There was once a preacher who was traveling between cities. He had lived in cities all of his life. He could tell you how to find a good parking spot, what neighborhoods to avoid within the city, and how to avoid traffic by using the backstreets. He was a smart guy with plenty of personality, but he was having trouble preaching.
He was having a problem with all of the agricultural illustrations that Jesus seemed to use time and time again. As he drove along, he kept on hearing illustrations about plants and plantations reverberating the back of his head. He knew the sower went out to sow and that he sowed good seed, but for the life of him he couldn't tell you what would make the difference between a good seed and a bad seed. He knew that Jesus said that I am the vine, and you are the branches, but branches and vines seemed to be the same things to him.
As he drove along from one city to the other, he looked out into one of the fields along the countryside that was he was driving through. At first he couldn't be sure, but after a couple of double-takes, he finally gave in to the reality of what was out in the field before him a real live shepherd and real live sheep.
He got so excited that he almost ditched the car as he pulled off the road. He ran across the field over to the shepherd and still with a little disbelief under his panting, he asked,are you a shepherd? The shepherd, half-wondering if this was one of the city nuts his parents had told him about, said, yes.
Oh thank goodness, said the preacher, You see, I'm a pastor, a preacher and I'm on my way to the city, but I have no idea what I'm going to say. You see, I'm preaching on when Jesus is called the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd but I don't even know what that means. Can you tell me what you think of when someone says the lamb of God to you?
The shepherd thought for a while, and then looked out across his flock, and said, You know, this is spring time. Spring time is tough for shepherds and people who work with sheep. It's lambing time, birthing time for the sheep.
Unfortunately, the shepherd went on, it's not a time that is filled with much joy in fact it's filled probably with a lot more sorrow. You see, every lambing season there is death. It's either a sheep that gives birth to a lamb that is stillborn or one that dies soon after, or it is a mother sheep that dies while giving birth.
You would think it would be easy enough to fix things, just putting the motherless lambs with the childless sheep, but it isn't that easy. Sheep are particular about their families, they won't just trade around like that. If you let them, the lambs would starve to death because the mothers, even the mothers without sheep of their own wouldn't pay any attention to them.
Wait, you said, if you let them, broke in the city pastor, what do you do? How do you keep the lambs from starving?
Well, it's probably more than what you want to hear, preacher, said the shepherd.
No, I insist, what do you do?
We bring one of the orphaned lambs over to where the mother sheep has lost one of her lambs. What we have to do is take her dead baby lamb and well I sure hope you aren't squeamish, pastor we cut the dead lamb's throat and pour the blood all over the living lamb. It is only then that the mother lamb will recognize the living lamb as her own, when it is covered in the blood of its true offspring.
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