Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine
The context of this discourse is the conversation that Jesus has with the Pharisees after the story of the man born blind. The story of the man born blind ends with the Pharisees asking Jesus, "Well, are we also blind?" Jesus says to them, "If you were blind, then you would have no sin, but since you say 'We see,' your blindness remains." That's the beginning of this discourse.
The argument between Jesus and the Pharisees reflects the situation that was present in the community of Israel after the Jewish War when the Pharisees were dominant. In the story of the man born blind (John 9) the Pharisees are in charge, so the audience of John is addressed as Pharisees. What that means is that the people who heard John 9 identified with the Pharisees and could be addressed as Pharisees. Pharisees were pious Jews who cared about the nation and their communities. They cared about God and the observance of the law of God. They were like Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, or Catholics. They are the people who are religious. They attend the synagogue services, observe the law, do what is right and good, and they care about it. They are not like the people who have nothing to do with religion or who are indifferent to it. They are who Jesus is talking to and he is talking to them in relation to how they will respond both in the priority of the healing of the man born blind, and also in their relationship with him.
The parable of the good shepherd is a very powerful metaphor of relationship between Jesus and the sheep. It develops the metaphor present in Ezekiel 34 (which I recommend you read). It begins with a condemnation of those who are false shepherds. God says to Ezekiel, "Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to the shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord God, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves. Shouldn't shepherds feed the sheep?'" Then later on, "'As I live', says the Lord God, 'because my sheep have become a prey and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals since there was no shepherd and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep but the shepherds have fed themselves and have not fed my sheep,therefore you shepherds hear the word of the Lord.' Thus says the Lord God, 'I am against the shepherds and I will demand my sheep from their hand and will put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer will the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths so that they may not be food for them.'"
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