Many people in the time and culture that Jesus lived were very familiar with sheep herding. It was a common occupation and people saw sheep all the time. So when our Lord described Himself as a shepherd, that was a comforting thought, because they knew how precious sheep were to their shepherd. But what they may have missed was that even though Jesus is likened unto the shepherd, the parable was just as much about how we are like the sheep. See, even though Christ is a good shepherd, we are often bad sheep.
Here are some similarities between us and the bad sheep:
- Sheep by nature are herding animals. They prefer to live and move in flocks. They find comfort and safety in numbers. We are social too. We prefer to live and move in groups. That can be dangerous because fitting in and moving with the crowd often means we have to take on the beliefs and behavior of the crowd. Many crowds in today's world are moving away from God. Are we going to move with them?
- Sheep are programmed to follow the leader. Whether it's the dominant ram or the eldest sheep, they will go where ever the leader goes. I read a story about a flock of 400 sheep that followed one sheep right off a cliff to their death. Most of us in some areas in our lives are followers by nature. We are constantly following, but the question is where are we being led.
- Sheep depend mostly on their sight. They have large eyes positioned on their heads where they can see almost 360 degrees around them. They depend on their sight so much that they are reluctant to go where they cannot see. That sounds like us. We move based on what we see, even though we know looks can be deceiving. God may be telling us to move in faith, but we want to see it first. However, a lot of what God promises us we can't yet see.
When I think about how much I am like those sheep, I realize how much I need Jesus to guide me through the briers, cliffs and wolves in my life. I need Him to make me lie down in green pastures and lead me beside still waters. I can understand what David meant when he said, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Because I know I am sometimes a bad sheep, I am thankful that Jesus is always the Good Shepherd.