Context of John 10: Jesus’ discourse on Himself as the “Good Shepherd” flowed directly from chap9, as Jesus continued to talk to the very same group - the Pharisees. The problem in John 9 was that Israel had been led by false shepherds who drew them astray from the true knowledge and kingdom of Messiah (John 9:39-41). In chap10, Jesus declared Himself to be the “Good Shepherd”. The occasion for this lesson was the excommunication of the beggar from the synagogue (John 9:34). The false shepherds did not care for this man; instead, they mistreated him and threw him out. But Jesus, the Shepherd, came to him and took him in (John 9:35–38).
A middle Eastern sheepfold was very simple: stone wall up to 10 feet high surrounding an enclosure open to the sky, with an opening as the door. The shepherds in the village would drive their sheep into the fold at nightfall and leave the porter or watchman to stand guard. In the morning each shepherd would call his own sheep, which would recognize their shepherd’s voice and come out of the fold. The porter (or one of the shepherds) would sleep at the opening of the fold and actually become “the door.” Nothing could enter or leave the fold without passing over the shepherd. In the picture of the "fold of the sheep" (sheepfold) note only one door and (although it is difficult to see) there are thorny branches on the top of the walls to impede predators and thieves. Thus the "sheepfold" clearly pictures a place where the sheep were to experience safety and security. Jesus' description ("thief" and "robber") was a clear rebuke to the Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees in the audience. Compare the Old Testament parallels in Ezekiel 34 and Jer 23:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 where "the shepherds (were) destroying and scattering the sheep (metaphor for Israel)". (cf God's warning about false prophets in Jer 23:16ff, cf Mt 7:15, et al)
Martin Luther comments on shepherds and the responsibility of the sheep - I am one of God's sheep. I want to have and accept His Word. If you will give me His word, I will regard you as my shepherd. But if you set up another doctrine and do not offer me the pure Gospel, I do not wish to regard you as shepherds or to accept your voice. For the ministry of which you boast does not extend any further than the Word does. If someone is a shepherd we must accept him; if he is not, we must depose him from office. For the sheep must judge the voice of the shepherds.
Shepherds tend, care, lead, guide, cherish, feed and protect their flock. The word "Shepherd" carries with it the thought of tenderness, gentleness, security and provision and yet means nothing as long as we cannot say "The Lord is MY shepherd." It's only meaningful if we can say from our heart that "The Lord is my shepherd." Martin Luther observed that faith is a matter of personal pronouns: My Lord and my God. This is the faith that saves.
Often several shepherds' flocks were kept together in one sheepfold and in the night they intermingled with sheep from other flocks. In the morning, when the shepherd was ready to lead his flock to green pastures, he would call his own sheep. As the sheep heard the familiar and trusted voice of their shepherd, they would go to him and follow as he lead into the field. Sheep do not trust their shepherd on the basis of sight alone for looks can deceive. The deciding factor for the sheep is the sound of the shepherd's voice. The following excerpt is a firsthand account of the "phenomenon" of sheep hearing their shepherd's voice and following Him:
"As we sat the silent hillsides around us were in a moment filled with life and sound. The shepherds led their flocks forth from the gates of the city. They were in full view, and we watched them and listened to them with no little interest. Thousands of sheep and goats were there, grouped in dense, confused masses. The shepherds stood together until all came out. Then they separated, each shepherd taking a different path, and uttering as he advanced a shrill peculiar call. The sheep heard them. At first the masses swayed and moved, as if shaken by some internal convulsion; then points struck out in the direction taken by the shepherds; these became longer and longer until the confused masses were resolved into long, living streams, flowing after their leaders. Such a sight was not new to me, still it had lost none of its interest. It was perhaps one of the most vivid illustrations which human eyes could witness of that beautiful discourse of our Lord recorded by Jn10:3-5. The shepherds themselves had none of that peaceful and placid aspect which is generally associated with pastoral life and habits. They looked more like warriors marching to the battle-field--a long gun slung from the shoulder, a dagger and heavy pistols in the belt, a light battle-axe or ironheaded club in the hand. Such were the equipments; and their fierce flashing eyes and scowling countenances showed but too plainly that they were prepared to use their weapons at any moment." From J. L. Porter, A.M. "The Giant Cities of Bashan," 1867.
D. L. Moody gives this illustration
A friend, who was traveling in the East, heard that there was a shepherd who still kept up the custom of calling his sheep by name. He went to the man, and said: “Let me put on your clothes, and take your crook, and I will call them, and see if they will come to me.” And so he did, and he called one sheep, “Mina, Mina,” but the whole flock ran away from him. Then he said to the shepherd: “Will none of them follow me when I call them” The shepherd replied: “Yes, sir, some of them will; the sick sheep will follow anybody." (Bible.org Sermon Illustrations)
D. J. DeHaan writes in Our Daily Bread
Whenever I visit the Korean Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, I notice that the people seldom refer to one another by their first name. They speak formally of each other and to each other--Mr. Kim, Mr. Pyen, Mrs. Hugh. One day I asked Mr. Pyen about this custom. He replied, "Only when we know people intimately do we use their first name." Jesus calls us by name because He knows us so well. That's the picture we get in John 10. When an oriental shepherd was with the same flock for many years, he developed a close relationship with each animal. He would give them descriptive names like "Brown-leg" or "Black-ear." And when he called them, they responded to his voice. So too, when Jesus asks us to follow and obey Him, His call comes with the promise of the protection, guidance, sustenance, and rest that we need at that time in our lives. His call is suited to our needs because He knows us intimately. He knows us on a first-name basis. You're not just a number computers can trace; Christ knows your need, your name and your face.
The sheep in the Orient are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility. Although Oriental shepherds usually go ahead of the flock and lead their sheep, whereas in many countries the sheep are driven ahead of the shepherd.
"The practice of Eastern shepherds should be described. Travelers have told us how various flocks may be sheltering in a common fold, and when a particular shepherd comes to the gate and calls, a shivering movement can be seen here and there among the sheep; in little groups of two or three they turn toward the gate and edge their way through the other herds. No sheep of another flock will move; but these know the voice and straight make answer. Later one may see them journeying, with the shepherd in the van; they following in his train. First they lift their heads in the fold and listen. Is it his voice or not? Then they hear; they have verified his tones. Then they move obediently behind him, and 'follow whithersoever he goeth.' Only so can one say, 'The Lord is my shepherd;' only so can one be confident, 'I shall not want.' Now observe more closely the word 'shepherd,' i.e., the guardian of the flock. It is true that he watches over each separate sheep. Shepherds declare that they can recognize their sheep individually, as we recognize each other's faces, and thus 'know' their sheep. Certainly the Good Shepherd knows his. Nevertheless he is guarding his flock as a whole, and each sheep is safer if it stays with its comrades and if together they move homeward."
A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his master. (Bible.org Sermon Illustrations)
So true is it that when a traveler has changed dress with the shepherd for an experiment, they still have followed the disguised shepherd’s voice and refused to listen to the voice of a stranger in the garb of their own shepherd. The following story is a great illustration of this truth...
During World War I, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem. The shepherd, who had been sleeping, suddenly awakened to see his sheep being driven off on the other side of the ravine. He could not hope to recapture his flock by force single-handedly, but suddenly he had a thought. Standing up on his side of the ravine, he put his hands to his mouth and gave his own peculiar call, which he used each day to gather his sheep to him. The sheep heard the familiar sound. For a moment they listened and then, hearing it again, they turned and rushed down one side of the ravine and up the other toward their shepherd. It was quite impossible for the soldiers to stop the animals. The shepherd was away with them to a place of safety before the soldiers could make up their minds to pursue them—and all because his sheep knew their master’s voice. (Green, M. P. Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Baker Book House)
As the “door of the sheep” Jesus is the One through Whom eternal life is received (cf Jn 14:6; see notes Matthew 7:13; 14). There is no other way in, for “there is salvation in no * one else; there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12+)
Eva Watts says that as she traveled with a friend though the land where Jesus lived, “We reached a high ridge overlooking the village of Bethlehem. There we found a sheepfold, and went right in to inspect. It was not long before the owner appeared—a veteran, like Moses, with a long beard. ‘This is your sheepfold?’ my friend asked. ‘Aye.’ he answered. ‘And is this where the sheep sleep,’ pointing to a rough shelter thrown up against the rock in a corner. He nodded again. ‘But you’ve no gate to the fold; how do you close them up at night?’ The old man looked at us as if we ought to have known better. ‘I am the door,’ he said with emphasis; and, gathering his loose robe tight about his ankles, he was down in a moment, squatting in the doorway, back against one post, feet against the other, his knees drawn up and clasped by his weather-beaten old hands. Gently he bowed his head and closed his eyes, as many a time he had closed them to catch a few hours’ sleep under the starlight. ‘I am the door,’ he repeated. ‘I keep watch here at night. If thieves or wild beasts attempt to enter, they have to tackle me first. I have never lost a lamb from the fold yet.” (Bible.org Sermon Illustrations)
Jesus is referring primarily to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day.
This guarantees that salvation is given to those who trust in Christ (Acts 16:31+ Ro 10:9-10+). In (Jn 14:6), it is made plain that only these are saved. Christ is necessary and sufficient for salvation (Jn 3:36). The sheep would come into the fold for peace and safety and go out under their shepherd’s guidance for pasture.
B. W. Johnson writes
Christ is at once the door, the shepherd and the pasture. His pasture is the bread of life and the water of life.
The Greek word for saved is sozo (word study) and means delivered safe and sound, rescued and described a person who had recovered from severe illness (healed or been restored to health), come through a bad storm, survived a war or was acquitted at court.
"Jesus is our Door - Nothing can touch our lives without touching Him first. This is a perfect picture of the shepherd. He literally becomes the living door of the sheepfold. He curls up in the door or in the entrance of a cave. He puts his body between the sleeping sheep and ravenous animals or thieves." (From Hayford's Bible Handbook Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
As the "sheep" went "in and out” they would enjoy abundant life in the rich pastures of the Good Shepherd, experiencing fullness and freedom. Jesus not only gave His life for us, but He gives us eternal life right now and that life is in Him (Col 3:4+, 2 Ti 1:1+)
Abundantly is the Greek word perissos which pictures LIFE IN CHRIST which is over and above, more than enough, superabundant (in quantity), superior (in quality), overflowing, extraordinary, more than sufficient. Are you experiencing the quality and quantity of life that the Good Shepherd desires for His sheep?
[See more on God's attribute of goodness] Since the beginning of time, religions have decreed that a lamb should give up its life for the shepherd. The shepherd would bring his lamb to the sanctuary, lean with all his weight on the lamb's head, and confess his sin. The lamb would be slain and its blood would flow out--a life for a life. What irony! Now the Shepherd gives up His life for His lamb.
Isaiah 53:5, 6+ But He was pierced through FOR our transgressions. He was crushed FOR our iniquities. The chastening FOR our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him "
That's why Jesus is the Good Shepherd. This truth is pictured in John the Baptist's declaration of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29) and also in many statements made by Jesus Himself (Jn 2:19; 3:14; 6:51).
Good (see word study kalos) means intrinsically good, beautiful, fair and describes that which is the ideal, the model that others may safely imitate.
The word for is the Greek word "huper" which means here "in place of" or "on behalf of" and thus speaks of the substitutionary atonement, Jesus death in the place of sinners. While His blood is sufficient for the salvation of the world, it is efficient only for those who will truly believe.
F. B. Meyer wrote the following description of our Good Shepherd...
He has a shepherd's heart, beating with pure and generous love that counted not His own life-blood too dear a price to pay down as our ransom. He has a shepherd's eye, that takes in the whole flock and misses not even the poor sheep wandering away on the mountains cold. He has a shepherd's faithfulness, which will never fail or forsake, leave us comfortless, nor flee when He sees the wolf coming. He has a shepherd's strength, so that He is well able to deliver us from the jaw of the lion or the paw of the bear. He has a shepherd's tenderness; no lamb so tiny that He will not carry it; no saint so weak that He will not gently lead; no soul so faint that He will not give it rest...His gentleness makes great.
The Good Shepherd, in contrast to the hireling, protects the sheep from wolves, that is, the "spiritual enemies" of the sheep. In the ordinary life of a shepherd caring for his sheep, this was one of the great hazards as wolves would attack the sheep if there was the slightest carelessness on the part of the shepherd. Sheep by their nature are not able to protect themselves from wolves, and this is where the shepherd by his rod and staff came in. Likewise, in the spiritual relationship of the believer to Christ, the attacks of the evil one, whether human or demonic, require the protecting care of the Shepherd for all those who follow Him. Obviously, the place of greatest security and greatest blessing is to be near the Shepherd.
Since savage wolves, consumed with greed,
Seek simple sheep on which to feed,
Wise are those wary lambs who graze
Close by their Shepherd's watchful gaze.
The Good Shepherd purchased the sheep, paying the redemption price of His precious blood (1 Pe 1:19; 20+) and thus they are His own possession because He gave Himself for them (Titus 2:14+). In the Gospel of John, the word know means much more than intellectual awareness but includes the idea of an intimate relationship between God and His people (Jn 17:3). The Eastern shepherd knows his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to minister to each one individually. In the same way our Good Shepherd knows each of our names and meets each of our needs (Ps 23:1). But don't stop reading here. How does Jesus compare our relationship with Him in the next verse?
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Having had my attention directed last night to the words in John 10:3, I asked...if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep, I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then bade him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that 'a stranger will they not follow but will flee from him.' The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them."
John 10:15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father and I lay down My life for the sheep.
This is an incredible statement...Jesus likens the relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep to the relationship He enjoyed from all eternity with His Father. Now do you doubt that you are special to the LORD? This incredible truth has a practical application, for as someone has well said "To renew your love for the Good Shepherd, review His love for you!"
The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.
John 10:16 And I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will hear My voice and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
In answer to the Jews asking Him if He were the Messiah:
Jesus answered them, "I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give eternal life to them and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father Who has given them to Me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
- Names of God: summary chart
- An Exposition of Psalm 23 by Greg Herrick
- Torrey's Topic on Christ, the Shepherd
- Torrey's Topic on "Shepherds"
- Nave Topical Bible Shepherd
- The 23rd Channel: A sad parody
- My Father's Names by Elmer Towns (12 studies on God's Names)
- The Names of the Holy Spirit by Elmer Towns
- I Am the Good Shepherd by Elmer Towns
- Praying the 23rd Psalm (Pdf) by Elmer Towns
- American Tract Society Shepherd
- Bridgeway Bible Dictionary Shepherd
- Easton's Bible Dictionary Shepherd
- Fausset Bible Dictionary Shepherd
- Holman Bible Dictionary Shepherd
- Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible Shepherd
- Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Shepherd Sheep, Shepherd
- Smith Bible Dictionary Shepherd
- Vines' Expository Dictionary Shepherd
- Wilson's Bible Types Shepherd
- Watson's Theological Dictionary Shepherds
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Shepherd
- Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia Shepherd
- McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Shepherd
- The Jewish Encyclopedia Shepherd
Based on the parable in Luke 15:1-10+
’Twas a sheep, not a lamb, that strayed away in the parable Jesus told.
A grown-up sheep that had gone astray from the ninety and nine in the fold.
Out on the hillside, out in the cold, ‘twas a sheep the Good Shepherd sought;
And back to the flock, safe into the fold, ‘twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought.
And why for the sheep should we earnestly long and as earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger, if they go wrong, they will lead the lambs astray.
For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know, wherever the sheep may stray;
When the sheep go wrong, it will not be long till the lambs are as wrong as they.
And so with the sheep we earnestly plead, for the sake of the lambs today;
If the sheep are lost, what terrible cost some of the lambs will have to pay!
by Dorothy Thrupp
Savior, like a Shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death
His presence is my stay;
One word of His supporting grace
Drives all my fears away.
His hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
His oil anoints my head.
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
The day before her wedding in 1947, Princess Elizabeth asked that "The Lord is My Shepherd" be used in her wedding ceremony. The one to be the Queen of England indicated that she felt like one of the sheep and she asked the Great Shepherd to guide her.
Shepherd is a term in used Australian Rules football. to prevent opponents from tackling (a member of one’s own team) by blocking their path.
Ancient shepherds knew their sheep by name. They were acquainted with all their ways--their peculiarities, their characteristic marks, their tendencies, their idiosyncrasies. God knows every one of His sheep by name.
Good shepherds (picturing God our Good Shepherd) did not drive their sheep but gently led them. At the shepherd's morning call--a distinctive guttural sound--each flock would rise and follow its master to the feeding grounds. Even if two shepherds called their flocks at the same time and the sheep were intermingled, they never followed the wrong shepherd. All day long the sheep followed their own shepherd as he searched the wilderness looking for grassy meadows and sheltered pools where his flock could feed and drink in peace.
Throughout the day each shepherd stayed close to his sheep, watching them carefully and protecting them from the slightest harm. When one sheep strayed, the shepherd searched for it until it was found. Then he laid it across his shoulders and brought it back home. At the end of the day, each shepherd led his flock to the safety of the fold and slept across the gateway to protect them. A good shepherd never left his sheep alone. They would have been lost without him. His presence was their assurance.
The staff had a crook that was used to extricate the sheep from perilous places or to restrain them from wandering away. The club was a weapon to ward off beasts. David said, "When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth" (1Sa 17:34, 35).
Jacob was born with a difficult disposition. Gripping his twin brother's heel at birth, he continued throughout his life to try to trip him up and get ahead of him. In fact, Jacob's whole life was characterized by wheeling, double-dealing, grasping, grabbing, and jerking people around to gain selfish advantage. Yet God was not ashamed to be called "the God of Jacob" and to be his shepherd every day of his life. We are not what He wants us to be, but we are not unwanted. If we will have Him, He will be our shepherd.
When we lag behind, He does not scold us. Rather, He gathers us up, encircles us with His strong arm, and carries us next to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11)The essence, the central core of God's character, lies here: He has the heart of a tender shepherd. His pursuit is not a reward for our goodness but the result of His decision to love. He is driven by love, not by our beauty. He is drawn to us when we have done nothing right and when we have done everything wrong. Jesus said: What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost (Mt18:12, 13, 14).
Sheep don't have to go looking for their shepherd--it's the other way around. He's out looking for them. Even if the sheep aren't thinking about the Shepherd, He pursues them to the ends of the earth. Simon Tugwell wrote, "He follows them into their own long, dark, journey; there, where they thought finally to escape Him, they run straight into His arms."