New Testament Lesson 16 (John 9–10)
PHARISEES AND SCRIBES — HYPOCRITICAL SHEPHERDS
Healing the Man Born Blind
● On this occasion, Jesus healed a man who was born blind. His disciples asked him if the man’s congenital blindness was the result of some sin he had committed in the premortal world or if it was the result of some sin his parents had committed (John 9:1–7).
● In asking such a question, it is obvious that they believed in a premortal life; it was not even a question that the man had lived before birth.
● We can see the man’s growing testimony in the events that followed:
— The man’s initial testimony—a “man” called Jesus had healed him (John 9:8–12).
— The man’s growing testimony—Jesus is a “prophet” (John 9:13–17).
— Both he and his parents were threatened with excommunication for saying this (John 9:18–23).
— The man’s growing testimony—He argued that Jesus must be “from God” (John 9:24–33).
— He was then excommunicated.
● Jesus sought him out and he declared that he believed Jesus to be the Christ (John 9:34–38).
● Jesus then condemned the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness (John 9:39–41).
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Jesus Is the Good Shepherd
● Jesus knows his sheep, calls them by name, and leads them (John 10:1–5, 14).
— In Jesus’ time, sheep were led into an enclosure called a sheepfold for the night. One of the shepherds would guard the door while the others went home to rest. If a wild animal got into the sheepfold, the shepherd would give his life if necessary to protect the sheep. In the morning, each shepherd would return and call his sheep. They would recognize his voice and follow him to pasture.
● Jesus is also “the door of the sheep,” allowing them to enter the fold to be saved (John 10:7–10).
— “To understand the imagery, it must be remembered that Eastern folds are large open enclosures into which several flocks are driven at the approach of night. There is only one door, which a single shepherd guards, while the others go home to rest. In the morning the shepherds return, are recognized by the doorkeeper, call their flocks round them, and lead them forth to pasture.”1
● He will give His life for His sheep; “hirelings” will risk nothing for the sheep (John 10:11–15, 17–18).
Our Responsibilities as Shepherds
● We are also shepherds for the Lord’s sheep, helping, guiding, and protecting them as every good shepherd would do.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he [or she] is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety (salvation) of his sheep.”2
Jesus’ “Other Sheep”
— Elder Howard W. Hunter taught: “Those who are familiar with the life and teachings of the Master from their knowledge of the books of the Bible will be interested to know there is also a record of his appearance to the people of the Western Hemisphere—the other sheep to whom he made reference. It is titled the Book of Mormon after the prophet who compiled and abridged the records of the peoples of the American continents. The Book of Mormon is another witness for Christ and records his teachings to the other flock in the New World.”3
● When He visited them, Christ told the Nephites that they were “a remnant of the house of Joseph” and that “this is the land of your inheritance” (3 Nephi 15:11–13). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “By it, [the Book of Mormon] we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them. . . .”4
— Because of their iniquity, the Jews did not know of this remnant of Joseph and of the other tribes of Israel who were led away (3 Nephi 15:14–15). The Nephites were led away from Jerusalem because of the iniquity of the Jews (3 Nephi 15:16–20). The disciples in Jerusalem were unable to understand Jesus’ teaching about “other sheep” because of their “unbelief.”
— “Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have . . .” (3 Nephi 15:21–24; John 10:16). This prophecy does not refer to the gospel’s being taken to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were not to see or hear Jesus personally, but would receive a witness only through the Holy Ghost. The Nephites, however, both heard his voice and saw him.
● There were “other sheep” besides the Nephites that Jesus said He must also visit (3 Nephi 16:1–3;3 Nephi 17:4). The Lord has scattered his people throughout the earth, as is clear from the allegory of the olive trees given by Zenos. (Jacob 5:13, 14; Ether 1:33). One such group was the ten of the tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, who were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 BC. Certainly, other scatterings of Israel have taken place over the centuries. We are not told how many of these groups were to be visited, but He said he would visit these other sheep immediately following his visit to the Nephites (v. 4).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Did . . . Jesus visit [other tribes of Israel] after he ministered among the Nephites? . . . Of course he did, in one or many places as suited his purposes. He assembled them together . . . in exactly the same way he gathered the Nephites in the land Bountiful so that they too could hear his voice and feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet. Of this there can be no question. And we suppose that he also called twelve Apostles and established his kingdom among them even as he did in Jerusalem and in the Americas. Why should he deal any differently with one branch of Israel than with another?”5
THE FEAST OF DEDICATION
● The Feast of Dedication occurs two months after the Feast of Tabernacles —in early December. Jews today call this celebration Hannukah or the Festival of Lights. It featured the display of huge candlesticks on the temple mount, ceremoniously lit by the priests as part of the celebration. It celebrates the heroic deeds of Esther as she saved her people from certain destruction while they were captive in Babylon and Persia. Jesus returned to Jerusalem for this celebration during the final year of His life. He used the occasion to proclaim Himself again as the light of the world. He was now only four months away from His atoning sacrifice.
“Thou Makest Thyself God”
● The Jews baited Jesus to declare plainly that he was the Christ. He replied, “I told you, and ye believed not. . . . My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me” (John 10:24–28).
● He boldly declared, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:29–30). Those who, in our day, claim that Jesus was an itinerant preacher or social worker and never claimed to be the Son of God simply have not read this or any of a dozen other scriptures like it. “My Father, which gave [His disciples Him], is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (v. 29). Then came this bold and unmistakable claim: “I and my Father are one” (v. 30), which would make Jesus equal to His Father in glory.
● They then sought to stone Him because, “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:31–33). This is the same spirit of disbelief that modern-day sectarians use when criticizing Latter-day Saints for teaching that we can eventually become gods.
● Jesus said it was not blasphemy to speak of being gods (John 10:34–36). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “This, then, in effect, is our Lord’s argument: ‘Why accuse me of blasphemy for testifying that I was sanctified and sent into the world by the Father? Does it offend you to hear me say that I am the Son of God? Do you not know that every righteous person to whom the word of God comes, and who then obeys the fulness of that law, shall become like the Father and be a god himself?’”6
— Latter-day Saints should contemplate for a moment what these Pharisaic sectarians were saying to Jesus. “Thou makest thyself God” is a phrase familiar to us in our own time. Opponents of the Church have made a movie titled “The God Makers” (which has been shown in many so-called Christian churches), in which they attack us for claiming that we can one day be like our Heavenly Father. And because we believe that the destiny of God’s children is to become like Him, they will say, “You are not Christians.” Their loyalty is to their creeds, written centuries after the time of Christ. And, like their Pharisaic forefathers, they boldly proclaim, “We be Jesus’ seed!” and call anyone who dares to teach otherwise non-Christian. It is the same spirit that crucified our Lord for boldly proclaiming that He was the Son of God. And if He were to come again today and teach the same things again, they would surely say He is “not Christian” and cast Him out and perhaps even seek His demise.
● Not listening at all, and still enraged by their sectarian blindness, the Pharisees once again sought to take Jesus by force but did not succeed (v. 39).
JESUS’ MISSION TO PEREA
Jesus “Went Away Beyond Jordan”
● Jesus “went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized.” This area was known as Perea, a word which literally means “the land beyond” (John 10:39–40).
— Elder James E. Talmage said, “The duration of this sojourn in Perea is nowhere recorded in our scriptures. It could not have lasted more than a few weeks at most. Possibly some of the discourses, instructions, and parables already treated as following the Lord’s departure from Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles in the preceding autumn, may chronologically belong to this interval. From this retreat of comparative quiet, Jesus returned to Judea in response to an earnest appeal from some whom He loved. He left the Bethany of Perea for the Judean Bethany, where dwelt Martha and Mary.”7
JESUS’ LOVE FOR MARY AND MARTHA
● Jesus then went to Bethany to visit his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, which he always did when near Jerusalem (Matthew 26:6).
● While the Savior was there, Martha worked very hard to prepare a meal and make Him comfortable. Mary, on the other hand, sat continuously at His feet, listening to His every word. This brought forth complaints from Martha about Mary’s failure to assist her.
● Both personalities were acceptable to Christ (Luke 10:38–42).
— Martha was compulsive about doing things “right,” and serving her guests.
— Mary had chosen the “good part” of sitting and listening to the Lord.
— Both are important, and both women were blessed, but the Lord made it clear that we should not become so “cumbered about much serving” that we don’t receive Jesus as we should.
— James E. Talmage said:
“There was no reproof of Martha’s desire to provide well; nor any sanction of possible neglect on Mary’s part. We must suppose that Mary had been a willing helper before the master’s arrival; but now that He had come, she chose to remain with Him. Had she been culpably neglectful of her duty, Jesus would not have commended her course. He desired not well-served meals and material comforts only, but the company of the sisters, and above all their receptive attention to what He had to say. He had more to give them than they could possibly provide for Him.
” Jesus loved the two sisters and their brother as well. Both these women were devoted to Jesus, and each expressed herself in her own way. Martha was of a practical turn, concerned in material service; she was by nature hospitable and self-denying. Mary, contemplative and more spiritually inclined, showed her devotion through the service of companionship and appreciation.”8
1. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible , 791; also quoted in Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:484.
2. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 710.
3. In Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 19; or Ensign, May 1983, 16.
4. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 17.
5. The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 216–217.
6. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:491–492.
7. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 490.
8. Jesus the Christ, 433