Wonderful sheep, source of so many illustrations, parables, and great games and lessons! One interesting thing to note is that Jesus is depicted both as the good shepherd, who knows His sheep, and also the sacrificial lamb, who lays down his life for us. In this lesson, we will look at the importance of loving one another, and how that love was demonstrated in the work of Jesus.
Lesson focus: As humans, we easily stray from what is right, but God promises that He loves us and cares for us if we will follow His instruction.
Passage: John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24
Key Verse: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… -John 10:11
Target Audience: Pre-k through sixth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Cotton balls, paper plates, paper bags, glue, markers, scissors, marshmallows, Bibles.
- See our playlist on YouTube on Jesus the Good Shepherd
- Browse free resources on our website about the Good Shepherd
- Compare “I am the Good Shepherd” Sunday School Lesson
- See our Jesus Knows Me Bible Lesson
- See our craft ideas about the Good Shepherd
Lesson Opening & Game Idea
Weather allowing, have a game of “sheep tag…” One person is to be the “shepherd,” and the other students will be “sheep.” As the sheep are tagged, they must lie down where they are tapped…once everyone has been tagged, switch shepherds and play a couple more rounds.
Then have a “sheep relay…” Have students line up in teams, and race back and forth across the room. They are to run to a bowl of cotton balls, race on all fours back to a poster, and glue cotton balls onto the “sheep” picture. Do this until the cotton ball bowls are empty. Add sheep eyes, legs, etc., for bonus points.
Bible Lesson: We Need the Good Shepherd
Ask students what they might know about sheep. Students might be aware that their wool is used to make clothes, or that they like to eat grass, or live in flocks. But there are other characteristics of sheep in general that the Bible uses to compare the animals to us. Sheep are not very smart. They tend to follow the flock and just do what they see other sheep doing. They also like to wander away and are easy targets for predators, without a watchful shepherd to guide and guard them. Sound familiar? Well, the focus of today’s lesson is on how Jesus shares that He is THE good shepherd…but the context that He gives us is how we as Christians are obligated to love one another. What does this mean…?
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Well, obviously it is wrong to kill people. But note how serious this seems…we are not only sinful if we murder, but also if we have a horrid grudge or hatred towards someone else!
Brainstorm some ways that we can SHOW or demonstrate love….write them on a scratch paper or giant paper. Then delve into the Godly example shown…
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
It is one thing to say “I love you” or offer random compliments…that is not genuine love, and most people can figure that out. True love is not words, but actions…
Speaking of true love, what does love look like to God? More importantly, who is God, and what does He look like? Add brainstorm suggestions to the poster/paper, and be sure to emphasize how Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” Then mention how Jesus Himself described His love as that of a shepherd:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” -John 10:14-18
In ancient times, the shepherds were willing to fight off wolves and lions, brave bad weather, and endure rough terrain in order to guard their wooly charges. We are the little roaming sheep, but if we listen to the Good
Shepherd, He will lead us to good pasture.Jesus knows us, and loves us so much that He gave Himself up for us. He will go out and find the lost lambs, so that we can all be together in a happy haven of wooly goodness.
Ask students a few follow-up questions about the material…
-Why does the Bible often use sheep as an analogy?
-How are we like sheep?
-How can we know that we are following the voice of the “Good Shepherd?”
-What does God promise when we obey?
-How can we prove our love for God and for one another?
So you have a couple of options here…there are many sheep crafts, but here are some possibilities (basically, make sure you have lots of cotton balls):
- Sheep puppets: decorate paper bags with sheep “ears” and eyes, and glue on cotton balls
- Sheep masks: Attach eyes and cotton balls to paper plates; use popsicle sticks for handles
Prior to closing, allow students to make and eat “marshmallow sheep” using marshmallows and pretzels or toothpicks.
Close with prayer and thank God for loving us as a Good Shepherd. Ask for wisdom and discernment in listening for His true voice and instructions.
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