(Contributing author – Kesha Sylvan)
The Bible likens mankind to flocks of sheep – did you ever wonder why? Sheep are some of the most naive animals on Earth. Without a shepherd they are defenseless wanderers and easy prey for predators. Throughout history sheep are bred for slaughter and/or for their precious wool coats, but not much more than that. There was a time when God’s people were openly and freely persecuted or “slaughtered” for their pure worship of God and likened by authors of the Bible to sheep. Just like sheep, they were harmless, meek, humble, and patient in their sufferings, just as Christ, who we sometimes refer to as the Lamb of God. Ever heard the term “cast” sheep? A cast sheep is a sheep that has rolled over on its back and may not be able to get back up due to either its short stockiness and full fleece or for the fact that it could be a pregnant ewe (female sheep). A cast sheep can become stressed and die in a short period of time if it does not get help to roll it back onto its feet and even after being helped back onto its feet, after being “cast”, it may need to be supported for a minute to ensure that it is steady. With all the many dangers in the life of a sheep – they MUST have a good shepherd or they will die or be killed. In the biblical days the sheep’s pen looked like large rocks stacked one on top of the other to create a semi-circle; high enough that the sheep could not jump it, but the doorway was open so the sheep could be easily led out to pasture by the shepherd each morning, but at night the shepherd would lay his body across the doorway of the pen, not only to keep the sheep in, but any predator would have to go THROUGH the shepherd first to get to his flock!
In the book of John chapter 10, Jesus is speaking of just such a case where He is trying to explain this to the Pharisees, but the Pharisees do not understand what this parable means; (paraphrasing) here: Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen through the gate, but enters some other way is a robber and a thief because the shepherd of the sheep enters through the gate. When the shepherd opens the gate and calls them, by name, they recognize his voice, they will follow Him, and the good shepherd will lead them out to the open field or to pasture. He then reassured them that a shepherd’s sheep will NEVER follow a stranger because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. The Bible says that the Pharisees had no idea what Christ was talking about, but then to demonstrate the parable Jesus continues on to clarify, so in John 10:7 He says, and I quote: “so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” John 10:9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
In the next couple of verses in this chapter of John, Jesus goes on to distinguish “His voice” for “His sheep” (paraphrasing) Jesus states that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy “a flock” and except for the good shepherd, who owns the flock, no one else will guard and put his life at risk like the shepherd who owns and tends to a flock; especially not “hired hands”, because as soon as a wolf approaches, a “hired hand”, who cares nothing for the sheep, abandons them without second thought because he doesn’t own the sheep, its not his flock, and he doesn’t care for the flock; therefore he’d rather save his own life, leaving the sheep at the mercy of the enemy’s attack and scattered without protection. During this parable, Jesus points out another important factor, it can be noted in John 10:16, where Jesus said, and I quote: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” So you see, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from we’re all “but sheep” in a pasture scattered and at the mercy of the wolf who comes hungry to devour us or at the mercy of the thief who comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and even left to our own devices we are just “cast” sheep, overturned, stressed out, and defenseless with a short time left before we die unless we come running at the sound of our name, called by a familiar voice. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your faith is today because the Good Shepherd has promised to call you out by name because He knows you, and you will know Him, and you will be called out from foreign “sheep pens” and other flocks when the time comes to be reunited as ONE flock, in the GOOD PASTURE, lead by the one and only Good Shepherd. May God continue to bless and keep you until you truly hear His voice. Amen.
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