Sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. One reason is that they play a part in relating the imagery of the Shepherd and his Flock to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The followers of the Good Shepherd are… well… SHEEP. With this in mind, many thoughts about sheep have come about. First off, sheep are thought to be really stupid. Stories I have heard involve sheep mindlessly following the other in front of them, no matter what is going on, so if a Shepherd put a staff out for one sheep to jump over and then took it away for the next sheep, the rest of the sheep would “follow the leader” and jump in the same spot. Secondly, we hear out of Luke 15 that 100 sheep could be doing fine and then one of them might go astray, so the Good Shepherd has to run after that one that decided somehow to just wander off, even though the routine is the mindless following.
So does that make us STUPID SHEEP, and is Jesus greatly placing prominence on Himself and belittling humankind?
Being less and less agriculturally inclined in society today, and not in the business of raising sheep, I discovered what many people may already know. Sheep actually have some distinct attributes that put them at a higher IQ than one can imagine.
- They are right below Pigs in IQ and can be considered the same level as cattle. MOOOOO!!!
- Sheep can actually recognize facial features and remember them for years. Take that iPhone number kazillion and one!
- Sheep can pick up on different emotional states pretty easily. (In a BAAAAAD mood???)
- Sheep can also express their emotional state by the various sounds they make.
- Sheep can self-medicate themselves and graze on needed nutrients depending on their current physical status
- Sheep also can distinguish between voices and know when their name is called.
Wow! Maybe sheep are smarter than we think! With all these amazing facts (and believe me there are more from sheep enthusiasts), maybe Jesus is wanting us to feel more than “stupid.”
John 10 paints a picture of a Good Shepherd that knows His sheep. He calls them by name. He protects them. He gives them abundant life. He oversees every aspect of their lives. In fact, He oversees the deepest part of our inward being. The keeper of the our mind, will, and emotions. The place that we tend to keep hidden behind the outside, natural part of ourselves. Our Souls!
Maybe Jesus is revealing His true heart to us and the heart of the Father for mankind. All we need to do is respond to the call when we hear our name. He willingly lays down His life for US, the SHEEP! Do you know His voice?
or better put… DO YOU KNOW THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL?
Peter was asked to do something by Jesus. “FEED MY SHEEP” Those words must have echoed in his mind for the rest of his life. After denying Jesus on the road to the cross, he finds a place of forgiveness and reconciliation. Then he is given a noble task. To follow Jesus and point others to the Shepherd of the Sheep.
Maybe those thoughts settled in his mind in a way that gave him the wisdom to encourage his flock with these words:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV
The comfort we can find in Peter’s words lands on the word RETURN. The truth is all of us have strayed away from the heart of the Father. We have something within us that decides to wander away, even when we do a good job of following most of the time. Peter understood the word “RETURN,” and brings comfort in this truth. YOU CAN RETURN TO THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL. Just as Peter did. We all have the ability to RETURN.