I don’t know a lot about sheep. To be honest, if God hadn’t called us sheep there is a good chance that I would know next to nothing about them now. I’m a city girl. Well, city for the my area.
So when Jesus says He is the Gate for the sheep and the good Shepherd, I’m thinking, OK, so how does that work? How does that help me in my everyday walking around life? In John, chapter ten, Jesus expounds on the beauty of this relationship. Let’s check it out in The Message version,
The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.’ Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. ‘I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture… I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of…I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd…The sheep don’t matter to him…I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.'”
Lysa Terkeurtst gives us a window into the world of Biblical times shepherding in Finding I AM and it shines brightly on these verses, “Shepherding is a perfect example of how our modern understanding of something could pull us away from grasping all that God wants us to embrace in His Word…shepherding today includes using a herding dog…Essentially, the herding dog runs around the sheep to cause them to panic and run towards a specific direction…In this method of shepherding, the way to get sheep to move and obey is through panic and pain…during the time of Jesus…there weren’t any pain tactics to keep the sheep on the right path…In this concept of shepherding, the way to care for the sheep was through tenderness, trust, and nurturing.”
Well now, this changes our view of being a sheep being herded by a shepherd. Day after day the sheep hear their shepherd’s voice and day after day the shepherd cares for his sheep with tenderness. They have learned to trust him. They have learned to depend on him and the sheep follow him willingly.
The big picture here is that Jesus is the only way to salvation. He is the only door. We must enter through Him to be saved and in relationship with God.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:6, NLT
And, part of that big picture (I love this part) is that our Jesus is a tender, nurturing, trustworthy Shepherd. He gently guides us into the direction He wants us to go. When even one of us wanders, He searches for us and brings us back to the fold. We can recognize His voice speaking to us and He knows us by name. He fights for us and He provides for us. What a Shepherd, what a Savior.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11, ESV