John 10 (NRSV)
Jesus the Good Shepherd
“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. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
In the common sheepfolds of ancient times, the shepherd merely gave his distinctive call and his sheep came out from the others, following him out of the sheepfold. Sheep are experts at discerning their shepherd’s voice.
During World War I, the story goes, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem. The shepherd, who had been sleeping, awoke to find his flock being driven off. He couldn’t recapture them by force, so he called out to his flock with his distinctive call. The sheep listened, and returned to their rightful owner. The soldiers couldn’t stop the sheep from returning to their shepherd’s voice.
7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
9I AM THE GATE. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11“I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
The bad shepherd thinks the flock exists for his benefit, but the good shepherd lives (and dies) for the good of the sheep.
- The good shepherd sacrifices for the sheep
- The good shepherd knows his sheep
- The good shepherd is known by the sheep
The faithful pastor will, as an under-shepherd, display the same characteristics as the Good Shepherd. He will sacrifice for the sheep, know the sheep, and be known by them. He will be a shepherd and not a hireling who does not care about the sheep.
The title pastor translates the same ancient Greek word used here for shepherd.
14“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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. I have received this command from my Father.”
19Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?”
21Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
There are not many pieces of music more beautiful than this — Handel’s “He Shall Feed His Flock like a Shepherd.” Blythe Gaissert, Mezzo-Soprano; Mary Petro, Soprano; Brian Paul Thomas, Conductor; Choir of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, New Canaan, CT.
Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews
22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem.
This feast was Hanukkah, celebrating the cleansing and re-dedication of the temple after three years of desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria. He had offered a pig as a sacrifice to Zeus on the altar of the temple. After a guerrilla war by folks known as the Maccabees, Jerusalem was freed and the temple was cleansed (around 164 BCE).
It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”
31The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”
33The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”
“In defending himself against the charge of blasphemy, Jesus does not deny his basic equality with God. Instead, he points to the validity of his work—a proof of his identity and his relationship with God. By doing God’s works, he validates his own work. His works, his signs, point to his identity. In them he reveals his glory, his equality with God, and his status as Son of God.”
–Mark A. Matson
34Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”39Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
40He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42And many believed in him there.
1) How does Jesus differentiate himself from others who claim to be shepherds?
2) The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of the most popular (if you’ll forgive that word) portrayals of Jesus. We have seen that image on everything from baptismal certificates to stained glass windows at church to funeral bulletins. We are no longer an agrarian society, so why the love for this image of Jesus, do you think?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.