It is therefore of no surprise that Jesus speaks of sheep and shepherds for the imagery is clear and obvious. The sheep follow the voice of the Shepherd, for they know His voice, but the voice of strangers causes them to run. He speaks of being the way into the sheepfold, the gate, and in doing so points us to Him as the means by which we can come into God's presence and enter into His kingdom. It's no accident that the early Christians prayed, studied and shared all they had, for they saw themselves as one family, living in their own physical homes, containing in the same sheepfold and sharing physical things too.
Jesus had called them, redeemed them and informed them and this meant they lived differently - even though it might lead to them being put down, punished and abused (as the 1 Peter passage tells us). There was such a unity that the Church grew in reputation, regard and, as a result of this, number. Wherever you are, whatever you're situation, may the knowledge that you are part of the Christian family be a strength to you and a source of support: Mental, emotional, spiritual and practical. May you know the security of being in the company of other sheep and may you be protected from those false shepherds who twist and corrupt the word of God to their own ends.
Remember - the hallmark of the shepherd is that they put their sheep before themselves and seek to provide for them - always :-)
Lord Jesus Christ, God made man, sacrificed for us - Come into our presence today and lead us into that place of safety.
Protect us from all things that might lead us away from the truth;
The things that might lead us to act as we should not
And bring your peace, healing and light to the place where we are.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full. Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
1 Peter 2.19-25
For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.