John 10 Testimony

fIn the 10th chapter of John, Jesus explains he is the good shepherd. He uses a metaphor calling his elect sheep, and calling himself their shepherd. He says metaphorically that although the world and Satan will attempt to steal them away, they will not follow. He says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In the next passage Jesus foresees his death, resurrection, and the gospel’s revelation to the Gentiles- “I have other sheep that are not of this pen. I must bring them also… I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”

The concept of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is something that has been common knowledge and generally applied if somewhat intermittently in the last decade that I have been a Christian. I cried to the 23rd Psalm when my father passed away. It always surprises me that the meaning of the scriptures grow with me and my circumstances. The Holy Spirit always reveals new things to me. The first of these was something that seemed so obvious that I always overlooked it, and never realized its importance until today.

Verse 7 says “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” Verse 9 says “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Verse 10 says “I have come so that they may have life.” Verse 14 says “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep.” My point is that the emphasis is on Jesus and further the promises of the gospel are only present through Him. There is no mediator between me and Christ. On one hand this seems like the most obvious thing, but then again it does not play out that way in people’s lives. Many people believe that they need someone to save them, be it their family, their church, their government, their personal shepherd- but the scriptures make it clear that Christ is all that is needed. I have often believed all I needed for a good life was a good degree and a good job. After failing at both of these I decided to settle for Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith, the holy of holies, who before Abraham was, the prince of peace, the son of God himself.

As I prayed on this passage a phrase came to mind. “The metaphor breaks down.” I am not sure why. As I have read the bible God’s relationship to man is often presented using metaphors. Here are all the one’s I have gathered:

• A potter to clay (Jeremiah)
• A building block to a church (1Peter 2, Romans)
• A man to wife (Song of Songs, old testament prophesy describe Israel as a prostitute)
• A father to son (1 John 3)

And finally a man to sheep. All of these metaphors only serve to capture or explain part of God’s love. The caution I received was this- that while a metaphor is helpful to teach, learn, and understand- ultimately to apply- we should caution ourselves from taking it so far that it overreaches its intended meaning. The metaphor given in John 10, of the sheep and Shepherd fail to capture that we are creations of God, and further that we are loved as a son, given freedom as such. The metaphor of the potter to clay along with the metaphor of the building blocks to a church captures that we are creations and that God knows every detail of us as an artist knows his art- but since it is inanimate, this metaphor also fails capture the mercy and justice that God provides his creations. The metaphor of the shepherd says nothing of obedience which is captured by a father and son relationship.

When I read John 10 I learn that Christ the good shepherd protects his flock. He guides them and cares for them. But I must remember that while I am his sheep, I am also his building block, Christ is my true love, I am but clay in his hand, and finally I am his son. The true biblical idea of being a shepherd loses this, but the scripture is far from incomplete as it provides us with numerous other metaphors of God’s goodness. But what does this mean for me? The same thing it always has, I should deny myself as Christ did, love others and above all love God with all my heart mind and soul. He is my maker, my love, my very great reward. My refuge, my father, and finally my Good Shepherd.


  1. Lovely metaphors, Forests. (Referring to you as Forests, reminds me of Forest Gump!)

    A problem I’ve noticed is that Jn 10:11 is an indicative: “I am the good shepherd.”

    But unfortunately, whenever I’ve heard this message preached on, it becomes an imperative: “You (absolutely) must be a good shepherd.”

    It brings to mind this quote: “A text without a context becomes a pretext for a proof-text.”

    • Fully agree with you on this, Ben.

      The problem is not only that leaders usurp the role of the good shepherd in the hearts of their sheep, but also that they believe they don’t need a shepherd for themselves. This became apparent to me when Samuel Lee once wrote in his newsletter “since I did not have a human shepherd, I chose the Apostle Paul as my shepherd.” Did it never come to his mind to choose Jesus as his shepherd?

      Btw, this is the point where the whole “shepherding/discipling” paradigm breaks together: The man at the top of the pyramid, who allegedly is the most spiritual and mature of all, is the only one without a personal shepherd, when the same paradigm claims that you absolutely need a personal shepherd to mature spiritually!?

  2. Thanks for sharing Forests. You raise an important point that is relevant to our discussions, I think. How far do we take metaphors, particularly the metaphors found in the bible? What can we learn from other non-biblical metaphors, such as about frogs in ponds and fish in fishbowls?

    • forestsfailyou

      I know I was taught that the metaphor should only go so far as it does not break the message of the gospel, or violate the guidance of the holy spirit. If my metaphor gives me permission to beat someone with a baseball bat then that metaphor has went to far.

    • forestsfailyou

      Another way of seeing this is that one metaphor shouldn’t be taken so far that it contradicts another. If we look at a potter to the clay, we can see the potter does not really care for the pot outside of its usefulness, but we see that a father loves his son in a way no artist could.