A word for the heart

by Alan Bailey

John 10:17-42 - The shepherd and His flock - Part 2

Bible study

My father


I hope that you will enjoy this lesson and that it will be a blessing to you spiritually. Your comments and suggestions will be welcomed. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

John 10:17-42

The scenes of John Chapter 10 take place in Jerusalem. Jesus finds himself at certain times surrounded by the Jews, many of them leaders. In the main they do not believe Jesus’ claims about himself and they ask questions from doubting minds. He makes very clear claims about who He is, claims that could not be greater.

Verse 17 Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again.

We are able to see in this verse something of the closeness of the relationship of Father and Son. The Father and Son have always loved each other but Jesus mentions something specific; that is, that His Father is pleased with the Son’s obedience in giving his life for us.

Verse 18 No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father.

Notice the emphasis Jesus is making. This is no ordinary death. It is a deliberate death as a sacrifice. Jesus is going to lay down his life. Later we will read in this Book of John that he did this very thing. Most who were crucified would remain alive on the cross for days. He gave away his life in a deliberate act after six hours of suffering. But he also carried out the second part of His statement. He took His life back again in resurrection. The authority to do this he attributes to his Father.

Verse 19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.

As always, there were many who would not accept his sayings. Others could see that He was telling the truth. So this divided the crowd, probably causing arguments to break out.

Verse 20 And many of them said, He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?

In order to strongly oppose Jesus, these critics made the most extreme accusations. Demon possession or madness, they said. If they truly believed their own accusations they would have left Jesus alone out of pity. But they didn’t.

Verse 21 Others said, These are not the words of him who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?

Some logic was employed by those on the other side. They said the evidence pointed the other way. That Jesus’ claims were true was shown by the wonderful things He did. The idea that He was evil or deranged was quite ridiculous.

Verse 22 Now it was the feast of dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.

Each year people came to Jerusalem to celebrate the re-dedication of the temple, an event which took place some 160 years earlier.

Verse 23 Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.

Apparently He made no attempt to keep away from the crowds or from those who disliked him. He had nothing to fear.

Verse 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, How long do you keep us in doubt? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.

The Jewish religious leaders would have had their heads together talking about Him in his absence. Now they are addressing Him in person wanting to know if He is the expected Messiah, God’s anointed.

Verse 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and you did not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

More than once, and in unmistakeable ways, Jesus had made His position plain to them previously. Now He says that as well as His spoken word, there were the wonder works, the miracles He did, that gave backing to His claims. Obviously, their questioning did not come from open minds. They were determined to reject what He said.

Verse 26 But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you.

The truth was that they had every reason to believe, but chose not to. Jesus explains that they are not His, therefore they don’t hear His voice.

Verse 27 My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.

Those who belong to Him hear Him and give their allegiance to Him. And what a great thing it is that He knows every individual sheep.

Verse 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.

Now a bigger picture emerges. Those who belong to him are given the priceless gift of eternal life; a life that has a new quality and lasts forever. Further, their position is safe. No-one has the ability to separate them from the shepherd. There is no force that can overcome the power of God.

Verse 29 My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all: and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

As always, Jesus makes it clear that He and the Father are working in complete unity of purpose. There is a large, eternal plan which God has brought into being and its outworking is certain.

Verse 30 I and my Father are one.

Jesus plainly states that unity. It is a simple announcement but one sure to provoke a hostile reaction. His hearers were convinced that God is One and there can be no plurality within Him. The fact that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit was unknown to them.

Verse 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

Such a claim was blasphemy in their thinking. Blasphemy was any speech that took away from or distorted the glory of God. For the second time in this period in Jerusalem the Lord has to avoid being stoned. We are not told that any stones actually struck Him.

Verse 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works I have shown you from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me?

Jesus reminds them of the evidence of His goodness and the supernatural signs of healing, feeding 5000 and so on. Do they take these things into account as they pick up the stones?

Verse 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God.

Notice that they did not deny the good works, but charged Him with blasphemy. They had not misunderstood Jesus. They knew that He was claiming to be God.

Verse 34J esus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods?

Had Jesus not meant that He was divine by nature, here was the opportunity to put His hearers right, to clear up a misunderstanding. But no. As He often did, He quoted to them from the Old Testament. There was a case where God called men ‘gods.’ They were God appointed judges who carried out God’s justice. (See Psalm 82:6).

Verses 35 & 36 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), (and there was no charge of blasphemy against them do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, You are blaspheming, because I said I am the Son of God?

How much less should any charge of blasphemy apply to the one who came from the Father and made clear who He is? These people had no excuse. They had every opportunity to acknowledge the truth.

Verses 37 & 38 If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; If there is no evidence that I speak the truth, you may refuse to believe me. but if I do, though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in Him.

The signs done by the Lord Jesus such as opening the eyes of the blind could not be denied. They must decide if this man is telling the truth or telling a lie. A liar does not, and cannot, do the things Jesus did.

Verse 39 Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but he escaped out of their hand.

This is not the first time Jesus simply walks away from His opponents. There was something about Him that they could not resist. He had power beyond the ordinary.

Verse 40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.

There were occasions when Jesus withdrew from the crowds. This time He went north from Jerusalem and across the Jordan.

Verse 41Then many came to Him and said, John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this man were true.

Some of those more disposed to hearing and believing Jesus apparently searched for Him, realising that what John the Baptist had said about Christ had been fulfilled. This was important to them, confirming their belief.

Verse 42 And many believed in him there.

Without doubt, all the evidence pointed to the genuineness of Jesus and His claims about Himself. Those who disbelieved and even opposed Him were revealing the prejudice of their minds. It is still the case today.


  1. In this chapter Jesus has made it clear that some people are His sheep and some people are not. We can know which group we belong to.
  2. We belong to Him if we have taken the step of entering through the door. That is, asking Christ to save us from our sin and keep us for Himself.
  3. We will also be people who listen to what He says in His Word and obey it.
  4. Though the enemy of our souls may try many ways to attack us, the Shepherd is well able to give us the protection we need.
  5. No matter who we are or where we are, we are known to God. He knows our name and all our circumstances. Let us trust and pray.

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