Living around Wayne County for almost your entire life would lead many to believe that, by default, you are knowledgeable about farming, crops and the Amish. To take it a step further, growing up in Smithville would lead people to assume those things about me as well. However, I know very little about any of them. But one thing I have often found fascinating as a Christian is how frequently the Lord describes His followers as His flock or His sheep.
Years ago, I remember hearing a few friends who are farmers talk about sheep. Sheep are meek animals, gentle and quiet. They can be very smart creatures and have the cognitive ability like humans to form long lasting bonds with each other. They have similar emotions to us in regards to fear, joy, boredom and anger. They recognize their shepherd and know the voice of those who care for them.
In Israel, in the time of Jesus and in modern times, the shepherd would lead the sheep. They would go in front of the sheep who would, in turn, follow the shepherd. If one sheep would go astray, then a shepherd would call the lost sheep by name. When the lost sheep hears its name being called by the shepherd, it will come to the shepherd and follow.
A good shepherd knows their sheep so well that they have names for each sheep. The shepherd knows their sheep and cares for their sheep in a way that we would find crazy. When the shepherd and the flock come to a river or creek, the shepherd will carry each of the sheep to safety. Or when a sheep is attacked by a vicious animal, the shepherd will fight off the predator to save and rescue the sheep. They will not even risk losing the life of one of the sheep from the flock because that one sheep’s life is too valuable to them.
In verse 11, Jesus says that HE is the shepherd and that He lays down His life for the sheep. Not like the hired hand, the worker who is in it for the money, who doesn’t own the sheep and will not fight to save the life of the sheep. Jesus is quite the opposite. He is the good shepherd who fights and defends His sheep. He knows each of His sheep and His sheep know Him and follow Him.
And if just one sheep from the flock comes up missing, the shepherd will leave the flock together and go and call out the name of the lost sheep and search for the one that is missing. They realize that there is a risk involved in finding the one that is lost but they will not stop or rest until they find it. Sheep like to stay together. So, if one is missing, the shepherd knows something is wrong. The herd, as a whole, is strong but one lost sheep is able to be attacked. The lost sheep could be trapped, sick or wounded. A good shepherd knows that, in the open country away from the flock, the lost sheep is in danger. And they will not rest until it is found.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. I know this because, when I was lost from the flock, He came and found me and He carried me back to safety when I could not walk on my own. Do you know the Good Shepherd? Do you recognize His voice? And are you following the Shepherd?