In biblical times, wheat was a daily necessity of life. To be able to make bread, a person needed wheat grain to grind into flour. Not surprisingly, wheat became a symbol of life and flourishing.
Although a crop of wheat provides sustenance, the only way it can do so is through the death of a kernel of wheat as a seed, which in turn produces many kernels of grain. Only through the death of a kernel of wheat can an abundant harvest spring forth, providing new life (John 12:24).
Jesus is like that grain of wheat. In the Gospel of John, Jesus explains that He has come to give abundant or full life (John 10:10). Abundant life in the biblical sense is not worldly riches or material goods, but eternal life.
Like the grain of wheat that must die to produce a harvest, so also is it with abundant life. People can have a full life only because one Person chose to lose His own life. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus gives eternal life to all who believe.
An Illustration of Contrasts
John 10 is linked to John 9 when Jesus addressed the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees (John 9:41). Continuing His discourse, Christ provides an illustration of a pastoral scene with a shepherd and his sheep, which would have been well-known to His audience.
He compares the hypocritical Pharisees to thieves and robbers who seek to steal and kill the sheep (John 10:7,10). Ironically, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law believed they were imparting life to their followers when all they were providing were heavy spiritual burdens that they could not even carry themselves (Matthew 23:4,13-15). No, the Pharisees could not and did not bring life to their followers.
Jesus is also contrasting Himself with those who have failed in the shepherding task. In the illustration, the hired man leaves the sheep to die at the jaws of a wolf because he cares nothing for the sheep (John 10:12-13).
Furthermore, this illustration of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is distinct from the foolish and worthless shepherd in Zechariah 11:17, who abandons his sheep. Uniquely, Jesus alone cares and willingly gives up His life in place for the “sheep.”
As the Good Shepherd, He cares for the sheep (John 10:11). He knows each sheep by name and calls them (John 10:3-4). Not only do the sheep know the Good Shepherd, but they run away from strangers (John 10:8).
The focus of John 10 is on the fact that Jesus gives His sheep life. A normal shepherd would never willingly allow himself to die while watching the sheep, for then the flock would be susceptible to attack and could perish. However, Jesus’ willing death is what brings full life to His “sheep.”
The Good Shepherd and Sacrificial Lamb
Unlike the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus can impart life: Abundant and everlasting life. The reason Jesus imparts abundant life to those who believe in Him is because He laid down His life for them (John 10:11).
In John 10:17-18, Jesus stated “the reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
In John 10:28, Jesus equates the abundant life with eternal life when He reaffirms, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” As the Lamb of God, Jesus shed His blood as payment for the sin debt of mankind (John 1:29).
They could not pay this debt on their own but needed the sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God, who is without “blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). Through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, He brought eternal life to all who place faith in Him.
In theological language, Jesus’ death on the cross is called the substitutionary atonement. He died “in place of” sinners. All people deserve to suffer the death that Jesus did, but Christ endured the punishment instead of sinful mankind (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18).
In this way, He was the “substitute” who atoned for the sins of humans (2 Corinthians 5:21). He willingly gave His life so that all people could have the offer of eternal life and spiritual abundance if they believe in Him.
The Gate to Abundant Life
The truth that Jesus came to give abundant life through His death and resurrection is also shown in Jesus’ statement of being the Gate. As John 10:9 illustrates, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” The thieves, robbers, and hired hand in the illustration are not the ones who provide full life.
As the only Way and Name by which people can be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), the fact that a full life is only found through Jesus impacts how one views other offers of abundant life found in the world.
The religious teachings of the Pharisees did not impart life and neither did the Law of Moses (Hebrews 10:1-4). Also, other religious systems not taught in the Bible, like Hinduism or Islam, fail in being able to provide an abundant, eternal life.
Not only do other religious systems fail in providing life, but also modern technological advances and material goods cannot live up to their promises either. Money, phones, a high-level career, and items are all sought after even though they merely provide temporary “fullness” of life.
Furthermore, advanced medicine and access to healthcare may provide strong health and longer lifespans, but only Jesus can give a full life that never ends.
An Abundance of Spiritual Blessings
Because Jesus came into the world to die in the place of sinners and then to rise to life again, those who believe in Him can have new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new life that Jesus gives is both eternal and full.
Also, because Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to His followers, spiritual fruit in abundance is promised to those who abide in Him (John 15:5).
The Holy Spirit’s abundant harvest produces love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). All of this is because the Good Shepherd and Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ, chose to lay down His life in place of His “sheep.”
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.