John: Shepherd

John 10:1–21

This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

A curious statement to include. Maybe it’s there to make me feel better about myself and the sayings of Jesus throughout John. There are some doozies. This word picture in John 10 seems a little obvious, though. Maybe it’s there to make me think twice, to be patient with the image. Don’t rush it. Maybe it’s not so obvious.

Because for people who know their Old Testament, and Jesus’ audience certainly does, the image of a shepherd and sheep is nothing new. Jacob and his twelve sons were shepherds, literally. The image of shepherd is applied to the kingship of David in 2 Samuel 5. David had been a shepherd before becoming king. It’s applied to God in Psalm 23. And again to general leadership during the exile in Ezekiel 34.

The image of shepherd is linked to how human leaders lead their people and ultimately to how God leads his people.

That Jesus would claim this picture for himself is big and bold claim with political implications. Art history has probably done us a disservice depicting the image. The life of a shepherd was rough. David the shepherd boasted of killing a lion and bear with his bare hands. Maybe our best modern comparison is the American cowboy.

And then Jesus makes this claim, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Maybe my favorite saying of Jesus. There’s that word again—LIFE. Something bigger and deeper than blood in the veins and breath in the lungs. That stuff that makes our soul really alive. Because I often think our default narrative is the opposite statement, that the enemy provides a sweeter alternative, that Jesus comes to us to rob us of true living.

But what if this is true?

What about you? What do you see?


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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