By CRAIG HARRIS
John 10: 9 - 15 (NIV): I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He 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 who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. 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 often used illustrations that his hearers could easily understand. They knew that a person hired to watch sheep would not take as good care of them as their owner. Jesus said he is not some hired-hand sent to watch us - we belong to him and he loves us so much he would lay down his life for us.
Jesus, then, is a the Good Shepherd. We are all a bunch of sheep and the only safe place for us in under his care. He states clearly that he is the only way to salvation; the only way to right standing with God. He knows us by name and loves us.
And the life that Jesus offers is a full life. This doesn't mean it is full of materialistic value or that it is devoid of pain. It means it is satisfying, joyful, full of goodness, and meaning. We, lowly sheep as we are, can have a relationship with God himself. We can know we are part of something greater than ourselves.
David used this same illustration - from the sheep's perspective - in Psalm 23. He said he received comfort and courage from God, his life was full of goodness and love, God took care of him, and his cup overflowed. And if all of this wasn't enough, he would also live in God's house forever.