In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the sermon, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
I’m preaching this week in Mosaic, our contemporary worship service. The Scripture text is John 10:1-18, Jesus’ teaching on being the gate and the good shepherd. Here’s a beginning with the Scripture study for this passage.
1. Literary Study
v1-6 – Gate/Shepherd parable
v7-18 – Gate/Shepherd metaphor & explanation (7-10, Jesus the Gate; 11-13, Jesus the Good Shepherd vs Hired Hand; 14-18, Jesus the Good Shepherd & the Sheep)
Significant language and concepts recur throughout: call/voice/listen, laying down life, sheep, shepherd, gate
Also, a couple of contrasting images make up the heart of this teaching: Shepherd vs Stranger (v2-5), Gate vs Thieves (v7-10), Good Shepherd vs Hired Hand (v11-13)
Finally, larger textual context: Ch 10 follows ch 9, which deals with Jesus’ healing a blind man and the spin-off consideration of spiritual blindness and sight that runs parallel with everyone grappling over the issue of this man’s physical blindness and sight and Jesus’ supposed healing of him.
“Who exactly is this Jesus?” is the question that is dominating John’s gospel and this discourse in ch 10 follows directly on the heels of a sign that manifests Jesus’ power and gives rise to his power and proclamation.
2. Cultural Cues – Questions and connections to pursue in further study…
1. Sheep-herding – Obviously! We are so familiar with shepherd and sheep imagery from all four gospels, from the OT, and from some referencees in NT letters. But I’m not a shepherd, so familiar as I am with the fact that the bible uses this imagery throughout, I need a refresher each time I encounter the image, especially when interpreting the passage depending so directly on parsing out this image.
2. Societal knowledge of sheep-herding – v6 reports that the Pharisees didn’t understand the parabolic approach of Jesus in v1-5. This could be for a number of reasons, but one wonders how broadly accessible this shepherding metaphor would have been?
3. Canonical Connections
1. Psalm 23 stands out as an obvious canonical connection, though I don’t think of it as a deliberate reference by John; more of an echo from a Christian reading of the whole of Scripture.
2. Ezekiel 34 pictures the LORD dealing with the failed shepherds of Israel.
3. The Gospels reference the sheep/shepherd imagery. Matthew 25 pictures the judgment with Jesus dividing humanity into two camps: sheep and goats. Jesus has compassion on the crowds, noticing that they were like “sheep without a shepherd” and in response sends out the disciples in Matthew 9-10 and begins teaching them in Mark 6.
4. 1 Peter 5 draws in the shepherd image in reference to church leaders.
There’s a few beginning thoughts. In few posts this week, I’ll work on parsing out Jesus’ use of the shepherd/sheep/gate metaphor and the role of the parable at the beginning of the text and the explanation that follows.