One Sunday morning a church member approached his pastor after the morning service. With a serious look on his face, he stared at the pastor and said, “This church has been insulting me for years, and I didn’t even know it until this week.”
The pastor was shocked and replied, “What are you talking about?”
“Well,” the man said, “every Sunday you end the worship service with the phrase, ‘We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.’ I have even heard pastors refer to their congregation as a ‘flock.’ This past week I visited a sheep farm. I found out that sheep are some of the dumbest animals on earth. They are so dumb that they will willingly follow each other right into the slaughterhouse. There are ways that pigs are smarter than sheep, and I sure don’t want to be called a pig – especially in church.”
That man was actually onto something. The Bible does call all of us sheep. Long before Jesus came to earth, Isaiah the prophet told his countrymen: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Like those dumb sheep, we tend to make choices that can hurt us rather than help us. God, like a good shepherd, puts restrictions on our behavior in order to keep us safe. God doesn’t set up rules just to keep us from having fun. A child, for example, may think that we’re mean when we take a sharp, shiny knife away, but we only do it to keep the child from getting hurt. In the same way, God’s instructions are always the best thing for us.
In order to have Christ as our Shepherd, though, we have to recognize our need for one. We must first agree that we really are like dumb sheep who have wandered away from our God. “Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). It is not very flattering to admit that we need God’s constant care, but it’s true. “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing [lambs]” (Isaiah 40:11).
One of the most amazing things about Jesus, our God-Shepherd, is that He also actually became a sheep. Jesus became a man (or a “sheep”) like us so that He could die in our place for our sin. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he pointed Him out and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus did just that when He went to the Cross. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Jesus is our Shepherd, and yet He is also became a sacrificial Lamb when He paid for our sin. Jesus Himself said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The Bible even tells us that one day Christ will be worshiped in heaven by those who fall “down before the Lamb” and sing, “Worthy are You . . . for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:8-9).
It is insulting to be called a sheep, but calling us “sheep” is an accurate way to describe how weak and unruly we are. Jesus, the God-man, willingly became a sheep like us so that He could both show us how we should live, and also so that He could die as a sacrifice to save those who admit that they need Him as their Shepherd. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13).
If you have become one of Christ’s sheep, I would love to learn how that happened. If you can get on the Internet, log on to www.bethelchapelchurch.com, find this article at the bottom of the page, and share your story. I’d love to hear from you.