The Parable of the Sheep

John 10:1-21 is the parable of the sheep and the good shepherd. You probably know that we, the followers of Christ, are the sheep and Jesus is the good shepherd, but there are more layers to this parable than I’ve never noticed before. 

In addition to the sheep and the good shepherd there is the sheepfold, the robbers and thieves, the hired hands, and the sheep’s behavior.*  


As believers, we are the sheep in this story. For some, being compared to a sheep is a little insulting because sheep are pretty dumb, but Jesus didn’t use this parable to insult us. He used this parable because it was relevant. Sheepherding was a big part of the culture of the day so many would understand. Plus, sheep are a good example for us to follow. Sheep are followers. They are faithful to their shepherd because they know he will protect them and take care of them. Are you a good sheep? 

The Sheepfold

The sheepfold is the Church. Although we have been scattered and we come from different cultures and walks of life, we all belong to the same shepherd and he gathers us together. 

Robbers & Thieves

There are robbers and thieves who will try to sneak into the flock so that they don’t set off any alarms, and once they’re in, they will try to scatter us. They want to destroy the sheepfold. Do not be tricked by these wolves. Remember the good shepherd and he will protect you.

The Good Shepherd

Jesus is the good shepherd. 

“He knows those that are his calls them by name, marks them for himself, leads them out to fat pastures, makes them both feed and rest there, speaks comfortably to them, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, to set them in the way of his steps” (Matthew Henry).

His flock knows his voice, and he takes good care of them. He will lead us to streams of living water to drink and he provides the bread of life. He is our protector and healer. 

Hired Hands

The hired hands are the leaders of the church, our teachers and pastors. God has “hired” them and entrusted them with the great responsibility of taking care of his flock until he returns. They provide us with sustenance and care. 

There is great responsibility in being a hired hand because you will have to answer to the shepherd for any sheep that have been lost under your watch. 

Our Behavior

Sheep are very loyal to their shepherd because they know his voice and trust him alone, and they are wary of strangers. As sheep in God’s flock, our behavior should reflect this knowledge and trust. We should be attentive to the voice of God and be able to discern it from the voices of robbers and thieves. When someone comes to us, it is our responsibility to discern if they are speaking God’s truth so that we are not lead astray. Hold tight to God’s word and compare everything to the truth of his word. 

*This is from Matthew Henry’s commentary on John 10.

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