5 August 2014

John 10:1-10

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (v. 10b)


Although we might be tempted to read this passage as if it stands alone, we should probably understand it in the context of Jesus' conversation with the Pharisees at the end of chapter 9.

Jesus sets quite a stark contrast between the good shepherd on one side, and thieves and bandits on the other (verse 1). He uses the image of the sheepfold, which would have been familiar to his listeners. Many shepherds would have brought their flocks to the sheepfold and would need to call them out in the morning after staying the night safely. It is interesting that in this part of the chapter, Jesus identifies himself not as the shepherd (verse 2), nor yet as the gatekeeper (verse 3) but as the gate itself (verse 7). In this identification - one of the seven "I am" sayings in John's Gospel, which point to Jesus' identity (the others are John 6:35; 8:12; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) - Jesus asserts himself against the Pharisees who have doubted that he has come from God. He begins to point towards himself as the way, perhaps an anticipation of John 14:7. We should be reluctant though to narrow our understanding too much and continue to recognise that the shepherds and the gatekeeper are part of the story too. It is not quite so simple as a division into the good and the bad.

Perhaps continuing his challenge to the Pharisees, Jesus speaks of the purpose of his mission as being to bring abundant life. By contrast the thief only steals and kills. This can prompt us to question the purpose of our mission and the results of our religion and discipleship. We could note that, as the gate, Jesus does not speak of what he shuts out, but that those who enter will come in and go out and find pasture - it is an image full of movement. Jesus the gate shows us a way to life in all its fullness and calls us to be signs of that life.

To Ponder

  • What kind of divisions are there in your life? In the world?
  • What makes for abundant life?
  • How do you embody Jesus' mission, individually and together?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mark Rowland

Mark Rowland is originally from Aberystwyth and was ordained in 2011. In September 2014 he will begin a new appointment in the Coventry and Nuneaton Circuit, serving Coventry Central Hall and Woodside Avenue Methodist Church.