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“Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Loves You!”
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. As always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Lesson Text: John 10:1-15
1) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2) But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3) To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4) And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5) And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6) This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7) Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8) All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12) But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14) I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15) As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Just in case one may think all these lessons which are based around the subject of love may seem redundant week after week, I must say, I beg to differ. I believe the more we are exposed to the love of God for us; the more we learn the ins and outs of His heart toward people the more we will come to appreciate and hold dear the treasure that is wrapped up in His love for us.
You see, the world has a way of watering down the word “love.” God has a way of showing the world how real love is fulfilled. It is up to the student of the Word to really get in there and glean those spiritual inspirations that we begin to understand that His love is like no other. His love is beyond compare. His love shows us what it really means to be cared for, protected, and to have someone who is always there for us, always supports us, and has promised to never leave us alone.
With this week’s lesson, obviously, we are walking down the path of the love theme once more. This time, we are looking at the story through the eyes of Jesus Christ Himself as He explains His role in loving us as being that of a good shepherd. A few lessons back we examined the good shepherd through Psalm 23. This week, in John, we see what Jesus expressly has to say.
Jesus opens today’s lesson, stating, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. “ The words thieves and robbers are used interchangeably in this lesson at least five times. These nefarious individuals who operate with criminal intent and the opposite of what Jesus describes Himself are no good no goods, and only have wicked, selfish schemes in mind. It is this title to whom Jesus makes this reference to the religious leaders of the day.
In chapter 9 prior to today’s lesson, Jesus had another head-butting encounter with the Pharisees. These men were considered to be the leaders of the holy order of the day and they often found themselves at odds with the things Jesus said and did on more than one occasion, and one of the things He did was heal a man from blindness on the Sabbath. These strict rule keepers prided themselves on adhering to traditions of their interpretation of what it meant to keep the Sabbath and other rituals regardless of the needs of others.
Never one to shy away from a teaching moment, Jesus used this confrontation to set Himself apart from what the religious leaders were doing (ex. kicking the healed man out of the synagogue who defended Jesus, John 9:30-34) and to characterize Himself as the good Shepherd who loves His people, welcomes them, shelters them, and cares for them in the safety of His presence.
A good shepherd, at night time or whenever the weather deemed it necessary, would house his sheep in what is called a “sheepfold” for safe keeping. The only legitimate way to enter in or go out of these enclosures was through the appropriate “door.” If one is attempting to access the confines of this protected place by any other means, then one can easily surmise they are up to no good and their intentions are less than honorable and are to be considered dangerous to the fold because “the same is a thief and a robber.” No one with good intentions needs to enter any other way than the door. Only those who want to steal and expose the sheep to untruths would look for devious ways to get to them.
In contrast to these crooks, Jesus stated, “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth.” The shepherd is the primary caregiver herdsman of the sheep. The sheep are totally dependent upon the shepherd. Without the shepherd’s watching, leading, guiding, and providing nature, everything that speaks of his love for the sheep, the sheep would be unkempt, wild, lost, helpless, and unable to fully provide for their own care (compare to Matthew 9:36). Shepherds feed the flock and care for them in such a way that they have no need to fear (compare Jeremiah 23:4). The sheep need the shepherd.
The true shepherd has no need to sneak around back or climb up a wall to gain access to his own sheep. To draw close to his flock he simply enters by the right way; he enters through the “door.” When he arrives at the door to take over, the “porter” or gatekeeper opens the door for the shepherd without any hesitation giving him free access to the sheep.
With the shepherd’s close-knit relationship to “his own sheep,” when they “hear his voice” they respond and “follow him.” If other sheep are being housed in that particular pen that does not belong to the current shepherd who is calling, they will not give heed to his voice. All sheep “know” the voice of the shepherd to whom they belong because they are familiar with him through their relationship; they are acquainted with him.
Thus, “the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out . . . he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” I don’t have sheep, but I have two cats that are almost identical. Each has their own personality and each has their own name. If I call one cat by name the other does not respond and vice versa. In our relationship with each other they know me and when I reach out to get their attention personally, I say their names. They are known by me and I know them. Years of being together have solidified our relationship and the perimeters in which our relationship operates. The same is true for shepherds. If a shepherd calls one name then that one who is in a relationship with the shepherd will respond.
When the shepherd is ready for them to be moved out of the pen/sheepfold to go out to pasture the shepherd will walk in front of the sheep, “he goeth before them,” in a leading position, that they might “follow him.” If another attempts to do this who is not the shepherd the sheep will not follow.
The voice of the shepherd is distinct to his particular flock. Many can try to imitate it but the sheep knows the different inflections of the voice, a sheep knows if the pitch is off, a sheep knows if the intimacy of the relationship is not present in that voice, a sheep knows if what they are hearing is strange or not. If what the sheep are hearing is not what they are predisposed to hearing, in their only defensive measure, they will “flee” from the false “voice” and will not come near to that “stranger,” “for they know not the voice of strangers.”
Please note: If you will allow me to interject here and bring it up to our relationship with the Shepherd of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ – tuning into His voice is needed now more than ever. There are so much noise and many voices speaking in our day that vies for our attention. In our information/communication era of modern technology, the amount of stuff we have to process and filter through our hearing and understanding every day is extraordinary. We need the tone of the unmistakable tongue of truth spoken from His Holy Spirit inspired Word to go before us; to lead the way for us to be closer to the Shepherd.
“This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.” Although the illustration of the relationship of a shepherd with his sheep would be easily understood by the people of the day who heavily depended on this, the meaning behind how Jesus was relating this to them had escaped their understanding. This can happen especially if their hearts are hard toward the message and the Messenger, as the Pharisees often were.
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” The shepherds often lay across the entrance of the sheepfold at night to prevent anything from going in and out of the pen, thereby making themselves the gate or the “door of the sheep.” The buck stops with them. They were the access point of getting in or going out. This was perfect for protecting straying sheep from wandering and also for preventing any ill-intentioned, predatory people or animals from getting to the helpless sheep. The shepherd, in his love and care for the sheep, literally laid himself down in a position of protection for them.
Truly, the significance of this plays out in our spiritual lives when Jesus boldly stated before the people, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). Jesus was the Shepherd and the door and ultimately He would lay Himself down for the spiritual protection of His sheep when He mounted Calvary’s hill.
“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.” This is a mounting point of accusation Jesus is directing in the way of the religious leaders of the day; the false shepherds. Again, we have often seen Jesus being very outspoken in the way He saw things being done. He often called them out on their self-righteous attitudes (which would eliminate God’s grace and working power) and hypocritical lifestyles that puffed up their egos and eased their own burdens while making the load heavier for the common man, so to speak (read Matthew 23:13-35 for a quite extensive list of what Jesus thought of these leaders).
Unlike the good shepherd, these false shepherds whom He identified as “thieves and robbers” did not draw men and women into a closer relationship with God. They were hinderers of the Kingdom work. They misinterpret things concerning the Messiah, His work, and block the way of truly seeking souls of the truth of this knowledge. In Matthew 23:13, Jesus pointedly said, “Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” They were robbing people and stealing away their faith in the true Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“But the sheep did not hear them.” There are still some who stand for what is right! Who do not heed the words and teachings of the false shepherds, but adhere and cling to the true words of heaven. Who anticipate and declare as Peter did, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matthew 16:16); who declare He is the true, good Shepherd. And as the natural sheep turn away from the stranger’s voice so do the spiritual sheep of the Shepherd, they turn from the voice of these faith robbers who have tried to lead them astray and “did not hear them.”
Once again, Jesus says, “I am the door.” But this time He exclusively points out of the door, of Himself, as being the way of salvation. The word “saved” in verse 9 speaks of “deliverance.” There can only be spiritual freedom and deliverance found in Jesus Christ. There is no other entrance; there is no other way to get into the kingdom of God without going through Jesus Christ. “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father,” (Ephesians 2:18; also compare John 14:6).
Jesus is the only way! “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12; see also 1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus is pointed to in the Old Testament as being the Messiah (ref. Gen. 3:15, 12:3; 2 Sam. 12-13; Is. 7:14 – just to name a few, there are too many to list). His lineage, both spiritual and physical, was traced down forty-two generations (Matthew 1:1-17) to become the Savior of the world, of which He says of Himself He is the gate or the way. And, He is seen in the future as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords (Revelation 19:16); the Lamb of God who laid down His life for our sins (Revelation 5) and also the Shepherd who would lead the flock to fountains of living water (Revelation 7:17). He is the only way! And those who “enter in” by Him shall be “saved!”
They “shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Daily the needs of their souls shall be satisfied. They are safe under the Shepherd’s love. The natural shepherd will lead his sheep in and out to find pasture that will nourish their bodies. Our spiritual Shepherd cares for the soul. Christ has supplied everything we need to be spiritually cared for as opposed to what the false shepherds were doing.
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The “thief” has one agenda: to take what doesn’t belong to him. Jesus has one agenda: to give all that He has. There is a phenomenal difference between the two. Jesus is the possessor of true, eternal life and seeks to extend that to as many as possible. The thief, on the other hand, wants to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy;” everything that stands in opposition to the mission of Christ.
Previously, I wrote:
“One day I had a lot of trash and recycling to take out because it was cleaning day (ha, as if every day isn’t cleaning day). I couldn’t carry it all so I had to make two trips. First, I took out the trash and placed it in its receptacle. As I came back in the house, standing at the door in some sort of karate position, like she wanted to attack me, was my nine years old (at that time). I believe I just smiled and proceeded to get the recycling. After delivering it to where it belonged, once again, coming back into the house, there was my daughter again, in her homemade-karate-ready-to-attack-mode. I said, “What are you doing?” She responded, “I thought you might be an intruder.” Why she thought that I will never know, but her actions and words, though done and said in fun, really stuck with me.
We have a lot of things, people, and circumstances that try to intrude on what Christ has already secured for us. But, how diligent are we to stand against them to protect that “abundant life?” Do we stand at the door, in position, to fight against any who seek to rob us of this joy?
. . . Through Christ we have an overflowing promise doled out to us, but it is often picked away by thieves a little at a time until we have nothing left.
. . . The abundant life is ours, but there are also some who want to steal it. Our job is to “resist” and to remain “steadfast in the faith.” When we do that, it is God who perfects us, establishes us, strengthens us and settles us! Now, that’s the karate chop that will keep intruders at bay!” (Stop a Thief/Word For Life Says)
When we hold on to our faith and stand with the Good Shepherd, we are in a position of safety, we are in a place of love, and we have that abundant life that has been promised to us. Jesus stated that He is the one that has “come” to fulfil this role; to give abundant life to those who will follow Him. With Jesus, we have all that we need to be spiritually full and satisfied for eternal life.
Why is that? Because Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” As alluded to earlier in this lesson, Jesus was willing to give all for His sheep. He went into extreme love mode and laid down His life. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us . . .” (1 John 3:16). Love is the motivation of the good Shepherd.
But, when compared with a “hireling” the contrast is quite different. A “hireling” doesn’t feel the same way; he doesn’t feel that same type of love. They are not his. He is just there for the job and has no personal attachment or investment in the care of the sheep. His motives are selfish at best and care only for himself and his paycheck. His life, in his opinion, is not worth risking for the sheep “whose own the sheep are not.” He’s not going to put everything on the line like the good Shepherd would in order to care for and protect the sheep. If a wolf wants them, he can have them. In his mind, he says I am out of here and leaves the defenseless sheep fallen prey to the predatory wolves.
How can he be so insensitive, one might ask? Simply put, our lesson tells us, he “careth not for the sheep.”
Jesus reiterates His position in caring for the sheep. He says once again, “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is in this for the long haul (remember we still see Him in Revelation 7:17 as the leading Shepherd). He’s not going to leave when the situation becomes adverse (compare Matthew 28:20). Rather, His love and His relationship with the sheep are sweet. Although He cares for them collectively, He also cares and knows them individually and personally. 2 Timothy 2:19 tells us, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his . . .” (emphasis mine). Jesus Christ is personally acquainted with His people. This is because of the close relationship He has with them and they have with Him. As sheep that will only follow their true shepherd, as followers of Christ, Jesus said of His sheep, I “am known of mine.” They intimately know Me. Oh, what sweet communion there is in knowing Jesus for yourself!
Jesus compared this knowing relationship to that of His Father. “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father.” In Matthew 11:27 He says, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him,” (emphasis mine; see also Luke 10:22 and John 17:25). The good Shepherd knows His sheep as intimately as the Father knows Him and He, the Shepherd, willingly lays down His “life for the sheep.” “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father,” (Galatians 1:4; see also 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Revelation 1:5). Life for life, He gave up His that we might find ours in eternity. That’s love.
Jesus, the good Shepherd, loves you so much He thinks you’re to die for!
Standard Print PDF: Jesus the Good Shepherd Loves You Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Activities that support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Memory Verse: Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Loves You Memory Verse
Activities/Links/Resources that support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Jesus is Our Good Shepherd” (There are marshmallows and pretzels involved. Need I say more? Enjoy!)
“Good Shepherd Learning and Activity Craft” (This craft actually portrays the illustration of the shepherd that Jesus was teaching about. Enjoy!)
Materials from previous lessons that can be applied here as well. Enjoy!
Coloring Page: The Lord is My Shepherd Coloring Page
“Psalm 23 Coloring Sheet/Poster” (Older students)
“Lesson: Psalm 23” (Good tips on teaching can be found here as well as an easy activity where students can make their own Psalm 23 book using only white paper and construction paper. There are also a few tips on notes for older students. Enjoy!)
“The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:1” (This is an excellent place to find printable resources. Activities include a “Sheep Paper Bag Puppet,” “I Shall Not Want” sheep picture, and more. Enjoy!)
“Psalm 23 by David the Shepherd” (Printables)
“God Cares for Me – Psalm 23” (Here’s a very unique and straightforward way to teach to students. Adults may learn some new tidbits and notes as well. Enjoy!)
“Shepherd and Sheep Toilet Paper Roll Craft” (This is easy and can I tell, they have printables! Yeah! Enjoy!)
Photo Credit: Pixabay