Sheep and shepherds are such a staple in the Bible. We hear it all the time. What does it mean to be sheep?
Sheep are followers, flock animals, and creatures of habit. What about us? How are we sheep? We are born sheep. We may seem physically different than sheep, but at the core, we’re followers, flock animals, and creatures of habit. This is especially true when speaking of our spiritual selves.
We gather up like sheep. We don’t know how to save ourselves, nor are we often too concerned about caring for ourselves. We’re more interested in fitting in with the flock. That means we follow the ways of the world. We do what the rest of the world does. Maybe we even belong to a church, and yet we still want to remain like the culture.
We’re born spiritually helpless. We don’t know our shepherd and we can’t hear His voice. We just go about our business unconcerned for ourselves. Even as the wolf is prowling us, we remain ignorant of our need for a shepherd.
Instead we look for other places for protection. We look in each other, culture, and self-help methods. We look to drugs, alcohol, and other gods for protection from the wolf, but none of them care for us. They care not for the sheep. They’re incapable of caring for us.
However, even as ignorant and helpless sheep, there is a shepherd who does care. There is a shepherd who loves the sheep enough that He would come looking for them. He doesn’t wait for the sheep to realize the wolf is prowling and their need for help, care, guidance, and protection. He doesn’t wait for the sheep to love him, hear his voice, or recognize it. No, he is the Good Shepherd. If he waited for these things and put the responsibility on the sheep, then the sheep wouldn’t stand a chance.
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. You are the sheep. You deserve to be devoured by the wolf. You deserve to be led to the slaughter house to atone for your sin. You are spiritually blind, corrupt, and helpless. You are inclined to sin. You were born against God and defiant of him. Everyone pictures sheep as innocent lambs, but that’s not the full picture of what a sheep is. You’re not by your nature an innocent little lamb. Picture yourself more as a ram. Rams are violent and dangerous. Unlike ewes, rams are not docile, small, or calm. They are large, heavy, violent, and aggressive. You are like the ram.
When Jesus came to you to be the Good Shepherd, your nature wasn’t to run to him gladly. You were too sinful for that. You were like the ram. You wanted nothing to do with the shepherd. You were more interested in staying with the flock of the world. You bucked and tugged and fought the entire way.
But that’s the love of the Good Shepherd. Even as you fought against the thing you needed, he came to you in love anyway. He knows you and you know him. You don’t know him because in your spiritually dense sheep brain you came to understand him, nor did you read enough books to grasp him. You didn’t do enough soul searching to know him. You know your Good Shepherd for one reason! Because Jesus Christ made you know him. He forced you to know him.
We are so corrupted by sin that we are against our Good Shepherd and never wanted to know him. Even though Christ is the shepherd forcing on us the things that we need, our nature is to fight him the whole way. Fortunately, the Good Shepherd’s love is stronger than your hate. His power is greater than your resistance. He came to save you. And he did that.
Even while you were a sinner. Even as you were against him, he came as the Good Shepherd and laid down his life for you. It wasn’t stolen from him. It wasn’t forced from him. He is God. No one could take his life from him. He gave up his life by his own accord for you. He allowed hmself to be slaughtered in your place. He was placed on the cross in your stead. He was abandoned to death so that you would never be.
By the grace of God, the Good Shepherd’s death and resurrection welcomed you into the flock. Not the flock of the world. But the Good Shepherd’s flock. And the sheep of his flock are not spiritually blind or ignorant sheep. They are sheep with the Holy Spirit. They are sheep with the Good Shepherd. He knows them, and by the Spirit in them, they know him. They recognize His voice and they follow him.
We don’t deserve to be in his flock. Yet we are assured that we are part of that flock and nothing can snatch us from it. We don’t have to worry about the wolf, sin, or death. These are not things that Christ’s sheep worry about because he’s already taken care of them for us. And more, he’s made great promises to his sheep. Open your Bible and read Psalm 23 and know the Shepherd’s promises to you.
Rev. Logan Landes is associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.