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6 Lessons From John 10 That Will Make You a Better Pastor

It is clear: The Good Shepherd is selfless. Verse 11 is repeated again in verse 14 — “the good shepherd.” The shepherding analogy paints the picture of a loving caretaker. He loves those who are His by covenant or grafted into His family.[7] One commentator wrote, “There is more in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, than you can pack away in a shepherd. He is the good, great, the chief Shepherd and much more! Creation is too small a frame in which to hang his likeness. Human thought is too small, human speech too feeble, to set him forth to the full. He is inconceivable above our conceptions, unutterably above our utterances.”[8]

Jesus is good because He is selfless, but His selflessness is what allowed for us to access the goodness of God. He laid his life down for us selflessly, which is reiterated several times:

  • 11: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
  • 15: “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
  • 17: “I lay down my life”
  • 18: “I lay it down of my own accord”

Any other leader would give up on the sheep (vv. 12-13). There is no one, except for God Himself, who would take on the wrath of God for their enemy. Yet that is precisely what Jesus did for us. He had great love and care for us and laid His life down so that we could access all of the goodness found only in God.


There is a place I go in Israel called “the teardrop church.” It is perched about halfway up on the mount of Olives. The church is marking the supposed site of the place where Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept. There are several times we are told in the Gospels that Jesus saw the hurting helpless people and was brought to tears. One of those instances is in Matthew 9:36 where it says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The word “compassion” here is a translation of the Greek word that conveys the idea of feeling it in his stomach—feeling it as deeply as you can.

This is not the way some “hired-hand” (i.e. a religious leader) would feel (v. 13). There is no second-rate compassion in Christ’s leadership. Rather, Jesus, as the true Shepherd, feels for the sheep and has compassion on them. His compassion compelled Him to die for us, but He also stayed with them and knows them. Verse 14 and 15 paint a picture of a shepherd who is not quick to run away, but will remain faithful, even when we are faithless. Jesus stays with them, knows them and has compassion on them. We too, as shepherd-leaders should have deep compassion for those under our care that moves us to act selflessly on their behalf.

Moreover, Jesus’ death is hereby presented as a sacrifice for the redemption of his sheep.[9] This emphasis is on the intentionality of Jesus’ sacrifice grounded in Jesus’ intimacy with His sheep. Oh, what intimacy if He would say that He knows us like He knows the Father! Jesus gave Himself over to death by submitting Himself to a cross. He did not die fighting a battle with the world, but died for the world, taking on the fury of God on our behalf. Willingly. Submissively. Selflessly.


The selfless leadership of Christ is a model for us as it made a way for salvation and ultimately pleased God. John 10:17 records Jesus as saying, “[17] For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may 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 I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus says, “I give my life on my own accord and this fulfills God’s mission.” He could have called 10,000 angels to His rescue, but He willingly and desirously went through with the plan. He submitted Himself to God’s wrath so that we would never have to experience it. This was His own decision—not forced by anyone, seemingly not even the Father. John 19:30 captures this again in the moment it happened by saying, “He… gave up His Spirit.” He willingly laid His life down for us, so that we may know God.

The ultimate Shepherd allows His sheep to have what is best for them, even if it means sacrificing Himself to gain it for them.[10] It was His pleasure to do so! This willing sacrifice of the Shepherd-leader, Jesus Christ, pleases the Lord. So also, a true shepherd-leader should strive for one goal: the please the Lord. It is our chief-end in leadership to please God. We do so by living in obedience to His commands (Jn. 15:8-11).


According to John 10, the model of Christ shows us that the Shepherd-leader is:

  • Welcoming (vv. 1-2)
  • Clear and directive (vv. 3-6)
  • Protective (vv. 4, 7-8)
  • Selfless (vv. 9-11, 15, 18a)
  • Compassionate (vv. 12-14)
  • Pleasing to the Lord (vv. 16-18)

We have the high privilege of being able to serve under the true Shepherd as we lead others. It should be our goal to please the Lord by emulating the leadership of Christ we see in the New Testament. As He is willing to lead people to salvation, so we should joyfully lead people in His mission.

[1] Jamieson, Bobby, Biblical Theology and Shepherding https://www.9marks.org/article/biblical-theology-and-shepherding/. Accessed on June 4, 2018.

[2]  D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 379.

[3] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, et al., eds., “Sheepfold,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1479.

[4] Hughes, R. Kent. John: That You May Believe. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2014.) 267.

[5] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 332.

[6] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 232.

[7] L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 714.

[8] Hughes, Kent, John: That You May Believe (Preaching the Word), The Good Shepherd, part 1, Crossway. 199. 269.

[9] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 147.

[10] Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 199.

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