John Chapter 10

The-Gospel-of-JohnJesus gives life. The life he gives right now is abundantly richer and fuller. It lasts forever, yet it begins today. Life in Christ is on a higher plane because of his forgiveness, love, and guidance. Which would you rather live with—the evil thief or the loving Shepherd?

Read on for this and other great *Life Applications about Jesus

 Jesus Is the Good Shepherd / 10:1-21

The true Shepherd (Jesus) would come and provide God’s people (the sheep) with genuine care and leadership. In comparison to the Pharisees, who were bad leaders of God’s people, Jesus was the true Shepherd of all God’s people. The healed man who believed in Jesus (in the previous chapter) represented all believers who would come out of Judaism to follow Jesus, as sheep follow their shepherd.

10:1-2 At night, the shepherd often would gather the sheep into a fold to protect them from thieves, bad weather, or wild animals. A sheepfold could be a cave, shed, or open area surrounded by walls made of stones or branches, eight to ten feet high. Sometimes the top of the wall was lined with thorns to further discourage predators and thieves. The fold’s single entrance made it easier for a shepherd to guard his flock. Often several shepherds used a single fold and took turns guarding the entrance. In towns where many people each owned a few sheep, the combined herd was watched over by a shepherd. Mingling the animals was no problem since each flock responded readily to its own shepherd’s voice.

The gate is the main entrance. Jesus explained that anyone who tried to get in any other way besides going through the gate would be a thief—that person would be up to no good. Most likely this “gate” represents the position of Messiah because Jesus went on to say, “A shepherd enters through the gate.” Only the shepherd has the right to enter the sheepfold and call his own sheep out to follow him.

Jesus rebuked those who would claim to lead God’s people without regarding the Messiah (who is in their midst, but unrecognized by them). Such leaders have false ambitions, selfish desires, and evil intentions.


From the vantage point of the Resurrection and two thousand years of church history, our position is almost exactly the reverse of what Jesus’ listeners experienced. We understand better what Jesus meant, but are largely unfamiliar with the shepherding scene he described.

The challenge for us is to take Jesus’ self-description seriously. He called himself the gate and the Good Shepherd. He is the entry point and the caring master. Have you responded to his voice and followed him?

10:3-5 When the shepherd arrived, he would call his own sheep by name. Because sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd, they come and follow him out to pasture.

The “sheepfold” of Judaism held some of God’s people who had awaited the coming of their Shepherd-Messiah (see Isaiah 40:1-11). When the Shepherd came, believing Jews recognized his voice and followed him. It is said that shepherds in the East could name each sheep and that each sheep would respond to the shepherd calling its name. True believers, as sheep belonging to the true Shepherd, would never follow a stranger pretending to be their shepherd (5:43).


In this illustration Jesus used two powerful “I am” statements to show his full provision for us: “I am the gate” and “I am the good shepherd.” In ancient days, the shepherd often slept before the gate so as to provide protection for the sheep. Jesus provides us with the greatest protection against eternal destruction. And it was the shepherd’s responsibility to make sure his sheep were led to a plentiful pasture. Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, has provided us with abundant life

10:6-7 This illustration was meant to communicate spiritual truths, but many didn’t understand. So Jesus explained the symbolic meaning of “the gate” (10:7-10) before identifying the “shepherd” (10:11-18). The shepherd has called together his flock and taken them to the pasture. Near the pasture is another enclosed place for the sheep. Here the shepherd sits in the doorway, acting as the “gate.” The sheep can go out to the pasture or stay inside the walls of the enclosure. To go out or in is to pass by the shepherd’s watchful eye.

Having realized they had not grasped what he is teaching them, Jesus said to his listeners, “I am the gate for the sheep.” As the gate, Jesus is the only way to salvation and eternal life (10:9; 14:6), and his sheep are under his watchful care.


Jesus described a scene of sheep safely grazing in lush pastures. The great Shepherd clearly conveyed the idea of real contentment. When we place ourselves under Jesus’ care, we discover true freedom in and through him. On our own we frantically seek security, even though the threat of death overshadows us; in Christ we find the eternal life that he freely gives to us. Freedom in Christ does not mean being left to our own devices, but instead means living within the boundaries of his plans and directions.

10:8-9 The reference to all others who came before was not directed at Old Testament saints and prophets, but at those who had come on the scene pretending to be the Christ (see 5:43), or who had led the people away from God. By immediate context, we see that Jesus was also referring to those evil Jewish religious leaders who cared nothing about the spiritual welfare of the people, but only about their petty rules and their reputation (see Matthew 23:13; 24:5). Their treatment of Jesus had made it clear that they were far more committed to their system than to God’s word. They had invented their own gateway and had appointed themselves gatekeepers. Jesus reminded them that any other supposed “gate” to salvation is false.

Though false teachers, leaders, and messiahs do have their followings, the true sheep of God do not listen to any of them because none of them possess the authentic voice of the Shepherd. Because Jesus was the genuine Messiah, the sheep could enter through him to be saved, pointing to spiritual salvation and spiritual security. The sheep find green pastures not as a result of their diligent searching, but through the gracious provision of the Shepherd.


In contrast to the thief who takes life, Jesus gives life. The life he gives right now is abundantly richer and fuller. It lasts forever, yet it begins today. Life in Christ is on a higher plane because of his forgiveness, love, and guidance. Which would you rather face—the evil thief or the loving Shepherd?

10:10 The thief (like false messiahs) has evil intentions. Jesus pictured a heartless individual who began by taking all he could and then killing what he couldn’t have. Anything else he destroyed. God’s people, Israel, had suffered through more than their share of evil leaders, false prophets, and false messiahs (see, for example, Jeremiah 10:21-22; 12:10; Zechariah 11:4-17). By contrast, Jesus gives life in all its fullness to his sheep. This speaks of the gift of divine, eternal life, a life which becomes the possession of every believer for now and for eternity. Jesus would provide his sheep with this eternal life, and it would cost him his own life.


Jesus promised to provide abundant, or full life to the sheep. One of the first images that comes to mind is the cup described in Psalm 23:5, which is described as filled to overflowing by the shepherd who is the Lord. Abundance of life points to depth of living now and length of living in eternity. It is not only life as good as it can be, but also life beyond what we can imagine!

Jesus gave this full life to the blind man who had been abandoned by his parents and rejected by the religious system (see chapter 9). It is clearly not, however, a life that denies problems and pain. Rather, it is a life that faces them and makes use of them. Instead of letting us focus on the ups and downs of life, Jesus takes us deep into life itself, where there is a calm center even in the storm.

Later Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” (16:33 niv), thereby removing any last hopes that he was leading his followers into a life of guaranteed earthly happiness and prosperity. Even the beautiful pastoral scene Jesus described in this chapter does not allow us to forget the danger of thieves, the presence of death, and the daily hardships of coming in and going out.

10:11 Jesus is the devoted and dedicated Shepherd—the good shepherd. As described in the verses that follow, there are four characteristics that set this Good Shepherd apart from the false or evil shepherds:

  1. He approaches directly—he enters at the gate.
  1. He has God’s authority—the gatekeeper allows him to enter.
  1. He meets real needs—the sheep recognize his voice and follow him.
  1. He has sacrificial love—he is willing to lay down his life for the sheep.

By repeating it four times, Jesus pointed out that the most important trait of the good shepherd is that he lays down his life for the sheep (10:11; see also 15, 17, 18). According to the imagery in this chapter, a shepherd’s life could at times be dangerous. Wild animals were common in the countryside of Judea. A good shepherd may indeed risk his life to save his sheep.

10:12-13 The hired hand does not have a particular parallel, but is in the story as a contrast with the good shepherd. Because he is doing the job only to be paid, he does not have an investment in the sheep. When the wolf attacks, he’s not about to risk his life—he runs away! Very likely, “the wolf” refers to false prophets or others who take advantage of God’s people, the sheep (see Acts 20:29).

What a difference between the good shepherd and the thief and the hired hand! The thief steals, kills, and destroys; the hired hand does the job only for money, but readily flees when danger comes. The good shepherd is committed to the sheep. Jesus is not merely doing a job; he is committed to loving us and even laying down his life for us.

10:14-15 Just as the shepherd calls his sheep and they follow only him, so Jesus knows his people. And his followers, in return, know him to be their Messiah, and they love and trust him. Such knowing and trusting between Jesus and his followers is compared to the relationship between Jesus and the Father: “just as my Father knows me and I know the Father.” And Jesus repeated his point—that he is the Good Shepherd and that he will lay down his life for the sheep.

10:16 Jesus had already spoken of leading out his sheep from the fold of Judaism. All of his disciples came out of this fold, as did all those Jews who came to believe in him as their Messiah. Jesus knew, however, that he had other sheep that were not from Judaism. These are Gentile believers. Jesus came to save Gentiles as well as Jews. This is an insight into his worldwide mission—to die for sinful people all over the world. The Good Shepherd came to gather together God’s people into one flock (Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23). The new Gentile believers and the Jewish believers who left Judaism would form one flock that would be altogether outside of Judaism. The flock would have one shepherd. Furthermore, Jesus’ words here foreshadow those he uttered in his prayer for the oneness of all those who would believe in him through the disciples’ message (17:20ff.)


Jesus definitely taught unity: “There shall be one flock . . .” (10:16). The idea of a single flock helps determine our relationship with other Christians. We certainly desire a structural unity among Christians to display our oneness to the world. Many Christians work hard to accomplish that very objective. However, did Jesus have something greater in mind than organizational unity when he spoke of “one flock”?

A flock derives its unity partly by being a group of animals in one place; but Jesus desires more than that. Each of the sheep remains in the flock, not by being physically present, but because the shepherd owns and cares for it. The basis for the unity of the flock is that they all have one shepherd.

Too many efforts in structural unity among Christians focus on building bigger, more inclusive fences rather than clarifying to which shepherd the sheep belong. True followers of Jesus have always managed to find and fellowship with each other even though they live out their faith in different church structures. Genuine oneness in Jesus Christ allows for wonderful fellowship among sheep from very diverse backgrounds.

10:17-18 The Father loved the Son for his willingness to die in order to secure the salvation of the believers. Jesus laid down his life of his own accord; and yet of his own accord he would also take up his life again in resurrection. When Jesus said, “I lay down my life voluntarily” and that he had “the power to take it again,” he was claiming authority to control his death and beyond. John’s original readers needed to remember that Jesus specifically foretold his death and resurrection. We need the same reminder. Jesus gave up his life; it was not taken from him. The Son’s authority to lay down his life and take it up again did not originate with himself; it came from the Father.


One of the arguments for the credibility of the Gospels is that they show little defensiveness in handling contradictory reports about Jesus. John included the reactions and reasons of those who disbelieved in Christ. Other explanations for Jesus’ power are faithfully recorded. The Gospels are not propaganda; they present the facts in such a way that the reader is still forced to make his or her own decision about Jesus.

The questions of doubt and unbelief are useful for clarifying our own faith. Is the Christ we trust more like someone raving mad or like the Lord of the universe? Each time we reaffirm our faith in Jesus, we become stronger and better prepared for new challenges and opposition.

10:19-21 Some of the unbelieving Jews who heard Jesus pronounced a twofold judgment against him: “He has a demon, or he’s crazy.” Jesus had already been accused of being demon-possessed (7:20; 8:48), but this is the first and only time in John’s Gospel that Jesus is accused of being crazy. It was commonly believed that insanity went hand-in-hand with demon-possession.

Some other Jews in Jesus’ audience were impressed with both Jesus’ words and miraculous deeds. They had not yet forgotten the healing of the blind man (chapter 9). So, they disagreed with those who charged him with demon-possession.

 Religious Leaders Surround Jesus at the Temple / 10:22-42

As this section begins, there has been a temporary stalemate between Jesus and his opponents. They have become divided, so they are unable for a time to mount an effective attack against him. It must have been a period of intense frustration for the Jewish religious leaders. Finally, an opportunity for confrontation developed one day while Jesus was visiting the Temple.

10:22-23 A couple of months had passed since Jesus’ last teaching to the people in 7:1–10:21. That teaching had occurred during the Festival of Shelters in September/October; the coming words occurred at the celebration of Hanukkah in December, in winter. This celebration was not one of the official festivals in the Old Testament. It was instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 165 b.c. to commemorate the cleansing of the Temple after Antiochus Epiphanes had defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the altar of burnt offering (see 1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 1:9; 10:1-8). This is also the present-day Feast of Lights called Hanukkah.

Jesus was in Jerusalem walking through Solomon’s Colonnade, a roofed porch with tall stone columns located on the east side of the Temple. It was named for Solomon because it was believed to rest on portions of the original Temple built by Solomon. These were common places for teaching, so it would have been an appropriate place for Jesus to be walking and probably teaching as he walked.

10:24 Many people who ask for proof do so for wrong reasons. Jesus had never plainly told the Jews in Jerusalem that he was the Messiah because it connoted a military leader or political liberator for them. Therefore, Jesus wisely avoided using that term. Most of these questioners didn’t want to follow Jesus in the way that he wanted to lead them. They hoped that Jesus would declare himself the Messiah, but only if he intended to get on with their political agenda and drive out the Romans. So they wanted to hear an open declaration from Jesus’ lips: “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

It is doubtful, however, that a plain declaration would have convinced them, for they had already made up their minds on the issue. Some of them hoped he would identify himself so they could accuse him of telling lies or catch him in the act of blasphemy (see 10:31, 33, 39).

10:25-26 Although Jesus had never told them “I am the Messiah,” he had clearly indicated his unity with God the Father (5:17ff) and his heavenly origin (6:32ff). Besides, the proof was in what he was doing in the name of his Father. Jesus’ miracles should have convinced them he was the Messiah (see Isaiah 35:3-6).

John refers to the illustration Jesus used months earlier regarding Jesus as the “good shepherd” (10:3-9, 16). Here, Jesus told the Jewish leaders surrounding him, “You don’t believe me because you are not part of my flock.” Only those who were given to Jesus by the Father (10:29) were his sheep.

10:27-29 Of those who do believe Jesus and do belong to his sheep, Jesus says, “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me.” In this grand statement, Jesus summarized the blessings of those who truly listen to and believe the gospel. The believer in Jesus knows him personally, has eternal life, will not perish, and is secure in his care. But many of those who heard had no intention of truly listening. It is also true that those refusing to listen to Jesus’ voice are not his sheep. We recognize Christ’s voice when he speaks to us through the Bible. Are we truly listening for it? They cannot be snatched away because the Father has given them to Jesus, and the Father is more powerful than anyone else. God’s power guards and preserves the flock for salvation.


One of the arguments for the credibility of the Gospels is that they show little defensiveness in handling contradictory reports about Jesus. John included the reactions and reasons of those who disbelieved in Christ. Other explanations for Jesus’ power are faithfully recorded. The Gospels are not propaganda; they present the facts in such a way that the reader is still forced to make his or her own decision about Jesus.

The questions of doubt and unbelief are useful for clarifying our own faith. Is the Christ we trust more like someone raving mad or like the Lord of the universe? Each time we reaffirm our faith in Jesus, we become stronger and better prepared for new challenges and opposition.

10:30 There is no mistaking Jesus’ meaning: “The Father and I are one.” Jesus did not mean that he and the Father are the same person, because the word for “one” in Greek is neuter. The Father and the Son are two persons in the Trinity, but they are one in essence. Given this essential oneness, the Father and Son act as one—what the Father does, the Son does, and vice versa. This is one of the clearest affirmations of Jesus’ divinity in the whole Bible. Jesus is not merely a good teacher—he is God. His claim to be God was unmistakable. The religious leaders wanted to kill him because their laws said that anyone claiming to be God should die for blasphemy. Nothing could persuade them that Jesus’ claim was true.

10:31-33 For the third time (see 5:17-18; 8:58-59), these Jews wanted to kill this “blasphemer” (Leviticus 24:11-16). But Jesus withheld their violent act by asking them, “For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?” The Jews answered that they were not stoning him for any good work, but because he, a mere man, had made himself God. Though they didn’t believe him, they understood that he was claiming equality with God.

10:34-36 The term “law” is often used in the New Testament to encompass the entire Old Testament. By saying “your own law,” Jesus was claiming common ground with his accusers, for they all agreed that the Scriptures cannot be altered. Jesus used Psalm 82:6, where the Israelite judges are called gods (see also Exodus 4:16; 7:1) to counter the Jews’ charge of blasphemy. In Psalm 82, the supreme God is said to rise in judgment against those whom he calls “gods,” because they had failed to be just to the helpless and oppressed. These “gods” were those who were the official representatives and commissioned agents of God; they were the judges executing judgment for God. If they were called “gods,” how was it blasphemous when the Holy One who was sent into the world by the Father calls himself the Son of God. This is especially important when, in fact, he was the one the Father sanctified and sent into the world.


How often do you find yourself skipping over the Old Testament because it seems too hard to understand or too outdated? Jesus’ words, “scripture cannot be altered” illustrate his high regard for the Old Testament. John records several incidents when Jesus cited the Old Testament. John also wrote in other places of the influence of the Old Testament on Jesus’ listeners. For example (all verses are quoted from nrsv):

  •  Philip said to Nathanael, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote . . .” (1:45).
  •  Jesus told the Jews he would raise the temple in three days, and after Jesus’ resurrection, the “disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (2:22).
  •  To explain to Nicodemus the power of faith for salvation, Jesus illustrated from the Pentateuch, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14-15).
  •  Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. . . . If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (5:39, 46).
  •  Similarly, after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the disciples, “did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him . . .” (12:16).
  •  To explain the hardness of people’s hearts, John recalled one of Isaiah’s prophecies, then explained: “Isaiah said this because he saw [Jesus’] glory and spoke about him” (12:41).
  •  The incidents of Jesus’ final week followed the prophecies in Scripture (see 12:14-15, 12:38-40; 13:18; 19:24; 19:28ff).

The Old Testament is filled with prophecies concerning Jesus, incredible stories of the victories and failures of people of faith, and songs and sayings—all are important helps to us today. Don’t neglect the Old Testament. Jesus held it in the highest regard—so should we.

10:37-39 This statement underscores Jesus’ claim to oneness with the Father: “The Father is in me, and I am in the Father” (see 14:10-11; 17:21). Jesus told them to not believe unless he was doing the Father’s work. But if they saw him doing his work, then they should believe in what he was doing, even if they didn’t believe his words. Jesus’ explanations did not change the Jews’ minds; they had been intent on stoning him for blasphemy (10:31). But when they attempted to arrest him, he got away. Once again Jesus demonstrated that his fate would not be determined by the will of crowds or human priorities. Even when “his time” would come, God would still be ultimately in control. John’s readers, who may have faced persecution, would have been encouraged by this report. And we need the same encouragement to know that God cares for us.

10:40-42 Jesus went to the east side of the Jordan (see 1:28). It was his final preaching mission out in the countryside and the final opportunity for many people to respond. Jesus did not return to Jerusalem again until the day he made his Triumphal Entry.

The ministry of John the Baptist had left a permanent impression on those who had heard him speak of the coming Messiah. What they heard here and saw in Jesus confirmed in their minds the genuineness of his forerunner’s proclamations. As a result of hearing John’s prophetic ministry and then seeing the Messiah himself, many believed in him.


Some people are naturally hesitant about the decision to accept Christ. They hold back because they don’t want to be impulsive, they wonder if they have thought it through well enough, or they are concerned about what friends and relatives might say. We must realize that indecision is rejection. Perhaps a clarifying question we can ask ourselves is: Am I looking for a clear reason to believe in Jesus or am I really looking for a clear reason not to believe in him? Our honest answer has eternal consequences.

Jesus gave us many reasons to believe in him. The decision process does not have to be difficult. We can read about Jesus, think about him, listen to his words. We can reflect on what others have discovered in trusting him. We do not have to remain tentative or suspicious. We can respond to Jesus, believe in him, and love him. Many are still coming to Christ.

— Life Application Bible Commentary
— Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary


About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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