Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 17: The Good Shepherd

Today’s passage: John 9:35–10:21

Focus verse: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

I suspect you’re familiar with the phrase the Good Shepherd. Yet the term only occurs three times in the Bible, all in today’s passage in the book of John. Jesus, as the Good Shepherd—our Good Shepherd—is caring, protective, patient, brave, wise, and sacrificial.

Even better, he knows us by name.

Sheep aren’t too intelligent. They often get into trouble and need rescue. I asked a farmer with sheep if they’re as stupid as preachers claim.

“No,” he answered, “they’re even worse!” He then shared examples to make his point.

For instance, if a sheep finds a small hole in a fence, he will stick his head into the opening and, not being able to move forward, will think he’s stuck.

He isn’t smart enough to realize he can take a step back to free himself. He will stay put, bleating for help until the farmer rescues him—or he dies.

Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd. As our shepherd, he will care for us, watch over us, and rescue us when we get into trouble. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus will die for his sheep. In fact, he did just that. He died to make us right with Father God. 

Jesus also cares for us and knows us. When danger comes, the Good Shepherd won’t run away as a hired man would. He’ll stick around and protect his sheep. 

Not only do we have Jesus as our spiritual shepherd to watch out for us, but we have people serving as our shepherds in a physical sense too. Despite their best intentions, however, our ministers—our human shepherds—aren’t like Jesus.

They sometimes disappoint us and let us down. Though most of them try their best, they’re flawed human beings just like the rest of us. They make mistakes and aren’t like Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

God gives us human shepherds to lead, protect, and nurture us spiritually. But we need to be good sheep too. We must speak well of our shepherds, stand up for them, and respect them. If we can’t do this, we’re hurting our shepherd and damaging the flock. 

Thank you, Jesus, for being our Good Shepherd. You know us, you love us, and you died for us.


  1. What do you think about Jesus as the Good Shepherd?
  2. What do you think about being one of his not-so-bright sheep?
  3. How can you better trust Jesus as your Shepherd? 
  4. Do you need to try to be a good sheep for Jesus? Why?
  5. What’s your attitude toward your human shepherds? What needs to change?

Discover more about shepherds in Mark 6:34, Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:20–21, 1 Peter 5:1–4, and Revelation 7:17. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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