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  • Sarah Raad

Sheep

If we follow the Good Shepherd, He will Feed us, for we are His Lambs…

Christ as the Good Shepherd

I went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show with my family the other day. We do not do the rides at the Show and we avoid the showbags too, so for us, a significant part of the experience is the live entertainment shows and viewing the prize-winning livestock. And so, while we were there, we spent quite a lot of time around the livestock.


I watched a live demonstration by a sheep-farmer with a sheep at the Show that day and it remains in my mind.


During my prayers since attending that Show I have reflected often about the Good Shepherd who takes care of His flock.


Christ told us…


“‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; 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.” (John 10:11-15).

That sheep farmer who I saw a few days ago, is the modern shepherd who is responsible for his sheep and in watching him during his demonstration as he groomed a sheep, I realised the reality of Christ – the Good Shepherd.

To groom the sheep, it must first be corralled into a wooden holding bay so that it would not move and injure itself while it was being groomed, which meant the farmer had to almost carry the sheep into position. It looked like back-breaking work. The sheep was flipped into position deftly by the farmer, but no less strenuously for the expertise. For some reason, while I watched this, I imagined God managing our lives, sending us whatever we need FOR OUR GOOD, whether we are capable of seeing the good or not. That sheep did not look very happy. It bleated and complained and baaed in a grumpy old fashion, quite unaware that it was soon going to be a lot more comfortable after being cared for. I saw myself as that sheep, complaining away while the Good Shepherd is getting me into position so that I am ready to receive the necessary graces for my salvation because Christ moves me firmly and lovingly so that I are ready to receive Him.


Then, the farmer had to wash each of his sheep’s four feet. To do this, he crouched on the ground and lifted each foot, one after the other, lathered it with soap, scrubbed it with brushes and then rinsed it clean. For some reason, while I watched this demonstration, I had a vision of Christ washing the feet of His disciples during the Last Supper. I imagined Him kneeling or crouching on the floor and removing the sandals and one by one lathering those feet and cleansing them with all His love and effort. I could see Him laughing and joking with His loves – even Judas – relishing this final touch before the betraying kiss, because He knew that Judas would soon be damned by despair. I imagined His joyful giving, and His loving eyes. I imagined Him drying those feet and changing the water between rinses so that He had fresh water to wash the next feet in because those feet would be dirty and smelly and dusty from the road. Perhaps some of the men had tinea or skin conditions that would have been unpleasant to touch with His Blessed Hands, and yet Christ touched them anyway – with LOVE…


Sheep are not very clever animals. Because they are given to fits of panic and follow the crowd, they rely entirely on the shepherd, who must guide them and care for them. Without the direction and care of the shepherd, the sheep would wander away and have no idea how to return to safety and would be instead consumed by wild animals.


While watching that sheep being shorn, it occurred to me that we really are like sheep for God.


Sheep are purely domesticated animals. Sheep that move away from domestic settings into the wild will die. A sheep, after all, needs to be maintained and protected and looked after, if nothing else – except for one modern breed – the Dorset Sheep, which does not require shearing – sheep must be shorn by their shepherd.


If it is not shorn, eventually the wool upon its back will grow so thick and heavy that it will literally break the sheep because the sheep will be unable to walk with the burden on its back. Also, a sheep left for long enough without sheering will starve to death as the fleece around its head would grow so long and thick that it would be unable to reach its food.

So, though the sheep bleats pitifully during the shearing, and even at times moves in such a way as to cause injury to itself as the sheers catch its skin, without that shearing, the sheep would soon be dead…

How like sheep we are! How much we need the Good Shepherd!


For without Him, the sins upon our soul would grow so thick and heavy that they would break us, and we would become so consumed by sin that we would starve to death for life-giving Grace. Without the Good Shepherd we would die… eternally.


“Jesus said (to His disciples), ‘Feed my lambs.’” (John 21:15).


We are the lambs of the Good Shepherd.


He will feed us. All that we must do to be fed with the Grace of everlasting life… is to follow Him.


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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