[13] Signs and Discourses 10: the Good Shepherd (10:1-42)



[C14]  10:1-42........... SEVENTH Discourse - the good shepherd

·         The parable (10:1-6)
·         The application to Christ (10:7-18)
·         The reaction of the Jews (10:19-21)
·         The Jews’ final rejection of Jesus (10:22-42)
·         The unity of the Father and the Son (10:22-30)
·         A charge of blasphemy rebutted (10:31-39)
·         Retreat beyond Jordan (10:40-42)


Jesus uses the figure of good shepherd to differentiate his ministry from that of false shepherds and to stress the voluntary nature of His sacrifice for His people. (see Eze 34:23)

Nowadays we think of the shepherd in terms of tender care and concern for the flock but in biblical times, the imagery is used to emphasize the thought of sovereignty.

There are difficulties in detail. The imagery of the shepherd is contrasted first with thieves and later with hired men. The meaning of the sheep seems to vary somewhat. Literal and symbolic sayings are closely interwoven.


Jesus is both the door and the good shepherd. As the Door, He is the one way of entering salvation. As the Good Shepherd he is the one who cares for the sheep and provides for their salvation at the cost of His life.

He stigmatizes those who do not come in by the Door as thieves and robbers. He contrasts the Good Shepherd with hireling shepherds.


10:1     “I tell you the truth”

There is no great break from the previous section. This passage must be understood in connection with the story of the blind man given sight.

The fold envisaged was one with solid walls and one door guarded by a doorkeeper.

Thief and robber have similar conotation, engaging in violence and dishonesty.

10:3     Not all details in an allegory are significant, such as the doorkeeper.

The verse simply describes the shepherd’s right to enter.

The Eastern shepherd often has an individual call for each of his sheep and they respond to it. The call can function as a way to separate sheep of many owners.

10:4     The shepherd leads the sheep to their destination by walking before them and the sheep follow.

10:5     The sheep do not know and do not respond to the voice of a stranger.

10:6     “Figure of speech” appears to mean “proverb”. It denotes language of which the meaning is not obvious, but which conveys spiritual truths of importance.


10:7     “Therefore” may indicate this is an explanation because the hearers fail to understand His previous saying.

“I tell you the truth” again.

There is only one door to a fold, and sheep and shepherds must enter by this door.

10:8     “All who came before me” refer to the Jewish religious leaders, not the prophets. Those leaders were not interested in the well-being of the sheep but in their own advantage. The Sadducees were known to make a lot of money out of temple religion.

The present tense (not “were” as in NIV) refers to Jesus’ own day.

Those who really are the sheep, given by the Father, have spiritual discernment.

10:9     The words “through me” are in an emphatic position; it is He and no other who enables people to enter salvation.

“Come in and go out” indicate free and secure movement.

10:10   The thief steals or kills for food.

Jesus came that the sheep might have not only life, but a more abundant life.

10:11   Death for His sheep was His set purpose. It was a voluntary acceptance of death.

10:12   The hireling shepherds work for pay. Their interest is wages, not sheep.

10:15   It is a relationship of mutual knowledge, with implied love.

10:16   The words look to the world-wide scope of the gospel.

“I have” shows that these sheep already belong to Christ, even though they have not yet been “bought”.

The other sheep (Gentile church) are not to remain distinct from the existing sheep (Jewish church). There shall be one flock.

10:17   With the death is linked the thought of the resurrection.

10:18   Jesus lays His life down completely out of His volition. He claims authority (emphasis by repetition) both to lay down His life and to take it again.


10:20   Having a demon and being mad are apparently equated and closely connected.

10:21   Others were impressed both by Jesus’ words and by His deeds. A demon-possessed man could not say those words and open the eyes of a blind man. But they did not say what He is.


10:22   Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) commemorated the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 BC. It was also called the Festival of Lights. It recalled the sovereignty of God who brought deliverance and hope to His people.

The feast began about November to December and lasted for 8 days. The use of lights was very important in the feast (like the Feast of the Tabernacles).

10:23   The term “Colonnade” denotes a roofed structure supported on pillars. It was along the east side of the Temple where the scribes normally held their schools.

10:24   The act of encirclement may indicate a determination of the Jews to get an answer.

The words of the Jews may also mean “Why do you plague us?” Another possible meaning is “Why are you taking away our life?” If the latter is true, the meaning is that Jesus’ teaching meant the end of Judaism as they knew it (similar to Caiaphas in 11:48).

10:25   While Jesus spoke explicitly to the Samaritan woman (4:26) and the blind man (9:35), He never clearly told the Jews that He was the Messiah. The word “works” likely means the miracles but can also mean His other works of kindness or His whole manner of life.

10:27   The present tense denotes a habitual following.

10:28   “No one” likely refers to Satan.

10:29   The statement can have two meanings (see NIV footnote): “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all” or “What my Father has given me is greater than all”. The first one emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the second one means that the flock is greater in Jesus’ eyes than anything else on earth.

The second statement is stronger than the previous verse. In v.28, the future tense (NIV error) says that “no one will snatch them”; here, the present tense means “no one is able to snatch them.”

10:30   The Father and the Son belong together. For the Jews, this was blasphemy.


10:31   In the Law, blasphemy was to be punished by stoning (Lev 24:16).

10:33   This is the first time with the charge of blasphemy against Jesus. The Jews had discerned accurately what Jesus meant.

10:34   “The Law” refers to the whole OT. Ps 82:6: “you are gods,” referring to the judges of Israel in the exercise of their high and God-given office.

10:35   “If He called” refers to God. Jesus’ point is that the Bible calls “gods” those who were no more than men. The Jews were the recipients of the Word of God and they were required to hear and heed and obey that Word.

10:36   “If in any sense the Psalm may apply the term ‘gods’ to men, then much more may it be applied to Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world.”

10:37   Jesus is ready to stand or fall by the works.

10:38   The expression translated “that you may learn and understand” contains the same verb twice, with only the tense being changed. The first verb is in the aorist meaning “that you may come to know,” while the second verb is in the present meaning “and keep on knowing.” Jesus is looking for them to have a moment of insight and then to remain permanently in the knowledge about the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son, through a right perception of the works.

10:39   Jesus’ enemies tried to arrest Him but were unsuccessful. It was possible that, like before, God’s hand rescued Jesus (probably contrasting the “hand” of the enemy).


10:42   The word “there” (Perea where people believed Him) may imply a contrast with Judea where people tried to stone Him.