There is a unity between chapters 10 and 11 and three themes that Talbert mentions that are essential for our text this week and how as the themes are introduced in chapter 10, they are reframed in chapter 11. These three themes are: 1. The language of the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep which looks ahead to chapter 11 and how Jesus raising Lazarus precipitates his own death. 2. The sheep hears his voice, and he gives them eternal life and how in chapter 11 this points to the important place that Jesus voice plays in the raising of Lazarus. 3. The gathering of sheep into one flock, and how Jesus death does just that.
In addition to above mentioned three themes that connect chapters 10 and 11, Jesus language of the good shepherd helps the reader to see the impact of Jesus’ words in chapter 10, and as well as see Jesus as the fulfillment/supersession of the Feast of Dedication. As the people of Israel gathered at the Temple for the Feast of Dedication to remember the Maccabean revolt and celebrate the good leaders or good shepherds contrasting that of the bad leadership they had suffered under. Jesus refers to these bad leaders as thieves and robbers (John 10:8), Jesus offers himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life the sheep. He is the one being presented as the one who gathers the flock. I am convicted of the need for there to be good leadership in our churches. Good leaders are selfless, dedicated gathering the lost sheep and remember that they first and foremost serve God. If Jesus throughout John is being lifted up as our example to follow, what better picture of leadership to follow than Jesus himself, the Good Shepherd. I guess as a minister, what I find so distressing is that all too often our shepherds/leaders aren’t self-sacrificing enough. I know Jesus doesn’t mention it, but I feel it is important to the conversation about shepherds and sheep, is that a good shepherd is one that will smell like his sheep. Look at the passage we are talking about. As the gate for the sheep, he is placing himself in harm’s way, sheep would be near him and he them. They knew his voice, because of the love, care and time that he has spent with them. May those of us who lead, smell like our sheep.
I found the key verse I guess in v. 30 of chapter ten. Jesus at the Feast of Dedication, a feast that celebrated the rededication of the temple, says that he and “the Father are one.” As the temple had to be consecrated to be filled once again with the presence of God, he says that he is in fact, the one who is set apart or sanctified by the Father (Jn. 10:36) to be the person not the place where the presence of God would dwell. From the Prologue (cf. 1:14,18; 1:51; 5:17; 8:58) to now in our reading the claim has been made that Jesus and the Father are one, that Jesus is the visible presence of God on the planet. It appears that Jesus not only fulfills the hope of Dedication, but effectively does away the need for a Temple. I think this would have been comforting for those of the Johannine community who had been kicked out of the synagogue. I imagine for many who were kicked out of the synagogue that they lost family, friends, maybe even social standing and to be told that Jesus is the presence of God that would have been a message of hope. All that they had lost in a former way of life was replaced by the Sent One, come to call a new people into his flock. The one who offers abundant wine, abundant bread and an abundant life would effectively and perpetually sustain them. He stills offers the same abundance!
Talbert, Charles. Reading John. Smyth and Helwys, 2005.