Summary: Jesus is our great Shepherd, he cares for his sheep, he knows us.
A shepherd was looking after his sheep one day on the side of a deserted road, when suddenly a brand new Porsche screeches to a halt.
The driver, a man dressed in an Armani suit , Cerutti shoes, Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses, Longines wrist-watch, gets out and asks the shepherd:
"If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?"
The shepherd looks at the young man, and then looks at the large flock of grazing sheep and replies:"Okay."
The young man parks the car, Fires up his laptop, enters a NASA Webster, scans the ground using his GPS, opens a database with 60 Excel tables filled with logarithms and pivot tables, and then prints out a executive summary report on his high-tech mini-printer. He glancesat the report as he turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1,586 sheep here."
Surprised the shepherd replies, "That’s correct, you can have your sheep."
Being an astute judge of value young man selects an animal and puts it in the back of his Porsche.
Just as the man is about to drive off, the shepherd asks him:
"If I guess your profession, will you return my animal to me?"
The young man answers, "Yes, why not?"
The shepherd says, "I’m guessing you’re a professional consultant." "How did you know?” asks the young man.
"Very simple," answers the shepherd.
"Firstly, you came here without being called.
Secondly, you charged me a fee to tell me something I already knew, and
Thirdly, it’s obvious you don’t understand anything about my business. Now please can I have my dog back?"
We might think looking after sheep is a simple task but it isn’t. Looking after sheep is a highly specialised job. It takes a good Shepherd years to learn his trade – and it is a craft often passed on from father to son.
I would like therefore to offer you some reflections on Jesus’s words in our Gospel reading this morning when he said:
“I am the Good Shepherd.”
What a strange metaphor to use? Yet, very appropriate.
Today, we will quickly look at the sheep, the shepherd and the sheepfold. 1. Firstly, because we have some “not too flattering” similarities to sheep.
2. Secondly, Jesus’ love and concern for us is similar to that of a good shepherd for his sheep and
3. Thirdly because I think the Church should be like the sheepfold.
1. We have some unflattering similarilities to Sheep
When I look at society today, I can see three characteritsics of sheep that I see in folk around us –and in myself too!
1.1. Sheep follow the crowd and just like we humans always want to be where the action is.
1.2. Sheep can be pretty stubborn or difficult. There is a leader and there is a tail -ender.
Do any of you have children? – need I say more?
1.3. When a sheep trusts someone, they will follows him/her without thinking.
I’ve worked with sheep a bit, I mean real, whooly, smelly, sheep, and I can attest to that it works both ways with sheep, if they trust you they will follow you anywhere but if they don’t trust you they will never even be able to herd them through a gate never mind leading them through. But once they trust you, you must remember to close the gate right behind you or you will have a whooly entourage. You say but people aren’t like that. This was so sadly shown on November 18, 1978 in the Jonestown tragedy, when about 900 followers of the cult leader Jim Jones committed suicide in Jonestown Guyana – simply on the say so of their leader Jim Jones, whom, they trusted.
We need a good Shepherd and it is essential that we find the Good Shepherd who will care for us his sheep – not exploit us.
2. So what characteristics of the Shepherd can we see in Jesus. There are some wonderful characteristics that first century Jewish Shepherds had
2. 1. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and care for them individually. We see that well illustrated in the parable of the Lost Sheep. A shepherd had 100 sheep and found that one of them was mising. What did he do? Did he write that sheep of as a slight economic loss. No he left the other 99 safely grazing and went off to find the one that was lost. And we read that when he found it he came home rejoicing!
2.2. Shepherds protect their sheep. David was a Shepherd before he became King.
It was as a shepherd that he killed Goliath. He said this to King Saul as he went out to battle with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:34
34But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."