The Shepherd and The Sheep – John 10

The Shepherd and The Sheep – John 10

The first-century Jews were well acquainted with the figure of shepherds and sheep used to describe people and their leaders.

God was often pictured this way:  (Gen. 49:24; Ps. 23; 78:52–53; 80:1, Isa. 40:10-11).

Possibly coming from the fact that Moses and David were both shepherds, other leaders were described with this figure (Isa. 56:9–12; Jer. 23:1–4; 25:32–38; Ezek. 34; Zech. 11).

After Alexander the Great introduced the whole Greek culture into the Jewish world (300s B.C.), many Jews took up both the Greek customs and the Greek language (hence the translation of the Hebrew text into the Septuagint). The extended period of such influence, mixed with corrupt leaders among the Jewish people, resulted in the defilement of the temple, at one point even having pagan idols placed in it. With the uprising of the Maccabees, they retook control of the temple, cleansed it, and rededicated it (165 B.C.). This dedication became a yearly holiday called Hanukkah. This is Hebrew word for 'dedication' and thus the feast became known as 'the feast of dedication'. It became part of the tradition to read and speak of WHY the temple needed this dedication: the bad shepherds that led the people astray.

Jesus said that He came to a people who were without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). While Jesus is in Jerusalem during this period of  Hanukah (John 10:22), he uses the occasion to discuss His role as the ultimate shepherd of God's people. In John 10 He proclaims:

1. He is the good shepherd.

2. He knows His sheep (14).

3. He calls the sheep by name (3)

4. He leads the sheep (3)

5. He goes before them (4).

6. He gives His sheep eternal life (28).

7. He protects to the uttermost those who are His sheep (28-29).

8. He will lay down His life for His sheep (11, 15, 17, 18).

9. He lays it down of his own accord (18).

10. He will 'take it up again', i.e., He will rise from the dead to continue being their shepherd (18).

As for the sheep that are HIS:

  • They KNOW Him as their shepherd (27)
  • They know HIS voice (4)
  • They HEAR His voice (3, 27)
  • They follow HIM (4, 27)
  • They WILL NOT follow any other (5)
  • They will not listen to others (8)

The good shepherd has OTHER sheep that are not of 'this flock', i.e., those who make up this flock will not only be from among the Jewish people, but from all nations (cp. Matt. 11:50-51; 28:18; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:34-35, 43; 1Pet. 2:25).

They will be combined so that there is only ONE flock and ONE shepherd (16).

Those who have heard him and do not believe, they are not His sheep (26). Whose sheep are you? Who are you listening to? Who are you following? 

Hugh DeLong