Reading for Friday, Jan. 13: John 10
In John 10, Jesus gives us two metaphors for understanding His role: gate and shepherd.
With regard to the gate, it seems that Jesus is making a different point at first. At the beginning of this teaching, one would think that He would identify Himself with the gatekeeper of v3. But Jesus expands the metaphor to say, “No, that’s not enough. It’s not just that I’m the gatekeeper; I’m the gate!” As we’ll see next week in John 14, Jesus stands as the exclusive entry into the life of God. Those with the humility to accept this (like the man healed of blindness from ch9) are brought into the fold; those whose pride won’t allow them to admit their spiritual condition (like the Pharisees) are not.
I love what Jesus has to say about His role as the “Good Shepherd”. First of all, I love that Jesus identifies Himself with such an “ordinary” and “lowly” occupation. No little Jewish boy dreamed of someday growing up to be a shepherd; it was the equivalent of having a paper route. Yet Jesus uses this to demonstrate His own humility, a humility that led Him to leave heaven, take on flesh, and enter into human history. In Paul’s words, He made Himself nothing, took the nature of a servant made in human likeness (Philippians 2). But Jesus takes it a step farther: rather than being a “hired hand”, Jesus willingly lays down His life for His sheep. John 10 directly links this action with the eternal life Jesus offers those who would follow Him. Jesus comes to give life, life in full (v10).
At the end of the chapter, Jesus leaves and goes back to the wilderness, back to the place where John was baptizing. And the text tell us that in this place, many people believed in Him (v42). After what we’ve read so far, it seems fair to say that Jesus is outdone with the Pharisees and their unbelief; He opts to leave all the debating behind and to move on to a different location, one that’s more conducive to faith.
There’s a word here for us. There are certain times and places for Christians to engage in discussion — even lively ones — with individuals who press us about our faith. But spiritual discernment also leads us to choose the path of Jesus, leaving behind all the squabbling and bickering when it’s not leading to faith or if it’s detrimental to our own faith. Perhaps you have a family member or co-worker who is particularly antagonistic toward you; maybe they’re always wanting to take you to task or belittle you for what you believe. In light of John 10, I find myself praying for wisdom to know when to speak and to know when it’s better to move on. Clearly Jesus is prompted by a deeper conviction, an awareness that His time has not yet come in John 10. But Jesus also teaches His disciples to share this same level of discernment in their own evangelistic efforts: knowing when to keep pressing and knowing when it’s better to shake the dust off their feet and move on (Matthew 10).