In preparation for a lectionary Bible study on John 10:22-30, I read The Cambridge Companion to the Bible:
The Gospel of John combines the cultural factors of the wisdom tradition and a religion that offers the possibility of a direct experience with God. With the growing sense of the vast difference between God and humans and the awesomeness of God, there was a yearning for some way to have contact with God. For some, it was through Wisdom, viewed as the first of God's creations (Proverbs 8) and the channel through which knowledge of God comes to humans (Sirach 1). Others hoped for the more direct experience of the prophets. This resulted in the search for a religious experience that would combine the traditions of wisdom with a direct and immediate experience of God. The Gospel of John combines these factors.
Focus of John on the narratives of miracles/signs of Jesus and extended discourses by Jesus ("I am" statements).
I think this next part also came from the Cambridge Companion....
Are you the Messiah?
Whenever Jews asked Jesus who he was, he always gave answers by which he hoped to broaden their narrow conception of Messiah's work and deepen their shallow conclusions.
Instead of receiving his words and moving forward, they mentally stood still. Now they raised the question again (8:25).
Perhaps they were moved by the festival in hoping he'd declare himself the Messiah they wanted and expected, one who would deliver them from Roman rule and oppression.
The answer to their question can be seen in his works and his words -- to the spiritually discerning. Sheep metaphor: you do not believe because you are not one of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice -- they understand and they believe; they have discernment.
What is eternal life? To me, it begins now with the acceptance of Christ as the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Its abundant life on earth and eternal life after death. Of course, this view of mine comes directly from the Reformed view espoused by the Bible Study I've been taking. I know enough to see those who don't accept Christ as Messiah having abundant life and serving God and I would never condemn them...how can I hold to a theology that would? But where do I go from here?