David was a good shepherd. He reported to King Saul, “Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:34-36, CSB).
David’s sheep, like all sheep, were defenseless.
Sheep are naturally nervous and easily frightened. “Oh no, here comes Wiley Coyote!” The sheep’s natural enemies include dogs, wolves, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and even eagles or other large birds of prey. When any of these predatory animals sees a flock of sheep, they see dinner! “Lamb chops! My favorite!”
Sheep don’t fight. They don’t have claws, or fangs, or venom, or quills, or talons.
Sheep are slow and clumsy. They might run, but they won’t outrun the enemy.
A sheep won’t bark, growl, shake its tail like a rattlesnake, or lift its tail like a skunk.
Fight, flight, or fake it! Nope! Not sheep! They’re defenseless!
To make matters even worse, sheep are directionless! They are prone to wander. “There’s a clump of green grass... I’ll go ever there... there’s another... and another...” They’re dumb, dirty, defenseless, and directionless!
That’s why sheep need a shepherd.
And that’s why Jesus used sheep as a sermon illustration! “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:11-18, ESV).
He gave His life to protect mine! Like David defeated the vicious, predatory enemy, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them” at the cross and the empty tomb (Colossians 2:15, CSB).
So, Jesus proclaims with absolute confidence, “I give (my sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28, ESV). He’s the “Good Shepherd!” (John 10:11, 14). Indeed, He’s the “Great Shepherd!” (Hebrews 13:20).
I’m a sheep.