Becoming Sheep

Could there be any animal more boring than sheep? Sheep are herbivores who consume 2-4 pounds of food a day. They are helpless, timid creatures whose only defense mechanism against predators is the numbers they huddle in. Sheep have poor eye sight, they spend a third of their life “ruminating,” and when they fall down on their back they are powerless to get up. (For more interesting and fun sheep facts click here)

In John 10 Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, and those who follow after him he unflattering calls his sheep. Is it any wonder why?

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.

And a broader look at John 10 will show, interestingly enough, how little the sheep actually do. The sheep are not the ones blazing the trail towards greener and more abundant pastures. The sheep are not the ones who are defending themselves from the ravenous wolves outside the fold. Nor do the sheep assist their shepherd as he undergoes these hazardous endeavors. The sheep seem almost passive and reactionary. They do not initiate; the sheep simply respond to the voice of the shepherd which they are most familiar with.

Conversely the shepherd is the one who speaks and he calls his sheep by name (10:3). The shepherd walks and leads out in front, and the sheep merely follow (10:4). The shepherd is the one who willingly lays down his life for the sheep (10:11), he is the one who calls other sheep into the fold (10:16), and he is the one who keeps the sheep in his hand (10:18). The burden of the care and keeping of the sheep is placed squarely on the shoulders of the shepherd.

If this is true, it seems that being sheep is simple. Almost too simple. Our tasking as sheep, at least from this passage, is limited to listening to his voice, knowing the shepherd, and following Him wherever He goes. That’s it. Like a newborn child, our entire existence as sheep is one based on complete dependency to the shepherd.

This is a good reminder. It can be easy for us to acquire an almost feverish mindset regarding our works. Maybe we want to do more for the Lord, develop better habits today, or do something that will really make the shepherd proud. Perhaps we want to become a brand of “super sheep” who are contributing to the Kingdom innovative fresh ways—sheep that are really making a difference. And though it is not my intention to discourage a zeal for good works and an intense pursuit of God (which I most desire and advocate), we need to remember this message from our Good Shepherd to just respond to Him.

The Christian life at its root is strangely simple, more simple perhaps than we would prefer. It is characterized by humble dependence and listening ears. It involves knowing the personal voice of our Shepherd and following that voice every day. May we therefore be close to our Shepherd, quick to follow him wherever he leads, trusting all along that He will lead us in the way everlasting.

“Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” –Psalm 100:3


  1. Daniel this brought to mind a summer, when I was 14 and helped take care of a sizable herd of sheep. Things I learned about those sheep remind me of Psalm 23: "the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters.

    I learned that sheep do need a shepherd and it must be the right shepherd. At the age of 19, my shepherd was the excitement of life itself and I did not like my direction. I seemed incapable of changing it. However; I found the right shepherd, Jesus, and He changed me from the inside out.

    I learned to want for nothing and have found real satisfaction in Jesus. Yes, I have lots of nice things and I am thankful for the enjoyment but real contentment comes, not from them, but from knowing my Shepherd.

    One thing I learned about sheep is they are stubborn and do not even have enough sense to know when to lie down and rest. I find myself to be the same way. But,here is the good thing. My Shepherd makes me lie down in "green pastures". Many times, it is right where I can be fed on the word of God, just the right scripture or just the right message on a Sunday morning. Sometimes, a good book or just the right person to speak to. In any event, the pastures have been green.

    Notice, Psalm 23 says, He will lead us to still waters. Sheep are afraid of moving water. They are not brave at all. If there was slight movement in the water, the sheep we had would not drink. A good shepherd must lead them to still water. Likewise, when we thirst, only Jesus the Good Shepherd leads us to satisfaction, John:4.

    There are many things I learned about sheep. Maybe God gave me that experience to better teach me about Himself once I came to know Him.


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