October 20 – John 10:1-21
Taking all of this into account, we can start to see why Jesus all of a sudden started talking about sheep and shepherds. It’s often easy to gloss over when Jesus changes subject, but he isn’t just being enigmatic, and John has a specific point in including this. Elsewhere in the Bible leaders like the Pharisees are referred to as shepherds, the best example being in Ezekiel 34:1-24. In that passage God denounces, through Ezekiel, the leaders of Israel who had failed to take care of God’s people. Ezekiel calls these leaders bad shepherds, who fed themselves at the expense of their sheep, and promises to both punish them and to find all his lost sheep, placing them under the care of one shepherd, his servant David (34:23).
The Pharisees most certainly would’ve caught Jesus’ reference to this text when he said, “So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”(John 10:16b) Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd in contrast to Ezekiel’s bad shepherds, while perhaps implying that his Pharisaical audience was more of the bad variety. Unlike these men, who led out of self-serving desires and “care nothing for the sheep,” Jesus would give up his very life to provide life for them as both an answer to God’s prophesied provision and an answer to his people’s most desperate need.
This context can give the emotional appeal of this passage a bit more cosmic importance. Not only does God desire to gather his people and tend to them like a shepherd does his flock, a tender portrayal of God’s love for us, but God also desires to liberate us from the loveless leaders of this world, the “bad shepherds” and “hired hands” who care nothing for His sheep. Whether those leaders are legalistic moralists like these Pharisees, exploitive classists, or the apathetic masses, Jesus cares very deeply about how his sheep are treated and lays down his life to see that they’re cared for well.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read John 10:1-21 for us?
• What stood out to you from this passage?
• Who is Jesus talking to in this passage, and how can that help us understand it?
• What does Jesus tell us about himself here?
• What emotions does this passage elicit from you? What is it like for you to think about Jesus as a shepherd and you as his sheep?
• What promises does Jesus make to his sheep here?