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!
This is my study process for preaching this week in Mosaic, my church’s contemporary worship service. The Scripture text is John 10:1-18, Jesus’ teaching on being the gate and the good shepherd. Here is part 1 and part 2.
Let me just pick up where I left off in part 2, having addressed number 1, the parable Jesus tells the Pharisees (and presumably anyone hanging around to listen) in 10:1-5 that they did not get (v6).
2. Jesus’ Commentary on the parable using “I AM the Gate” (10:7-10). In these verses, Jesus compares himself to the Gate for the sheep and in opposition to “thieves and robbers” who have come before him. As the Gate for the sheep, Jesus insures that (a) “whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” and (b) will “have life, and have it to the full.” In opposition are theives and robbers. In v8, this is in the plural; in v10, it is in the singular, “the thief.” This has been traditionally interpreted as a reference to satan/the devil/the evil one. But in re-reading the passage, it seems pretty helpful to suspend commitment to that conclusion in order to hear the text faithfully. It very well could be read (and is perhaps more naturally read) as continuing the thinking of v8 just as the latter half of v10 continues the thinking on Jesus begun in v9. In that case, it would heighten the contrast of the life that Jesus brings through his life, works, and teaching (and later, passion, death, and resurrection) and the strict, highly regulated approach to living out Torah of the Pharisees. It also intensifies the continuing critique from 9:35-41 about the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and the affects of that spiritual blindness on others, as all of chapter 9 plays out. Seems like this reading of the term “thief” in v10 is better grounded in the text itself. Plenty more implications and applications of this…I’ll do more thinking…
3. Jesus’ Commentary on the parable using “I AM the Good Sheperd” (10:11-13). In these verses, Jesus compares himself to yet another key image in the parable of vv1-5, the good shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus cares deeply for the life and well-being of the sheep to the point of surrendering his own life (v11). Here the contrasting images are (a) the hired hand and (b) the wolf. Instead of care, these present threats to the sheeps’ well-being–the wolf because it is in his care to gets his paws on a sheep if possible, and the hired hand because though he is charged to watch over the flock, in reality he is not so committed to this duty as to do it well. He is more dangerous than the wolf because of the deceptiveness of his position. He should be protecting the sheep, but when the chips are down he doesn’t–he abandons the sheep and runs, unlike the good shepherd who “lays down his life.” So, who are the “hired hand”?
4. Jesus’ further comments on “I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:14-18). Jesus continues working this analogy with the good shepherd and as he does so, he takes the opportunity to (a) continue emphasis on his self-sacrifice as the good shepherd and (b) circle back to an element of the parable he hasn’t touched on so far in his explanation in vv7-13: responsiveness of the sheep to the voice of the shepherd. In doing so, he takes the larger view in terms of God’s purposes (the eschatological view) and mentions in v16 “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.”
The context seems pretty straightforward here. The first audience in Jewish–Pharisees and initial followers. After all, Jesus is a wandering Jewish teacher. So the sheep discussed up to this point are the Jews–Jesus is presenting himself as the Jewish Messiah. It follows, then, that the “sheep not of this fold” line refers to the Gentiles and the larger mission of God to bring to fulfillment the words spoken to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3: “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So, the voice of the shepherd will speak to and come to be known by Jew and Gentile alike. Therefore, the orientation point for salvation is not Jewishness or Gentileness but knowing the voice of the shepherd. This radically relativizes former understandings of how being a member of the people of God worked, but what else is new?
At this point, Jesus circles back around once more to the issue of laying down his life to make clear that this is central to his mission. Therefore, Jesus’ laying down of his own life has its origin and sustained commitment in God the Father (vv17, 18), and is an act of Jesus’ volition–he is acting, not being acted upon: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (v18).