The Good Shepherd
Adult 1 Sunday School Class John 10:7-18 May 13, 2012
Theme: John writes about the two "I am" passages in this text: gate and shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd that all of His people will follow.
Understanding and Interpreting the Scriptures (answers are in bold print)
Please explain the meaning or significance of the following verses:
* John 10:7, "Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep." Understanding the context in which Jesus is speaking to the Jews, shepherds, and Pharisees; those who are familiar with His terminology would relate. The shepherds understood the reference to "I am the door of the sheep"; the Jews understand the term, "I am" in which Jesus lays claim to His deity (Exodus 3:14); and in John 10:33 He makes Himself equal to God; and the Pharisees did not see the spiritual metaphor which Jesus was making with the shepherd and his sheep.
* V. 8, "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them." Jesus is metaphorically comparing those who would come into the sheepfold (sheep enclosure), the thieves and robbers, to messianic pretenders and religious charlatans (false teachers). Both come to take away the valuable possessions of the sheep to the valuable possessions of the "Body" of believers for their own selfish benefit. The latter didn't care about the spiritual good of the "Body", but only about themselves.
*V. 9, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." One of the difficulties in understanding the Scriptures is its reliance on literary devises in the forms of metaphors, personification, and heavy on symbolism for which an understanding of Jewish history and culture would be extremely helpful. In this case, door refers to the entrance of the sheepfold to the shepherd; while spiritually it refers to Jesus as the way to salvation (Psalm 118:19-21). Jesus is the Shepherd who provides security for his flock (i.e. believers). Jesus is the only way to salvation and believers find the "pastures", or their sustenance (i.e. requirements) for daily living.
*v.10, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." The thief's (Satan's) purpose is the opposite of the shepherd (Jesus). He comes to kill and feed himself of the sheep while destroying part of the flock. Jesus' purpose is to protect and save the sheep (believers), and to provide for the welfare of His flock. There is also a resemblance to the Pharisees who were at odds with Jesus; and their false teachings that benefited themselves and not always their flock. The last part of the verse states that the thief takes lives, where as Jesus gives life more abundantly.
*v. 11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." Jesus speaks in terms that His audience would understand. That is why His parables were understandable to his audience, but to us, potentially difficult to understand because of our ignorance of shepherding (Ezekiel 34:11-16). Shepherds, owned their sheep, and would defend them from all predators such as lions, jackals, wolves, bears, and other wild beasts that were on the prowl. [ I Samuel 17:34-37 describes David's fight with a lion and a bear to protect his flock. This convinced him that God would enable him to defeat Goliath.] The "good shepherd" is Jesus’ way of saying that He is the true Shepherd who brings salvation to believers.
*v 12, "But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep." The "hireling", or hired hand, does not own the sheep, and therefore does not have a connection to the sheep like the shepherd. When danger intrudes on the sheep, the hireling deserts his post and the sheep are devoured and scattered. The hireling is more concerned about his own safety, than that of the sheep. The metaphorical reference here in which the hireling (i.e. false religious leaders, selfish kings, or phony messiahs) leaves God's flock (believers) and exposes them to abuse.
V.13 and 14, “The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." The hired hand cares only for the money he receives, and the sheep are a means to an end. This is reflective of the false prophets and selfish kings in the OT. (Ezekiel 34:5-6; Jeremiah 23:1-3; and Zechariah 11:15, 17) In these verses, the hireling is concerned for himself. Now contrast the good shepherd, who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. "I…know my sheep,” this indicates that there is an intimate relationship between the shepherd and his sheep. "…and I am known of mine.” points to reciprocity of the sheep for the shepherd (Jesus), who now recognizes the voice of the shepherd, for they are His. The sheep (believers) respond to the love and care that they receive from the Shepherd (Jesus). The fact that the sheep respond to the shepherd is of great importance to him, for he is trusted, and they look to him for their safety and existence.
*v. 15, " As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep." This point out the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, and the contrast to the Father and to His Son. If this is carried out to the extreme, then Jesus is more than the "Good Shepherd", He is the fulfillment of God's promises to God's people, where Jesus voluntarily laid down His life for us. Jesus' dying was not an accident, but it was the fulfillment of God's plan from the beginning.
*v.16, " And other sheep I have, which are not of his fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." Here, Jesus' audience is the Israelites who believe, and are the sheep in his fold. They are under the protection of the Shepherd (Jesus).
- "…which are not of his fold:” refers to non-believers (some Jews and Gentiles) who "I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;” Jesus wants to convert the non-believers and they shall hear his voice (the message of salvation).
- "…and there shall be one fold," meaning that Israelites, Jews, and Gentiles and to the extremes, all nations will be together under God (i.e. "one shepherd").
*v.17, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it up again." Jesus reiterates His relationship and love that the Father and He have for each other. It is no accident that Jesus laid down His life (crucifixion) and takes it up again (resurrected) with the consent of the Father for the salvation of all human kind. Jesus' death was the ultimate sacrificial obedience to the will of God the Father.
*v.18, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." This verse represents His sovereign authority over His own destiny. If Christ had decided not to die, no one would have been able to kill Him. It was for the redemption of mankind by God through Jesus. His death, the penalty for sin is paid in full, and the Resurrection is the vindication of the Son as the atonement for sin. His sacrifice for our sins reconciles us to God. In the resurrection, the Son is glorified and the victory of God's kingdom is announced.
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