I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus in John 10:9-11 (NET)
We are at the halfway point in our study. We have seen snapshots of Jesus as the Word, the Lamb, the Giver of Living Water, the Bread of life, and the Light of the World. This week we see two snapshots of Jesus in the same passage. In our modern world, one is more understandable to us than the other because we deal with doors daily, but few of us have sheep!
Think about the doors in your life and to what they give you access. Where do they allow you to go? If you refuse to go through those doors, what will be inaccessible to you? Keep these thoughts in mind as we consider this week’s lesson.
Read John 10:1-6.
There is some debate among scholars as to the timing of John 10:1-21. Some place it with the previous events at the Feast of Tabernacles in September-October. Others say it goes with the statement in 10:22 and the Feast of Dedication (Hanakkuk). Still others say it could have occurred anywhere between the two, sometime between October and December.16 Review what happened at the Feast of Tabernacles in Chapter 9 if you have forgotten. Even if John 10 all occurs at Hanakkuk, the timing is still fairly short, and you will see that the people are still talking about the sign that Jesus did in John 9.
Diamonds in the Word: Read in several resources about the timing of John 10.
1. It seems that Jesus’ comments in vv. 1-5 were directed at His rightful authority to lead the sheep. He was claiming that He had the right to go in and out of the door because He was the shepherd of Israel, represented by the sheepfold. In light of the end of chapter 9, who was trying to keep Him out?
2. We see in v. 11 that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. What do you learn about His relationship with His sheep from 10:1-5?
It is hard for us to grasp all that Jesus was saying when we have no experience in the world of sheep and shepherds, especially in that culture. Burge gives us this important background: “The Middle Eastern shepherd is well known for having a personal devotion to his sheep. He talks to them and sings to them… just as Arab shepherds today can separate personal sheep from larger flocks by using peculiar calls, so Jesus knows his own sheep, they can recognize his voice, and he leads them (10:4).”17
3. What assurance does it give you to know that the shepherd promises to lead His sheep? How does that make you feel? When you face a difficult decision, how can you practice trusting His guidance?
4. Sharing question: What practical steps do you use to assure yourself that the voice leading you is that of the Good Shepherd? How would you suggest that a new believer grow to recognize His voice?
5. Responding to God: Thank Jesus that He desires to lead you as your Shepherd. Use these verses to write out your prayer or poem.
Note the I Am statement in v. 7. Your Precious Word from God covers both of these statements in this context. Work on memorizing these verses today, and chart themJ
6. In v. 7 Jesus used the picture of the door differently than He did in vv. 1-3. Now He becomes the door for the sheep. What did He promise to the sheep that use that Door (v.9)?
Burge says, “The image here is a flock of sheep in a threatening desert. Food and water are scarce. Predators are everywhere, and they know the sheep are vulnerable. Jesus’ image is that of well-fed sheep whose shepherd knows how to lead them to pasture and water daily, and who at night gives them safe rest in the sturdy walls of the sheepfold. These are sheep who flourish and are content, thanks to the skill of the shepherd.”18
7. Sharing question: As you read this description of the shepherd’s care for the sheep, what feelings does it evoke in you? Why?
Diamonds in the Word: Read about sheep and shepherds of that day in your Bible resources.
Read John 10:11-13.
8. Contrast the care of the shepherd with that of the hired hand.
9. Sharing question: Look back over your life. How has the Shepherd cared for you? What one situation of provision, protection, or guidance can you share with your group?
10. Responding to God: Use Psalm 23 as the basis of a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ care for you as one of His sheep.
Review John 10:1-13.
11. Read these Old Testament verses, and write down how they relate to 10:1-13.
a. Gen. 49:24
b. Ps. 23:1
c. Ps. 78:52-53
d. Ps. 80:1
e. Is. 40:10-11
12. Sharing question: Although the verses in the previous question deal with God shepherding the nation of Israel, they give us insight into the way that Jesus shepherds us. Which verse is most meaningful to you? Why?
13. (Review the end of John 9 to get the context of Jesus’ words in John 10:1-13.) In light of what we have seen about those among whom Jesus taught and ministered, what group would you identify as hired hands? Why?
14. God considered the leaders that He placed over His people to be shepherds over His people. Read Ezekiel 34:2-10. Write down the characteristics of those whom God denounced at the time of the exile to Babylon to whom this passage is addressed.
Diamonds in the Word: Go to your commentaries or online resource and read background information about Ezekiel 34.
15. Sharing question: How can we apply this today? How do we recognize the shepherds that we are to follow? Have you ever been in a situation when you realized that someone trying to lead the church was more like the shepherds in the previous question than like Jesus?
16. Responding to God: If you are a leader in any capacity in your church, commit to follow the example of Jesus as you shepherd the flock of God. If you are one of the sheep, as most of us are, pray for the shepherd(s) of your church. Write your prayer below.
Read John 10:14-21.
17. What is the chief characteristic of the Good Shepherd? (Compare v. 11 with v. 15.)
18. What did Jesus teach in this passage about His death and resurrection?
19. How do Jesus’ words about His death and resurrection (10:11, 14-15, 17-18) make you feel? Why?
Diamonds in the Word: Read about John 10:18 (ONLY this verse) in your commentaries.
20. Again, the result of Jesus’ words was division. What was the argument (10:19-21)?
21. Sharing question: If you are not of Jewish origin, at some point you were outside of the flock (10:16). What is Jesus’ desire for His flock (v.16)? How do you think the flock in general is doing with that? Why?
22. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem thanking Jesus for willingly giving His life for you!
Read John 10:22-42.
23. What is the contrast between the characteristics of Jesus’ sheep and others (10:26-29)?
24. Why did the leaders try to stone Jesus (10:29-33)?
Personally, I have a hard time following Jesus’ argument in 10:34-38, especially His quote of Psalm 82:6. Carson explains it this way: “As Jesus uses the text, the general line of his argument is clear. This Scripture proves that the word ‘god’ is legitimately used to refer to others than God himself. If there are others whom God (the author of Scripture) can address as ‘god’ and ‘sons of the Most High’ (i.e. sons of God), on what biblical basis should anyone object when Jesus says, ‘I am God’s Son?’”19
Diamonds in the Word: Read about this passage in your resources.
25. How did they respond when Jesus followed this argument by saying, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”? What did Jesus do as a result (10:39-42)?
26. Sharing question: What is said in John 1:11-12 is seen in John 10:39-42—two groups of people and two responses to Jesus. Review those verses. What one person are you praying for to receive or believe in Jesus? What are you praying for yourself as you interact with that person, i.e. open doors for you to share your faith, good conversations about spiritual things, building a stronger friendship, loving that person in specific ways, or maybe opportunities to pray for her? You may want your prayer request for your group this week to be that prayer for you. If so, prepare your prayer card now so you don’t forget.
27. Responding to God: Take time to pray for that person and specifically for your part in showing her God’s love. Write your prayer or thoughts below.
Our first story reveals the care of the Shepherd for His sheep, even behind the scenes. Then, we have two stories where women relate how they heard the voice of the shepherd guiding them in specific situations.
There are times in our lives when we are acutely aware of God’s presence in our lives, guiding, caring for and protecting us. There are of course other times when God is actively caring and protecting us but we are unaware of just how vulnerable we really are. One time God “pulled back the curtain” and allowed me to see how He had cared for and protected me during a particularly vulnerable time. I was humbled by His constant protection of me during this serious situation. Since then I am aware that the LORD is constantly with me even though I may not recognize it at the time.
In the Fall of 1980 I was four months pregnant with our second son. One morning I was in a minor one car accident. My car tire ran off into an “unmarked ditch” which was created by a city repair crew. Everything seemed to be okay until a few days later. My husband and I were at my mother’s house about three hours from Dallas helping her with a garage sale. I began to get a sore throat and was experiencing neck pain. At first we thought my sudden illness was connected to the accident but within 24 hours it became apparent that my illness could be unrelated to the accident so we hastily returned to Dallas in order to be closer to my gynecologist. Within 36 hours of returning to Dallas I was admitted to Baylor Hospital. My symptoms included headaches, vomiting and neck and shoulder pain. My gynecologist called in an internist who suggested I might have meningitis. Well, needless to say my family was deeply concerned. I was so sick all I could pray was, “Lord, please take care of me and the baby.” The only encouraging remark was from my gynecologist who was confident that I did not have meningitis although he was unable to diagnose my illness.
A couple of mornings after being hospitalized my husband went down to the cafeteria to get breakfast. Being depressed and discouraged he prayed, “Lord, please give me some small sign that she is going to get better.” He left the cafeteria and returned to my room where he found me sitting up in bed drinking a cup of coffee! Incredible since less than an hour earlier I could not sit up in bed let alone drink anything.
Well, I did not have meningitis. I did have some kind of serious virus which ran its course. Yes, God took care of me and our unborn son during one of the darkest times in our lives. BUT unknown to me at the time He was caring and protecting us in ways that I would only learn about a couple of years later. It seems as though my gynecologist was trying to overcome a drug addiction. He had been in and out of rehabilitation. One day a colleague found him unconscious in the hospital. This Christian doctor took it upon himself to intervene before someone died—my doctor or one of his patients. My doctor was slowly recovering from his addiction at the time of my pregnancy and illness. The Lord was watching over me knew ways I knew and in ways I didn’t. The Scriptures are filled with examples of God’s watchful care over His people—caring for them, protecting them, and providing for them. I am thankful that God does not change. He is still caring for His people.
I had been out of the workforce for about two years, just being a mom. But when both of my kids went to school every day, I thought that I would like to find some freelance work. Now I had the time, and the extra money would really help. So, I said “Lord, I know that if I am going to work again, it is going to come from you. I have been out of the workplace for awhile and I just don’t have it in me to cold call on a lot of people.” So, I sent my resume to a friend, who sent it to a friend of hers, who sent it to a friend of hers. I received an email that the marketing director wanted to talk to me. When I met her, she needed me to write a direct mail piece to send to churches. I got the job and did not at all miss the fact that it only came from God. And what an exclamation point He made to make the writing about the church! He provided the work and cared for me in a way that I could feel His sweetness in such a direct answer to prayer.
My husband and I bought our house soon after we got married. It’s a comfortable home that we considered our “starter home.” We thought we’d be in it for five years, tops. We never imagined we would have children in it because we considered it too small for a family. My husband has a home office with a lot of computer equipment, which used up one of the spare bedrooms, and my family lives out of town so the other spare bedroom got a lot of use as a guest room. Well, it has now been 5 years, and we have added a baby to our family, so in our minds, we had outgrown this house.
This summer we noticed our neighbor’s house, which is similar to ours, sold very quickly and for a good price. We were encouraged by this and decided to meet with the realtor who sold it. He thought he could also sell our house pretty quickly. We left the meeting excited about selling our house and searching for our next home. Our dream home. The home where our children would grow up. The home where we would host family gatherings for years to come. We imagined the extra bedrooms, the study for my husband, the playroom for our son. Emotionally, we were ready to pull the trigger and put our house on the market. But we knew that first we would need to make sure we were ready to afford our next home.
So we sat down to run the numbers and figure out exactly how much we could afford, but first, we prayed. (What a novel idea!) We asked for God’s wisdom and for us to have clarity about what to do. As we looked over our finances we realized we could afford our next house, but we would pretty much deplete our savings in doing so. We still were excited about the idea, but as the day went on, we both came to realize that it would not be the wise thing to do. Instead, we decided to wait and reevaluate our savings to make sure we were saving as much as possible so we could afford our “dream home” a little later down the line.
Without seeking God’s will first, I’m sure we probably would have moved and realized too late that we were putting ourselves down the road to financial trouble. Through this, God has taught me 1) to trust Him with everything, and 2) to be happy with all He has blessed us with. I no longer look at our home as a “starter home” that is too small for a family, but instead I just look at it as our home that God has richly blessed us with. It completely fits our needs, and I know we are truly lucky to have it. I still struggle with jealousy when I see my friends move to their bigger and better houses, but it gives me peace knowing that we truly searched for God’s will for us, so I know we are where we need to be. And when the time is right, He will bless us with our dream home, whether here on earth or in heaven.
16 Carson, 379-380.
17 Burge, 289.
18 Burge, 290.