John 10:1-6 “The Parable of the Sheepfold”

Introduction:  Jesus had sought and found the formerly blind man who had been thrown out of the Temple.  Jesus had asked him the most important question a man will ever be asked; “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”  In response he, wanting and needing to know who the Son of God was so that he might believe on Him, asked “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him?”  Jesus revealed to the man that He himself was the Son of God at which point the young man believed and worshiped Him. 

            Jesus tells the young man His purpose for coming into the world.  Jesus said “For judgment I am come into this world”.  The effect of Jesus fulfilling this purpose was that men who realized their spiritual need for a savior could be saved and those who did not would remain lost.  Jesus used the term “they which see not” to represent those who realized their lost condition and the term “they which see” for those who did not accept the fact they were lost.

            After hearing these terms used and knowing what Jesus was saying, the Pharisees ask Jesus if He is saying that they are spiritually blind.  Jesus sets them strait by giving the meaning of the terms as He used them.  Those who are blind are those who see the truth of their lost condition.  Those who say they are not blind do not see the truth of their lost condition and until they do their sin will remain un-forgiven. 

            Jesus now speaks a parable to the crowd who has gathered.  A parable is a story taken from common life experience which illustrates or teaches a great or profound truth.  All parables have one central, or main, lesson or point.  The same parable may also teach several lessons.  In this parable we shall learn the difference between true and false religious leaders.  We shall learn about the good shepherd; About His nature and how He may be identified.   We shall learn how lost men may be saved.  We shall learn that God protects His children and cares for them deeply.

            The parable of the sheepfold is put forth in verses one through five.  Verse six explains to us that it is a parable spoken by Jesus.  It also tells us that this parable was, like many of Jesus’ parables, not understood by those who heard it.   I believe that we may correctly conclude that not even Jesus’ disciples understood its meaning.  Their minds were, perhaps, still upon what Jesus has said to the Pharisees about their sins remaining.  Now Jesus seems to have changed the subject but in reality He is going to show the difference between the Pharisees and Himself.  He will also show the difference between His prophets of old and His disciples when compared to the Jewish leaders of that day. 

            These Jewish leaders may indeed sit in “Moses’ seat” and as far as their proper teaching of Moses’ Law was concerned they were to be respected and obeyed but Jesus had well said that their example was not to be followed for they teach one thing and do another.  This point is well illustrated by the parable of the sheepfold.






I.  The elements of the Parable.

(John 10:1)  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. (2)  But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

            First let us pause and contemplate the seriousness of this parable.  Jesus began this discourse with AMEN, AMEN!  This is the 15th occurrence of this phrase which is used 25 times in John’s Gospel.  The phrase is not used elsewhere in scripture.  The repeating of the word is for emphasis.  It means that what is to follow is absolutely true and vitally important.  Jesus is the truth and all His words are truth.  It is true, it is true! - a Hebrew term for, “This is a most important and interesting truth; a truth of the utmost concern to mankind.”

When Jesus uses this phrase it is for one of three reasons:

1. Because the saying to follow is of greater importance than other sayings.

2. Because the mind of man is more reluctant to believe the truth of the saying.

3. Because of the small number of those who will practice the saying makes it seem incredible.

I believe that the first two of these reasons apply here.  What Jesus is about to teach is of greatest importance to men and many will not accept what He is about to teach.

            The sheepfold was a common thing in Jesus’ day.  It was basically a fenced in area with one gate or door.  Its purpose was to protect the sheep from thieves and predators.  There were sheepfolds near the temple for keeping sheep which would be used for sacrifices.  There were sheepfolds near each village for protecting the sheep during the night hours.  The shepherds were not afraid to mix the sheep together for, as we shall see in verse 4, they would be able to simply call their sheep and they would follow them out, for sheep know the voice of their shepherd. 

            If you were to see a person climbing through the window of a house you might well think that he is a thief.  The same is true of the sheepfold.  The thief would not go to the door or gate for fear of being discovered.  He would instead try to climb over the wall or barrier quietly to avoid detection.  Those seen climbing over would rightly be considered thieves for they are not entering the fold the right way.  These are up to no good.  They do not have the welfare of the sheep in mind or the welfare of the shepherd.  They enter for the purpose of self gain.  They seek quick and easy gain.  These are rightly viewed by society as bad guys.  They would be punished for stealing when caught.

            If you observe a person using a key to open the door to a house and they enter the house through that door you would think nothing amiss.  If you observed a man entering the sheepfold through the door or gate you would also assume that he was a shepherd of the sheep.  The porter allowed him to enter and all is well.  He is the shepherd and has the best interest of the sheep in mind.  His every action is for their welfare.



II. The traits of the 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.

(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.

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


            A man called a porter would keep watch over the sheep and would blow a horn in the night if trouble occurred.  The porter knew the shepherds and would only allow the shepherd to enter and to lead his sheep out.  The porter is always at the door.  His job is to protect the sheep that are in the fold.  He will not allow a thief to enter the fold only the shepherd. 

            The shepherd calls to his sheep.  The sheep hear and recognize his voice.  Further he calls them by name.  He knows them individually.  He recognizes each feature of each one and has given them names.  He does not drive the sheep nor does he force them in anyway to follow.  He simply leads them and they readily follow his lead.  They know the shepherd that he is kind and cares for them so they willingly follow his lead. 

            Strangers they will not follow.  They do not trust strangers.  They trust only their shepherd.  They run from the strange voice because the do not know this person like they know the shepherd.


III.  Understanding the parable.

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

            The people who heard the parable knew all about sheep and sheepfolds and shepherds and porters and thieves and predators.  They understood the saying but did not understand its spiritual application.  We now understand the saying but do we understand what Jesus was teaching by this parable?  For the sake of those who heard Him on that day and for ours as well Jesus explains the parable.  Jesus is the door, Jesus is the Good shepherd, and those who do not follow Jesus do not follow Him because He is not their shepherd.  The Pharisees do not follow Jesus because He is a stranger to them.  The Pharisees are the thieves and robbers who are in the fold only for the purpose of hurting God’s people.

            In the verses to follow we will be taught by Jesus the full implication of this parable.  We need to ask ourselves “Where do we fit in this story?”  Are you saved?  Are you following Christ Jesus?  Is He your Shepherd?