You may not know exactly what a sheepfold is, but you can be sure that everyone who was listening to Jesus when He talked about what it meant to be a shepherd could understand His illustration completely. They could picture the walled enclosure, the high fence made with stakes, or even the cave where the sheep could sleep safely and securely during the night after being out in the pasture where they had food and water during the day. They knew that as each sheep entered the fold, the shepherd could call it by name and then he would count to make sure that all of them had followed him to their place of refuge. They knew that the shepherd himself would lie in front of the opening for that protected place so that no sheep would be able to leave and no thief or robber could enter and steal or injure his sheep. They knew that the shepherd loved his sheep and that those sheep would follow no other voice.
Why is it that there was such a mixed reaction to Jesus when He told them that He was “The Good Shepherd”? Some of them simply didn’t understand what He meant, while others became hostile and aggressive. To those whose hearts were open to Him, the words of Jesus began to make sense. The Old Testament had many prophecies about a Shepherd – One who would come to show compassion for “His sheep”, One who would come and sacrifice His life so that they could be forgiven – Isaiah 53. Remember how David described God in Psalm 23? “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” Could this man named Jesus be God? It was a question that people had to answer for themselves.
There are many hymns and praise songs that have been written about this Good Shepherd, aren’t there? One favorite is a prayer to think about as you reflect on your relationship to Jesus. “Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us for we need You to help us find our way. Gentle Shepherd, come and feed us for we need Your strength from day to day. There’s no other we can turn to who can help us face another day. Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us for we need You to help us find our way.” That’s exactly what He wants to do for you, His beloved sheep.