Lesson for week of May 13: Christ is the most perfect example of a good shepherd


By the Rev. Doreen Smalls
 Lesson for week of May 13
Scripture: John 19: 7-18
     Pet lovers know firsthand their close relationship with their pets. Many view their pets not only as animals but also as members of their family. They treat them with great love and appreciation and they will do anything to protect them. John’s Gospel describes the Good Shepherd as one who not only cares for his sheep, but also has a relationship with them. 
 The Gate
     Sheep and shepherds were part of daily life in ancient Israel. Shepherds had the responsibility for protecting the sheep from dangerous animals and thieves. At night, sheep were kept in folds, enclosed structures made of rocks and stones that had a small opening where sheep could enter and exit. And when the sheep were in for the night, the shepherd would lie down in the opening. The shepherd became the gate that offered security.
     The shepherd offered the only legitimate access to the sheep. Anyone who tried to enter through other means was not to be trusted.  If a predator tried to enter, the shepherd would be disturbed.  The shepherd put his life at risk to guard the sheep.
     Jesus depicts himself as the gate.  He stated, “…I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and bandits but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate.  Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10: 7-9)
     Jesus is the gate who offers safety and security as well as salvation. Christ is the gate to God’s salvation for us.  The only way to salvation is through him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. And no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
     He also said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Under Christ’s care, we can experience the fullness of life, an everlasting life.  Christ provides perfect guidance and eternal security.
     What is your definition of abundant life?  How do you experience an abundant life in Christ?
 The Good Shepherd
     We know that Christ is different from other shepherds.  He is different from the hired hands.  The first sign of danger sends the hired hand running while the self-sacrificing shepherd stays with his flock.
     In Psalm 23, the good shepherd is gentle and provident.  He provides comfort and assurance.  Ezekiel 34 characterizes the shepherd as wise, caring and just.  “He will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.” (Ezekiel 34:16)   
     In John 10 we meet a different magnitude of good shepherd.  He not only provides all the necessary guidance, care and security for his sheep, he dies for them.  He laid down his own life for the sake of his sheep. 
     Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.  And I lay down my life for the sheep … For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:14-18)
     Christ is the most perfect example of a shepherd one could ever find.  He voluntarily laid down his life. This shows Christ’s love for us.  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)  
     How can we as members of the flock do our part to assist Jesus in the important work of bringing others into the fold?