Jesus had chosen twelve disciples to help Him with His special work. These disciples walked with Him up and down the country roads of Palestine. They listened carefully as Jesus taught the people. They learned how He often used the everyday things of life to illustrate His teachings.
One day, Jesus noticed a flock of sheep feeding in the fields. He began to remind the people of how much the sheep needed a shepherd to care for them. Without a shepherd to keep them together, the sheep would soon be scattered and lost. Hungry wolves, lions, and bears were waiting to catch the sheep and little lambs. Robbers, too, hid in the canyons or behind the bushes along the roads. They would quickly snatch a wandering sheep and run away with it.
The shepherd knew of these dangers and lovingly watched over his flock day and night. He called each of his sheep by the name he had given it. The sheep knew his voice and followed him when he called.
Every morning the shepherd led his sheep to the best grassy places where he could protect them as they grazed. He took them to a stream or pond to drink and to shady pastures to rest. Then late in the afternoon, he guided them to the sheepfold, a walled place with only one gate. He would count the sheep as they entered to make sure there were none missing. Then the shepherd would lie down by the gate to sleep. Nothing could get into the fold without waking him. If robbers or wild animals came, he drove them away with his slingshot or shepherd’s staff. The staff was a big stick with a curve, or crook, at one end. You can imagine how a shepherd could put the hook around a sheep’s neck to help it up a steep place, or to pull it from a deep ditch if it fell in.
The shepherd truly loved his sheep. He often risked his own life to protect theirs. But sometimes people who owned lots of sheep would hire someone else to watch them. This person, called a hireling, wasn’t a true shepherd. He wouldn’t take such good care of the sheep because they weren’t his own. He might even leave them and run away if his own life were in danger.
As Jesus talked about shepherds and sheep, no doubt his listeners remembered David, the shepherd boy who became the king of Israel. David dearly loved his sheep. One time he bravely killed a lion that had seized a helpless lamb. Later he killed a bear that was trying to steal a sheep.
While David watched over his flocks, he often thought about God. David knew that God took care of him just like he took care of his sheep. He made these thoughts into beautiful songs. One of his songs is known as the Shepherd’s Psalm (Psalm 23). “The Lord is my shepherd,” he sang, “I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
The people heard Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But he who is a hireling and not the shepherd sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them . . . I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep, and am known by My own . . . and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:1-15)
How thankful we should be for the tender love of Jesus! He is our Shepherd and we are His sheep.
Just as the sheep heard the shepherd’s voice and followed him, we can listen to the voice of Jesus and follow Him. Jesus speaks to us in the Bible. His words are there to guide us in everything we do. He also tells us of His care and love through the things He has created. He makes beautiful flowers for us to enjoy. He provides fruits, nuts, vegetables and grains for our food. He gives us life, and bodies that can speak, move, think, see, hear and feel. Truly He cares for us like a shepherd.
And just as a shepherd was willing to risk his life to save his sheep, Jesus was willing to die to save us from Satan. The disciple John wrote, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The Bible also tells us that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking to destroy us. Satan wants us to listen to him and to follow his plans. He doesn’t want us to believe the way to true happiness that Jesus teaches. He tries to sidetrack us into unimportant and unwise activities that will tend to make us forget God.
The voice of our Shepherd says, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Let us follow Jesus, our true Shepherd. Then we can be truly safe and happy in His love.
John tells the story of the Good Shepherd in chapter 10. Find chapter 10 and read verses 1-15. Find the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Read the 23rd chapter, which is the song that David wrote about the Good Shepherd. (John 10:1-15, Psalms 23)
The Treasure Chest Verse is found in the book of John. It tells us that our Good Shepherd was willing to die for us so that we might someday live forever. Try to memorize John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”