If I was picking, I’d rather be a goat than a sheep. Goats are more curious and independent; they don’t need as much shepherding. They appear smarter; free thinkers if you will. Goat’s eat more than grass, and have better hair days, too!
But when Jesus chose his last metaphor to describe his eminent return, he said that one day he will sit on his throne and he will separate all the nations like a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. (Read Matthew 25:31-47.) The sheep will be on his right side – the side associated with the right arm of strength and blessing. The goats are on the left side, the side associated with the boot. On second thought, I’d rather be a sheep.
Jesus has always had a thing for sheep. “I am the good shepherd,” he said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15) Sheep know him. They recognize his voice. (Jn 10:16)
Jesus said his sheep recognize him…
in the thirsty man who needs a drink
in the hungry woman who needs to eat
in the stranger who needs a place to stay
in the child who is cold and needs a coat
in the sick friend sitting through chemo
in the prisoner, marking time in a cell
…and then show mercy and compassion to him! Sheep may seem dense, but they see what others can’t see! The sheep belong to the shepherd; they have his very mind (I Cor 2:16), so they can see him in other people. The sheep are beholden to their shepherd. They love him, follow him and serve him. He keeps the wolf out (Jn 10:11-12); he makes them lie down in green pastures, he leads them beside quiet waters; he restores their soul. (Ps. 23)
Jesus, on his beloved mountain side, to his closest friends, on his way to the cross, concludes this Olivet discourse with some pretty practical advice. I’m leaving, he said, but my Spirit is staying. Look for me. Listen for my voice. Stay with the flock. Give me a drink and some bread, invite me in, put clothes on my back, look after me when I’m sick; visit me when I’m in bondage.
Friends, Jesus is a good shepherd. He loves you. He won’t let you get away. Let’s stick together and serve our master until he takes us home!