Red Letter Year: 11/13

John 10.11-21

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

19 When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. 20 Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” 21 Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”


Here we have one of those passages where John was consciously trying to lay out an understanding of who Jesus was that would answer the Ebionite teaching that Jesus was not fully God, but only human. The “I am” statements, the claims divine knowledge, the special relation Jesus has with Father, all these place emphasis on the divinity of Jesus, the God who comes and sacrifices himself in our place, our victorious spiritual replacement. 

John will balance this later by reminding us that sacrifice itself inherently places emphasis on Jesus’ humanity, that he sacrifices to set us a moral example to follow. The church has debated (for at least the past 150 years) between these two poles: whether Jesus’ sacrifice was an example for us to emulate or something he does in our place (this is often called substitutionary atonement). The answer John gives us is that it is both, and the emphasis today is on the substitution, so we should take time to reflect on that and be grateful for it. We have a good shepherd, let’s be glad about that.

One other note: Jesus mentions that he has sheep in other flocks. It is common to think that this is referring to the Gentiles (since this was such an issue when John was writing), and while that’s probably true, it is also true that the text here remains (I think intentionally) vague. Always know this – Jesus has other followers we don’t know about. He is always working to gather in ones we do not notice, ones we would not think to include. But Jesus notices those we don’t and includes the ones we preclude. All part of him being a good shepherd.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.