[Table of Contents]|
B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)
THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
This discourse undoubtedly immediately followed, and sprang out of the conflict with the Jews related in the preceding chapter. As Alford says: "The more we carefully study this wonderful Gospel, the more we shall see that the idea of this close connection is never to be dismissed as imaginary, and that our Evangelist never passes, without notice, to an entirely different and disjointed discourse." In the last chapter Christ had been in conflict with those who claimed to be the shepherds of the people, the Pharisees and Sanhedrists, the men "who sat in Moses' seat," and boasted of their knowledge of the law of God. These professed shepherds had just cast out from their fold a poor lamb for the crime of refusing to believe that the person who had opened his eyes was a sinner. The last words spoken before this chapter begins were a rebuke to these haughty spiritual shepherds, who, while having the law and the prophets which pointed out the Christ, the best of opportunities, and who prided themselves on their great knowledge of divine things, still blinded themselves by their intense prejudice and obstinate rejection of the Holy One of Israel. Hence he continues and points out the characteristics of those who are real shepherds, in contrast with spiritual robbers.
"I understand this lesson to be a parable with a double application. First, Christ compares the Pharisees to shepherds, himself to the door, and declares that those only are true shepherds who enter through the door; that is, through Christ and his authority. All others are thieves and robbers. Then he changes the application and declares himself the good shepherd whose praises David and Isaiah sung, and indicates the nature of the service that he will render unto his sheep by giving for them his life."--Abbott.
The figure of the shepherd and his sheep is always a favorite one in the Scriptures. Abraham, the founder of the Jewish race, and the father of whom all Christians are children by faith, was a shepherd, as were Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, and all the Jewish race up to the time of their settlement in Canaan. Upon the hills of Canaan the shepherd's vocation was always a favorite employment, and David, the great king, was called from his flocks to the throne. It was David who sang, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want," and all through the Scriptures the Lord is presented in the position of the shepherd of his people. It is Christ who is the Good Shepherd.
1. He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold. The sheepfold is a figure of the church, the door into which is Christ. The sheepfolds of the East are large enclosures, open to the sky, but walled around with reeds, or stone, or brick in order to afford a protection against robbers, wolves, and other beasts  of prey. There is a large door at which the shepherd enters with the sheep. Sometimes leopards, panthers and robbers clamber over the walls elsewhere in order to prey upon the sheep. At the doors of the large sheepfolds, where many thousands of sheep are protected, a porter, or doorkeeper, remains on guard, and this doorkeeper will only admit those who have the right to enter. (See Sheepfold, in Smith's Bible Dictionary.) All those who climb into the sheepfold some other way than by the door are thieves and robbers.
"Those low, flat buildings on the sheltered side of the valley are sheepfolds. They are called marah; and when the nights are cold the flocks are shut up in them, but in ordinary weather they are merely kept within the yard. This, you observe, is defended by a wide stone wall, crowned all around with thorns, which the prowling wolf will rarely attempt to scale. The nimer, however, and the faked, the wolf and the panther of this country, when pressed with hunger, will overleap this thorny hedge, and with one tremendous bound land in the frightened fold. Then is the time to try the nerve and heart of the faithful shepherd. These humble types of him, who leadeth Joseph like a flock, never leave their helpless charge alone, but accompany them by day and abide with them by night."--Thompson's The Land and the Book.
2. He that entereth by the door. The one who comes in by the door is the shepherd. The figure is very plain to those familiar with Eastern sheepfolds. The door is for the shepherd and the sheep, while those who get in otherwise are robbers who seek to prey upon the sheep.
3. To him the porter openeth. The gatekeeper, whose business it is to guard the entrance. This servant was furnished with arms to fight off intruders, but the shepherd he would let in. There has been much speculation what Christ signified by the porter. The sheepfold is the church, he is the door by which all enter; he is also the Good Shepherd; there are also the shepherds or teachers under him who enter by the door; the saints are the sheep; those who seek to become leaders of God's people, but have not come in through Christ, are false leaders, thieves and robbers. It is not certain that Christ intended to make the porter a figure of any spiritual thing, but if so, he would represent God, who has decided who shall enter through the door. And the sheep hear his voice. "This is true to the letter. The sheep are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. He leads them forth from the fold just where he pleases."--Thompson. The Eastern shepherds lead their flocks, while in our country we drive them. A traveler in the Holy Land says: "Two flocks were moving slowly up the slope of the hill, one of sheep, and the other of goats. The shepherd was going before the sheep, and they followed as he led the way to the Jaffa gate; we could not but remember the Savior's words: 'When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they  know his voice.'" He calleth his own sheep by name. This corresponds exactly with the facts of Eastern shepherd life. They give names to sheep as we do to horses, cows and dogs. "Passing by a flock of sheep," says Mr. Hartley, "I asked the shepherd to call one of his sheep. He instantly did so, and it left its pasturage and its companions, and ran to the shepherd with a promptitude and signs of pleasure that I never witnessed before."
4. The sheep follow him, for they know his voice. "As we ate and looked, almost spellbound, the silent hillsides around us were in a moment filled with sounds and life. The shepherds led their flocks forth from the gates of the city. They were in full view and we watched and listened to them with no little interest. Thousands of sheep and goats were there in dense, confused masses. The shepherds stood together until all came out. Then they separated, each shepherd taking a different path, and uttering, as he advanced, a shrill, peculiar call. The sheep heard them. At first the masses swayed and moved as if shaken with some internal convulsion; then points struck out in the direction taken by the shepherds; these became longer and longer, until the confused masses were resolved into long, living streams, flowing after their leaders. Such a sight was not new to me, still it had lost none of its interest. It was, perhaps, one of the most vivid illustrations which human eyes could witness of that beautiful discourse of our Savior recorded by John."--Porter.
5. And a stranger they will not follow. The sheep refuse to follow a strange voice. A traveler once said to a Palestine shepherd that it was the dress of the master that the sheep knew and not his voice. The shepherd asserted that it was the voice, and to settle the point, he and the traveler changed dresses and went among the sheep. The traveler called them in the shepherd's dress, but they refused to follow him, for they knew not his voice. On the other hand they ran at once at the shepherd's call, though he was in strange attire. The application of this is easy. The sheep of the Good Shepherd hear his voice, know it, and follow him. They will not listen to the voice of a stranger who would call them away. The proof that we are Christ's sheep is that we hear his voice and follow him.
6. This parable spake Jesus unto them. The Greek word rendered here "parable," is not so rendered elsewhere. The above figure is not a parable in the same sense as the term is used elsewhere. There is not a true parable in the whole gospel of John. This is rather a simile. Christ's hearers could not understand the application. Hence he explains in the following verses: 
7. I am the door of the sheep. @Verses 1-5, speak of shepherds in general. These shepherds enter into the fold and go out by the same door as the sheep. Christ is that door; the Door of the sheep, the one door for all, both sheep and shepherds, into the fold, into the company of God's people, into the church of the living God, to the Father. There is no other way in, for "there is no other name, under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved."
8. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers. This passage has caused much difference of opinion. Alford holds that Satan came before Christ in Eden to sway our race, and that the language refers to Satan and his followers. Abbott holds that the idea is, "All who came, not entering through the door, but claiming to be before me, having the precedence, independent of me, are thieves and robbers." Westcott says that he refers to false messiahs and teachers who had preceded him. I believe that the truth is to be sought by a combination of all these views. That he does not mean in point of time alone by "come before me" is evident because this view would assign Moses, the prophets and John the Baptist to the class of spiritual robbers. There was, however, the body of Jewish religious teachers, the Scribes, the doctors and the Pharisees, who had claimed for centuries before to be the spiritual shepherds but were "blind leaders of the blind," "devourers of widows' houses," and these also in their pride turned away from Christ as too lowly to receive their deference. In point of spiritual precedence they placed themselves "before" him. The underlying principle is that all who claim to be religious and moral leaders and who turn away from Christ as their teacher are not real shepherds whose aim is to save the flock, but "robbers" who wish to prey upon it. This view includes the Jewish rabbis, the Greek philosophers, the pretended prophets, and the "Infallible Pope." These all refuse to bow to his authority. But the sheep did not hear them. The true sheep. It was the goats that wandered off after such leaders.
9. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved. Christ is at once the door, the shepherd and the pasture. His pasture is the bread of life and the water of life. They who enter by him, in the way he has appointed, are saved, and shall never be lost if they continue to hear his voice.
10. The thief cometh not, but to steal. All those who enter otherwise than by the door, wish to prey upon the flock. Their object is not to save the lives of the flock, but to destroy them. Christ came to give life, and to give it an abundant development. False religion robs men; true religion blesses and  enriches. And to destroy. The false and selfish teacher is not only a thief who steals the substance and the opportunities of the flock, but a destroyer. This is a universal truth that any person of wide observation has seen illustrated too often. He destroys the spiritual life of the flock, leads it away from the Good Shepherd, fills it with false notions, destroys the faith that is in men's hearts, and scatters the flock abroad until the sheep can no longer be found.
11. I am the good shepherd. This title, applied to Jehovah in @Psalm 23 and in @Ezekiel 34:12, Christ here applies to himself. The mark of the good shepherd is that he giveth his life for his sheep. In that unsettled country the shepherd had often to defend his flock. Dr. Thompson says: "The faithful shepherd has often to put his life into his hand to defend the flock. I have known more than one case in which he had literally to lay it down in the contest. A poor, faithful fellow, last spring, between Tiberias and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces and died among the sheep he was defending." Thus the Good Shepherd loves his sheep. So, too, does every faithful shepherd among his followers.
12. But the hireling . . . . leaveth his sheep and fleeth. It is not the bare fact of a man receiving pay that makes him a hireling. "The laborer is worthy of his hire." He is a hireling who would not work were it not for this hire. Such hirelings, who are moved by self-interest alone, will abandon the flock in the moment of danger. He only cares for his gains. Thus true and false shepherds are distinguished.
13. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling. Because he cares for his hire, but not for the sheep. He is bound to them, not by love, but by self-interest. When the yellow fever struck Memphis the hireling shepherds fled to the North.
14. I am the good shepherd. The Lord does not say that he is the only shepherd. God had in times past sent other shepherds to lead the flock of Israel who had led it to the best of their ability, though imperfectly, but he is distinguished from them as the Good Shepherd. He is the "True Vine" (@15:1); the "True Bread" (@6:32), as well as the Good Shepherd. The great characteristic of the Good Shepherd is indicated in @verse 11, as his devotion of his own life to the sheep. I know my sheep. He knows every one of them, personally, tenderly, lovingly, by name. The very hairs of our heads are numbered. 
15. As the Father knoweth me. As the Father knew the Son and the Son the Father, so is there a tender bond between the sheep of Christ and the Good Shepherd. For them he was then giving and would give his life.
16. I have also other sheep, not of this fold. Not Jews, of whom all his followers then were, but Gentiles who would soon be called to him. These would hear his voice, enter through the door, into the same fold as the Jewish Christians, so that there would be "one fold and one shepherd." There is only one Church and one door into it, and one Shepherd over it.
All through the Savior's ministry there shines forth the grand truth that he is the Redeemer of the world, instead of a Jewish Messiah. To Nicodemus he declared, at the first passover of his ministry, that God had sent him, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by him. At Samaria, shortly after, his teachings so overleaped the narrow bounds of Judaism that the believing Samaritans pronounced him "the Savior of the world." Here in no ambiguous language he announces the breaking down of the "wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile, and the gathering of his sheep "not of this fold" into the same fold where his sheep of the Jewish race were gathered, so that there would be "one fold and one shepherd." Some narrow critics have held that Paul gave to Christianity its impulse to become a universal religion, but not only the prophets, but the life and teaching of Christ, from the time when John pointed to him on the banks of Jordan as the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," down do the world-wide commission given as he ascended on high, all declare that he came to be the world's Savior.
17. Therefore doth my Father love me. The ground of the Father's love was that Christ had given himself for man. The Father loves those of us best who are most like Christ in this respect.
18. I lay it down of myself. His life. He gave himself for man of his free will. He laid down his life on the cross; he took it again when he rose from the dead. The plots of men would have been of no avail had he not consented. Indeed his whole life from the time his ministry began was a laying of it down. While constantly bearing the cross he was marching straight  to the cross. From the very beginning of his teaching there are references to the death he should die (see @John 3:14).
19. There was a division, therefore, again among the Jews. In @John 7:43, the division was among the multitude; in @9:16, among the Pharisees; now among "the Jews," or ruling body. Some were wonderfully impressed by his miracles and teachings, while others were obstinately blind. We can hardly wonder at the perplexity of the more honest sort when we are reminded that Jesus did not in any respect, except power and wisdom, answer to their conceptions of the Christ. To accept him was to abandon their national hope, and to accept, instead, the hope of the world.
20. Many said, He hath a devil and is mad. It was a common belief among the Jews that the agency of demons could produce supernatural effects. See @Matt. 12:24. It was a very convenient way, therefore, of explaining the miraculous power of Christ.
21. These are not the words of him that hath a devil (demon). No person under demoniac influence had ever taught like Christ, and hence the better sort assert that his teachings disprove the charge. Besides it had never been known that a demon could open the eyes of the blind. There had been a display of a mightier power.
1. There is no way to the fold of God but through Christ. Those who reject him reject eternal life.
2. Those who are Christ's disciples will hear his voice; that is, obey him. All who live in disobedience are following other leaders.
3. Any teacher who teaches contrary to Christ, who sets aside his authority, or teaches falsely, is not a shepherd but a robber. His object is to prey upon the sheep.
4. There are robbers who will destroy the sheep and there are hireling shepherds. Robbers lead astray; hireling shepherds are those who work for pay alone. They are mercenary men. They will abandon the flock as soon as they can get better pay somewhere else.
5. Followers of Jesus should be like their leader in looking beyond trial to triumph.
6. It is almost universally agreed that by thieves and robbers we are to understand rapacious persons, intent on gain. That most of the high priests were such persons the history of Josephus abundantly testifies.--Bloomfield. He was teaching in Jerusalem and the thieves and robbers were in the temple.
7. God has only "one fold," one church. The division of the Christian world into warring sects is sinful. 
END OF THREE MONTHS' MINISTRY IN JERUSALEM.
An interval of more than two months passed between the time of the healing of the man born blind and the feast of Dedication, the date of the controversy recorded in the remainder of this chapter. Some have held that in the interval the Lord went to Galilee and made his last circuit of its cities. This is the view of Andrews, but I agree rather with those who hold that his ministry in Jerusalem was continuous from the time of the feast of Tabernacles until he retired just after the feast of Dedication. It was a last and supreme effort to lead the nation to salvation.
The feast of Dedication was not one of the divinely appointed festivals, and there is nothing in the Savior's ministry to create the idea that he would observe it, but he was in Jerusalem and it afforded an opportunity to reach the people of which he availed himself. The feast was established by Judas Maccabæus, in the year B. C. 164, to commemorate the purification of the temple after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes, which occurred B. C. 167. It was observed for eight days, was a patriotic observance much like our Fourth of July in spirit, and was celebrated in all the towns and cities of Judea as well as Jerusalem. It was instituted by the Maccabees who were priests and of the most rigid caste, and was observed only by the more rigid Jews; hence it is not strange that the adversaries of Christ on this occasion display unusual bigotry.
22. It was winter. This feast came in December. This fact is probably mentioned to explain why the Savior walked in Solomon's porch.
23. Waked in Solomon's porch. A long, covered colonnade, or veranda, with the roof resting on pillars. It is generally supposed to have been in the southeast part of the temple inclosure, overlooking the valley of the Kedron. Josephus describes it as a stadium, or furlong, in length, and as having three parts, two of them thirty feet wide each, and the middle one forty-five feet. Its height varied from fifty to one hundred in different parts. He contends that it was built by Solomon, which is, at least, doubtful.
24. Then came the Jews about him. Jesus was in a place of public resort and an opportunity was afforded for a decisive interview. They were determined to bring matters to a focus and hence came and surrounded him. It must be remembered that these were men of official station. How long dost thou keep us in suspense? Their question represents the uncertainty and discussion that prevailed in Jerusalem, rather than their own feelings. Their act related in @verse 31, shows that they had made up their minds, but their demand that  he should tell whether he was the Christ shows the extent of the discussion in Jerusalem.
25. I told you, and ye believed not. He had told them repeatedly (@5:19; 8:36, 56, 58), not as plainly, it is true, as he told the Samaritan woman (@4:26) and the man blind from birth (@9:37), but more plainly than he ever told his disciples before the confession of Peter (@Matt. 16:16). He knew what was in their hearts and he simply pointed them to his works, as he had done John the Baptist when his messengers came asking, "Art thou he that should come?" (@Matt. 11:2-6.) Indeed the profoundest evidence of his divinity is not his word, but his superhuman life, teachings and works, especially the work that he has continued to do in the world. Even if he had said he was the Christ they would not have understood him, as their idea of the Christ differed as far as the poles from the real Christ.
26. Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. The reason of their unbelief was not the lack of proof, but the lack within themselves. He means, in substance, until my teachings and examples attract you so that you will follow me like my sheep, ye will not believe, for you cannot be convinced by purely intellectual arguments. You cannot believe in Christ as your personal Savior until you recognize and follow his examples as a man and prophet. It is the one who "will do his will that shall know the doctrine, whether it be of God" (@7:17). Had they been attracted by his voice to follow him like sheep they would have believed.
27, 28. I give unto them eternal life. I have omitted any special study of the phrase "eternal life" hitherto, although it has several times occurred in John. It occurs forty-four times in the New Testament, and of these occurrences seventeen are in the Fourth Gospel and six in the First Epistle of John, making twenty-three instances of its use by this single author. It never means simply endless existence, but always implies a blessed immortality. In @Matt. 25:46, it is opposed to everlasting punishment, which is endless existence in a state of punishment, while eternal life is endless existence in a state of bliss. The word rendered life (zoee) means, in its primary sense, "existence" as opposed to non-existence or annihilation. In this sense it occurs thirteen times in the New Testament, of which (@1 Cor. 15:19), "If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable," is a good example. It is also used in the sense of spiritual life quite frequently and especially by John; for instance, "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life." It is also used without the adjective for eternal life as in @John 5:29: "They that  have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life," or into a blessed existence beyond the grave.
The word life, as used by John when predicated of God, means absolute being. Man created in the image of God hath this being from God and "in him lives and moves and has his being." A man may have this life and yet in another sense be dead. "Let the dead bury their dead" (@Matt. 8:22), "He that believeth . . . hath passed from death unto life" (@John 5:24), "This my son who was dead is alive again" (@Luke 15:24). The usage of the New Testament sanctions the following conclusions:
1. All humanity are endowed with existence (zoee), nor is there any indication that this existence ever comes to an end. At death man yields up the soul (psuchee, in classic Greek "the breath"), the spirit (pneuma) returns to God who gave it, but there is no indication that the existence (zoee) closes. When Christ said, "I lay down my life," he used psuchee instead of zoee. The same is true when he says, "He that loseth his life shall find it." Much confusion has arisen from not distinguishing these two Greek words of different meaning in the translation. The zoee, (life, existence) is never said to end, or perish. It is the psuchee (breath, or animal life), that is laid down, or perishes. Death and destruction are not used in the sense of non-existence.
2. Life, in the sense of spiritual being, spiritual life, is the gift of Christ, and in its origin differs from the natural life. Those only have the spiritual life who are in union with Christ. He is the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, and came in order to bestow life (spiritual life, not mere existence) upon the world.
3. Eternal life is the inheritance of all who have been born of water and the Spirit, who have the spiritual life, and who, "by a patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honor and immortality." It is the gift of Jesus Christ. It is a blessed immortality, and the phrase is never applied to an existence in a state of condemnation. The deathless angels that sinned do not have eternal life, but only those who have been freed from sin and delivered from the dominion of the grave by our Lord. It cannot be made too clear that eternal life is different from and higher than eternal existence and that therefore the fact that it is a gift does not imply that all who do not receive this gift are annihilated beyond the grave. The rich man in hades had existence beyond the grave but not eternal life; Lazarus, in Abraham's bosom, enjoying "good things," had eternal life.
29. No man, etc. It has been held that these verses teach the doctrine of the "final perseverance of the saints," or "once in grace always in grace." They rather teach that Christ watches over his sheep as a good shepherd; the sheep hear his voice; none that continue to hear his voice will ever perish, nor be plucked out of his hand. The condition is "hearing his voice," and upon this condition is based the promise. All who hear him shall be protected against their own weaknesses and against the strength of assailants from without. None shall ever fall away from want of divine  grace, or the power of adversaries, but because they cease to hear his voice. My Father . . . is greater than all. These words are intended to give further an absolute assurance of the perfect safety of those who hear the voice of Christ. Even the Father's hand shall hold them, and out of his mighty hand none can pluck them. This safety rests upon the Fatherhood of God.
30. I and the Father are one. Not my, but the Father. Nor does he affirm that the Son and the Father are one, but here, in the presence of these Jews, he makes the statement that he and the Father are one, one in essence, one in purpose, and one in person, for he uses the plural verb. Since there is a unity of purpose and power the Father is pledged to protect the sheep that hear the voice of the Son. He says: "My sheep shall never perish, since my Father is greater than all, and he gave them into my hand, and I am one with him.
31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. The word "again" carries us back to @chapter 8:52. These high ecclesiasts held that he had just been guilty of blasphemy in asserting that he and the Father are one, the penalty of which was stoning, and they proposed to inflict it without a trial. The stones used in the temple repairs, which were still in progress, would furnish material. The manner in which the mob was arrested shows the wonderful moral power of Jesus.
32. Many good works . . . for which of those works do you stone me? In @chapter 8:46 he had asked: Which of you convinceth me of sin? Now he calls for the specifications of the crime for which they have sentenced him.
33. For blasphemy . . . thou makest thyself God. They reply that they would stone him for blasphemy in that he made himself divine. This charge was often made against him. When he said, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," or spoke of God as his Father, or said that he and the Father were one, or when on trial before the Sanhedrim he declared that he was the Christ, the Son of God, it was uniformly pronounced blasphemy and it was on this charge that the Sanhedrim condemned him to death (@Matt. 26:65.) Had Jesus been only a man his words would have been blasphemous; they were appropriate to the Son of God.
34, 35, 36. Is it not written . . I said ye are gods. The quotation is from @Ps. 82, which contains a reproof of unjust judges: "I have said that ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High, but ye shall die like  men and fall like one of the princes." The argument of Christ is: If in your law judges are called gods, and allowed to have, in some sense, the divine characteristics, and are called children of God, why should you pronounce me guilty of blasphemy for saying that I am the Son of God? And the Scripture cannot be broken. This parenthetic declaration is a very significant testimony to the inspiration of the Old Testament. Modern theologues who deal so freely with it find no warrant for their course in the example of Christ. Whom the Father hath sanctified. The word sanctify means "to make holy, or to set apart." It is here used in the latter sense. Son of God. There is no article before Son in the Greek. Some have regarded this whole passage as an explanation of the Sonship of Christ in a way that would make it possible for any good man to be a Son in the same sense. If it were the only passage in the New Testament bearing on the subject it might be so explained, but if the circumstances are regarded, it will be seen that there is nothing that conflicts with the statements of his divine character elsewhere. The Jews were about to rush upon him in a mob to stone him to death, because of his affirmation that he was the Son of God, and one with the Father. He arrested them by an appeal to those Scriptures that they held in such sanctity. He neither affirms nor discusses the difference of his relation to God from those whom the Scriptures had spoken of as gods because they were appointed judges of men, as God is Judge of all the earth, but demands why they should pronounce him a blasphemer for declaring that he was the Son of God, when their Scriptures had called men gods. See @Exod. 22:28 as well as @Ps. 82:6. We would not look for a revelation of the highest truths concerning Christ's nature to an angry mob, not that he would conceal or modify the truth to avert danger, but because they were in no condition to receive it, and he would only present such truths as their souls were in a condition to apprehend. For full information of Christ's character we must look to his quiet conferences with his own disciples. See Chapter XIV.
37, 38. If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. The passage just quoted from their law showed that those who did the work assigned to them by God were recognized, as in some sense, partakers of the divine nature. Christ, therefore, points to his own works as a test. If he does the works of the Father, then they should recognize in him the Sonship. He refers not to his miracles alone, but to his whole life, the effects of his ministry, and the divine mercy as well as power in his miracles. These works, of which they  had ample knowledge, proved that "the Father was in him, and he in the Father." If they had prejudices against his person, they ought to consider the works without prejudice. The Father in me, and I in him. The Father is in the Son because he lives and moves in him; is the divine life that animates and controls the man Jesus; he is in the Father because a full partaker of the divine nature, filled with the divine will, purposes and desires, and animated by the one thought of doing the Father's work.
39. They sought again to take him. Not to stone him, for their passion had cooled, but to arrest him. His escape was not probably due to miracle, but with many friends among the throng, he could readily withdraw through their aid. "They dared not stone him, but as he was alone and defenseless in their midst, they tried to seize him. But they could not. His presence overawed them. They could only make a passage for him, and glare their hatred upon him as he passed from among them. But once more, here was a clear sign that all teaching among them was impossible. He could as little descend to their notions of a Messiah, as they could rise to his. To stay among them was but to daily imperil his life to no purpose. Judea was, therefore, closed to him, as Galilee was now closed to him. There seemed but one district to be remaining in his native land which was safe for him, and that was Perea, the district beyond the Jordan. He retired, therefore, to the other Bethany (Bethabara), the Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John had been baptizing and there he stayed."--Farrar.
This ends three months of stormy ministry in Jerusalem. Twice there were attempts to mob him (@8:59; 10:31); twice efforts to arrest him (@7:32, 45; 10:39), and in addition secret plans for his assassination had been laid (@7:19; 8:37). John is the only historian of this eventful period of the Savior's life, though several incidents reported by other writers may belong to the interval.
40. Went beyond Jordan . . where John at first baptized. For the time the Lord retired before the threatening storm. His "hour had not yet come," and would not until the passover, three months in the future. In this region, where John had done his work of preparation so thoroughly, a more friendly reception might be expected.
41, 42. Many resorted to him. This Perean ministry was fruitful for "many believed on him," this being due to the fact that "all things John spake of this man were true." 
What were the incidents of this last stay, or the exact length of its continuance, we cannot certainly know. We see, however, that it was not exactly private, for John tells us that many resorted to him there, and believed on him, and bore witness that John--whom they held to be a prophet, though he had done no miracle--had borne emphatic witness to Jesus in that very place (@John 1:28), and that all which he witnessed was true.--Farrar.
In the other Gospels a number of incidents are recorded which are supposed to belong to this ministry beyond the Jordan. An example of these is found in the Savior's teaching upon the subject of divorce, found in @Matthew 19:1-12.
Christ and the Father are one; not one in person, but indissolubly blended in spirit, purpose, will and work, so much so that he that hath seen Christ hath seen the Father. This fact, that "he and the Father are one," is the basis of his prayer that all his followers shall be one, "even as he and the Father are one." Upon this, Maurice forcibly says: Do you think sects would last for even an hour, if there was not in the heart of each of them a witness for a fellowship that combinations and shibboleths did not create and which, thank God, this cannot destroy? The Shepherd makes his voice heard through all the noise and clatter of earthly shepherds; the sheep hear his voice and know that it is calling them into a common fold where all may rest and dwell together; and when once they understand the still deeper message which is uttering here, "I and my Father are one;" when they understand that the unity of the church and the unity of mankind depends on this eternal distinction and unity in God himself, and not on the authority or decrees of any mortal pastor, the sects will crumble to pieces, and there will be in very deed one flock and one Shepherd.
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B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)
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