The deeper, fuller meaning of the parable of the Good Shepherd

Andrew Fountain
Sun, 2020-02-02
  • It is easy to read through John 10 on a surface level and miss what is going on.
  • Here, at the final climax of Jesus’ public ministry he presents an image that will leave you enthralled with it’s beauty, and deeply moved by it’s implications.
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Sermon Outline - The deeper, fuller meaning of the parable of the Good Shepherd

Video cover image: Creative Commons 2.0 image by Ivan Radic

View or download the handout of the structure of the passage here.

John 10 – I am the Good Shepherd

  1. “I tell you the solemn truth,
    the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.A
  2. But the one entering by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the doorkeeper opens,
and the sheep listen to his voice.B
His own sheep he calls by name
and leads them out.
  1. When he has brought out all of his own,C
he goes ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.
  1. But a stranger they will never follow , but will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
  1. Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
  1. So Jesus said again, “I tell you the solemn truth,
    I am the door for the sheep.
  2. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
  3. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture.
  4. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.
  1. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.


  1. The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep,
sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and flees,
and the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters.
  1. Because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep.
  2. I am the good shepherd.
(I know my own and my own know me
  1. just as the Father knows me and I know the Father)
and I lay down my life for the sheep.D
  1. CI have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.
  1. This is why the Father loves me
because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again.
  1. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will.
I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again.
This commandment I received from my Father.”
  1. Another sharp division took place among the Jewish people because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, “He is possessed by a demon and has lost his mind! Why do you listen to him?” 21Others said, “These are not the words of someone possessed by a demon. A demon cannot cause the blind to see, can it?”
  2. Then came the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. 23It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple area in Solomon’s Portico. 24The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
  3. Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe.
The deeds I do in my Father’s name testify about me.
  1. But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep.
  2. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
  3. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand.
  4. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
    and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand.
  5. I and the Father are one.”
  6. The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death.
  7. Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father.
    For which one of them are you going to stone me?”
  8. The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed
    but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”
  9. Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35If those people to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
  10. If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me.
  11. But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds,
so that you may come to know and understand that
I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
  1. Then they attempted again to seize him, but he escaped their clutches.
  2. Jesus went back across the Jordan River again to the place where John had been baptizing at an earlier time, and he stayed there. 41Many came to him and began to say, “John performed no miraculous sign, but everything John said about this man was true!” 42And many believed in Jesus there.

Translation by Andrew Fountain


  • To fully appreciated this jewel of a parable in the middle of John, and be deeply moved in response.


  1. The Parable and it’s explanation
  2. Their response and ours

John 1–12 “Book of Signs”

1 Prolog

Wedding Nicodemus Woman at well Child healed
5 Sabbath Healing: Take up your bed and walk
Teaching: the Son gives life
6 Feeds 5000, I am the Bread of life
7 I am the Living Water (after walks on water)
8 I am the Light of the World
9 Sabbath Healing: Man born blind
10 Teaching: I am the good Shepherd
11 Lazarus raised from the dead

12 Epilog

1. The Good Shepherd (1–21)

Read v.1–6 from John10_01-iframe.html

  • Note that this is just a story—no-one is named yet.
  • And they didn’t understand. But it’s obvious(??) any child could tell you from Sunday School(??)
  1. 1st idea: Background of communal fold, with a guard on the door
    • Sheep stealing and killing
  2. 2nd idea: Shepherd who is recognized, followed, and who provides
    • Set against false shepherds who they won’t follow
  3. 3rd idea: following this shepherd
  • So two images: fold with a door, which is supposed to protect them
    • and the ability to recognize which voice to trust, which will also keep them safe
      • and being led out into something new and good
  1. 7–10 Jesus says he is the door
  2. 11–15 He is also the shepherd
  3. 16 So who are the sheep?
  4. 17–18 The cost of being a shepherd (expanding v.11&15)

A. Jesus is the door: read v.7–10

  • It turns out that Jesus is going to give two different ways of reading him into the parable
    • The door that lets shepherds in, or the shepherd
    • (not the doorkeeper, but stronger—the only way in)
    • I’m setting up a new sheepfold that I personally am protecting
  • What about the ones who came before (there were some exceptions)

Ezekiel 34

  1. The word of the LORD came to me:
  2. “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
  3. You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.
  4. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
  5. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
  6. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

Ezekiel 34 cont’d

  1. “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.
  2. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
  3. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.
  4. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.
  5. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
  • What are we to take from this?
    • The only response we are called to is to enter the new sheepfold through Jesus
    • Then we will be safe and looked after.
    • what does this mean? —later
  • v.10 is ironically used by prosperity preachers who turn it into finance.
    • It is about stuff that you own.
    • Satan wants to take away your stuff, but Jesus wants you to own lots of stuff
    • This is so opposite to everything that Jesus teaches about abundant life!

Luke 12

  1. Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”…
  2. And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

B. Jesus is the good Shepherd: read v.11–15

How should we respond?

  • This was my hardest job with this chapter
  • Could be warnings about theives and false shepherds (—and there are plenty around still)
    • But that does not seem to be what Jesus is emphasizing
  • Could be about hearing Jesus’ voice
    • But he never tells us to do this, he says that if we are his sheep, we will recognize him.
    • Yet I do think this is part of it, as we’ll see in a minute when he talks to the Pharisees
  • Could be about entering into Jesus’ sheepfold through him (v.9)
    • Yes, I think it is an important part of the parable.
  • But I think the main thing is not so much understanding a theological truth
    • but about how we experience our relationship with Jesus
    • This is about our felt sense of belonging to Jesus
  • Why? —because so much focus is on care
    • I found that as I let these verses sink in, I felt the presence of Jesus with me, and how much he loves me right now.
    • The bad shepherds are there as a contrast to the good shepherd
    • Read verses again, esp 14–15
    • Can you feel this right now?
      • He knows you by name!

C. The other sheep: read v.16

  • So why this here?
    • Exactly because otherwise we might question if it is for us (the prphecies seem to be about Israel).
    • So this is probably you right now (unless you are of Jewish descent)

D. The totally committed Shepherd: read v.17–18

  • So if I am right, and this is about our felt sense of Jesus’ commitment to us, then this is where we should end up
    • And we do!
    • But what use is a dead shepherd (so Jesus adds this)
  • Not ohly is Jesus utterly committed to us, but so is the Father

The Fuller, Deeper teaching of the passage

  • Here lies the answer to the orignal question...

Updated on 2020-02-02 by Andrew Fountain