Parable of the Good Shepherd

Parable of the Good Shepherd
John 10:1-21

The ancient sheepfold of that day still exists in many towns in that land.  It was a public sheepfold.  In the evening all the shepherds who lived in the town would bring their sheep to the sheepfold and turn them in for the night.  They would trust them to the porter who kept the sheep; then they would go to their homes for the night.  The next morning the shepherds would identify themselves to the porter, and he would let them in the door to get their sheep.


(John 10:1-2)  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

The shepherd represents the nation Israel.  Jesus is telling them that He came in by the door.  He goes on to say that anyone who doesn’t come by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.  This is a tremendous claim that He is making here.  He came in by the door.  He came in legally.  That is, He came in by fulfilling the prophesies of the Old Testament.  He came in under the law.  “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law” (Gal.4:4).  He came in the line of David according to the prophesy (see Luke 1:32).  He was born in Bethlehem according to the prophesy (see Micah 5:2).  Not only was He in the line of David, but He was born of a virgin according to prophesy (see Isa.7:14).  At the time that He was born, He was a rod out of the stem of Jesse (see Isa, 11:1).  Now this is interesting.  By the time Jesus came, the royal line of David had dropped back to the level of the peasant.  There was no royalty anymore.  Jesse had been a farmer down in Bethlehem.  In fact, he raised sheep.  His son, David, had the anointing oil poured on him, and that line became the kingly line.  But when the Lord Jesus was born, He was just a branch out of the stem of Jesse, the peasant.  Jesus was simply a carpenter, and wore a carpenter’s robe.  How accurately the prophesies were fulfilled.

He was the Messiah, and He came in through the door.  No one else could have had the credentials that He had.  Anyone else would have been a thief and a robber.  They would not have had the credentials of the Messiah and would have had to climb over the fence.  You see, in the incident of the man who was born blind and was healed by Jesus, the man had been excommunicated, put out of the temple.  The religious rulers are rejecting the Lord Jesus, and now they’re challenging Him.  Remember, they said, “Are we blind also?”  Our Lord made it very clear that they were blind.  Now He presents His credentials.  This is a tremendous claim He is making here: Israel is the sheepfold; Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

(John 10:3)  To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

Whom does the porter represent?  The porter is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God came upon Jesus, and everything that He did, He did by the power of the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit was opening the ears of His sheep to hear His voice.  His sheep have responded.  This ties back to the teaching about the blind man.  Those religious rulers were blind spiritually and, what is more, they were deaf.  They didn’t even hear His voice.  His sheep have responded.  But He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.  The blind man heard Him call.  Simon heard His call, and Jesus changed His name to Peter, which means a stone.  He called James, and John, Nathaniel, and Philip.  He stopped under a tree in Jericho and called Zacchaeus.  He calls His sheep by name.

Let me digress for a moment to say that when the Lord Jesus calls His own out of the world at the time of the Rapture, I believe that His call will have every believer’s name in it.  I think I will hear Him say personally, “Tom Lowe.”  That will be wonderful!  He knows my name, you see, and He’ll call it at that time.  And He will call you if you are one of his sheep.  You will hear your name in His shout.

He leads His sheep out of the sheepfold, out of Judaism.  You see, the religious rulers had excommunicated the man whose sight Jesus had restored.  Jesus is going to lead this sheep out of Judaism.

(John 10:4)  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

A sheepfold is an enclosure where shepherds put their sheep for the night.  The porter has charge of it.  Then the shepherd spends the night in his own bed.  When he comes to the sheepfold in the morning, his sheep are all mixed up with somebody’s sheep—there is no brand or marking on the sheep.  How does he get the sheep that are his?  He calls them by name.  The sheep don’t have to be identified; they know their shepherd’s voice.  When he starts out over the hill, his own sheep come out of the fold and follow him.  They know him.  Our Lord says, “The sheep follow Him because they know his voice.”

It is the most wonderful thing in the world to know that, when we give out the Word of God, Jesus is calling His sheep.  The Spirit of God is the Porter who does the opening, and the sheep will hear.  Our Lord will lead His sheep out of a legal system, perhaps even out of a church where their not being fed.  They will follow him.  You cannot permanently fool God’s sheep.  It is true that the sheep may get into a cult or an “ism” for awhile, but the sheep will recognize the voice of the Shepherd.  Unfortunately, many preachers are afraid to stand up for the truth; however, when a man preaches the Word of God, the sheep will hear it.  We can depend on that, because our Lord says, “My sheep hear My voice” (v.27).

(John 10:5)  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

I believe you can fool some of God’s people some of the time, but I don’t think you can fool God’s people all the time.  For a time, God’s sheep may think they hear Him, but eventually discover it’s not His voice.  Then they will turn to the teaching of the Word of God, because they know their Shepherd.  It is amazing.  I have been teaching the Word of God for a long time now, and one thing I have learned again and again is when His sheep hear His voice, they will follow Him.

For a long time I worried about those who will not listen to the message.  I have reached the point that I don’t worry about them.  The reason they don’t hear His voice is that they are not His sheep.  Wherever we find people who are eager for the Word of God, we know they are His sheep. 

(John 10:6)  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

The word parable is not an accurate translation.  The Gospel of John does not include any of the parables of our Lord.  It records the metaphors and allegories such as “I am the Light of the World” and “I am the Bread of Life.”  These are not parables, but figures of speech to let us know something about God.  They are intended to give us light on the subject so that we can see.  So it should actually read, “This allegory spake Jesus unto them.”  They didn’t understand what He was saying because, as He had said, they were blind.

Our Lord also said, “Who have ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9).  It is possible to have ears and yet not hear.  They hear it alright, but they don’t hear it as the Word of God.  That is the important thing.  It is this important difference in hearing our Lord referred to when He quoted Isaiah, “…By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (Matt. 13:14).



(John 10:7-8)  Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

Here He gives another allegory.  He has spoken about the door of the sheepfold, but now He moves one more step and says that He is the Door of the sheep.  The Lord Jesus is the Door for those coming out of Israel.  They had just cast the blind man out of the synagogue, out of the sheepfold.  Immediately the Lord Jesus had come to this man and revealed himself to him.  When the Lord revealed Himself to the man, He became the Door for this man.  The man had been brought out of the sheepfold and to the Lord Jesus Christ to follow Him. 

Later Jesus will say, “I am the true vine…ye are the branches” (John 15:15).  The vine in the Old Testament is a picture of the nation Israel.  Jesus is saying that it is no longer the connection with the nation Israel but the relationship with Him which is the joining of the branches with the Vine.  They must come out from Judaism, come out from ritualism, and come to Him.  He is saying that He is the Door.  Remember, He is talking to the religious rulers.  By the way, some of them did come to Him after His resurrection.



(John 10:9-10)  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Jesus Christ is the Way.  He is the only Way.  He is the Way out for you and He is the Way in for you.  He has come to bring us an abundant life.

The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.  I think this is a test you can apply to a church, a religious organization, and a radio or television program.  Is it a religious racket?  Is somebody getting rich out of it?  Compare it to the Good Shepherd who came to save sinners and to give us life; abundant life.



(John 10:11-13)  I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

How can Jesus be the Door and the Shepherd at the same time?  Actually, there was no door that swung on hinges and had a padlock to secure the sheepfold.  The man who was guarding it slept across the doorway so that He himself was the door.  Jesus is not only the door, He is also the Good Shepherd, the one who stays in the doorway.  He is the Door which opens to eternal life; He is the One who protects His own; He is also the Good Shepherd. 

Jesus is also called the Lamb of God.  How can He be the Lamb of God and at the same time be the Good Shepherd?  This may sound like mixed descriptions, but it is one of the most gracious truths in Scripture.  He is the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He came down and identified Himself with us, who are the sheep—but He is the Shepherd also.  The fact that He became a Lamb emphasizes the humanity of Jesus Christ.  The fact that He is the Good Shepherd emphasizes the deity of Christ.  He alone was worthy and able to save us.  No other human being could do this; He had to be God.

The Lord Jesus Christ has a three-fold relationship to this flock which is known as His church.  First of all He is the Good Shepherd, and He defines the Good Shepherd in verse 11: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”  Then He is the Great Shepherd, for we read in the magnificent benediction given in Hebrews 13:20: “Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will…”  So today He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, as seen in Psalm 23.  But wait, that does not give the total picture.  He is also the Chief Shepherd.  This speaks of the future.  Peter says in his first epistle, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4).

The hireling does not care for the sheep.  Founders of some of the world religions did very little for their followers.  Modern cult leaders actually get rich off people.  In contrast to this, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep, and He protects His own.

(John 10:14-15) I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Here is a wonderful relationship.  He knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him.  Paul wrote, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…” (Phil 3:10).  To know Him is to love Him.  In this connection one should read what God says about shepherds in His message through Ezekiel 34.

Notice that this is the third time He says His sheep know Him.  To know Jesus Christ is all-important, and everything else becomes secondary.  That is one reason I have given up arguing about nonessentials.  Let’s stop arguing about religion and about details.  The important issue is to know Jesus Christ.  Do you hear His voice; do you know the Shepherd?

There is no Shepherd like this One.  David risked his life to save his sheep from a bear and a lion.  The Son of David gave his life for His sheep.

(John 10:16)  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

There are other sheep which are not of this fold—the fold is Israel—but others will also hear His voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.  It is really “flock” not “fold,” in this second phrase.   You see, there is to be one flock and one Shepherd.  There is to be one flock containing Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, black and white, people from every nation and out of every tongue and tribe.

(John 10:17-18)  Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

He says that all of this is the will of the Father.  The Father loves Him because He died for us.  He made His soul an offering for sin.  On the cross during those three hours of darkness, God the Father put upon Him the sin of the world, and He went through hell for you and me.  The Good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep.

He makes it very clear that He gave His life willingly.  He was in full control at His trial.  Also He set the time of His death.  The Jews said it shouldn’t be on a feast day lest there be an uproar, a riot of the people, but He was crucified on the feast day.  He was never more kingly than when He went to the Cross.   If one reads the Gospels carefully, one is aware that actually the Roman government was on trial, the nation of Israel was on trial, you and I were on trial.  Although He didn’t have to die, He did it willingly for the sins of the world.  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Heb. 12:2).  No man could take His life from Him.  He clamed power to lay down His life and to take it again.

(John10:19-21)  There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.  And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?  Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

This refers to the fact that He opened the eyes of the man who was born blind.  The crowd there that day said, “Well, a demon could never have done what He did!”  There is a division.  Why?  Because some are sheep and some are not.  Sheep will hear and the others will not hear.

The issue is still the same today as it was back then.  Either the Lord Jesus Christ was a mad man or He is the Savior of the world.  Either He has a demon or He is the Son of God.  There has always been that division.  When Paul preached at Athens, some believed and some did not.  When I preach some believe and some do not.  We cannot expect to be any different.

The so-called liberal theologians are the most inconsistent and illogical people.  Jesus Christ can not be only a great teacher and a good example.  He is either a fraud or He is the Son of God.  Jesus Christ puts you on the horns of a dilemma, my friends.  He is a madman or He is your God and Savior.

Any questions or comments?

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