THIS WEEK’S FOCUSED SCRIPTURE
John 10:1-18 (NRSV) “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who come before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because the hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own 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 do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 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. I have received this command from my Father.”
THOUGHTS FROM MARY LOU
One of my favorite teachings in the book of John is the story of the good shepherd. Years ago, I had friends in Prague, Oklahoma, who had a sheep farm. Jesus calls us His sheep. It has always been said that sheep are dumb animals. (Does that hurt your feelings?) They aren’t really dumb. They cannot be taught how to do tricks like a dog. However, the shepherd names the baby lamb at birth and the sheep never forgets it. They are quick leaners and have good memories. The shepherd knows them and calls each sheep by name. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). Sheep are not “sheepish” or bashful. They either look you straight in the eye or turn around and run away. Am I witnessing for the Lord or bashfully running away?
Most animals, if left free to roam, will scatter. But sheep will stay together. The protection of the flock comes from staying together. With Christians, it means to assemble or congregate; meet together. That’s why church, small groups, and corporate worship is so important for us. But sometimes we sheep do wander off and Jesus keeps calling our names to bring us back to the fold. In high school, I remember having to memorize a poem, “The Hound of Heaven” which tells us, thankfully, that Jesus won’t give up on us.
My friends said that their sheep were afraid to drink from running water that ran too swiftly and would never drink from water that had algae on it. Jesus gives us His Water, which is always perfect. If a sheep falls into the water, it will not try to get out. It will let its fleece absorb the water and just drown. Does that sound like some of the situations in our lives that have gotten entangled, and from which Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has rescued us from? Sometimes He has had to take His Shepherd crook, get me by my neck, and lovingly rescue me. Looking back over my life, I can now see how my Shepherd has led me, kicking and screaming (not quite), protecting and rescuing me, bringing me home.
Sheep are usually gentle and passive but can become very aggressive. My friend’s saying of, “Never turn your back on a ram” is very true. Many have been seriously injured when they ignored this advice. Our aggressiveness must be channeled into improving ourselves. We are to be aggressive with ourselves, zealously working for the Lord and not butting our heads with each other. Amen!! Use our energy against that ram, the devil, who, like a roaring lion, wants to butt us away from our spiritual calling.
Sheep must have a very special place in God’s heart. His Son was called “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29). It is wonderful to be one of God’s sheep.
One of His sheep,