Sheep are legendary for being…well, one of the less intelligent among God’s creatures. The photo on the right, for example, was taken by Phil McClean as he passed a field in Scotland. The hapless sheep, trying to get every last morsel, got his head stuck in the feed bucket.
Ah, yes. I’ve had days like that, haven’t you?
Metaphorically, to be a sheep means to unthinkingly do as we’re told, as if we had no initiative or intelligence of our own. When we are embarrassed, we’re said to feel “sheepish.” There are Internet memes galore for “dumb sheep.”
And the fact that Jesus is our shepherd is supposed to be good news?
We don’t want to be sheep. Think about the last presidential election. Regardless of which candidate you voted for, chances are that at some point you were encouraged to think of the people voting for the other candidate as mindless sheep who’ll believe anything they hear. But not me, not us. We get it. We have a brain.
No doubt, the Pharisees and other authorities thought the same way about the followers of Jesus — the uneducated rabble who’d follow anyone with a good enough parlor trick. Even someone from Galilee.
Having written several posts on Jesus’ claim to be the Good Shepherd, I’m left wondering: can I really receive this as good news? Again, Jesus is not simply declaring that he’s an exemplary shepherd, one among many, but the only true Shepherd, in contradistinction to a long line of false ones. This Shepherd is truly good, because he lays down his life for his sheep. No one makes him do it: he does it out of love for us and love for his Father.
Can I accept this gospel unless I can accept that I am a sheep?
I can be as proud as any Pharisee.
What needs to change before I can appreciate the love of one who died in my stead?