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Leadership #4 - John 10

John 10:1-18

Teaching Moments

1. There is an interesting story in Lynn Anderson’s They Smell Like Sheep about a group of shepherds who lead their flocks down into a valley and when they separate at the bottom the two flocks follow the appropriate shepherd. When the shepherd’s call for the lost sheep, only the one’s belonging to that shepherd hear the voice of the shepherd. The sheep know the difference. That story illuminates the background of this text.

2. The context here is the story of chapter 9 about the blind man. The implicit contrast is between the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees/Sanhedrin (and their supposed leadership) and the trusting faith of the blind man. Point: Jesus’ sheep hear his voice but they do not listen to the strangers (Pharisees). Sheep know who loves them and cares for them as opposed to the stranger. Thus, sheep run from a stranger but follow their shepherd.

3. Notice the “parable” of verses 1-5 and the explanation of verses 7-18. Verse 6 is the transition verse: the disciples did not understand the point. The text naturally divides into two major sections: the parable and its explanation.

4. The parable contrasts one kind of shepherd with another…or contrasts the shepherd with the thief. It is the difference between caring and theft, between the familiar voice and the stranger. The sheep know their shepherd, trust their shepherd and know the difference between their shepherd and a stranger.

5. The explanation (verses 7-18) centers on two “I am” statements. I am the gate for the sheep and I am the good shepherd.

6. The gate metaphor does two things, I think. First, it contrasts the thief who does not enter by the gate (cf. 10:1). The thief comes over the fence, but the shepherd enters by the gate. The theives come to steal and destroy, but the shepherd comes to care, feed—to give life. The gate, then, represents life. Second, the gate is the entrance into life and those who enter through the gate (Jesus) will be saved. Thieves destroy, but the shepherd gives life.

7. Verses 11-18 focus on the “I am the good shepherd.” The key descriptive phrase (used four times) is that he lays down his life for the sheep. This reflects the self-sacrificing love that the shepherd has for the sheep. He values the sheep more than his own life, and this contrasts with the kind of care that “hired hands” give the flock. The shepherd really cares. He is present for the long-haul and puts himself on the line for the sheep.

8. The shepherd is also concerned about uniting flocks under one shepherd (v. 16). He has a goal of unity and caring for all sheep, not just the ones that he has the present. Given the context of chapter 9, I think the “other sheep” refers to the Gentiles whom God will bring to himself and make them flock under one Shepherd.

9. The final word of this text is a promise about the resurrection. The shepherd will give his life for the sheep, but it will result in victory. This Shepherd has the power of life. In view of that power, he willingly lays down his life. It seems to me that human shepherds (elders) should also have that victory in their minds as they serve the flock with humility, sacrifice and care. Just as the good shepherd is willing to give up life for the sake of the flock in view of the victory, so the human shepherd is willing to sacrifice for the sake of the flock in view of the eternal nature of their work.

Group Discussion

1. How would you describe the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep in verses 1-5? How does the shepherd care for the sheep and how do the sheep respond to the shepherd?

2. How does this relate to the previous context about the healed blind man, the Pharisees and Jesus? Who is the stranger in vv. 1-5, who is the shepherd and who are the sheep? [I think the sheep are the house of Israel…thus, in v. 16 the “other sheep” refer the Gentiles.]

3. Why did not the disciples understand the point? What is so difficult about the parable? How do verses 7-18 illuminate the parable.

4. What is the point of the gate metaphor? What does it mean to say that Jesus is the gate?

5. When Jesus describes himself as the “good shepherd,” what does he say about his goodness? How is he the good shepherd? What does he do for the sheep?

6. How is the good shepherd contrasted with the hired shepherds? What is implicit in this contrast between “hired hands” and the “shepherd”? What does this say about the nature of shepherding?

7. How are shepherds of a church like “shepherds” rather than “hired hands”? What is the main value v. 13 teaches about how shepherds care for their sheep?

8. What is the significance of the Shepherd’s willingness to “lay down his life” for the sheep? What does this say about the sheep? What does it say about the values of the Shepherd?

9. In what ways would human shepherds (elders) “lay down their lives” for their flock (church)? What does that look like in a church?

10. What does Jesus mean by “other sheep” that are not of this pen? How does this reflect Jesus’ values as a shepherd? What is his goal with these “other sheep” and the sheep now has?

11. In what ways would human shepherds (elders) reflect this same goal for “other sheep”?

12. What do you think is the most important aspect of how a shepherd relates to and cares for his sheep? What does that look like practically in a church?


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