Text: John 10: 9-16
Icebreaker: When you think of a Shepherd – what comes to your mind? What does a Shepherd do? What do you know about that job?
Do you remember Psalm 23, from our group a couple of weeks ago? King David, who was himself a Shepherd boy when he was young, wrote a song about how the Lord was his Shepherd. We talked about how God provides, guides, leads and offers comfort to us. This song is found in the Old Testament, and so was written before Jesus came, but in the Gospel that John wrote, we see Jesus using the same idea – reminding his listeners about God as Shepherd as He talked about himself.
There are a few things that Jesus said here that can help us understand what it means for us that He is the Good Shepherd.
1) Jesus is the one – the only one who can save us, the only one who can bring real life.
Jesus talks about being a gate – it might seem a bit of a strange thing to say, but if you think about a Shepherd, guiding the sheep through the gate is a very important part of the job! If you have ever seen a flock of sheep you will know that they can wander off in all different directions and sometimes that leads to them getting lost! It’s the job of the shepherd to make sure that they know which way to go, to get through the gate and into the safety of the barn each night.
Here Jesus is saying that this is His job in our lives – He guides us through the gate, makes sure we reach the safety of the place where we can rest in Him, where we can be fed, where and where we can be safe from anyone or anything that wants to steal our joy and our peace in knowing Jesus.
I love the part where Jesus says that He has come so that people can have ‘life to the full’, or in some versions it says, ‘life in all its abundance’. It doesn’t mean that we will live a full-on life that is always exciting, or daring, or where everything is as we would like it to be – it means instead that we can have a life where because we know Jesus we are not worrying about death, or about how we will cope when things go wrong, because He shows us the way. If we follow Him, we are always on the right track for going in the direction that God wants us to go.
2) We can rely on Jesus and trust in Him, because He is the one who is willing to lay down his life for us.
Do you remember the story of the ‘Boy who cried wolf?’ This is a story about a shepherd boy who liked to prank the people of his village. He would shout “Wolf! Wolf!” so that they would all come running – because they wanted to help him protect the sheep. He did it so many times, that one day, when a real wolf came, and he shouted for help, no-one came to help and the sheep were lost to the wolf.
Jesus is not this kind of Shepherd. He does not pretend that the enemy is not real, and he always takes his job of protecting the flock seriously. So seriously in fact, that He was willing to give His life for us on the Cross. He stood between us and death and let death take Him for a time so that we could have life. He will never abandon us. How does knowing that change your life?
3) Jesus knows us completely and we can know Him more and more as we listen to Him.
Think about the people who know you. Do they know you completely? I would say that some people know me better than others, but no-one knows everything there is to know about me – in fact I don’t even know everything about me!!! But with Jesus it is different. He knows our talents and our weaknesses, he knows the things we think, even when we don’t say them out loud to anyone.
There is no-one except God, who really knows who we are. But the amazing thing is that there is no-one except God who knows who we have the potential to be when we follow Jesus. Who better to guide us than someone who knows everything about who we are in this moment, and who also knows everything about who we can be with Him? As we read the Bible, as we pray, as we talk with other people who want to follow Jesus too, then He reveals to us more and more about who He says we are and we are transformed little by little by knowing Him more and more. Can you see where you are in that journey with Jesus? What is he doing in your life right now that is showing you more of Him? Are you hearing Jesus’ voice strongly in your life or do you need to ask Him to help you tune in to Him again?
Jesus told us that He was the ‘Good Shepherd’ and today we have thought about some of the things that He meant by that. These days, we may not see many Shepherds where we live, but there are many ‘lost sheep’ who are in need of Jesus in their lives. Who do you know who needs Jesus now? As we keep listening to the Good Shepherd and following where he leads us, we can invite others to know Him as the Good Shepherd in their lives too.