Today’s Scripture Focus: John 10:1-10
Abraham was a shepherd. Moses was a shepherd. David was a shepherd. The prophets of the Old Testament were referred to as shepherds of the people, and “shepherd” was one of the titles ascribed to the coming Messiah. Even God was called the Shepherd of Israel. One would think shepherds would be held in very high regard by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, yet shepherds had become regarded as dirty, dishonorable and dishonest by the “city folk” of Jerusalem in spite of their important function. It is only fitting that Jesus would revive shepherding imagery when talking about Himself to the critical religious authorities.
Today’s scripture focus is part of a larger story beginning in chapter 9. The story follows the now familiar pattern in John— a) Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for a festival (this time, the Feast of Tabernacles) , b) Jesus performed a miraculous sign (healing of the blind man), c) people questioned and misunderstood Jesus, and d) Jesus preached. The Pharisees, a strict fundamentalist sect, were offended by Jesus’ claim that they were blind. Pharisees were considered the most spiritual people in Israel, and taught that following their rules was the only way to find God. Jesus used a figure of speech to communicate to them that He was the true way to God.
Shepherding in the Middle East hasn’t changed much since Jesus’ day. There are over 30 words for “sheep” in Arabic. Sheep are kept in pens at night, surrounded by stone walls with briars on top. These pens have one opening to get in or out. Shepherds will often take turns literally laying down and sleeping in front of the entrance, in effect becoming the “gate”. In John 10, Jesus preaches “I AM the gate”. This is one of the seven I AM statements in John. Jesus is saying that not only is He the only way to God, but those in Him are protected from thieves (the Pharisees) because He lays down His life for His sheep (like the recently healed blind man.)
Jesus is making several important points in this teaching. First, He is the only way to God. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate that because Jesus laid down His life, those of us who follow Him will find God. He won’t lead us astray! Second, there are no shortcuts to God. Those who would proclaim a salvation without a crucified and risen Christ are thieves. Thieves steal sheep in order to destroy them—don’t follow them! Third, those who follow Jesus find all their needs met—they are protected, fed, watered, and healed. The entire Gospel is summarized in John 10:10—”I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Our risen Christ offers the only way to abundant life today!
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
In what ways is Jesus like a gate or door?
What “thieves and robbers” are there today that can lead people away from God?
Jesus promised life to the full for those who follow Him. As we celebrate Easter, how can you live life more fully this week? Name a need the people often try to meet on their own over which we can let Jesus have control from this point forward.