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The Good Shepherd
Have you ever been going along the road in a car or a bus and seen a sheep wondering across the road?  Perhaps when it heard you coming it ran along and dived back through a gap in the fence and went back into the field. Sheep are like that. They stray and go to places where they are not supposed to be.
Jesus said that we are all like sheep and when we do wrong we are straying away from the path that God wants us to take.

Now in this country the shepherd uses a sheep dog and perhaps a quad bike to keep the sheep together and make them go where he wants them to. In the time of Jesus, the shepherd got to know his sheep and they got to know him so he could  walk along with the sheep following. You can see this in picture 1.
Jesus said,"I am the good shepherd and know my sheep and my sheep know me."
He said that the sheep will follow the shepherd because they know his voice.
 When it got dark the sheep could not see the shepherd very well so as he walked along he would tap on the ground with his staff. The sheep could hear the sound and keep on following. You can see this in picture 2

                          Picture 1                                                                          Picture 2
shepherd leading sheep
shepherd with sheep at night.
The shepherd also had the job of protecting the sheep from wild animals like lions, wolves and bears.  He had a club or rod that he could use to defend himself. He also had a sling and he could use this to pitch a stone at any wild beast that came near. In spite of this it was dangerous to tackle a wild animal and sometimes a shepherd would be killed when he tried to protect his sheep.

Picture  3 shows a shepherd guarding his sheep.                    Picture 4 shows a shepherd with his sling.
shepherd guarding sheep
shepherd with sling

Jesus said,"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." Jesus gave his life for us when he was crucified.  He said that if a bad shepherd was supposed to be looking after the sheep he would run away if he saw a wolf coming. The wolf would kill some of the sheep and the rest of the herd would be scattered.

To keep the sheep safe, the shepherd would drive them into a sheep fold. He would lie across the gate at night, putting himself in danger to keep the sheep safe.
Picture 5 shows a sheep fold
a sheep fold
Jesus said, "I am the door of the sheep fold. If anyone comes in he will be safe.  He will be able to go in or out safely."

In Palestine it can be very hot indeed and there is even danger of sheep getting sunstroke. Sometimes the shepherd would anoint the sheep with oil. He would rub the oil on the sheep's head to protect it from the sun. he might also do this if the sheep.s skin had been scratched by prickly bushes.

In picture 6 you can see  shepherd pouring oil from a horn on to a sheep's back
anointing sheep
Sometimes a sheep might fall into a stream and find that it could not get out. The good shepherd loved his sheep and would go looking for it. He would probably use his curved crook to pull the sheep out. If it was hurt he would put it on his shoulder and carry it home.
shepherd carrying sheep
If you have not read it already, go to The Parable of  the Lost Sheep
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