Keeping Watch (ATP)

Please explain John 10:10 in context. Is Jesus talking about Satan, Pharisees, or could it be both? 

I may be misunderstanding this question slightly but I’d say it matters on what part you’re referring to. John 10:10 (NIV) says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The “I” here is obvious, that is Jesus. In the context of this section of scripture, the shepherd is always referring to Jesus. The thief on the other hand could have several meanings as I see it.

First, let’s remember this is a parable. Parables are not necessarily one for one truths. It’s like the way visions or dreams are presented to us. They sometimes need interpreted because one thing doesn’t just automatically translate and in fact sometimes can be referring to a few things. Literal interpretation of scripture is beneficial when it is being literally given. However, the Bible is not always literal and great care must be taken in these cases.

When it comes to such things, we really need to focus on message that is being relayed more than the specifics. For instance here in John 10, the idea is about those coming to God and trying to do so by any means other than the One (Jesus) who brings them. And notice I said brings. We don’t just get to come but we are brought. Why does this matter? Think about going to a fancy party with lots of dignitaries. There may be security at the door that checks for and scrutinizes invitations. Some people get turned away because the invite was not legit. Seeing this, one waiting in line may get fearful. “What if my invitation was not legitimate?”Now consider that the host of this party asked you to accompany him. Security is not going to question who comes in arm and arm with the host. They don’t need any credentials at all. As you approach the door, there would be a certain confidence of entering. Boy, that will preach!

There are those that will try to gain entrance by other means. These are the thieves. Certainly this could represent Pharisees, satan, or anyone really who tries to do it another way. In verse 10, the thief certainly can be seen as satan. It can also be implied as others as well. The heart of it is that it doesn’t matter as long as you recognize the Shepherd and know who is not Him.

These scriptures are to point to the hope of what Jesus was bringing and to tell us that there is no other way in which it will happen. To recognize that a thief is a thief and to be wary and reject any that try to do things separate from the way of the Shepherd. This is because the very nature of the thief is opposite than that of the Shepherd. If the Shepherd brings life, then the thief only can bring death and destruction. 

The abundant life in John 10:10 has everything to do with the life that God wants to bring us into. It is not focused on this life here, but the life that salvation consists of ALL TOGETHER. This would include this life here, but only as it is connected to the culmination of all the life that is found in God. I want to stress, this is not just about this life here. If we try and see it that way, when things are less than perfect, we will grasp at straws to figure out why. 

We are in process. Salvation both belongs to us today and is a future reality that we are moving towards. Until we attain the fullness of this salvation, there will be thieves, satan himself and those he inspires to try and rob us of that. The key is not to be distracted by thieves, but follow the Shepherd who walks you right in!

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff