This passage occurs in the RCL Easter Season, Year B, for "Good Shepherd Sunday" most recently Spring of 2021; but the basic idea of this passage connects with the parallel texts for this Sunday in years A and C of the RCL.
This beloved text is not worth ruining with any fancy exegesis. However, it is perhaps worth exploring the idea of "good." It is an utterly unfitting word: Jesus is not good, he is beautiful, wonderful and ideal -- what καλος means anyway. On the other hand, he is entirely irresponsible, going and getting himself killed.
For those looking for something theological to chew on: "Jesus receives his life back" is just as valid of a translation as "Jesus takes his life back." How one translates that is probably a good Lutheran orthodoxy test ;-)
καλος ("good"; 10:11) Good is an entirely understated way to put this. The word in Greek means beautiful, ideal, model. Try any of these out: Model shepherd, beautiful shepherd, ideal shepherd. They get closer to what is going on, although model shepherd can lead us astray pretty fast. Good is also an entirely wrong way to put this. What kind of shepherd goes and gets himself killed? A very, very bad one. Or to put it another way, one who makes calculations very differently than normal humans do!
τιθημι ("lay down"; 10:11) This verb comes up at some very powerful times in John's Gospel: John 13, when Jesus lays down his cloak to wash his disciples feet; John 13, where Jesus declares that no greater love exists to lay down one's life; John 15, where Jesus says he "placed" us down to bear fruit; and finally on the cross, when a sign is placed (down) on the cross reading "King of the Jews." All of these strongly suggest that Jesus here refers to his own death. Moreover, Jesus clearly foretells his resurrection. To put it another way, this is John's version of the messianic prophecies of the synoptics (...it is necessary for the son of man to...)
γινωσκω ("know"; 10:14 and 15). Jesus says that we will know him and he will know us. What does this mean?
1. There is plenty of evidence in the Gospel of John that Jesus knowing us means he knows our sin.
- "I know that you do not have the love of God in you." (5:42) (Lots of others exist!).
2. There is also evidence that Jesus knows us also means knowing our love for him.
- Peter: You know all things, Lord, you know that I love you (21:17)
- My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
3. While plenty of verses demonstrate that the disciples don't get it right, there is also evidence that the disciples can know who Jesus is:
- Simon Peter says: "We know that you are the holy one of God." (6:69)
- Jesus says: "You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you." (14.17)
- Jesus: "Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. (John 17:25)
4. The above verses also reveal that is knowledge is both head knowledge (knowing who Christ is) but also heart knowledge (God dwelling in us) and even body knowledge (following Jesus). Knowing and loving are not that far apart. To put it back on a very human and preach-able level: Can you love someone you don't know?
To be known by Jesus means Jesus knows our sins but also who God has created us to be, namely, lovers and followers of Jesus. To know Jesus means that we recognize his holiness and then live out of that love.
λαμβανω ("take"; 10:18) This word means take or receive. Which way you go really changes the meaning. Does Jesus take back his life or does he receive it? I think on how you look at this impacts how you look at the entire Christian life, especially as to how we are to embrace faith. Do we take it or do we receive it?
Concept: εγω ειμι (ego eimi)
In John's Gospel, Jesus has a number of "I am" statements. Here they are.
6:35 I am the bread of life
8:12 I am the light of the world
8:58 I am
10:7 I am the door for the sheep (10:9 I am the door)
10:11 I am the good shepherd; lays down life; know voice
11:25 I am the resurrection and life
14:6 I am the way, truth and life
15:1 I am the true vine (15:5 vine)
In Greek, I am carries more significance than in English. First, in Greek, because verbs are conjugated, you do not need the subject. It is only for emphasis. Sometimes people will make this: I, I am, the true vine to show the emphasis in Greek conveyed here.
This "I am" is also the name of God. Hence, see 18:5, where Jesus says, "I am" and they all fall to the ground. John's Gospel is wheeling and dealing when it comes to the OT and names for God here!