Summary: What is the most amazing component of this shepherd sheep picture? The love of the shepherd!
This week in chapel we are going to be looking that picture of Jesus being the Good Shepherd, and you and me being his sheep. I'm going to read from John chapter 10. Last month I asked students to give me their opinions on this section of the Bible - what part is most meaningful? I'd like you to think about that too, as I read these words. If there is such a thing as a favorite part, or best verse, of this Good Shepherd picture, what would it be, in this section? Listen carefully to Jesus as he talks to you through John chapter 10:
John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-- and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-- only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
So what passage did you pick? What was the best part? The most meaningful? One student wrote, "You can't do that. It's all meaningful." Most students focused on two phrases that really fit well together, and we'll talk about both of these ideas today. The first one is this: "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." The students I surveyed wrote about this verse the most, and said things like, "A lot of comfort here!" "Incredible, that he would die for stupid sheep like us" "Jesus is willing to do anything for me, based on that." "I lay down my life for the sheep" - Jesus repeated this 5 times in this section.
The other passage that students talked about the most was this one: "No one takes it from me - but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." Students wrote a lot of comments about this one, and said things like, "This tells me that he didn’t have to do this, but did it anyway out of love" "It was his choice - no one forced him" "Blows my mind that he chose to do this" "He was in total control" "So much love!" It really is an awesome thing to think about, that Jesus who is God, chose to lay down his life for us. No one forced him. He willingly laid down his life. He loved you and me that much that he did that.
This week, we're going to see how Jesus loves you as your shepherd. And we're going to see how we follow him as his sheep.
Jesus picked this picture because shepherds and sheep were so common in Israel, back in Jesus' day, and even today in the middle east. In our culture, sheep and shepherds aren't very common - maybe this picture is difficult for us to relate to - we don't see shepherds and sheep very much today.
Let's take 3 minutes and watch this video clip. It helps us to visualize this picture of Jesus being our shepherd, and us being his sheep. VIDEO 3 minutes.
Do you follow Jesus? That is the theme of our devotions for this week. Why should you follow Jesus? Do you consider yourself a member of the flock of Jesus Christ, and if you do, what does that means for you life right now, today.
Our first look at this picture is going to be the unusual love of the Good Shepherd. We follow him because of his amazing love.
In this picture, Jesus portrays to us two kinds of love - selfish love (which isn't really even love), and sacrificing love.
Look at the selfish love of the hired shepherds. Back in the days of Jesus, a rich person would hire a few shepherds to watch his flock. The hired shepherds would take the rich guy's sheep and go far away with them into the middle of nowhere. And these shepherds had a reputation of not being very trustworthy, very dependable. First century history books (rabbinic sources) describe how you they would sometimes they would purposely take the sheep onto someone's private property, and they would steal as much from that private property as they could. If a newborn lamb was born to the flock, hired shepherds were supposed to tell the owner. But many of them would just kill the lamb and eat it and not tell anyone. Hired shepherds didn't have a good reputation, back then. You were taught to never buy wool or a lamb from a shepherd - it was probably stolen property. Shepherds were not allowed to be witnesses in court, because you couldn't trust them.