Summary: Jesus will keep us safe in the sheepfold if we’re smart sheep and follow him.
Be A Smart Sheep
Two men were called on, in a large classroom, to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. One was an orator trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the psalm in a powerful way. When he finished, the audience cheered and asked for an encore that they might hear his wonderful voice again. Then the other man repeated the same words--’The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...’ but when he finished, no sound came from the class. Instead, people sat in a mood of deep devotion and prayer.
Then the first man stood to his feet. “I have a confession to make,” he said. “The difference between what you have just heard from my friend, and what you heard from me is this: I know the Psalm, but my friend knows the Shepherd.”
John uses many images in his Gospel, but my favorite one is that of Jesus as a shepherd. Like a shepherd, Jesus is concerned with the welfare and the care of His sheep. The shepherd loves his sheep. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He didn’t call himself King Jesus…He didn’t call himself President Jesus…He didn’t call himself Commissioner Jesus…He didn’t call himself Mayor Jesus…Doctor Jesus…Reverend Jesus…Deacon Jesus…Or Chairman Jesus….
But he called himself a shepherd…A servant… A caretaker…A watchmen…A provider…He called himself a shepherd… That’s what really stands out in my mind. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture…
We depend on God, for everything…And just as a shepherd watches over his sheep…So does God watch over his children…
Two caretakers are mentioned in this account, the Good Shepherd, and the hired hand. The hired hand had no connection with the sheep, no relationship with the sheep. He thought of himself first and the sheep last. If a sheep was attacked by a wolf, or lost, oh well.
Then there is the good shepherd. The good shepherd is the owner of the sheep. He has a special relationship with them. Most owners didn’t own a lot of sheep. A flock of 100 was huge. Most flocks were no larger than 10-20. Sheep were like valued pets. There was nothing about their sheep that the good shepherd did not know. The individual sheep in a flock all look alike to the untrained eye. A good shepherd, however, can tell them apart--often because of their markings or peculiar traits.
A shepherd was explaining this to a friend who was surprised by his familiarity with each animal. "See that sheep over there?" he asked. "Notice how it’s feet toe in a little. The one behind it walks kind of sideways; the next one has a patch of wool off its back; there’s one with a black mark below it’s eye, while the one closest to us has a small piece torn out of its ear. He knew each by name. These were not just sheep; they were Patch, Limpy, Blackie, Tag, Nosey, and so on. By day and night the shepherd lived with them. He was always there for them.
You see, a shepherd, in order to know his sheep and care for them, has to live among them. He has to be close to them. Jesus came from heaven to earth to be close to His sheep. The Good Shepherd became a sheep, took on our nature, and lived life just like us (except without sin). That’s why He is the good Shepherd.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows the peculiar traits of His flock and watches over us with love and concern.
A cemetery has a tombstone that bears the following epitaph:
Pause Stranger, when you pass me by, As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be, So prepare for death and follow me.
An unknown passerby scratched the following reply underneath:
To follow you I’m not content, Until I know which way you went!
The 1st phrase in our last song today goes “Savior, like a shepherd lead us,”. Shepherds go before their flock; they lead their flock, never asking them to do anything that they wouldn’t do first. “…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” Even though flocks may mingle together, each flock knew it’s own shepherd’s voice, and each would follow it’s own shepherd and no other.
I remember as a kid on the farm we had cows. My dad worked 2nd shift and when I got old enough it fell to me to do the evening milking. Now our cows had a little pasture down the lane a ways so to save time dad had a special call he would use. He’d call and soon the cows would appear in the lane out of the pasture headed up for their milking. He taught me the call but it took awhile before the cows would respond to my call. So, till they did, I’d have to walk all the way down to get them moving. Sometimes it takes us a little while before we respond to God’s call, as well.