Sermon Starter: Good Shepherd

March 26th, 2011

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  This is one of the most common and enduring images of Jesus Christ.  Iconic pictures of Jesus gently holding baby lambs are found in Sunday school rooms and on bulletin covers in churches around the world.  It is a reassuring metaphor that is easy to understand and encouraging to imagine.  Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep.  Jesus gathers us in, guides our way, and protects us. We are his flock and he promises to keep us safe in a world of thieves and wolves.  The comfort we find in Jesus’ role as the Good Shepherd often helps us through the challenges of life. 

There is more to this story, though, then just identifying Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  This metaphor only works if we also examine our role as the sheep.  In today’s story from the Gospel of John, we learn more about our identity as sheep, as well as our responsibilities.  Jesus directs us to listen and follow only his voice.  He warns us against thieves and fake shepherds who will try to lead us into situations that will harm us.  Such a stern directive reveals that accountability is an important aspect of the partnership between the shepherd and the sheep. 

It is also critical to understand why Jesus has entered into this relationship with us. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Jesus does not envision a life for us where we mindlessly follow a leader from place to place and experience to experience.  Jesus wants an abundant life for each of us!  How do we claim this abundant life?  Jesus spells that out for us, as well: “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (10:9). We profess our faith in Jesus Christ, we enter into his teachings, and then we are sent out to share our faith with others.  We find abundant life when we live out our faith in a world that needs to hear the gospel of the Good Shepherd, and life grows even more abundant when we lead others to the abundant life that they, too, can find in Jesus Christ.

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