John 10:1–21: The Shepherding of Jesus
Today, when we speak about “shepherds,” we usually think about pastors who shepherd a congregation, since the word “pastor” is a Latin word that literally means shepherd; however, the Bible uses the word shepherd to describe all God’s appointed leaders and rulers across various spheres: judges, kings, princes, prophets, priests, and other religious leaders. God himself is his people’s shepherd (Gen. 48:15; Ps. 23:1; 80:1; Isa. 40:10–11), but God also appointed some of his people to rule as undershepherds. Those undershepherds, however, failed to care for God’s people (Isa. 56:9–12; Jer. 23:1–4; 25:32–38; Ezek. 34; Zech. 11), instead abusing their authority as a platform for their own enrichment. While they should have revealed the gracious, shepherding heart of God, they instead misused the power entrusted to them by devouring the flock.
In response, God promised that he would one day give a new shepherd who would care for God’s people as David himself had done: “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Ezek. 34:23). God will continue to appoint undershepherds (John 21:15–19; Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:1–5), but the Good Shepherd will carefully oversee the work of those undershepherds. In John 10, Jesus reveals that he is the one shepherd for whom God’s people have been waiting, and he describes his role as the Good Shepherd in this way: Communion with the Good Shepherd both delights and unites.
1. Who shepherds you? Whose voice do you follow without hesitation? Whom do you trust? Who do you feel knows you and cares for you? Is your shepherd Jesus or someone else? Whom do you treat as strangers, reluctant to follow when they call? Do you treat Jesus as a stranger?
2. What has your experience been with shepherds in the past? Are you still reeling from thieves and robbers who have been entrusted with authority over you in the past, but abused it? Or, have your shepherds faithfully led you to Jesus, the Door?
3. What does it mean for you to find safety and protection? What kind of spiritual food do you need? What enemies do you need protection from—even to the point that the Good Shepherd would need to lay down his life for you?
4. Why is our union and communion with Jesus so critical? If we were not unified with Christ—and, through our union with him, further unified with the Father and with Christ’s other sheep—what would we lose? How does our union with Christ influence the way that we approach God? How does our union with Christ influence the way that we approach each other in the church?