17 April, 2024

Jan. 14 Lesson | I AM the Good Shepherd

by | 8 January, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: John (Part 2)
Theme: I AM
Lesson Text: John 10:1-18
Supplemental Texts: John 10:19-30; Ezekiel 34; Psalm 23; Luke 15:1-6; 1 John 3:16
Aim: Pray, study, and meditate so when you hear Jesus’ voice, you will recognize it.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Jan14_2024.

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By Mark Scott

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson sang, “Mommas Don’t Let your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” In the ancient biblical world, they would have substituted the word shepherds for cowboys. The biblical world had a love/hate relationship with shepherds. Shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34), and by the first century BC they were the ragamuffins of society (Luke 2:8-20). But Scripture has high regard for shepherds. God is viewed as a shepherd (Psalm 23; Luke 15:3-7), and the leaders of God’s people are expected to be good shepherds (Jeremiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34). 

Our lesson in John’s text takes place sometime between the Festival of Tabernacles and Festival of Dedication (7:10; 10:22). Jesus had already claimed to be the bread of life, the water of life (implied), and the light of the world (6:35; 7:37; 8:12, respectively). In this passage, he claimed to be the gate (door) and the good shepherd—using both metaphors twice each. These 18 verses are packed with Pharisees, gatekeepers, thieves, robbers, hired men, shepherds (6 times), and sheep or flock (14 times).  

The Shepherd Is the Gate
John 10:1-10 

After the blind man was healed and vindicated by Jesus (John 9), the Pharisees set up Jesus by asking, “Are we blind too?” (9:40). Jesus affirmed that they were spiritually blind (9:41). They had neither the eyes to see nor the ears to hear and accept the “Son of Man” (9:35).  

The sheep pen was well known in the ancient Near East. It was not uncommon for several flocks to be joined together at night so the shepherds could take turns watching the sheep. The shepherd would often lie down at the entrance of the pen, his body essentially becoming the gate; anyone who tried to get in by some other way was called a thief or a robber. A wolf and a hired hand are also mentioned later. Metaphorically speaking, these could be good people like John the Baptist (compared to Jesus, he would be lesser and thus a robber) or these could refer to false teachers (like the religious leaders taking issue with Jesus in John 5–10). The metaphor gets mixed here in that the shepherd is the gate at times, and then also the one whom the gatekeeper allows to enter. The figure of speech can go either way (10:6).  

This shepherd has an intimate relationship with his sheep. He knows them by name, he leads them, they follow him, and they know his voice. In fact, they know him so well they will not follow any other shepherd. Jesus crossed over from the analogy to the spiritual dimension when he spoke about the sheep being saved. In addition, they will be secure—that is, they will be able to freely go in and out in the pasture. Others would only hurt the sheep, but the shepherd who is the gate wants to give the sheep life to the full.  

The Shepherd Is the Sacrifice 
John 10:11-18 

Sheep typically were raised for consumption or for sacrifice, but this shepherd will offer himself for the sheep because of his love for them. So, Jesus is not only the entrance to eternal life, he also is the means by which they will receive eternal life (through his vicarious, once-for-all, substitutionary death on the cross). Hired hand probably is a reference to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. 

The most stunning thing about this shepherd is that he sacrifices himself for the sheep—something that is mentioned four times in the text. The wolf (devil?) attacks the flock and scatters it. But the sheep know the shepherd, and importantly, they know the shepherd on the same order as the Father knows the Son; that relationship in the triune God is a strong theme in the Gospel of John.  

This shepherd’s sacrifice knows no boundaries. Jesus said he has other sheep. This must have been offensive to the religious leaders. To think that this Good Shepherd cared about other sheep—such as Gentiles—would have been blasphemous to them. These other sheep would listen to the Shepherd in the way that Israel was supposed to listen. The shepherd’s sacrifice was not done under compulsion. Rather it was accomplished by the pure volition of the Shepherd.  

Jesus is the gate to eternal life and the gift of God for the sacrifice for our sins, so why would anyone not want to hear his voice and respond accordingly? 

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