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I Am The Good Shepherd

In the account of Jesus' life written by John, Jesus declared that he was the "good shepherd." This was the fourth of seven metaphors he used to establish his identity to those with whom he spoke. The sheep/shepherd imagery is the most common used in the bible to describe the relationship between God and his people and God's leaders and his people.

Christ drew a clear contrast between Israel's leaders of his day and before and himself. He compared them to hired hands that cared nothing for the sheep but rather used them to their advantage. Jesus however, proved himself good in that he laid his life down for the sheep, of which we are all one.

I don't like to think of myself as a sheep but it helps remind me how utterly helpless and defenseless I am without God's protection. An upside to accepting my "sheepness" is a deeper and more emotional appreciation for Jesus being my good shepherd. I hear God saying this: TP and Kevin, I really want you to get this. Knowing something intellectually versus having a confident assurance on the inside are two entirely different things, aren't they? Here's to taking one baby step at a time toward the light...

There is so much more to this week’s I Am statement that we were able to cover at our service yesterday.  For a much more comprehensive and substantial study, see the commentary below and this week’s featured resource. I look forward to being together Saturday night at “Lift,” our evening of worship. It should be one great time together!

I am the Good Shepherd Commentary

10:11. Jesus then developed the sheep/shepherd figure in a third way. When evening settled over the land of Palestine, danger lurked. In Bible times lions, wolves, jackals, panthers, leopards, bears, and hyenas were common in the countryside. The life of a shepherd could be dangerous as illustrated by David’s fights with at least one lion and one bear (1 Sam. 17:34-35, 37). Jacob also experienced the labor and toil of being a faithful shepherd (Gen. 31:38-40). Jesus said, I am the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:14). In the Old Testament, God is called the Shepherd of His people (Pss. 23:1; 80:1-2; Ecc. 12:11; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 31:10). Jesus is this to His people, and He came to give His life for their benefit (cf. John 10:14, 17-18; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:2, 25; Heb. 9:14). He is also the “Great Shepherd” (Heb. 13:20-21) and “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).


10:12-13. In contrast with the Good Shepherd, who owns, cares, feeds, protects, and dies for His sheep, the one who works for wages—the hired hand—does not have the same commitment. He is interested in making money and in self-preservation. If a wolf attacks (harpazei, lit., “snatches away”; cf. this same verb in v. 28), he runs away and his selfishness causes the flock to be scattered. Obviously he cares nothing for the sheep. Israel had many false prophets, selfish kings, and imitation messiahs. The flock of God suffered constantly from their abuse (Jer. 10:21-22; 12:10; Zech. 11:4-17).


10:14-15. In contrast with a hired workman, the Good Shepherd has an intimacy with and personal interest in the sheep (cf. vv. 3, 27). I know My sheep stresses His ownership and watchful oversight. My sheep know Me stresses their reciprocal knowledge of and intimacy with Him. This intimacy is modeled on the loving and trusting mutual relationship of the Father and the Son. Jesus’ care and concern is evidenced by His prediction of His coming death for the flock. Some shepherds have willingly died while protecting their sheep from danger. Jesus willingly gave His life for His sheep (vv. 11, 15, 17-18)—on their behalf as their Substitute (Rom. 5:8, 10; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). His death gives them life.


10:16. The other sheep... not of this flock refers to Gentiles who would believe. His coming death would bring them also to the Father. They too will listen to My voice. Jesus continues to save people as they hear His voice in the Scriptures. Acts 18:9-11 illustrates how this works out in the history of the church. “I have many people in this city” (i.e., Corinth), the Lord told Paul. One flock and one Shepherd speaks of the church with believers from Jewish and Gentile “sheep pens” in one body with Christ as Head (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6).


10:17-18. Again Jesus predicted His death, saying four times that He would voluntarily lay down His life (vv. 11, 14, 17-18). The Father has a special love for Jesus because of His sacrificial obedience to the will of God. Jesus predicted His resurrection twice (He would take... up His life again [vv. 17-18]) and His sovereignty (authority) over His own destiny. His death was wholly voluntary: No one takes it from Me. Jesus was not a helpless pawn on history’s chessboard.


10:19-21. For the third time Jesus’ teaching divided the people (cf. 7:43; 9:16). Many in this hostile crowd judged Him to be demon-possessed and raving mad (cf. 7:20; 8:48, 52). But others figured that He was not demon-possessed, for how could a demon open the eyes of the blind? (cf. 9:16)
10:22-23. The Feast of Dedication is nowadays called Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights. It commemorates the reconsecration of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 165 b.c. after its desecration in 168 b.c. by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). The time for the eight-day feast was in December. It was winter. The feast reminded the Jewish people of their last great deliverance from their enemies. Solomon’s Colonnade was a long covered walkway on the east side of the temple. Two months had elapsed since Jesus’ last confrontation with the Jews (7:1-10:21) at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2), which was in October. Jesus again returned to the temple area.


10:24. The Jews gathered around Him. Actually they “closed in (ekyklōsan) on Him.” The hostile Jerusalem leaders were determined to pin Him down so they surrounded Him. His enigmatic sayings plagued them, and they wanted Him to declare Himself on their terms. How long will You keep us in suspense? they asked. “Keep us in suspense” is literally “hold up our soul.” They insisted, If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.


10:25-26. Jesus responded that the miracles (lit., “works”; cf. vv. 32, 38) He had done are clear evidence that He is from the Father (cf. Isa. 35:3-6; John 3:2; 9:32-33). He is the One the Father sent, but He did not match their expectations. He was no Judas Maccabeus nor would His ministry be like Moses’. Their problem was a lack of spiritual perception and faith. But you do not believe because you are not My sheep is a simple statement of fact about their conduct. It also reminds one of the ultimate mystery of God’s election (cf. 6:37).


10:27. Jesus’ flock is responsive to His teaching. They listen to His voice (vv. 3-5, 16). They have an intimacy with Jesus (I know them; cf. vv. 3, 14), they understand His message of salvation, and they follow Him (vv. 4-5). To follow Him means to obey the Father’s will as Jesus did.


10:28. This is one of the clearest statements in the Bible that one who believes in Jesus for salvation will never be lost. Believers sin and stumble, but Jesus as the perfect Shepherd loses none of His flock (cf. Luke 22:31-32). Eternal life is a gift (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:10; Rom. 6:23). If one has it, he has it eternally. They shall never perish is a strong affirmation in the Greek: ou mē apolōntai eis ton aiōna (“they will indeed not ever perish”; cf. John 3:16, mē apolētai, “never perish”). The security of the sheep is found in the ability of the Shepherd to defend and preserve His flock. Such security does not depend on the ability of the frail sheep. No one can even snatch His sheep out of His hand. “Snatch” is harpasei, related to harpax (“ravenous wolves, robbers”). This is a fitting word here for the same verb (harpazei) is used in 10:12, “the wolf attacks” (lit., “snatches away”).


10:29. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. That is, no one is strong enough to snatch any of Jesus’ flock from the Father’s hand (or from Jesus’ hand, v. 28). As the niv margin states, verse 29a in many early Greek manuscripts reads, “What My Father has given Me is greater than all.” The thought of the verse in either case is that the Father who is omnipotent secures the flock by His power and protection. God’s plan of salvation for Jesus’ flock cannot be aborted.


10:30. When Jesus said, I and the Father are One, He was not affirming that He and the Father are the same Person. The Son and the Father are two Persons in the Trinity. This is confirmed here by the fact that the word “One” is neuter. Instead, He was saying They have the closest possible unity of purpose. Jesus’ will is identical to the Father’s regarding the salvation of His sheep. And yet absolute identity of wills involves identity of nature. Jesus and the Father are One in will (and also in nature for both are God; cf. 20:28; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9).


10:31-32. The hostile crowd reacted and attempted to stone Jesus (cf. 8:59) because they understood the implications of His claim. Jesus’ courage was displayed in His calm question: Which of His many great miracles (lit., “works”; cf. 10:25, 38) from the Father was their reason for wanting to stone Him?


10:33. They claimed that they found no objection in His works. (Yet His healings on the Sabbath had angered them [5:18; 9:16].) They said they objected because He, a mere man, claimed to be God. This, they said, was blasphemy. And yet, ironically, Jesus, who is God, did become Man (1:1, 14, 18). Jesus did not walk around Palestine saying “I am God,” but His interpretation of the Sabbath and His words about His union with the Father revealed His claim of oneness in nature with God.


10:34. Jesus’ response to their objection requires a bit of insight into the methods of argument common in Rabbinic discussions. He first directed them to the Old Testament: in your Law. Normally “the Law” refers to the first five books. But here it means all the Old Testament, for Jesus quoted from the Psalms. It was “your” Law in the sense that they gloried in their possession of it, and also in the sense that they should submit to its authority over them. Psalm 82 speaks of God as the true Judge (Ps. 82:1, 8) and of men, appointed as judges, who were failing to provide true judgment for God (Ps. 82:2-7). “Gods” in Psalm 82:1, 6 refers to these human judges. In this sense, God said to the Jews, You are gods. In no way does this speak of a divine nature in man.


10:35. As seen in verse 34, Jesus argued that in certain situations (as in Ps. 82:1, 6) men were called... “gods.” The Hebrew word for God or gods is ’ĕlōhm. This word is used elsewhere (e.g., Ex. 21:6; 22:8) to mean human judges. Jesus added to His argument the words, and the Scripture cannot be broken, so that no one could evade its force by saying an error was in the Scriptures. This important text clearly points up the inerrancy of the Bible.


10:36. Jesus now completed His argument. Since the inerrant Bible called their judges “gods,” the Jews could not logically accuse Him of blasphemy for calling Himself God’s Son since He was under divine orders (set apart) and on God’s mission (sent into the world).


10:37-38. Though the Jews were reluctant to believe Jesus’ words, God was giving them miracles (lit., “works”; cf. vv. 25, 32), which he was doing through Jesus. These signs were given for their learning so that by pondering their significance they might recognize Jesus’ oneness with the Father (the Father is in Me, and I in the Father). Nicodemus had recognized this for he said, “No one could perform [those] miraculous signs... if God were not with Him” (3:2).


10:39. Again an attempt was made to seize (from piazō) Him (cf. 7:30, 32, 44; 8:20), perhaps to bring Him to trial. Once again, since it was not God’s time, He escaped (cf. 5:13; 8:59; 12:36). No explanation is given as to how He escaped.


10:40-42. Because of their hostility, Jesus went... across the Jordan to Perea, which had been the location of John the Baptist’s activity (1:28). Jesus’ ministry here was received much more favorably, probably because the Baptist had prepared the people there. John, even though dead, was still having influence in people’s lives as they remembered his witness. Though John never performed a miraculous sign (sēmeion), the people believed his witness about Jesus. By contrast, the hostile Jerusalem crowd had seen His signs and yet disobeyed. In Perea many trusted Jesus as Savior.

—Bible Knowledge Commentary 


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Reader Comments (1)

Thank you for this amazing journey with God to grow deeper in my relationship with Him through this new series, "I Am." Great stuff that's applicable today as much as it was back when it was written. Ezekiel 34 from the Sunday worship service has helped me to see it from another sobering perspective. I'm loving it!

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMia

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