The Shepherd and His Sheep
This is the final post in the relationship series. This week we will be discussing the Shepherd and his sheep. Just a warning: this blog might offend some people, but it’s meant to be encouraging. I hope you will read it with grace knowing that I’m not the final authority on the Bible and I’m just sharing what I’ve found.
Jesus called himself the good shepherd when he was on earth and commissioned Peter to feed his sheep before he ascended to Heaven.
Let’s begin by looking at some scripture that makes reference to believers being sheep.
John 10:1-16- “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
John 21:15-17- After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
1 Peter 5:1-4- And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.
Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
In John 10 Jesus is showing that he is different from the leaders that had come before him. He showed us a better way. He is the shepherd who would lay down his life for his sheep and die to protect them.
A hired hand would count the cost before fighting off a wolf and wouldn’t see enough value to die trying to protect them, but someone who owned the sheep would easily lay down their life to protect their property. We are Jesus’ property. We have one Shepherd who is meant to lead the church.
It’s amazing to me how we throw the word shepherd around regarding pastors or leaders. In my experience some leaders set themselves apart from the flock as a shepherd and take the role of Jesus. That gets really dangerous because they can’t live up to the standard that Jesus did. So when they fail or fall into sin their churches scatter or they feel personally hurt. I’m not saying this is always the case, but we are never meant to put ourselves in Jesus role. All believers are sheep.
Jesus is the true shepherd. We are his and his alone. We are meant to follow him and encourage others to follow him as well. A good leader points the other sheep toward the shepherd. They don’t elevate themselves above and try to lead from a place of honor. In John 21 when Jesus appointed Peter to feed his sheep he didn’t transfer ownership. He told him to take care of his property. To build a church of people willing to follow him no matter the cost. In the Old Testament, leaders were often referred to as "shepherds". When Jesus came, he established himself as one shepherd for all Christians.
If you are a leader and you don't actually say that you aren't the Shepherd and point to Jesus then it becomes easy in our current church system for people to worship you instead of him. Everything a leader does needs to point back to Jesus. I believe we should lead by walking in front or beside people; never above them.
What do you do when you've already placed yourself as the shepherd in someone's life?
You read 1 Peter 5 to them and then you lead by example. You chase the heart of God with every breath you have left and you trust that they will follow your example. Peter’s answer for pride was to stop only talking and start walking. Later in that chapter he explains that God gives grace to the humble, but he opposes the proud.
How do you know if you have pride?
When someone comes at you with accusation does it offend you? At the core, pride sets up an idol of yourself in your heart.
If you have pride, you will be offended when someone doesn’t “honor” or “respect” your authority.
Speaking of authority, I’m not saying that it goes out the window. But the one who has authority isn’t meant to lord over the ones who don’t. They are meant to serve them. Just like Jesus did. He had the most authority of any man in the world and he washed his disciples feet. He came from Heaven and knew more than any of us ever will, but he humbled himself to become a servant. Love is about humility.
Jesus talks about one flock with one shepherd. We are supposed to be unified as his flock. If you watch the discovery channel, you will see that predators seek out the prey that is separated from the herd and attack them. That’s why when people message me saying they need prayer because they are struggling; my first question is always: “Are you involved in your church? Or do you at least have believers that you have community with on a regular basis?” So far I have had no one respond by saying yes. I’m sure there are exceptions, but it’s much safer as a Christian to surround yourself with other believers who can encourage you when you are struggling.
When we become a part of Christ’s flock we know his voice. We follow where he leads because we trust that, no matter the outcome, he is leading us to do what is best. God speaks in a variety of ways, so it’s not always going to look the same as it does for someone else. At the end of the day, people who are following the voice of Christ will be known by their fruit.
Let's follow the Shepherd's voice.
Let’s be fruitful people.
Let's be Christians.
I know that some of what I’ve said might be controversial. If you have a different opinion, I would love to hear it. (Preferably backed up by scripture.) I’m not the final authority on shepherds and sheep, but this is the conclusion I’ve come to by reading the Bible. Feel free to leave a comment or email me.