The Good Shepherd
I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of sheep. When I was young, we went to a petting zoo. My little fiver-year-old self felt cornered by the big sheep, so I ran out of the sheep pen and right into the goat island...where a goat grabbed hold of my clothes. My mom got great pictures but didn't intervene in time to save my favorite shirt. (I don't judge her - I've done very similar things as a parent.) As a general rule, I tend to avoid petting zoos, goat islands and all sheep pens. I would be a lousy shepherd.
In John 10, Jesus used the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep to help those listening grasp the idea of living the kind of life Jesus offers. In this passage, Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep. But Jesus isn't just a shepherd, he is a good shepherd which makes all the difference for his sheep.
Read John 10:1-15:
"Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when the he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs aways. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep."
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Jesus is the kind of shepherd who pays attention to his flock. He knows where they are, what they need, what may be causing them stress. He is the kind of shepherd who provides exactly what his sheep need - pasture to graze in, clean water, shelter, rest. He is a steadfast and trustworthy shepherd who is always on the lookout. He is the gatekeeper - nothing comes in or goes out that he isn't aware of. He isn't the kind of shepherd who runs aways when things get a little crazy. He loves his sheep too much, so much that he is willing to lay down his life to protect them.
Out theme verse for the year, John 10:10, describe the kind of life Jesus (the Good Shepherd) wants for his children (the sheep). "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Life to the full means living under the care of the Good Shepherd - growing familiar with his voice, resting in his care, protection, hospitality and life that he provides.