11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
(John 10:11-21 NIV)
Jesus continues His discussion with the Pharisees, describing Himself and His role here on earth. Jesus described Himself twice in yesterday’s section; once, in verses 1 – 5, then again in verses 7 – 10 when the Pharisees did not understand the first time.
Jesus uses a common analogy to explain Himself and His role – that of the shepherd of the people of Israel. Jesus further expands that analogy in today’s passage as He contrasts the actions of the shepherd and the hired hand.
Jesus was talking about His upcoming death when He said He was the good shepherd and was willing to lay down His life for His sheep (verse 11). Jesus contrasted His role as the good shepherd with that of the Pharisees in verses 12 – 13. The hired hand, Jesus said, ran away when he saw the wolf coming, as the hired hand was not willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the sheep. The hired hand was only interested in obtaining his wages, looking out only for himself.
Jesus again focuses on relationships in verses 14 – 15. Just as there is knowledge of and trust between the sheep and the shepherd, so it is with Jesus and the Father. Jesus is inviting us into the community of the Trinity through Himself. Jesus also makes a passing reference (verse 16) to Gentiles being part of this community as well as the Jews.
In verses 17 – 18, Jesus again hints at His upcoming death and resurrection. Notice that Jesus does not portray Himself as a victim at the hands of others, nor does He try to avoid what is going to happen. He willingly and voluntarily lays down His life for others (you and me).
As John has done many times already, he provides color commentary (verses 19 – 21) about the crowd’s reaction. Once again, Jesus is misunderstood. Some think Jesus is demon-possessed while others dismiss the claim, citing Jesus’ incredible miracle of giving sight to the man who was blind since birth.
What is our commitment to the lives of others? Are we like the good shepherd, willing to lay our lives down for the sake of others and the Gospel? Or are we like the hired hand, who runs away at the first hint of danger, looking out only for ourselves?
In the words of Jim Elliot, the missionary who gave his life for the Gospel while attempting to reach a remote tribe in Ecuador:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”