Click here, John 10:1-10, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version.
This passage uses actual life experiences that would have been very familiar to Jesus' followers - the care of sheep.
The use of "shepherd" was also widely and well established as an positive image to describe the role of God, kings, Moses, and other leaders in their care of the people. (Who are consequently also described as being like sheep - sometimes not so positively!)
Paradoxically, actual shepherds were scorned and believed to be untrustworthy and dishonourable:
- They were smelly;
- They worked at night;
- They worked in the hills among wild animals and wild people (bandits and other outlaws);
- They were away from their homes and women and so did not watch over and guard them as honourable men did.
Nonetheless, in Mediterranean culture, "a good shepherd" was an honourable way to describe a "a good leader."