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Series A, B, C
John 10: The Good Shepherd- Gospel Analysis

Series A  John 10:1-10      I AM THE DOOR

Series B  John 10:11-18    I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD


The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2008.

Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 220. 


#249. I Am The Good Shepherd  

John 10:1-18


This is a picture of the Good Shepherd from the ancient catacombs near Rome.


The following is the gospel text for Easter 4A.

- "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. In the story of the sheep and the shepherd, Jesus is using a most familar metaphor for his disciples. The disciples and the people of that region of the country would understand sheep and shepherds. Sheep and shepherds were a way of life for them.

The common people would understand that only a thief and robber would climb over the stacked rocks and briared tangle to get into the sheep pen.

-The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gate is an opening into a rock walled pen with briars on the top of that rock wall.

-The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and At this point, the gate appears to be a wooden door.

-The sheep hear his voice. In this passage, we hear over and over again that the sheep hear and know the voice of the shepherd. As Christians, we know and hear the voice of Jesus, who is our good shepherd.

-And he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Shepherds in that era of history knew the names of their sheep. Sheep were like family pets and their pets had names like “Long Ears” and “White Nose.” (Raymond Brown, JOHN, V. 1, p.385).

Jesus is our good shepherd and we know that God/Jesus owns us and knows us by name. We human beings love it when someone knows and remembers our name. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows our very name and we delight in this simple fact.

The Lord God, the creator of this infinite universe, also knows our very name. To believe that the Lord God of the universe is our personal shepherd who knows our very name is an incredible statement of trust.

Such belief is a miracle, the miracle of the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus who convinces us that God knows our personal name and knows the sounds of our voice and knows our personal individuality.

-He goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow but they will flee from him for they do not know the voice of strangers. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd, and we know the voice of Christ.

-This figure/parable Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. From the first three gospels, we know that Jesus enjoyed using familiar, common and down-to-earth objects to teach spiritual lessons. The images of a shepherd, sheep, sheep pen, and a gate (into that sheep pen) would have been very familiar to Jesus’ audience. The Pharisees, of course, did not understand the simple riddles about the kingdom of God.

-Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. A sheep pen was normally made out of rocks that were piled high to make four walls. Barbed branches were put on the walls of rocks in order to prevent predators from coming over those walls into those pens. There was an entrance to the pen and the shepherd would actually lie in the doorway and was the door itself. The door itself, the shepherd, would keep out the wolves, lions and other predators. The door also functions as a way into the pen. This is, sheep need to go through the entrance to get into the pen, and Jesus is that entrance or gate.

 “In this second statement Jesus says, I am the gate for the sheep (v. 7). The scene has shifted from the village to the open field. In the summer sheep are sometimes kept out in the pasture overnight. The pen used is simply an enclosure made of piled rocks. There is neither roof nor door, but thorns along the top of the rock walls protect the sheep from wild animals, and the shepherd himself sleeps in the entrance, providing a door (cf. Bailey 1993:11; Beasley-Murray 1987:169). So when Jesus says he is the gate for the sheep (v. 7) he is still using the image of a shepherd, but applying it directly to himself. From this picture of a shepherd sleeping in the entrance we would expect Jesus' role to be the protector of the sheep. Jesus does indeed protect his own (cf. 6:39; 17:12), but the image is developed here in a surprising way. The sheep are to enter through Jesus (v. 9), something not true of the shepherd sleeping in the entrance of a summer shelter! So the image is not that of a door as a barrier for protection, but of a door as a passageway.”

This is one of the seven “I AM” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John.

  • “I am the bread of life,”
  • “I am the light of the world,”
  • “I am the gate/door,”
  • “I am the good shepherd,”
  • “I am the resurrection and the life,”
  • “I am the way, the truth and the life,”
  • “I am the vine.”

These are seven profound and self-revealing statements of Jesus. During this course and in coming lessons, we will pause at each of the seven statements and contemplate what Jesus was teaching about himself through this particular “I am” saying. 

-I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. Jesus is the door of entry to the pen, to the kingdom of God, to the eternal pastures of eternal life.

This idea resembles John 14:6 when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” We immediately ask the question: What does the verses mean? Is that question the focus of this particular text? Does the meaning of these verses exclude all people from other world religions from entering into eternal life and being saved? Is it only through confessing Christ of the Christian faith that a person can be saved? In this course, we need to address these questions which we have not addressed to far. We will do that when we come to John 14:6.

-The thief comes only to steal or kill or destroy. “Jesus goes on to contrast the shepherd who will risk his life for the sheep with a hireling who runs from the wolf and leaves the sheep behind to be attacked, "snatched" "carried off" or scattered. They are not his sheep, and he does not care about them” (Jn 10:12-13). Bible Gateway, JOHN.

-I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. In the pastures, the sheep will find life and life abundant. Jesus loved the word, “life.” In the New Testament as a whole, there are 216 references to the word, “life.” There are 47 uses of the word, “life,” in the Gospel of John alone. Jesus came to give life and still comes today to give life and to give us abundant life and eternal life. 

LIFE and ETERNAL LIFE are dominant themes in the Gospel of John. Whereas the Kingdom of God is the dominant motif in Jesus’ teachings in the first three gospels, “life” is the dominant motif in John’s gospel.  The Gospel of John only uses the word, “kingdom” 4 times but uses the word, “life”, 47 times. The Gospel of John uses the word, “life,” in a similar way that the first three gospels use the word, “kingdom.” “Life” and “kingdom” are interchangeable.

Life is usually defined as “eternal life.” In John’s gospel, we have fifteen specific references to Jesus giving “eternal life.”

The following is a list of the Bible verses in John that use the word, “life.”

Skim the following list.

John 1:4  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

John 3:15 That everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.

John 4:14 But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 5:21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

John 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

John 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.

John 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

John 6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

John 6:53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

John 6:54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.

John 12:50  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. 

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 12:25  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Discussion Question:
What does it mean for you that God has given you life? What does it mean that Christ has given you eternal life?

This ends the gospel text for Easter 4A.

The following is the gospel text for Easter 4B.

-I am the good shepherd. This phrase could be translated the “model shepherd,” the “noble shepherd,” “the ideal shepherd,” “the beautiful shepherd,” or “the perfect shepherd.” We heard this same word, “good,” in John 2:10 during the marriage feast, “You have saved the good wine until now.”


-The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A primary characteristic of a good shepherd is that he is willing to die for the sheep. Jesus, of course, is describing his own life in that Jesus was willing to die on the cross that others might live. The Gospel of John likes this phrase (“lays his life down”) and we see it in John 8:37, 15:13 and I John 3:16. In this passage here in John 10, we hear the phrase, “lays his life down” five times within one chapter. Highlight each of those phrases as we study this chapter.

In the Old Testament, a shepherd did not lay down his life for the sheep. This is a new concept/understanding/knowledge in the New Testament that a shepherd would die for the sheep. Nowhere, not once, in the Old Testament does a shepherd lay down his life for the sheep.

“The idea of a voluntary and vicarious death for the sheep is not found in the Old Testament nor elsewhere (Jeremias 1968:496-97; Barrett 1978:374).” JOHN, Bible Gateway, Commentary.

This idea of “laying down his life for the sheep” cannot be underestimated and is at the core of Christianity.

-I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. Another characteristic of a good shepherd is that he knows his own sheep. The sheep belong to Jesus and he knows them/us. We know the voice, the actions, the attitudes of the good shepherd as well. Circle the word, “own.” The word, “own,” is used five times in this short text and indicates that we personally belong to God/Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

-I know the Father and the Father knows me. Jesus has repeatedly told us that he intimately knows the Father and the Father intimately knows the Son. The Pharisees cannot accept this concept, that Jesus knows the Father intimately, that God is his Father, and that he, Jesus, has been sent from the Father to earth. If God is Jesus' Father, than makes Jesus God's Son. For saying that and implying that he was the Son of God, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.

-I lay down my life for the sheep. This is the primary mark of a good shepherd. He is willing to die that the sheep might live. That is what the story of the cross is all about. This idea is found nowhere in the Old Testament. This idea is the essence of Jesus, the noble shepherd. The idea of "laying down one's life for another" is at the heart of Christianity. But the Christian faith is not so much an idea about "laying down one's life for another" but doing it.

-I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. Jesus is laying the groundwork for his ministry to the Gentiles, to all the world who are not Jewish or of Jewish descent. Jesus, the good shepherd, will reach out to save all the sheep of the world.

-So there shall be one sheep herd (flock) and one shepherd. Later in this gospel, Jesus called for oneness in his church. John 17:20-23:  "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:  I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  Jesus wants to bring all people into complete unity. (See also John 11:52, P. 224, “Jesus should die for the nation and not only for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”)

Raymond  Brown, JOHN, V. 2, P. 387. “One sheep herd, one shepherd.  We are attempting to preserve here the closeness in the Greek between ‘poimne’ (sheep herd) and ‘poimen’ (shepherd).”

This does not mean that Jesus envisioned one world wide and universal denomination. Raymond Brown wrote, “Such an interpretation of the intention of the evangelist seems anachronistic. It belongs more to the modern concern with a divided Christianity and the ‘branch’ theory of the Church.” JOHN, V. 2, P. 387.

-For this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may take it again. There is that phrase again, "I lay down my life." That is the invitation for all people who want to follow Christ: to lay down our lives for others that they and we may find life. This is the way to live: in selfless love for God and others. When we live that way, we find life. That is, we take it back again.

-No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. Jesus is telling us that he has the power within himself to freely lay down his life for others or not to do so. We too can live this way.

-I have received this command from my Father." Jesus has received his command from his Father and we receive the same command. That is, we too are invited to lay down our lives for others.

The gospel for Easter 4B ends here.

#250.  Division Among the Jews Again    

John 10:19-21

-There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon. He is mad. Why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the sayings of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” We know that many Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus, thought that he was crazy, a madman, a spiritual lunatic who thought he was God. “Madness was thought to be a result of demonic possession.” (Brown. V. 2, P. 387) On certain levels, we can sympathize with these Jewish leaders. If one of our friends claimed that they were God and had God’s power within, we would think of that person as crazy or a madman.

#257. Jesus at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem

John 10:22-39

This begins the gospel text for Easter 4C.

-It was the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  Previously, in John 7:2, we knew that Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Feast of the Tabernacles. That meant it was autumn because the Feast of Tabernacles was also a Feast of Ingathering similar to our autumn feast of Thanksgiving. In the scenes in John, chapters 7-9, Jesus continued to teach in the temple in late autumn.

But in this passage from John 10:22, two-three months have passed and it was winter or wintry weather as in the month of December.  It was the Feast of Dedication, the Feast of Hanukkah. Hanukkah commemorates Judas Maccabeus and the Maccabeans driving out the Syrians, building a new altar, and rededicating the temple with a new altar. This Maccabean war was from 167-164 BCE. Near the phrase, “feast of the Dedication,” write the word, “Hanukkah,” Near the word, “winter,” write the word, “December. Two months later.”

This Bible verse gives a definite picture of the setting in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon. Raymond Brown has an insightful paragraph: “The outermost court of the Temple was surrounded by magnificent covered colonnades or cloisters on all four sides. Those porticoes were open on the inside facing the temple, but closed on the outside. The oldest portico, the one on the east side, was popularly associated with Solomon, the builder of the first temple.” “There is one detail of local color that is very accurate. At this winter season, when the cold winds sweep in from the east across the great desert, we find Jesus in the east portico of the Temple, the only one of the porticoes whose closed side would protect it from the east wind.”  (Brown, JOHN, V. 1. P. 402, 405)

In the diagram below, locate the porticoes which were hallways with columns. Click the link and the image will be clearer.

See the model of the porticoes. This model is from the Jerusalem Hotel.

-The Jews said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” The Jewish leaders wanted to know if Jesus Christ was really the Messiah. To these Jewish leaders, Jesus’ previous answers about his identity had been philosophically oblique and confusing. The Jewish leaders wanted a direct answer from him, so that they could build a legal case against him.

-You do not believe me because you do not belong to my sheep. Once again, Jesus “hit the nail on the head.” The Jewish leaders didn’t believe in Jesus because they were not his followers, his disciples, or his sheep.

-My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. People who believe in Christ hear his voice, his teachings, his truths about God and the way to live and love. Such people follow Christ and are disciples of Christ. The Jewish leaders did none of these things. They hated Christ and wanted him killed. Why? Because Jesus was destroying their cushy, power hungry, wealthy way of life. But his disciples were like sheep who followed their shepherd. Focus on the word, “follow.” The mood of the word, “follow,” in like sheep following a shepherd, more so than a slave following an owner or a soldier following a captain. The word, “follow,” in the gospels is connected with a shepherd, not soldiers nor slaves.

-And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. What promises Jesus was making to his followers, to his sheep who follow him! Eternal life. Eternal assurance. “No one shall be able to snatch them out of my hand. No one shall be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  That is precisely what the bad shepherd wants to do: snatch them out of the Father’s hand. That is what the power of evil wants to do with our lives: snatch us out of the hand of Christ. The purpose of the power of evil is to snatch us from the hands of our loving Father. Jesus promises to us that such “snatching” will not occur in our lives.

-No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. When we are in the grip of God’s loving hands, nothing evil can snatch us away from a Father who holds us firmly in his love.

-I and the Father are one. The Father and the Son are one, are unified, are of one mind, one purpose, one way of living. The Son repeats the attitudes and actions of the Father. The two think and act alike. Underline this phrase. Circle it. Highlight it.

Here ends the gospel text for Easter 4C.

-The Jews took up stones again to stone him. The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus had crossed the line and was identifying himself as none other than God. For this, Jesus could be stoned for blasphemy.

-The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” This is the key. The Gospel of John makes the charges against Jesus crystal clear: “Blasphemy.” This gospel defines what blasphemy is, “making yourself God.” At the end of the Jesus Story during Holy Week in Matthew and Mark, Jesus will be accused of blasphemy but this is the only Bible verse that clearly defines what blasphemy is. What is blasphemy? “Making yourself God.”

-Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your own law, ‘I said, You are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of the Lord came (and Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the word, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God.” “In response to the charges of the Jews that he is making himself God, Jesus answers with reasoning drawn from the Old Testament. He cites from Psalm 82:6. Psalm 82:6 itself and the rest of the verse and the context of the verse are important in the argument. The whole verse reads, ‘I say, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’ Jesus is interested not only in the term “gods,” but also in the synonymous expression “sons of the Most High” for he refers to himself as the Son of God in verse 36.”  Brown, JOHN, V. 1, P. 409.

Above this quotation from the Old Testament, write: “Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’” Jesus again uses reasoning drawn from the Old Testament. In this situation, Jesus reasons that when he calls himself “the Son of God,” the Old Testament also calls people, “sons of God.”

Brown continues, “First, if there was a common practice in the Old Testament to refer men like the judges as ‘gods,’ and this was no blasphemy, why do the Jews object when this term is applied to Jesus. To a Western mind, this argument seems to be a deceptive fallacy. The Jews are not objecting that Jesus is raising himself to the level of a god in the sense in which the judges were gods. They are objecting that he is making himself God with a capital, ‘G.’” Brown, JOHN, V. 1, P. 409.

-Even if you don’t believe me, believe the works (that I do) that you may know and understand the Father is in me and I am in the Father. Jesus wants us to know that he is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus. To see Jesus is to see the Father; to know Jesus is to know the Father;  to love Jesus is to love the Father.

-Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. Jesus’ speech in the temple that day gave the Jewish leaders specific legal grounds to stone him. But the time for Jesus’ death had still not arrived, and so Jesus again escaped from their hands and withdrew across the Jordan River.

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