Abel was the first recorded keeper of sheep (Genesis 4:2). Down through the centuries there have been many others who have kept sheep. And, this is where the shepherd comes into play. Shepherds are still in existence today but their role, in some parts of the world, has changed due to ear tags and so on. In some areas, such as Iceland, sheep are only brought in when lambing occurs. In other areas like the Middle East shepherds are still used to lead the flock.
John 10:3 says that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and he can call them by name. It had been my understanding that this is referring to Christ and His believers. It’s true but it’s also true, according to Hartley’s “Researches into Greece and the Levant”, page 321, that actual sheep will answer to their name when called. My dog answers to her name so it seems likely that this is true.
Christ talks about being the Good Shepherd and laying down his life for his sheep (John 10:1-30). In verse 16 He also says that there are other sheep that will hear and obey His voice. He also goes on to state in verse 28 that His sheep will have eternal life.
Luke 15:4-7 is the story about the shepherd hunting for the lost sheep. Christ is the shepherd and looks for lost sheep. Verse 7 is very clear about who the lost sheep are. Cain was a lost sheep (he killed his brother) and God put a mark on him so that he wouldn’t be killed and he left God’s presence. He still had a chance to repent. Jonah became a lost sheep when he ran from God rather than go to Nineveh (Jonah 1); but he repented when God pursued him, and he went to Nineveh (Jonah 2).
God does pursue the lost. Peter denied Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-75) and, yet, in John 21:15-17 the resurrected Christ asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter said ‘yes’. What did Jesus tell him to do each time? Feed my sheep.
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