This discourse continues in the same setting as John 9. In the Middle East, it is common to compare people to a shepherd and his sheep. Kings and priests called themselves shepherds and their subjects were sheep. The Bible uses this analogy frequently. Such Old Testament individuals as Abraham, Isaac, Moses and David considered themselves shepherds. This is seen in the fact that Moses and David were leaders over large amounts of people. Some of the most famous passages in the Bible use this motif. http://ref.ly/Ps23 http://ref.ly/Is53.6
It is not just the Twenty-third Psalm that this refers to. It is found in many places throughout the Old and New Testaments. The psalmist wrote, “We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” Psalm 100:3. Isaiah declares, “He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” Isaiah 40:11. Mark writes in his gospel “they were like sheep without a shepherd” Mark 6:34 (This refers to the crowd of people.) The author of Hebrews spoke of Jesus as the “great Shepherd” Hebrews 13:20. Peter saw Jesus as the “Chief Shepherd” to whom the undershepherds are responsible. I Peter 5:4.
From this rich imagery, this parable begins the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not know his voice.” John 10:1-5
There is an underlying sympathy between the shepherd and his sheep and of the unfailing love and vigilance of the Great Shepherd.