Lesson 6: Sacrificial Love
Devotion: Read John 10:1-18. Jesus as the good shepherd is a beloved image for many people. As in Psalm 23, God is a tender-hearted care-giver and fierce defender of the flock. Jesus is not like others who claim to love God’s people. We know he is the rightful shepherd because he lays down his life for his sheep. A hired hand, fearful of being fired from his post, might fight to protect the flock from danger, but no one need threaten or force the good shepherd to defend his sheep. He willingly sacrifices his life. Of course, the sheep must learn the shepherd’s voice. What are you doing to learn your shepherd’s voice? Do we expect God to know our voice without spending time listening for the Spirit? Who are the modern day “thieves and bandits” who come to steal, kill, and destroy God’s flock today? Why is it tempting to listen to them? Who are the wolves the Church must avoid now?
Personal Worship Option: Read Psalm 80. When have you felt God was absent from you? When have you ignored God or taken God’s presence for granted? Do you put in the necessary time to hear God’s voice? What would convince you to put that time into your spiritual life?
Dig A Little Deeper:
10:1 God is traditionally portrayed as shepherd to Israel (Ps 23; 80:1; 95:7; Is 40). Political and religious leaders are called shepherds too (Ezek 34). Jesus claims valid leadership over the people of God rather than those who currently have power over them (priests, teachers, messianic pretenders, revolutionaries). Reread John 9 for an example of a false shepherd.
10:2 Jesus begins by speaking in generalities, noting the difference between a good shepherd and thieves. He does not claim “good shepherd” status until 10:11. A true shepherd enters by the gate, opens the gate, has a trusted voice, knows the sheep by name, and leads them out. How are each of these caring actions reflected in Jesus’ life and in the actions of good leaders?
10:3 The sheep of a town are kept in a common fold. Shepherds call the sheep of their flock to come forth. This practice depended on the sheep knowing the distinctive voice of their shepherd. What did the sheep do to know who to follow? How do you know when it is God’s voice?
10:10 Like Nicodemus in chapter 3, the listeners do not understand his metaphor.
10:7 Before announcing he is the “good shepherd,” Jesus refers to himself as the true gate. This probably reflects the practice of shepherds lying down at the entrance to the cave or fold where sheep were housed for the night.
10:9 The metaphor enlarges to suggest the gate is also the opening to go out and find pasture.
10:10 What do political and religious leaders desire from us? What do they want for us? What does Jesus desire from us? Jesus proclaims he desires abundant life for us.
10:11 Jesus refers to his death five times in this teaching. He emphasizes the voluntary nature of this death four times. Why is it important for people to know his sacrifice is voluntary? What is the relationship between his offering of self and our offering of self in obedience to him?
10:16 “Other sheep” most likely refers to the Gentile population, since non-Jews are already a part of the Church when John is writing down his gospel.