John 10 Study Notes
10:1-42 In this discourse, Jesus criticized the Jewish leaders for failing to give Israel proper spiritual guidance. By contrast, Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Chapter 10 provides a commentary on the previous chapter that revealed the Jewish leadership’s legal pettiness, rigidity, and hardness toward God. Not only is Jesus the good shepherd, he is also the door through which believers find abundant, eternal life (vv. 9-10). The following interchange, culminating in another attempt to stone Jesus for blasphemy, took place at the Festival of Dedication (vv. 22-39). It is followed by a final reference to John the Baptist, which closes out the “festival cycle” of chaps. 5-10 and the entire section (1:19-10:42), which began with the ministry of John the Baptist and his witness to Jesus.
10:1 The sheep pen may have been a courtyard (18:15) near a house surrounded by a stone wall where several families kept their sheep. The gate would have been guarded by a hired gatekeeper (10:3). Thief may focus on the covert nature of entrance to the pen, and robber on violence (Lk 10:30,36).
10:2 The shepherd was the authorized caretaker of the flock.
10:3-4 On gatekeeper, see note at v. 1. The reference to the shepherd calling his own sheep by name and leading them out may allude to passages such as Nm 27:16-18 (esp. v. 17), possibly a messianic passage, or Ezk 34:13. Israel’s exodus from Egypt is sometimes portrayed as a flock following its shepherd (Ps 77:20; Is 63:11,14; cp. Ps 78:52). Old Testament prophetic literature envisioned a similar end-time deliverance for God’s people (Mc 2:12-13).
10:5-6 The strangers in the figure of speech are the Jewish leaders.
10:7,9 Jesus’s reference to himself as the gate may hark back to messianic readings of passages such as Ps 118:20 (see notes at Jn 6:35,48 and 10:1).
10:8 All who came before me may hint at messianic pretenders who promised their followers freedom but led them into armed conflict and doom instead (Ac 5:36-37; 21:38). The reference to thieves and robbers is reminiscent of the reference to Israel’s shepherds “who have been feeding themselves” but not the flock (Ezk 34:2-4; see note at Jn 10:1).
10:9 Jesus is the gate to salvation (cp. 14:6). The NT elsewhere speaks of “entering” God’s kingdom as through a door (see Mt 7:7,13; 25:10; Ac 14:22). Will come in and go out echoes covenant terminology, especially blessings for obedience (Dt 28:6; cp. Ps 121:8). It is also reminiscent of Moses’s description of Joshua, who led Israel into the promised land (Nm 27:16-17). Find pasture depicts the assurance of God’s provision (1Ch 4:40; Ps 23:2; Is 49:9-10; Ezk 34:12-15).
10:10 Jesus’s promise of abundant life in the here and now brings to mind OT prophetic passages such as Ezk 34:12-15,25-31. See note at Jn 5:26.
10:11 Jesus is the good shepherd (see note at 6:35,48). In the OT, God as the true shepherd is contrasted with unfaithful shepherds whom God will judge (Jr 23:1-4; Ezk 34; Zch 11:4-17). David (or the Davidic Messiah) was also depicted as a good shepherd (2Sm 5:2; Ps 78:70-72; Ezk 37:24; Mc 5:4), as was Moses (Is 63:11; cp. Ps 77:20). The reference to the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep calls to mind young David (1Sm 17:34-37).
10:12-13 The hired hand does not care for the sheep and abandons them in times of danger. The hired hands of Israel (Ezk 22:27) are contrasted with God and his Messiah, whose role is patterned after God’s “good shepherd” par excellence, King David (1Sm 17:34-36).
10:14 On Jesus as the good shepherd, see note at v. 11.
10:15 “Whoever knows Jesus also knows the Father, and the Father loves those who love Jesus and believe in him” (Herman Ridderbos).
10:16 The other sheep . . . not from this sheep pen refers to Gentiles (Is 56:8). Jesus envisioned a future Gentile mission following his death on the cross. One flock, one shepherd alludes to Ezk 34:23; 37:24. Believing Jews and Gentiles will be united into one messianic community.
10:17 Jesus did not gain the Father’s approval by sacrificing his life. Instead, his sacrifice was in obedience to the Father.
10:18 Received this command is covenantal language, relating Jesus’s relationship with the Father to the OT depiction of God’s relationship with Israel. These words also remind readers that Jesus’s death was not the result of events that got out of hand. This was the reason he came (see 12:27).
10:19-21 In ancient times insanity and demon possession were frequently linked. The reference to opening the eyes of the blind links the good shepherd discourse with the healing of the blind man in chap. 9. The charges of demon possession (which hark back to similar charges from earlier; see note at 7:20) and insanity were contradicted by OT teaching that it is the Lord who gives sight to the blind (Ps 146:8; cp. Ex 4:11).
10:22 The eight-day Festival of Dedication (also called Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights) celebrated the rededication of the Jewish temple in December of 164 BC after its desecration by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC (1Macc 1:59). It was winter refers to December. See note at 2:13.
10:23 Probably because of the cold winter weather, Jesus taught not out in the open but in the area called Solomon’s Colonnade. The structure was commonly (though erroneously) thought to date back to Solomon’s time. Later it became the gathering place for the early church (Ac 3:11; 5:12).
10:24-25 The demand, If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly, seems like double talk (Lk 22:67). If they had not understood Jesus’s claim to be the Messiah, why did they repeatedly try to kill him? (Jn 5:18; 7:25; 8:59). Indeed, Jesus responded that he did make this claim. On Jesus’s works testifying about him, see note at 5:31-47.
10:26-29 Snatch (vv. 28-29) denotes the use of force (see note at v. 1). The comment contrasts with the figure of the hired man in vv. 12-13 who abandoned the flock in times of danger, and recalls OT statements that no one can rob from God’s hand (Is 43:13).
10:30 Jesus’s claim that he and the Father are one (cp. vv. 33-38; 5:17-18) echoes the Shema, the basic confession of Judaism (Dt 6:4) and amounts to a claim to deity. Jesus’s unity with the Father is later said to be the basis on which Jesus’s followers are to be unified (Jn 17:22).
10:31 On the attempt to stone Jesus for blasphemy, see notes at 5:18; 8:59.
10:32 On Jesus’s works as a testimony to him, see note at 5:31-47.
10:33 The charge against Jesus appears to be grounded in Lv 24:16 (cp. Nm 15:30-31; Mk 14:61-64; see note at Jn 8:59).
10:34 Jesus’s point in quoting Ps 82:6 was that if human judges can in some sense be called “god” in the Scriptures, this designation is even more appropriate for himself.
10:35 Jesus’s statement that the Scripture cannot be broken is evidence for his belief in the inviolability of God’s written Word (in this case, the Hebrew Scriptures; cp. Mt 5:18). Jesus and many of his opponents upheld the authority of God’s Word.
10:36 The reference to Jesus being set apart for his mission echoes language used of appointed men such as Moses the lawgiver, Jeremiah the prophet, and the Aaronic priests.
10:37-38 On Jesus’s works testifying about him, see note at 5:31-47.
10:39 This was not the first attempt to arrest Jesus. See 7:30.
10:40-41 On the place where John was baptizing, see note at 1:28.