Would You Follow Sheep Over the Cliff?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
We watched in horror as a herd of two hundred sheep threw themselves off the cliff while Farmer Oak looked on helplessly. Our girlfriends gathering around the large screen TV to watch the British romance “Far From the Madding Crowd” had started off with an especially graphic pivotal plot twist. And it most certainly confirmed what I had always heard about sheep.
Sheep follow the crowd, no matter what.
Jesus says we are like dumb sheep. Troubled and helpless. “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9.36)
Which stirs in Him compassion. He knows we need a shepherd. We need Him – the Good Shepherd (John 10.14).
Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible uses the whole sheep/shepherd word picture?
It’s not something I’m proud of.
Because sheep are kind of pathetic; they’re so dumb that they blindly follow the crowd, no matter where the crowd is going. I just read that recently in Turkey hundreds of sheep plunged off a cliff – one following the other. The first four hundred died and the next eleven hundred (yes, 1100 who followed them) just landed on a soft heap of sheep bodies and survived. Their shepherd, it seems, had gone off to breakfast. The loss to local farmers was $74,000.
Right about now I’m wondering whether this was the part of us that made Jesus think of sheep. How we can totally get carried away with the cause of the moment, the thrill of the week, the adventure of the season, and stupidly leave our brains behind.
Sheep are also wanderers, which we also know from biblical stories about the ones that got lost.
They look for grass in treacherous hills and through stony paths, so the shepherd has to keep an eye on them all the time. It’s way too easy for them to stray. Not only that, the shepherd must be a protector against wild animals and even robbers who want to steal the sheep.
Now I totally understand the analogy. After all, our world is scary and the path is narrow. We need a shepherd who protects. Where do you most need protection? Instead of blindly following the crowd, call upon the Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10.11)
For sure the most interesting thing I learned about sheep is that if they fall over on their backs, there is no way they can right themselves. They are totally helpless until someone comes to turn them back over.
Have you ever fallen and been unable to retrieve your equilibrium on your own, either literally or figuratively? Then you need a Shepherd too.
The great news today is that our Good Shepherd is compassionate, caring and diligent to seek us out when we stray. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep.”(John 10.15)
No, I don’t particularly like being compared to sheep, but I love the idea of having a Shepherd.
under the mercy, Cindy
©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
My new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!