Jesus’ offer of abundant life in John 10:10 means that to gain Him as your Shepherd is far and away the greatest thing that could ever happen to you. It means that anything this world may either give to you or take away from you doesn’t really matter that much, because a life awaits you beyond the present that greatly surpasses this one in every way.
Jesus’ mission statement in John 10:10 states, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” If your interpretation of “abundantly” doesn’t go beyond fine dining, designer clothes, or a luxury car, then you are missing His point. In fact, if you take it even further to include perfect health, the spouse of your dreams, and worldwide fame, you still fall far short of Jesus’ meaning. Jesus’ understanding of the abundant life is not your best life now. It is so much more.
To understand John 10:10, we must first enter Jesus’ analogy of sheep, shepherds, and thieves. In the analogy, God’s people are the sheep, Jesus is the shepherd, and the thieves are any who approach the sheep illegitimately and with ill-intent.
From the earliest books of the Bible, God’s people are compared to sheep (see Num. 27:17). As a result, this was already a well-known image by the time Jesus used it, and the image still applies today. In whatever time or place they may live, God’s people are sheep who need someone to care for them—to lead them to food and water, to rescue them when they wander away, and to defend them from wolves and thieves.
As for the thieves, their ranks include anyone who approaches God’s people without license or love. The thief doesn’t enter by the door, with the gate-keeper’s approval, but “climbs in by another way” (John 10:1). He hops the fence because he doesn’t have the right to be there, and he comes to do harm. He doesn’t care for the sheep. His purpose is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
But no thief will succeed against the flock of the “good shepherd” (John 10:11). Whereas the thief comes to take life, the good shepherd stands ready to give it. But it is not the sheep’s lives that he gives. He gives his own: “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The good shepherd takes upon himself the harm that the thief intends for the sheep, and he neutralizes the threat. The sheep are no longer in danger of being killed, robbed, or destroyed.