But a sheep. I never thought I’d hear myself singing about wanting to be one. The word sheep tends to have a negative connotation when talking about a person or a group of people. The common consensus is that sheep are dumb animals that follow where they’re led absentmindedly. Because of this people who tend to let others do their thinking for them and “follow the crowd” are called sheep. Not something I want to be called. But when you open your Bible there’s that word filling the pages. In John 21 Jesus talks with Peter and asks him three times if he loves Him:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I Love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-18)
Jesus called His people His sheep, His lambs, but it didn’t have a negative meaning. Jesus wasn’t looking down on them, He was looking at them with affection, and He was asking Peter to take care of them, of us. Matthew 9:36 says, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In Matthew 10:16a Jesus says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” We even see this metaphor in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” In the Bible being a sheep is a good thing. They are shown as gentle, humble creatures. Even Jesus was called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29).
Jesus was also called the Good Shepherd. “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. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:14-16). The truth about sheep? They’re not the stupid animals they are thought to be. They’re actually pretty smart. Being considered a sheep in Christian worldview is an honor. Sheep in this case are people who follow the Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We follow where He leads, the examples He sets, the rules He gives us to live as we should. We continue to follow as long as He continues to lead, and He will always lead.
And as sheep we need to work together. I love what the description I found on a website says about sheep and their “strong flocking instinct.” It says, “Their only protection from predators is to band together and follow the sheep in front of them. If a predator is threatening the flock, this is not the time to act independently.”* How true of us! As human beings we have a natural predator: Satan. We can’t fight him alone! When he attacks we need help from the group, those who walk with us in faith, those fighting the same spiritual battle we fight.
So being a sheep is a good thing, not a bad thing. We’re not stupid creatures mindlessly following a crowd. We may not know where we’re walking, but we know whose leading, and we know our final destination. And the reward is more than we could ever imagine.
I just wanna be a sheep. Don’t you?
Lord Jesus, thank You for being the Good Shepherd, for leading me wherever I need to go, and for giving me a flock that lives for You. I also thank You for being the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. I pray that I am able to follow your example as a gentle lamb.