(408) 779-0697 | info@westhills.org

John 10:1-21 Study Guide: The Good Shepherd

Community Group Study Guide — The Good Shepherd
John 10:1-21

Study Information:
The kind of relationship Jesus desires to have with his people is one that is familiar, personal and leads to abundant life. Jesus described himself as “the Good Shepherd” calling into our minds Psalm 23 and the promise of God to lead his people to green pastures, still waters and rest. In John 10 Jesus basically said, “I am the God of Psalm 23” in your midst to lead you to life. The problem though is that there were competing voices and Jesus used strong language and called them thieves and robbers who want to steal the sheep. He also pointed out that others are hired hands who take off at the first sign of danger.

Disciples of Jesus should consider the question: “who are you following?” We all follow someone or something, and it is not just that somethings are better than others. Rather, whether you follow the Good Shepherd is matter of life and death.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd with infinite and intimate knowledge of his sheep, he leads them to life, by laying down his own.

Infinite and Intimate Knowledge
John 10:1-6
This teaching from Jesus is a continuation of the end of John 9. Jesus had just healed a man born blind but the religious leaders of the day call Jesus a sinner because he healed the man on their day of rest and worship, the Sabbath (John 9:41, 10:20-21). Jesus sets himself up as the one who truly knows and cares for his people, unlike the religious leaders of the day who used the people for their own gain. Jesus is contrasting the way he shepherds with the bad shepherds currently plaguing Israel.

Jesus enters the sheepfold with proper authority as the caring shepherd unlike the religious leaders whom he portrays as thieves and robbers (10:1-2). The sheep recognize him and follow him because they know his voice and he knows them by name and he leads them. We cannot take it for granted, the kind of knowledge Jesus has for his sheep is infinite and intimate. A follower of Jesus recognizes his voice and is led by his tender care in relationship. In the ancient near east the shepherd would lead the sheep out to green pastures and water, and then bring them back each night to a protected space called a “sheepfold” that was filled with sheep from various shepherds all mixed together. We’d view this as a problem in our modern world, how would we know which sheep were ours? But in the ancient near east, shepherds used to lead from out front (instead of driving the flock) and they led by calling the names of their sheep. This highlights this relationship built on knowledge and care that Jesus has with his sheep, it is personal and full of love.

Followers of Jesus are characterized as listening to his voice. This is incredibly important for us to consider since we live in a time and place filled with many voices trying pinging our phones and devices offering us insights into how to live the good life. It is fine to read widely and look at varying competing sources of info, but we must always come back to “what does the Good Shepherd say?” Jesus’ sheep are eager to hear his voice and to follow where he leads.

Leading to Life
John 10:7-11
Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd, but the he is also the door to the sheepfold (John 10:8). Sheep would exit through the door to find green pasture and water, but come back in for safety and protection. Jesus gives the invitation to enter through the door to be saved (John 10:9). The pasture that Jesus leads his sheep toward is abundant life. This calls to mind imagery from Psalm 23 where David said that his “cup overflows.” Many in our world today imagine that following Jesus is stifling and harsh. We may think about the things we would need to give up or what he would restrict us from doing. But, this shepherd leads to abundant life, his commandments help us to live in a way that is not only pleasing to him, but joyful for us. The salvation he describes in John 10:9-10 is one that is marked by reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of sin and an eternal life that begins in the here and now and extends on through eternity where we can know and be known by God. Jesus will never lead us to places that rob us of life or end in our ultimate harm. He may lead us through some valleys of the shadow of death, but even then he is with us and the Psalm ends with the promise that the Shepherd pursues his sheep with goodness and mercy all the days of his life (Psalm 23:4, 7). This is the heart of God for his people.

By Laying Down His Own
John 10:12-21
The Good Shepherd warns of danger and rivals. Jesus warns against the thief and the hired hand. He wanted the religious leaders and the crowds to know that he viewed the Pharisees as thieves and robbers. When it came down to it, the Pharisees would rather seen the man stay blind than have him be healed on the Sabbath. They did not care about life and wholeness of the people. There are people and things we give our lives to at times that are clearly thieves, they rob us of life instead of leading us towards God and godliness. Things like addictions, overt sin and voices that are anti-Christian that we can fill our minds with. Many of us know the thief as a thief, but the second danger is much more difficult to recognize. Jesus warns his people of the hired hand, who looks like they’re caring for the sheep, but at the first sign of danger they run and the sheep scatter. They “care nothing” for the sheep (John 10:12-13). These are things we think give us life, but really they care nothing for us.

What makes Jesus infinitely better? Four times in our text we’re told that Jesus laid down his life willingly, so that the sheep can have life (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18). Jesus’ shepherding and leadership are characterized by sacrificial love. When the wolf comes, Jesus gets between the wolf and the sheep to preserve and protect life. On the cross Jesus defeated the wolf of sin and death by laying down his life so that his sheep can be led to green pastures and salvation.

Who are you following and where are you looking for life? Does it truly care about you and know you like our  Good Shepherd? If not, why would you devote time and energy to it? Jesus’ invitation is to follow him towards abundant life and rest, because he knows and cares for you more than you can possibly imagine.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?

Discussion Questions:
Read John 10:1-6
What was it like being a shepherd in the Ancient Near East? Describe the kind of relationship Jesus has with his sheep based on this passage.

Jesus told this crowd that his sheep “hear his voice.” What does that look like for God’s people today? What resources do we have to hear his voice? What kind of competing voices are out there that we need to be aware of?

Read Psalm 23. How does Jesus fulfill this Psalm for his people?

Read John 10:7-21
What two people did Jesus warn his followers about? What makes them different from one another and from the Good Shepherd. Can you think of any modern day examples?

The love and leadership of Jesus is sacrificial and he leads his sheep towards abundant life. Spend a few minutes personally (or as a group) reflecting on how you’ve experienced this in your life.