St Augustine, noting that Jesus says that the Good Shepherd enters through door, and that Jesus is the Door, asks how he could enter through himself? The answer is that just as he knows the Father through himself, and we know the Father through him. so he enters into the fold through himself and we enter through him. St Gregory the Great reminds us that Christ lived up to his own description of what the Good Shepherd does. He laid down his life that we might be forgiven, and he rose again so we might rise with him. Clement of Alexandria adds that he was so close to us that he assumed our flesh and so redeems that.
The hirelings are those who shepherd the sheep not because of love, but for temporal reward. These, St Augustine comments, are those of whom Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians who look out for their own interests rather than doing the work of the Lord. These hypocrites have their reward in this world with the admiration of men, but they will have no reward in Heaven.
St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John’s Gospel points out that mankind, having yielded to its inclination to sin, wandered away from love of God, and was banished from paradise. This means we became the prey of two bitter wolves – Satan, who hates us because we are made in God’s image, and wishes to see us destroyed, and sin and death, which were born from sin. But the Good Shepherd comes between us and the wolves: he endured the Cross to break the dominion of death.
St Augustine contrasts the hireling, who, seeing the wolf at the throat of the sheep, says nothing can be done, with the real shepherd who will fight the wolf. So, for example, the false shepherd, seeing one in an adulterous relationship, says nothing, but the true shepherd censures the adulterer.
St Cyril of Alexandria explains verse 14 by commenting that Jesus is telling us he will enter into a close relationship with his sheep, and his sheep will be brought into a closer relationship with him in a manner like unto the relationship between the Father and the Son – we are God’s adopted sons. For us he suffered, for us he laid down his life. He could have chosen otherwise, but he did not – that is the testimony to his love for us.
His ‘other sheep’ are, according to Theodore of Mopsuestia, the Gentiles, but by the time we get to St Augustine, he identifies them with the Jews who have not yet converted to Christ.
St Cyril is struck by the way in which the perfect obedience of Christ draws forth the love of the Father – and comments that if we conform ourselves to the mind of Christ, we too are beloved sons by adoption. Christ willingly gave up his life, there was in him no sin, and upon him death had no hold, he could die only if it was his will. So perfect was his love, that his obedience was perfect, and through love and obedience, the fault of our first parents was mended, and the hold of sin and death broken.