Steal the Sheep

 

Theme: Jesus keeps us safe from harm. 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Object: Use a small whiteboard to draw a diagram of how "Steal the Sticks" is played.
Scripture: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

I remember a game we used to play during recess at school. The game was called "Steal the Sticks." Let me explain how the game is played. The class is divided into two teams and a line is drawn on the ground on each side of the playground. A pile of sticks is placed in a circle near each team's line. The object of the game is to steal a stick from the other team's circle without being tagged. If a player is behind his own team's line, he is safe and cannot be tagged by the other team. If a player is tagged, he has to stay with the other team until he is rescued by being tagged by one of his own team members. When one team has stolen all of the other team's sticks, the game is over. Otherwise, the team that has the most sticks at the end of the game is the winner. We had a lot of fun playing "Steal the Sticks," but in real life, stealing is never fun. It is very serious business.

I am reminded of a story that Jesus told that we might call "Steal the Sheep." Jesus said that sometimes a person climbs over the fence into a sheep pen. "Anyone who does that must surely be a thief and a robber" Jesus said, "because the shepherd who cares for the sheep would not climb over the fence, he would enter the gate." Jesus went on to explain that the gatekeeper knows the shepherd and will open the gate for him. The sheep know the shepherd and will recognize his voice and follow him. The sheep will never follow a stranger -- they will run from a stranger!

The Bible says that when Jesus told this story, the people didn't understand it. Do you think you understand what Jesus was talking about? Well, let me tell you what I think this story means. I think that in this story, we are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd. Jesus loves us and he wants only what is best for us. He will watch over us and care for us and keep us from harm. He will provide everything that we need. The one who would climb over the fence and try to steal the sheep is a false teacher. He is one who will try to lead us astray and trick us into following him instead of following Jesus.

When someone tries to get you to follow him, listen to what he says and then ask yourself, "What did Jesus say?" If what he is saying is not the same as what Jesus said, watch out! Remember the warning that Jesus gives at the end of our Bible lesson today, "A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest."

Dear Jesus, we know that you are the good shepherd. We love you and want to follow you each and every day. Help us to watch out for those who want to lead us astray. Amen.