We once had some sheep. It was not a long relationship so I’m not an expert, but I do remember a few things about them. They were easily spooked, curious to the point of constantly getting into trouble, and they followed each other without paying much attention to where they were going. The word ‘mindless’ seems to fit. They were also smelly and difficult to keep clean.
Some people think sheep are cuddly, but that is seldom correct. For the most part, they resist everything you want from them. It is somewhat humbling to realize that Jesus most often used sheep as a metaphor for His disciples . . .
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)
However, He also used ‘shepherd’ as a metaphor for Himself . . .
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
At the time, His disciples did not understand, so He went on . . .
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
He also explained that He came to save the lost without distinction. That meant both Jews and Gentiles would respond to His invitation . . .
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:1–18)
Some refused to believe Him and were not included, but those who are in His sheepfold know Him. He saves them, prays for them, cares for them, and gives them eternal life. What a joy to be able to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and at the same time be humbled to hear Him say, “My sheep . . . .”
Jesus, indeed You are my shepherd. As I am a ‘sheep’ I realize my need for You. Without You, I would be in constant peril because of my sheep-like nature. Without You, my life would be unclean, full of sin. You care for me and watch over me. Your rod and staff correct me, keep me from harm, and guide me in the way I should go. Truly, when I compare myself to those silly sheep, I shudder to think what my life would be like without You.