John 10:11 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 10:11, NIV: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

John 10:11, ESV: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

John 10:11, KJV: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."

John 10:11, NASB: "'I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."

John 10:11, NLT: "'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep."

John 10:11, CSB: ""I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

What does John 10:11 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This is the fourth of seven instances where Jesus evokes the "I am" terminology which implies He is divine. This echoes the statement made by God to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). This claim is separate from the "I am" statement made in verses 7 and 9. It is also a separate analogy—related, but not identical, to the first two Jesus spoke in this chapter. Here Jesus claims to be "the good shepherd," using the Greek phrase ho kalos. This suggests the ideal, the pinnacle, or the perfect example of something.

In the first analogy, Jesus pointed out that sheep only follow the voice of "their" shepherd, not the voice of a stranger. Those who reject Christ do so because they don't belong to Him. In the second metaphor, Jesus claimed to be "the door," referring to the narrow gap which was the only legitimate entrance or exit for the sheep pen. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the measure of man's salvation. He came to offer life, and there are only two possible responses: to be "in" or "out," and only those who are in Christ can be saved.

David's experiences clearly show that shepherding in the ancient world was hardly safe (1 Samuel 17:34–37). Jacob's struggles prove it was not easy (Genesis 31:38–40). Shepherds not only had to keep watch over the flock to prevent strays, but had to defend the sheep from animals like wolves and bears, as well as thieves.

In this analogy, Jesus again contrasts Himself with the selfish, ungodly religious leaders who so often prey on other people. They, like a thief, use illicit means and wreak havoc on the flock, all for their own gain. Jesus offers life and in abundance (John 10:10). Maintaining this contrast, Jesus frames Himself as "the Good Shepherd," who puts His life on the line for the flock. Jesus' religious critics, such as the scribes and Pharisees, were by extension "bad" shepherds, unwilling or unable to truly care for those they claimed to serve.

At the same time, Jesus' words here foreshadow the idea that His earthly purpose is to die on behalf of His "sheep."