We have been learning about Jesus’ use of the analogy of “sheep” as he describes his people. In our minds, this can seem insulting! Especially if we are used to our societies having a hierarchy. We can think sheep are at the bottom or inconsequential. But as is common with Jesus, he flips the hierarchy over into a “lowerarchy.” We must look deeper into Jesus’ teachings to understand the value he places on us as his kingdom of sheep.
First, in Jesus’ use of the analogy, he places extreme value on each individual sheep. In Matthew 18, and Luke 15, he describes the shepherd as one who would leave the 99 sheep in order to look for the one sheep that was lost. This reflects value. It also reflects care on the part of the shepherd. These scriptures also refer to the celebrating that goes on when a sheep returns to the love and care of the shepherd. In the lowerarchy of the kingdom of sheep, Jesus is at the bottom pushing us up toward God.
What is the big responsibility that the sheep have? Each must eat and drink. The word of God feeds our hungry souls. Our prayer life releases our burdens and worries, and returns us to the shepherd of our souls (I Peter 2:24.) Receiving this care daily must become our passion. As a church, we have spent 5 weeks focusing on our “Walk with God,” in order to learn how to receive. Each of us is called to “choose” to be nourished. Jesus leads us to pasture, but he can’t make us eat and drink. As we nourish ourselves, we mature in Christ, sharing and giving to others. Disciples feed off of the relationship with Jesus.
On a practical note, we have decided not to counsel or disciple anyone who is not reading and praying daily. We are directing each individual to nourish themselves first, then seek advisors. If they refuse, there is nothing any individual can say or do to create that desire. The kingdom of sheep is distinctive by the collective expectation of daily nourishment from our individual walk with God.