Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
John 10 contains the doctrine of Jesus the good shepherd! It is Scripture’s main passage containing this doctrine. As I Corinthians 15 is with regard to the resurrection; as Philippians 2 is with regard to the incarnation; as Hebrews 11 is with regard to faith, so John 10 is with regard to the truth of Jesus the good shepherd.
The Shepherd Chapter!
As it was in Jesus’ day, the doctrine of Jesus the good shepherd is of no little theological importance. It is the truth that Jesus is the God Shepherd! It is the truth that Jesus is the saving shepherd!
As it was in Jesus’ day, the doctrine of Jesus the good shepherd is of no little practical importance. For the instruction includes instruction$ and warning about bad shepherds. Then there were bad shepherds in the religious community. They did not care for God’s sheep. They desired not to feed, but to fleece them! An instance of this bad pastoral ministry in Jewry was in fact the occasion for Jesus’ instruction in John 10. The Pharisees had just expelled one of God’s sheep from the fold (John 9:24-34)! So today. Many are the undershepherds in Christendom who enter the fold not by the door, but climb up some other way. There are thieves and robbers, strangers and hirelings in the church!
Sheep – watch out!
As it did in Jesus’ day, so the shepherd doctrine today makes for holy sheep. The shepherd doctrine read and studied. The doctrine preached. The shepherd by this very gospel doctrine gathers the lost sheep. He sanctifies the gathered sheep. And they follow Him.
As it did in Jesus’ day, so the shepherd doctrine today gives great comfort. The Lord, Jehovah, Jesus is my shepherd! I shall not want! The Lord my shepherd holds me within His tender care! Within His flock He folds me, no want shall find me there! Thankful sheep. One flock from Jew and Gentile. Under one shepherd.
Come, let us search the Scriptures here! About the good shepherd . . . and His undershepherds . . . and His sheep!
1.The first verses of John 10 focus on Jesus as the door of sheepfold (cf. vv. 1, 2, 7, 9). And the- teaching there is especially on how Jesus is the door with regard to shepherds false and true. Some shepherds refuse to enter in by the door. They are thieves and robbers, strangers, and hirelings. They care not for the sheep. But others enter in by the door. They are authorized and lawfully called by Jesus to care for the sheep. These are good shepherds. In further studies we shall turn our attention more in detail to this “door revelation” in verses l-10. But here in this first study we begin with the heart of the passage. This is where Jesus declares Himself to be the good shepherd (vv. 11, 14). Gleaning from all that John 10 says about good shepherds and bad shepherds, and about Jesus the good shepherd, make a list of the characteristics of Jesus our shepherd.
2.Jesus’ revelation of Himself as shepherd was nothing new. The Old Testament speaks of Him as shepherd: Explain how Psalm 23, Ezekiel 34, land other Old Testament passages help us to understand how Jesus is our shepherd. What examples can be cited in the New Testament of Jesus the good shepherd in action (for example, John 9:35ff.)? How have you experienced the good shepherd’s care?
3.Jesus calls Himself the good shepherd. The late Rev. Robert Harbach, in his excellent booklet on this passage, says that this statement of Jesus is equivalent to His saying He is the God-shepherd! How is Jesus asserting His divinity here (cf. Ps. 23: l; Matt. 19:16, 17)? How is Jesus, as God, and as perfectly righteous shepherd, the good shepherd in a way no other shepherd could be?
4. The goodness and love of the shepherd Jesus is manifested in His laying down His life for the sheep (vv. 11, 15). Regarding this death of Jesus for the sheep, notice that little word “for.” Jesus laid down His life for the sheep. In both verse 11 and verse 15 the Greek is huper. It means “in behalf of,” as in “for the benefit of.” Some people think that the death of Jesus is for the benefit of the sheep only in that His death was an example of what kind of sacrifices we ought to make for God. Is this true?
5. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, and prepositions with prepositions, we are led to passages such as Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45. There we read that Jesus gave His life a ransom for many. The Greek preposition used in both places is anti. That means: “in the place of,” or, “instead of.” This teaches that Jesus’ death was as our substitute, in our place. In other words Jesus’ death for us was a substitutionary atonement. How does this doctrine of the death of Jesus differ ‘from the notion that His death was only an example for us?
6. Jesus gives His life, and lays it down. Why is it so important that Jesus willingly, voluntarily went to the cross (cf. Heb. 10:7-9)? What does His giving His life have to say about all of the purposes of the wicked men who crucified Him (cf. Gen. 50:20; Prov. 19:2; Acts 2:23; 4:28, and John 10:18a!)?
7. Jesus declares that the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. How does this text, in light of the immediate context, show that this means Jesus does not lay down His life for all men, head for head? In connection with this be able to explain and prove with other Scripture the doctrine and importance of “limited” atonement.
8. The Father is well pleased with His Son, and loves Him because the Son is obedient to the end in laying down His life according to the will of the Father (v. 17). Discuss what Jesus means when He says that He lays His life down “that (in order that) He might take it again” (hint: confer a text such as Romans 4:25).
9.The Shepherd-Mediator has the power or authority or right to lay His life down and take it again, having been given commandment of His Father (v. 18). This means that the Lord Jesus is no suicide. This means that He is not self-serving. This means that He comes to do and has done Father’s will. As God’s shepherd! As the God-shepherd! As the good, the beautiful, the most excellent shepherd of the sheep!