Summary: Jesus cares for His sheep and wants us to follow his example and be committed to the flock seeking every lost sheep.

Jer 50:6-7 – The Bad Shepherd

John 10:1-18 – The Good Shepherd

About 6 years ago we all went to Orlando Florida on holiday – Mum and Dad, Stephens family and ours. This is one of those lost children stories – we all have them I suppose but this was a bit different. It wasn’t easy 12 of us trying to go round busy theme parks – keeping track of 6 children, and 6 adults. It was at the end of a long day in a theme park – as it had got dark we started to gather up near the exit of the park to discuss and negotiate where we would go for dinner. It was as we were leaving that Sarah noticed that Gabriel was missing – he was 10 or so and we all frantically started calling and looking and retracing our steps – I don’t need to overemphasise how anxious we were. We came across a member of staff who pointed me to the Lost Children office. When I got there, heart pumping, fraught with worry I told the man in the office my name and gave him Gabriel’s details and he said – your in luck, he’s here, but is the other one not yours too? Gabriel came out of the back followed by Alexander! I was so stressed looking for Gabriel that I hadn’t even noticed that Alexander was missing too!

I remembered that earlier in the month when Clarke was telling his story about Ryan being lost – and as I remembered it, it occurred to me that in a spiritual context sometimes we are so focused on ourselves and those who are lost in our only immediate family, that we miss seeing other lost souls who are searching for meaning in their life. Of course we need to begin by reaching out to those who are closest to us but we need to follow Christ’s example – he came to ‘seek’ and save the lost. That looking, that active, anxious searching for a lost child is such a perfect metaphor – but not just for your own lost child…

We’ve heard a lot this month about the lost sheep – so I’m going to get a bit sheepish this morning. In John 10 Jesus told the story of the good shepherd.

One day, Jesus said, "If a man sneaks over the fence to get into a sheep pen, he probably is a thief. If he calls the sheep, they won't come because he's a stranger. His voice frightens them and they run away. But the real shepherd enters through the gate. And when he calls his sheep, he uses their names, and they know his voice.

"I am the good shepherd. I know each of My sheep by name, and My sheep know Me. And I am the gate. Those who come through Me will be saved. They will have everything they need.

"Sometimes a man is hired to watch over the sheep," continued Jesus. "But this man does not own these sheep and he does not really care about them. He just -works to get paid. If a wolf comes in the middle of the night, the man runs away! And the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters the flock. The man doesn't even care–because they're not his sheep.

"But I am the good shepherd," said. Jesus. "And I lay down My life for My sheep.

"My Father loves Me, and I gladly lay down My life for My sheep. Even though He has told Me to do this, I do it because I want to. No man will take My life from Me. Instead, I give it freely.

"And after I lay down My life, My Father has given Me the power to take it back again."

We could be insulted that the Bible so often compares us to sheep – sheep aren’t smart animals, but they are gentle, they do follow the shepherd, they are obedient and of course in Biblical times were an important part of life. My whole month in Afghanistan I only eat 2 things – sheep or goat…

When Bruce was speaking on Sunday night a few weeks ago I made a note in my bible that said – without a shepherd we are all lost sheep. In Jesus story from John 10 he talks about hired help – when a shepherd is unable to look after his sheep he would need to hire a man to do it. But that shepherd isn’t fully committed to the sheep, he doesn’t know them like their shepherd knows them, he won’t go the extra mile if they are attacked by wolves or if one escapes the pen. If Christ is the good shepherd, the one who loves us, who we belong to, the one who knows our needs and our weaknesses, the one who will protect us with his life against the wolves then any other shepherd is a bad shepherd.

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