Session 13 May 24, 2020
Unit 2: Jesus Encounters . . .The Pharisees
The Word: John 10:1-18
Jesus is the gate through which we find salvation.
Has anyone ever told you, “You’d make a better door than a window?” If so, you were undoubtedly blocking their view of something they wanted to see. In this week’s passage, Jesus claimed to be a different kind of door—the entryway into a sheep-enclosure. He also claimed to be an ideal shepherd. How could He be both? The Pharisees, who lived in and around the city of Jerusalem, found Jesus’ metaphorical imagery as difficult to comprehend as do modern readers who know little about agrarian life.
Jesus’ lengthy illustration featuring sheep is what is known as a m?š?l. In the Hebrew Bible, this describes a wide range of figurative speech. The Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint (sep-TOO-uh-gint), uses both “parable,” and “figure of speech,” to translate this Hebrew term. The Synoptic Gospels prefer “parable” to describe Jesus’ metaphorical stories; John prefers “figure of speech” (see John 16:25, 29).
The fourth gospel reports Jesus’ use of two extended agricultural analogies to describe himself in relation to His followers—concerning sheep (chap. 10) and grapevines (chap. 15). These figures of speech blend the metaphorical and the literal. They also tend to be more obscure and enigmatic than typical parables.
A. Jesus and His Sheep (Read John 10:1-6)
In the face of angry resistance manifested in the previous chapter, Jesus turns to a metaphor familiar to His Jewish listeners, that of a shepherd and sheep. Sheep know the voice of their leader. Others may try to infiltrate the flock through nefarious means, but the sheep will only respond and obey the voice of their shepherd. There would have been an under-shepherd at the gate for protection during the night.
The true shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them as a flock. This Good Shepherd (see vv. 11, 14) knows His sheep individually, not just as a nameless flock. The Old Testament (see e.g., Isa. 43:1) reports that God knew and led His people in this intimate, personal way. It also describes God as Israel’s Shepherd (e.g., Ezek. 34:11-16). It describes His people as the “sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 79:13). Moses and David, who were shepherds before they became Israel’s leaders, served as God’s under-shepherds.
This brings up some questions. Who is the Good Shepherd? Who are the sheep? Who are the under-shepherds?
Under the old covenant, God communicated His will primarily through the Law and the Prophets. Second Baruch 77:11-16 (in the Old Testament apocrypha) calls the Jewish law Israel’s true shepherd. Thus, by telling the people that He is the good shepherd, Jesus was testifying that He would fulfill the Torah. People could now hear God’s voice by heeding His message (John 15:10). In the future, the Father and Son would speak through the Spirit (16:13-15).
Although we may see Jesus’ clear challenge to the Pharisees’ alleged authority, the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. Jesus had to explain His obscure figure of speech to make His meaning clear to His prejudiced hearers. After He did this (vv. 7-17), “the Jews who heard these words were again divided” (v. 19; see 7:12-52). Some thought He was demon-possessed; others were convinced that a demon-possessed man could not give sight to the blind (10:20-21).
B. Jesus: The Gate of the Sheepfold (Read John 10:7-10)
Jesus leaves metaphor behind and states clearly, “I am the Gate.” This is the third of Jesus’ seven “I am” sayings (see 6:35, 48; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 15:1, 5). In the Middle East, shepherds still follow the ancient pastoral practice of sleeping in the entryway to their sheep pens. By this means, they may be simultaneously the gate and the shepherd (see vv. 11 and 14).
o Jesus declares himself to be the Gate. What is the purpose of a gate? How does Jesus embody those characteristics?
o Those that enter via Jesus find salvation. How is Jesus using the term salvation in this passage? From what and for what will the sheep be saved?
The contrast between the purposes of the thieves and Jesus could not be more starkly different. The thieves take while Jesus provides.
Jesus came not to take advantage of the sheep, but in order that His sheep might have life, and have it to the full. As the model shepherd, Jesus made sure that His flock was well-fed, contented, and safe. Metaphorical language aside, Jesus came to make possible the best imaginable life now and forever—to be the only source of eternal life.
C. Jesus: The Good Shepherd (Read John 10:11-15)
Jesus transitions to a new metaphor and announces that, not only is He the Gate, He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus becomes more explicit about the implications of this title, which includes giving His life for the sake of His sheep.
This is the fourth of Jesus’ “I am” sayings (see v. 7). Twice in this section Jesus asserts, “I am the good shepherd” (see also v. 14). And twice He insisted that what made Him good was that He laid down His life for the sheep (see v. 15). Jesus put His own life at risk and eventually died to save His sheep.
The hired hand flees trouble because he does not own the sheep. Jesus gives His very life for the sheep.
o How does this intimate relationship between Father and Son impact Jesus’ identity and vocation as shepherd?
Jesus enjoyed the same kind of intimate relationship with those who followed Him as He did with His Father. He knew what they really needed. He put their interests above His comfort and safety. This led Him to lay down His life for them in voluntary obedience to His Father’s command (v. 18).
D. Jesus’ Other Sheep (Read John 10:16-18)
Jesus describes himself as actively pursuing other sheep, creating one flock. This is a potential reference to the message of salvation reaching the Gentiles. While Jesus calls each sheep by name, He has a unified flock in mind.
This seems to be confirmed in John’s explanation of Caiaphas’ prophetic prediction in 11:50-52: “‘It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”
The crucifixion of Jesus demonstrated the eternal unity of love and obedience that existed between the Father and the Son. Jesus’ self-sacrificial death did not mark the beginning of the Father’s love for Him. It merely confirmed their intimate relationship.
Connect to My Life and the World
We can trust Jesus’ intentions toward us as He is one with authority from the Father and demonstrates faithful, self-giving obedience to Him. It is the will of the Father that we heed Jesus, the Good Shepherd, that we respond to the voice of love calling our names, and stay near to the flock (our faith community), and to join Jesus in His work of inviting all sheep into the fold of God.
o To hear and recognize Jesus’ voice ought to result in following Him. How can we become more attune with the voice of Jesus?
o What practices and disciplines might better enable us to listen and obey the voice of love?
o How might this realization, of Jesus’ profound love and understanding, deepen our intimacy with Him?
o In what ways does this knowledge transform our image of God, away from a distant judge and toward a loving, always-near advocate and guide?
Jesus is the Gate, protecting us from harm. Sometimes His protection might come in the form of a “no” to something we desire.
o What would it look like to trust Jesus’ guidance, the gifts He gives, and the things He withholds as for our good? How might we actively submit to His protection?
o How might we participate in God’s active, loving pursuit of those not yet in intimate relationship with the Good Shepherd? In what ways can we point people to the Gate?
Take time to think about Jesus as the “shepherd” and the “gate” this week!
Now may the God of peace—the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen.
Material for this lesson is found in:
Faith Connections Leaders Guide Spring 20
Illustrated Bible Life Spring 20
The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Volume 5)
Holy Bible (various translations)