Yesterday we had a bit of a panic. While out walking our two dogs, Ben, the youngest and smallest ran away. Something spooked him, he managed to get loose and was off. When he was eventually found and taken in by someone he’d run over a mile, crossing roads with roundabouts, dodging cars, on so many occasions he could have been hit. Thankfully he wasn’t but at the end of his adventure he’d grazed his hind leg and both rear paws were bleeding. It could have been so much worse. While he was missing the sense of loss and despair was horrific. We were desperate to find him again, and so relieved when someone brought him back to us.
The whole event reminded me of a story that Jesus told about a missing sheep. If you’re like me you wouldn’t be able to tell one sheep from another, but not so a shepherd, particularly an Eastern shepherd who would know each of his sheep by name. There would be an incredibly strong bond between them. This was illustrated to me when I heard of a shepherd who was able to identify each of his flock with his eyes closed. He knew their distinctive smell and touch. When you have such a love for your sheep they stay with you, but somehow in Jesus’ story one went missing.
The shepherd originally had 100 sheep so does it matter too much if he loses one? To a shepherd it most certainly does, so the one in our story left 99 sheep in someone’s care and went looking for the one missing sheep. He would have searched high and low, looking everywhere, until eventually he found his sheep caught in a thicket. There’s no doubt he would have risked his life to rescue his sheep and when he found it he carried it home on his shoulders, rejoicing all the way.
Jesus likens the missing sheep to a person who repents. The word repent means being sorry for sins committed, turning away from sin and turning towards God, choosing to live for him. This is possible as a person recognises that Jesus died for them on a cross, where he was punished for their sins. Jesus also says that when a person repents angels in heaven rejoice, because they know the dire consequences from which that person has been saved.
Jesus calls himself a shepherd. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (1) This is just what a good shepherd would do, he would be in so much despair at the loss of his sheep he would willingly sacrifice his own life to get the sheep back. It wouldn’t matter how many more sheep he may have owned.
Jesus also said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (2) Jesus knows his sheep, blindfolded he could tell us apart. He knows our distinctiveness, our differences, he loves us and would die for us. Actually, he did die for us. We weren’t caught in a thicket, we were held tight by sin and unable to release ourselves. Jesus knew that the only way we could be saved from our sins, and the eternal death which is a consequence of sin, was to die for us in our place. God has the right to punish us for our sins, but the punishment fell on Jesus instead. He died so that we might be given eternal life and the forgiveness of all our sins.
Try and imagine Jesus as your shepherd, a good shepherd who loves you and will do anything for you. King David, he of David and Goliath fame, once wrote a psalm, a poem, from the perspective of a sheep. It’s true for all those who know Jesus as their Saviour.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (3)
Sound nice doesn’t it? That could be your life.
- John 10:11
- John 10:14,15
- Psalm 23:1,2