Here we are again, roaming the world with our good friend John. We’ve seen so many wonders already, treasures buried deep in this rich gospel. The road widens ahead and leads to rolling green pastures. Who’s up for some Celtic scenery? According to Ireland’s 2016 Census, the nation boasts more sheep than humans. What an apt setting for Jesus’ discourse on His role as the good Shepherd. Let’s stretch our legs, snap some pictures of the woolly creatures, and listen to the heart of our Savior.
Scripture writing: I loved copying out The Message’s translation of verses 27-30:
“My sheep recognize My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of My hand. The Father who put them under My care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from Him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.”
This beautiful relationship gives my soul the boost it needs in any situation—Jesus is my good Shepherd! Am I scared? He’s got me. Am I tired? He’s with me. Am I sad? He’s for me. I can gratefully follow the Son as He leads me home to the Father.
Studying: My study Bible says of verse 10:
Jesus’ promise of abundant life, which begins already in the here and now, brings to mind Old Testament prophecies about abundant blessing. Jesus calls His followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with His people.
Can a textual note carry confetti? This one does.
Commentaries: Matthew Henry picks up the theme of celebration as he expounds on verse 9:
True believers are at home in Christ; when they go out, they are not shut out as strangers, but have liberty to come in again; when they come in, they are not shut in as trespassers, but have liberty to go out. They go out to the field in the morning, they come into the fold at night; and in both the Shepherd leads and keeps them, and they find pasture in both: grass in the field, fodder in the fold … They are replenished with the goodness of God’s house.
Unbelievers mistakenly believe that the only way they can maintain freedom is to avoid ownership by Christ. On the contrary, being part of Jesus’ flock is the sole door to safety, abundance, joy, and freedom in the deepest and truest sense. We can’t encounter a life of plenty until we stop running away from home.
D.A Carson paints a vivid picture about verse 11:
The Shepherd does not die for His sheep to serve as an example, throwing Himself off a cliff in a grotesque and futile display while bellowing, ‘See how much I love you!’ No, the assumption is that the sheep are in mortal danger; that in their defence the Shepherd loses His life; that by His death they are saved. That, and that alone, is what makes Him the good Shepherd. He carries a cross, not plastic explosives or an Uzi sub-machine-gun.
Jesus is intentional about the sacrifice He offers. No other savior can effectively substitute himself for the eternal rescue of even one, much less every, follower who trusts in him.
Sermons: The line that stuck out most to me from John MacArthur was that “if you love your sin, you will hate the gospel.” After the discomfort of such extreme language wears off, it leaves an aftertaste of truth on the tongue. I think the reverse is also true: the more you love the gospel, the more you’ll hate your sin.
Mark Driscoll addresses the question of how salvation works itself out in the will by stating that “following Jesus is like being married—it’s a decision you make once, and then it’s a decision you make every day after.” This balance of weight on the moment of conversion with that of our subsequent walk with Christ is borne out in the Christian experience.
Journaling: As I jotted down some of the implications of Jesus’ metaphor, a thought hit me hard: The Shepherd carefully inspects each sheep; He’s intimately acquainted with my flaws, scars, habits, and heart. How do I feel about being known like this? And He still delights in me! I spend an inordinate amount of time in social settings trying to diminish how visible I am for the express purpose of hiding my flaws, scars, habits, and heart. Along comes the Savior, gaze fixed on my frame, and He doesn’t laugh or yawn. I’m profoundly seen, and that look in His eyes is too much goodness to bear.
Meditation: The Voice puts verse 28 like this:
I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand.
Every single translation of this passage mentions that we are held in Jesus’ hand. It’s one thing to simply be owned—a trinket on a shelf, part of a prized collection, dusted regularly but removed from activity. We can be admired and then left alone until the next viewing. To be held, though, costs the owner something precious. The act of clutching is inconvenient and intimate. We’ve been gripped so tightly and so long by the Savior that our souls should be distinctly marked by the scarred imprints of Jesus’ hands.
As we bid farewell to this sheep-dotted Irish countryside, let’s yell a hearty “Thank You!” to the best Shepherd ever.
*Following the study schedule right along, my binder is thickening up with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 10 here.