Called to Worship – Issue #19
A fellow seminarian shared an account from growing up on a sheep farm. Sheep are dumb animals and my friend sometimes struggled to get the sheep to follow his commands. When he had a particularly reticent sheep, Jim and his brothers would tie the sheep up behind a riding lawnmower and take it for a walk—forcing it to follow and reinforcing the consequences of not following their voices. This led to some humorous tales of dragging sheep across the lawn.
It’s different for Jesus’ sheep. Yes, we’re still stubborn and willful. In fact, Isaiah says we’re all like sheep in that we’ve turned to go our own way (Is. 53:6). But Jesus laid down his life so that we can become his.
Consider these benefits to being one of Jesus’ sheep (see John 10:22-30):
1. Our shepherd knows us. He knows our name, and so much more. He knows everything about us and still wants to be with us. He loves changing stubborn sheep into playful lambs who frolic under his care.
Tommy Walker provided a powerful reminder in his song, He Knows My Name.
2. Our shepherd speaks to us. Jesus said that if you don’t believe, you can’t hear his voice—even though he speaks words for all to hear. Conversely, those who believe can hear when he speaks and delight in it. He speaks through His Word and by His Spirit.
3. Our shepherd leads us. Unlike a lawnmower yanking us through life, Jesus leads us with his voice. It’s funny to watch a herd of sheep try to find their way without a shepherd. One confident sheep will start to lead and the rest follow—usually to the doom of all. Psalm 23 shows Jesus leading us on the right path (a better translation for what we often see as “paths of righteousness”).
4. Our shepherd protects us. Jesus promises that no one can snatch us from his hands. It’s not uncommon for shepherds to lose a sheep or two to predators or disease. But Jesus claims that no one can rival his Father and his Father will never lose one of his own. That’s not to say there won’t be dangerous paths, but we need not fear being stolen by false shepherds or led astray.
5. Our shepherd rescues us. Earthly shepherds are hired to ward off predators and thieves, but they won’t forfeit their lives for the sheep. They consider their lives as having greater value than the sheep. Rightfully so, I suppose. But Jesus looked at his sheep, seeing that we were doomed for eternal destruction, and switched places. Isaiah 53 shows Jesus being led to the slaughter like a sheep. He saved us so that He could know us, speak to us, lead us and protect us.
I love the Young Messiah rendition of All We Like Sheep. It starts at 2:18, but listen to the whole sequence to hear the good news that Jesus bore our sorrows and God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all.
It’s Your Turn
How would it change worship this Sunday if you thought of yourself as a sheep who deserves to be led to the slaughter who instead is allowed to worship at the altar while the shepherd is sacrificed on your behalf?