International Sunday School Lesson Study Notes
Lesson Text: John 10:7-18 Lesson Title: The Good Shepherd
Of all the comparisons and word pictures used in the New Testament, the concept of Jesus as “The Good Shepherd” is without question one of the most beautiful and personal. This very powerful discourse comes immediately after John 9 in which religion treated the blind man with disdain and contempt. The people and the Pharisees should have been rejoicing over the blind man’s gift of sight through the miraculous power of Jesus but they are angry that Jesus healed on the Sabbath day. These false shepherds cared for nothing and no one but themselves. It is in this atmosphere that Jesus gives the discourse on “The Good Shepherd.”
Jesus is in his third year of ministry which is a time of much controversy. He is near Jerusalem when he speaks the words of John 10. His audience is a mixture of everyone from the blind man in John 9 to his own disciples, Pharisees, and possibly even some shepherds. There are believers and unbelievers listening to Jesus. When the unbelievers hear His teaching they don’t get it. They don’t understand (John 10:6). The fact that they “…understood not” (John 10:6) reveals their spiritual blindness. When believers hear Jesus’ teaching it is encouraging and a blessing. Believers see the thrilling relationship we as His sheep have with Him as “The Good Shepherd.”
The use of shepherds and shepherding provided the basis for Jesus’ declaring Himself to be “The Good Shepherd” in comparison to the false shepherds of His day. Tax collectors and shepherds were viewed as two of the most despised occupations in Jesus’ day. It was just assumed that if you were dealing with either you were being cheated. Shepherds were held in such contempt that they could not be called as witnesses in a court of law. With that prevailing perception of shepherding one might ask why Jesus chose this comparison. Part of the answer to that question lies in John 10:1, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” The Pharisees assumed that they alone were authoritative guides for the people (John 9:24, 29). By use of sheep and shepherding Jesus could powerfully convey the truth concerning access to heaven and the relationship God desired with His people.
The Affirmation of the Good Shepherd (John 10:7-10)
In John 10:1-6, Jesus affirms Himself to be the true shepherd. The true shepherd comes the right way (John 10:1-2). Unlike a thief or a robber, the true shepherd has the right to enter in through the door. The true shepherd also knows his sheep and can call them by name (John 10:3). There were many flocks of sheep in Palestine, but the special call of their shepherd’s voice distinguished and separated them. Jesus came to lead those lost in Judaism out of that spiritually dead relationship into new life through and in Him. After speaking these truths the Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about (John 10:6).
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” Jesus restates the truth He stated in verses 1-6 but this time with more detail and more direct application. “Verily, verily” means “truly, truly” or, “of a truth.” By using the illustration of “the door,” Christ established the fact that He is the only entrance into the presence of God. The Pharisee’s message to the sheep was that human effort was the way to God, but that wasn’t true. Jesus’ statement, “I am the door of the sheep” is one of His seven “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. The statement, “I am the door of the sheep” means Jesus Himself is the door for the sheep. Jesus alone is the door of access to the Kingdom of God.
How can Jesus be the “Shepherd” and the “door” at the same time? Jesus as “Shepherd” was here to lead Israel out of the sheepfold of Judaism and religion and be the “door” to provide access into the Kingdom of God. Tradition says that when a shepherd would bring his flock together for the night, he would place them against the rocks or some other type of barrier and create a temporary fold for their protection through the night. The shepherd would literally lie down at the opening of that fold and become the “door.” To enter the “sheepfold” meant you had to go through the “door.” And Jesus is “the door.”
Question: How do you plan to get to God?
“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.” The false Messiah’s and self-appointed leaders who preceded Jesus were “thieves and robbers.” This is a reference back to John 10:1 where Christ also referred to “thieves and robbers.” “Thieves” is the Greek word klepto, from which we get our English word, “kleptomania.” It means, “someone who obsessively steals just to be stealing.” “Robber” is the Greek word leistes, meaning “a band of violent men who take by force.”
There are so many “thieves” in the pulpit and the media today who are preaching and teaching deceptive methods regarding salvation. And like “kleptomaniacs,” they do it just to be doing it. There is money in it! And they do it because they can. There are also “robbers” who intentionally and deliberately preach and teach other ways to heaven. They are forceful, legalistic, demanding and violent in the sense that salvation is their way or no way. They don’t care about the sheep. There is money, power, and control in it for them.
Thankfully Jesus said, “…but the sheep did not hear them.” The “true sheep” who are saved by grace waited for the true Shepherd. There have been false prophets, false teachers, false messiahs, false shepherds, false doors who said, “We're the way...Come through us." But the “true sheep” didn't hear, they waited for the true Shepherd.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Again, Jesus states that He is “the door.” Now, he directs His words to “any man.” He drops the sheepfold analogy that He has used in the previous verses. In the previous verses it is apparent that He has been speaking about Israel as a nation and the Jews who where His chosen sheep. All through Israel's history false shepherds have come in and deceived the sheep (Ezekiel 34). The only rightful Shepherd, the only one who has authority to come in the door and take His sheep and lead them out of Judaism is Jesus Christ.
“…If any man” means He is talking to us. For “any man” to be “saved” he must come “by me” or through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The word “saved” sozo, meaning “to be safe, secure.” Safe from what you might ask? You are safe from sin’s power and penalty when you come to Jesus for salvation. You are safe from the eternal predators who live to deceive and devour your soul. In fact, once you are “saved” you are so secure that you can “go in and out, and find pasture.” These words, “go in and out” refer to an old Hebrew expression expressed in Psalm 121:8.
Once you are “in,” you can go back “out” into the world and tell the lost world about your Shepherd. Then you can go back “in” the fold again. “In” or “out” you are “saved” and safe and secure. Now, the idea of “in” and “out” is not talking about in and out of salvation. The idea of “in” and “out” emphasizes the idea that we can go back out into the dark world and live without being afraid anymore. We don't have to be afraid of thieves and robbers. We're secure wherever we are!
“Find pasture” speaks of satisfaction and provision. The green pastures of Palestine presented a powerful analogy to the green pastures of God’s Word where those who are saved find strength and satisfaction. As we go “in” and “out” in our daily lives we find our nourishment and growth in the precious Word of God (John 21:16).
Note: Many Christians are dissatisfied and weak simply because they are looking for something to fill that emptiness of their spiritual life. The Good Shepherd knows what you need to survive!
“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.” Continuing to affirm Himself as the Good Shepherd Jesus once again contrasts His purpose with that of the false shepherds and those with harmful intent. The purpose of the coming of the “thief” (klepto) is to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” These are deadly motives. “Stealing, killing, and destroying” are words we hear on the news and are associated with violence and harm. Interestingly, Jesus uses these words to reveal the satanic and deadly motives of those who preach another gospel other than Jesus Christ.
It is obvious when you listen to the preaching and teaching today and analyze the spiritual climate of our culture that someone or something is “stealing, killing” and “destroying” our desire for “life” in Jesus Christ. And this “life” available in Jesus Christ is not just a normal life. Jesus said, “I am come.” That is a reference to His incarnation at Bethlehem. Jesus said, “…that they might have.” That is a reference to His crucifixion. No one could “have life” if Jesus had not died on the cross. “More abundantly” means “more and more.” There is an “abundant” and overflowing life available and offered to everyone in Jesus Christ.
Illus. Jesus taught that abundant life was not about possessions (Luke 12:15). Life is only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
The contrasts in John 10:7-10 is clear. The false shepherds, the thieves and the robbers have a different purpose and motive for doing what they do. Jesus affirms that He alone is “the door of the sheep” and “the door.” Others are here to “steal, kill and to destroy.” He is here to provide “life” and “life more abundantly.”
The Identification of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18)
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Jesus identifies himself in these verses by direct statements and also by contrast. These verses also emphasize Jesus’ character as “The Good Shepherd.” Before Christ could ever be our risen and returning Shepherd, He must be our dying Shepherd. This is stressed in His words, “…the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
“I am the good shepherd” literally means “I am the shepherd, the good one.” There are two Greek words for “good.” The first is agathos which means “good in the sense of moral quality.” That is speaking about goodness on the inside. The other word is kalos which means “totally lovely or beautiful.” The word “good” in this verse is kalos, “beautiful.” Jesus stands alone as the Good Shepherd who is “beautiful.” He is unlike any other. Christ is not just another shepherd. He is beautiful and excellent in every feature (Song of Solomon 5:16). Christ is saying to the Jews listening that He is greater than the greatest shepherds of Israel. And that would include a shepherd named David whom his listeners held in high esteem.
As “good shepherd” Christ “giveth his life for the sheep.” “Giveth” is an important word. Anyone who understood the role of a shepherd knew that if a wolf or a predator came against a defenseless sheep, the sheep had no way of persuading the shepherd to defend it. The shepherd must willingly and voluntarily defend the sheep. Jesus as “Good Shepherd” voluntarily “giveth” His life for the sheep.
“Life” is the Greek word psuche, (pronounced soo-kay) meaning “soul, the total man.” Christ didn’t just give his physical body for sinners on the cross. He gave His total self and soul for the sheep. “For” means “for the sake of” or, “in the place of, on behalf of, for the benefit of.” The false shepherds, thieves, robbers and others who deceive are only here to take not give. In fact, the devil would like to deceive you into hell without ever having invested one cent in you! Only one shepherd will die for the sheep. That shepherd is Jesus!
“But the 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” was one who watched the sheep because he was paid to watch them. He did what he did for wages. He did not care. There was no love. When he saw “the wolf coming” he “leaveth the sheep, and fleeth.” In other words, he wasn’t going to risk anything or invest anything in the security and protection of the sheep. The result was that “the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” The same spiritual application can be made to those today who do what they do in Jesus’ name for what they can get out of it.
The “hireling” is a reference to the Pharisees. When Jesus spoke these words those listening to him must have thought again about how the blind man in John 9 was treated by the Pharisees.
Note: Think about how the woman taken in adultery in John 8 was treated by religion. Think about how the blind man in John 9 was treated by religion. Now, think about how you were treated by “The Good Shepherd!”
“The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” What is presumed and indicated in verse 12 is categorically stated by Jesus in this verse. The “hireling” doesn’t flee because he is a coward or because he is not capable of defending the sheep. He flees because “he is an hireling.” The sheep are not his! He is just a hired hand, nothing more. If one dies or they all die it’s not his loss.
The disciples will not fully understand what Jesus is saying here until He goes to the cross and gives His life for them. And men won’t understand what Jesus is saying here until they come to Christ for salvation and eternal life.
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” Twice in four verses Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” In verse 11 the good shepherd “gives.” In verse 14 the good shepherd “know” his sheep. The word “know” is the Greek word gnosko, meaning “experiential knowledge.” It is used to describe an intimate kind of knowledge only found in a loving relationship (Matthew 1:25). Jesus’ use of the word “know” here stands in direct contrast to those who are not saved (Matthew 7:23).
Not only does Jesus “know” His sheep, He is “known of mine.” True believers recognize Jesus and have a loving relationship with him. The word “known” comes from the same Greek word gnosko and stresses the closeness of an intimate relationship. The Christian’s aim and goal is to know Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8-10).
Note: Christianity is about a personal loving relationship with Jesus Christ. So many today are caught up in a loveless religion. They are a part of a hireling church where men and women do what they do because it’s their job. They are paid to preach, pray, administer the ordinances, marry your children and bury your dead. It’s a big day for the hirelings!
“As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Commenting on this verse, Arthur Pink writes, “The mutual knowledge of Christ and His sheep, is like unto that which exists between the Father and the Son: it is a knowledge, an affection, so profound, so spiritual, so heavenly, so intimate, so blessed, that no other analogy was possible to do it justice: as the Father knoweth the Son, and as the Son knoweth the Father, so Christ knows His sheep, and so the sheep know Him” (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, page 127, par.3).
Jesus understood completely what His purpose was on earth. He knew the Father and the Father knew He would “lay down” His “life for the sheep.” God the Father knew Christ would finish the work of redemption He was to earth to do. He was God’s sacrifice for man’s sin before the foundation of the world was ever laid (Revelation 13:8).
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” The good shepherd not only gives, knows and cares for his sheep, he also unites his sheep. Commenting on this verse, Doctor John Phillips writes, “The word fold at the end of this sentence is universally agreed to be incorrectly translated. It is not aule (used earlier in the sentence), which signifies a place, but poimne, the word for a flock. The word occurs only here, in Matthew 26:31, in Luke 2:8, and in 1 Corinthians 9:7. It is important that the connection be made. There is all the difference in the world between a fold and a flock. The fold was the nation of Israel. A fold is characterized by a circumference, a wall. A flock is characterized by a center, the shepherd. The great truth announced by Jesus was that he was leading his sheep out of the fold represented by the nation of Israel. He was now gathering a flock. The ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ to whom he had come had heard his call. Those who had heard and heeded were to become a new flock, the nucleus of a much larger flock, a flock in which Jews and gentiles would become one, one new flock. The ‘other sheep’ who are ‘not of this fold’ are the gentiles who through ensuing centuries would believe in him. What an enormous flock it has become.” (John Phillips Commentary Series, The John Phillips Commentary Series – Exploring the Gospel of John: An Expository Commentary.)
The Good Shepherd has not taken two flocks (Jew and Gentile) and crammed us into one fold. He has made us one people, one flock in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11-13). And our unity doesn’t come because we are all in the same building, mindset, culture, or race. It is because we are in Christ and serve the same Shepherd! All who come to Christ become members of one flock with Shepherd.
Question: If Christ went to all this expense and sacrifice to put both Jew and Gentile and every other race and people into one flock, shouldn’t we live in unity and appreciate it? Instead, everybody wants their little logo and their mark of identit, on their little cliques and group. And that is true for old fashion, modern, middle of the road, contemporary, liberal, moderate and conservative.
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd will give His life for the sheep because He knows His “Father loves Him.” “Jesus is secure in the knowledge that the Father loves Him. The Father has always loved His Son, of course. But a specific reason for that love is noted here: Jesus’ readiness to lay down His life, dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The good shepherd will make the ultimate sacrifice for His sheep. But that is not all. Jesus declares the humanly impossible: after He lays down His life, He will take it again. In rising triumphantly from the grave, Jesus will reclaim His life. He will prove that He is not the victim of unfortunate circumstances; He is the sovereign Lord!” (Standard Lesson Commentary 2011-2012).
“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.” “It” refers to Jesus' sacrifice of Himself, His life. No one is going to take Jesus’ life by force or against His will. Jesus was not a victim of murder or homicide. There were a multitude of people who would have killed Jesus long before he died at Calvary and a host of people who were a part of the proceedings leading up to Calvary. But no one “taketh it from me.”
The words “lay it down of myself” is actually the fourth time in this discourse that Jesus has made reference to the giving of his life voluntarily (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18). Doctor R. Kent Hughes suggests that the repetition of these words is like a repeated chorus in the Lord’s song of the sacrifice of Himself.
It took “power” to “lay down” His life. The word “power” means “choice, authority, submission to command.” It is connected with “this commandment have I received of my Father.” Everything Jesus did was in connection with God’s will. He proved His love to His heavenly Father by His obedience to Him. His authority and choice to voluntarily lay down His life at Calvary was because it was the Father’s will. He died before the soldiers came to break His legs (John 19:33). He refused to call angels from heaven to deliver him (Matthew 26:53). He was in control, not man!
“Take it again” is resurrection language. Not only was Jesus in complete control of His death, He was also in control of His resurrection. He, through the authority of God the Father was raised from the dead (Romans 6:4; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:17-20). Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). And that He did (Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:14: Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-31).
Today we have met Jesus Christ who is The Good Shepherd. As God’s incarnate Word upon earth, Jesus will always be “The Good Shepherd.” He affirmed that in today’s lesson text by contrasting himself to the false shepherds that consistently led Israel astray. He is the only access to God’s heaven. He is the only satisfaction in life. He alone is the giver of abundant life.
He also identified Himself as “The Good Shepherd” in today’s lesson. He gives. He loves. He cares. He knows both His sheep and His heavenly Father. And He unites both Jew and Gentile into one flock.
If you are one of His sheep today you should be eternally thankful. If you’re not, be careful. There are so many false shepherds and hirelings out to deceive and do you eternal harm. If you would like to be one His sheep, remember His words, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
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