 16-19. Zechariah was prophesizing between 520BC and 518BC, after the return to Judah from the Babylonian captivity.  His prophecies were not fulfilled until the first century AD in the ministry and self-sacrifice of Jesus and the establishment of the New Covenant Israel, the Universal Church.

Read Zechariah 11:4, 12-17: The Two Shepherds of the Covenant People:

11:4 Yahweh my God says this, 'Pasture the sheep for slaughter, [..].  12 I then said to them, 'If you see fit, give me my wages, if not, never mind.'  So they weighed out my wages: thirty shekels of silver.  13 Yahweh said to me, 'Throw it to the smelter, this princely sum at which they have valued me!' Taking the thirty shekels of silver, I threw them into the Temple of Yahweh, for the smelter.  14 I then broke my second staff, 'Couplers,' in half, to rupture the brotherly relationship between Judah and Israel.  15 Next, Yahweh said to me, 'This time, take the gear of a good-for-nothing shepherd.  16 For I am now going to raise a shepherd in this country, who will not other about the lost, who will not go in search of the stray, who will not heal the injured, who will not support the swollen, but who will eat the meat of the fat ones, tearing off their very hoofs.  17 Disaster to the shepherd who deserts his flock! May the sword attack his arm and his right eye!  May his arm shrivel completely and his right eye be totally blinded!'

Question: The Fathers of the Church saw verses Zechariah 11:12-13 as prophecy of what event?  Hint: see Matthew 27:3-10.

Answer: Judas' betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Question: Referring to Zechariah 11:15-16.  Who fulfilled this role in the time of Jesus?

Answer: The former High Priest Annas and his son-in-law the High Priest Joseph Caiaphas who conspired to have Jesus killed, had Him arrested and condemned Jesus before the Jewish law court the Sanhedrin on the testimony of false witnesses.  Because they could not impose the death penalty, they forced the Roman governor to condemn Jesus to death.

Please read Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1; 7-9: Restoration of the Covenant people:

12:10 But over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me.  They will mourn of the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child.  11 When that day comes, the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad Rimmon in the Plain of Megiddo.  [..].  13:1 'When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to wash sin and impurity away.  [..].  7 Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me declares Yahweh Sabaoth!  Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!  And I shall turn my hand against the young!  8 So will be throughout the country declares Yahweh Sabaoth, two-thirds in it will be cut off and the other third will be left.  9 I shall pass this third through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, test them as gold is tested.  He will call on my name and I shall answer him; I shall say, 'He is my people,' and he will say, 'Yahweh is my God!'

Question: In 12:10-11 and in 13:1 what prophesy did Christians see fulfilled in these verses?

Answer: The baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the Church praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the Feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus' Resurrection and 40 days after His Ascension.  In the Upper Room praying were Mary and Jesus' kinsmen, all descendants of the House of David, and also Jesus' Apostles and disciples.  In Peter's homily to the crowd of Jews in the street outside the Upper Room, he testified that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead and was the promised Messiah [Acts 2:1-36]. After his homily the Jews realized they had rejected the Messiah and were "cut to the heart" [Acts 2:37].  They cried out to Peter and the other disciples: What are we to do, brothers? In obedience to Jesus command to spread the Gospel of salvation, many of His New Covenant believers were persecuted and many were martyred for their faith, the first Christians were all "passed through fire" and were "refined" in their suffering and testing.  These were the ones about whom Jesus said "These are my people" and they could say "Yahweh is my God!"

Question:  What is significant about Zechariah 13:7-9?

Answer: Christians saw 13:7 as prophecy of the passion of Christ, the Good Shepherd who was struck down, and of His disciples who, with the exception of St. John, were "scattered" in their fear.  The Zechariah 13:8-9 passage was fulfilled in the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by 2/3rds of the Old Covenant Church and His acceptance by the remnant of Jews who became the nucleus of the New Covenant universal Church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 "Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!" at the end of the Last Supper in Matthew 26:31.

Read Zechariah 14:16-19: 16 After this, all the survivors of all the nations which have attacked Jerusalem will come up year after year to worship the King, Yahweh Sabaoth, and to keep the Feast of Shelters (Tabernacles).  17 Should one of the races of the world fait to come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh Sabaoth, there will be no rain for that one.  18 Should the race of Egypt fail to come up and pay its visit, on it will fall the plague which Yahweh will inflict on each of those nations which fail to come up to keep the feast of Shelters (Tabernacles).  19 Such will be the punishment for Egypt and the punishment for all the nations which fail to come up to keep the feast of Shelters (Tabernacles). 

Question: How do you suppose the Fathers of the Church interpreted Zechariah 14:16-19 in the references to the Feast of Tabernacles [Shelters]?

Answer: The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated God's sovereignty and looked forward to the coming of the Messiah; therefore, the Fathers of the Church saw in this passage the spread of the Gospel in the world, the Gentile nations coming into the Covenant and joining with Old Covenant Jews to worship God as One Holy Covenant people/ One universal, the etymology of the word "catholic" Church.  Egypt represents the Gentile nations; those Gentile nations who acknowledge Yahweh's sovereignty and Christ as King of the Kingdom of God will become part of the covenant family and those who do not will be rejecting the gift of salvation; there will be salvation only through the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

Question: Can you recall a passage in the Gospel of Matthew early in Jesus' ministry, when Jesus makes a comparison between the Old Covenant people of the 1st century AD Church that compares them to sheep and the priesthood to her shepherds that is similar to Ezekiel 34:5? Hint: see Matthew 9:36

Answer: Jesus observed the crowds of Jews coming to see Him ... And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.

Before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BC, the prophet Micah prophesized Yahweh's promise of restoration for the faithful remnant of the Old Covenant people: I shall assemble the whole of Jacob, I shall gather the remnant of Israel, I shall gather them together like sheep in an enclosure.  And like a flock within the fold, they will bleat far away from anyone, their leader will break out first, then all break out through the gate and escape, with their king leading the way and with Yahweh at their head.  Micah 2:12-13

This is the context in which Jesus begins to preach His "Good Shepherd Discourse" on the Sabbath, which is the 8th , and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Sacred Assembly and a day of rest.

Resources used in this lesson:

  1. A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23, Weldon Keller [Zondervan Publishing, 1997]
  2. The Anchor Bible Commentary- The Gospel of John,> vol. I, Fr. Raymond Brown
  3. The Navarre Biblical Commentary - St. John
  4. Homilies on St. John, St. John Chrysostom
  5. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible - The Gospel of John
  6. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  7. The Feasts of the Lord, Howard and Rosenthal [Thomas Nelson, 1997]

  8. Anchor Bible Dictionary

 

Catechism References [* indicates verse quoted in CCC passage]

Old Testament References

Psalms 23 1293*
Ezekiel 34:11f 754*
Ezekiel 34:36 64*, 2811*
Ezekiel 34:36:20-21 2812*, 2814
Ezekiel 36:25-28 1287*, 1432*, 368*715*
Ezekiel 37:1-14 715*, 703*
Zechariah 12:10 1432*, 2561*
Zechariah 13:1 2561*
Zechariah 14:8 694*
Jeremiah

 

Jeremiah  31: 1611*
Jeremiah  31:31-34 64*; 715; 762*; 1965*

 

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