Earlier we looked at how in the Greek language there are three words that are all translated as “life” in English- psyche, bios, and zoe. Psyche is most often used to mean human life or the soul. Zoe is used to mean the divine life of God. Today we will look at verses in John 10 that will show us the difference, and also allow us to see how zoe is a gift beyond natural human life.
John 10:11. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life [psyche] for the sheep.
John 10:15. just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life [psyche] for the sheep.
John 10:17. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life [psyche] that I may take it up again.
Jesus gives away his human life (psyche) voluntarily. Of course, he is referring to his death on the cross. But why? Why give away his physical life? So that we can have his spiritual life. Without it, we are the walking dead- alive, but not really.
Look at how John 10:9-11 reads:
John 10:9-10. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life [zoe] and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life [psyche] for the sheep.
As we said yesterday, Jesus’ life brings life. His human life brings divine life. And read verse 10 again, he not only gives us zoe, which is life beyond our human life, but he also gives it in abundance. Or “in all its fullness.”
How is zoe life a full life?
First because it is the secure life. In verse 9 Jesus says “I am the door.” In the near east, sheep would be gathered into a sheepfold made of stones. The good shepherd would guard the way in and out; he would be the door. No sheep escaped and no wolf came in- not without having to deal with the shepherd.
Second, because it is a life of significance and meaning. Jesus’ life is one of sacrifice. He gives his life for the sheep, and this is his goodness. Jesus invites us into the this way of living- in suffering sacrifice for others. Zoe is sacrificial living. And that is what gives our human lives true meaning. (By the way, this is the opposite of the Prosperity Gospel’s idea of abundant life)
Finally, it is full life because it is eternal life. Jesus is literally saying that he gives us zoe that never runs out. Because of the resurrection, this is literally true. We will never perish.
John 10:27-28. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life [zoe], and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.