Have you ever owned something? Can you think of something that you really wanted, and paid for with your own money, and now it is ALL YOURS! (?). Owning something can be a very special experience. It means that you treasure something, protect it, and earned it.
The Bible talks about someone who owned something that was very special to him. This person loved what he owned with his WHOLE HEART. It was important to him that he cherished and protected his possession.That person was a shepherd…And what he loved and owned was his flock of sheep.This ownership tale takes place in John 10 and it is one of the best tales in the whole Bible.
So, let’s set the scene:
This shepherd spent his days on top of a big, beautiful hill. He and his sheep had a huge, green pasture on top of the hill where they ate, slept, and lived. Below the hill, at the very bottom of it, was a city. This city was quite the opposite of the pasture on top of the hill. It had bustling crowds, busy streets, and wild people of all different types. It wasn’t what one would call a “safe city” or a “family city.” Every day, the hill sat in its’ quiet beauty over the city. The hill was safe and sound and its pasture was so, so pleasant. The pasture on top of the hill welcomed all and any who wanted to go into it. The only way into the pasture was through a gate. This gate was no ordinary gate.This gate was never locked. This gate was not scary looking, but rather very welcoming. It was the kind of gate you might find in the backyard of the most charming house within the most charming neighborhood. Nonetheless, the only way to escape the city-life and enter the pasture was to walk through the gate.
Back to our shepherd:
The shepherd and his sheep loved living in the pasture. The shepherd would gladly open the gate for anyone who wanted to enjoy the pasture as much as he and his sheep did.But not many people came knocking at the gate.No worries, the shepherd and his sheep still had wonderful times in their pasture on top of the hill. He loved every single one of his sheep. He owned them. He protected them. He treasured them. He named each of them and knew their names. He knew their quirks. He knew what made them happy, and he knew what made them scared. He knew where their favorite patch of grass was inside of the pasture, and He knew how to safely take them to it. He never missed a moment of his sheep’s lives. The sheep loved him in return. Sheep aren’t known for being the smartest animals. They really needed their shepherd to watch over them and protect them. Their shepherd ran with them and sat with them. He ate when they ate and slept when they slept. If a wild animal came into the pasture, the shepherd would protect them with all of his strength. If anyone wanted to sit in the pasture and enjoy its beauty, the shepherd would always open the gate. The shepherd never opened the gate though if it meant getting rid of any sheep. He never threw them aside or abandoned them. He always called them by name and they knew his voice. His voice comforted them and encouraged them. His voice was familiar and it made them feel like they were the most important sheep in the world. Once and awhile, one or two sheep would get lost. They would wander from the pack and start to fall down the hill. Far away from the pasture’s entrance gate was a path that could lead down the hill and into the city. Sometimes sheep would mistakenly fall down the path and unknowingly head towards the city. Other times, sheep would get curious and tip-toe down the path just to see what the city was like. The shepherd never missed a beat. When one of his sheep went missing he would run down the path with the speed of light. He would grab the sheep and put it on his shoulders and carry it back into the pasture. The shepherd had hundreds of sheep though, one missing wouldn’t cause trouble to his flock. But that didn’t matter to the shepherd.Even if just one sheep was lost, he would risk everything to bring it back home. And if a sheep wanted to go into the city, if the sheep fought him and begged him to be “set free,” then the shepherd would try to encourage him. He would remind the sheep of the pasture and how wonderful it was. But if the sheep wanted, with all its might, to go into the city. The shepherd would eventually let him. But, he never for a second would take his eye off of the sheep. From the hill, he could see every part of the city. He could watch his sheep wander aimlessly throughout the city.Even if he didn’t like what the sheep was doing…He never turned his back on the sheep. He watched every move and called out to the sheep to come home. If the sheep wouldn’t come home, he would call out to the sheep directions for safety and warnings for his wellbeing. And one day, without fail, the lost sheep would always come back to the pasture. The sheep would miss its warmth, safety, and never-ending love. On that day, when the sheep made its way back up the hill and up to the pasture’s gate, the shepherd was ready. He swung the gate wide open and welcomed the sheep with open arms.That’s because the shepherd owns his sheep and cherishes them more than anything in this world. The shepherd would even lie down his life if it meant his sheep could be safe. The shepherd loved his sheep and owned them with pride.
That’s because the shepherd is Jesus.
And we—you and me, are the sheep. **********************************************************************************
Surprised? Yeah, I didn’t think you would be!
In John 10, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd. He uses this image to express just how much he cares for us! He says:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”
Jesus uses the words “good shepherd” to rreallyy make a point. See just an “okay shepherd,” or “normal shepherd” or even a “hired hand shepherd” (who does the work only for the money) are all not GOOD SHEPHERDS. Jesus says that HE is a GOOD SHEPHERD. A good shepherd sacrifices his life for his sheep. A good shepherd knows his sheep.A good shepherd’s sheep know his voice. Jesus wanted to be very clear! Lots of people in the world will try to take our time and attention. They will try to own us, make us into people we are not, and persuade us to do things we shouldn’t do. Those are not good shepherds! The only trustworthy shepherd to follow is Jesus Christ. He loves us, knows, and sacrificed His life for us. Write down a time where you put your trust in Jesus: Jesus also calls himself the gate:
“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
Jesus often used “I AM…” statements to make it very clear that He was speaking with the authority of God. Jesus explains to us that He is the gate. The gate in our story before was never locked and it was welcoming. It was always ready to be open wide for lost sheep, or anyone who needed the safety and love of the pasture. Jesus is the gate: open, ready, and welcoming.He warns us that certain things in this world will try to destroy us and steal our joy. But, not Jesus. Jesus offers us a rich and satisfying life. Or, a life abundant. So, as we end our devotion time, let’s consider these questions together:
1. Am I living like one of Jesus’ sheep? Do I know His voice and long to be with Him? Do I spend time with Jesus like sheep spend time with their shepherd?
2. Have I walked through “the gate?” Have I come to Christ, making Him my number 1 priority?
3. Do I want to be in the pasture, safe and loved and learning from Christ? Or do I wander to the city, where I am curious about the world and tempted to get in trouble?Do I trust that Jesus is MY good shepherd, who has my back and knows me better than I know myself?
Take some time to reflect on these questions. Write some prayers to God asking Him to help you grow in your “sheep + shepherd” relationship with Him.Jesus knows you. He loves you. He died for you. He protects you. He chases after you when you wander. He watches over you…even when you are in trouble. He is the good shepherd that will do ANYTHING for you. Make today the day you live like one of His treasured sheep! Your relationship with the Good Shepherd is one of a kind and is the most important relationship you’ll ever have, so…OWN IT.