Let’s consider the times Jesus referred to his kingdom as sheep. Jesus really tackles this idea in John 10:
- As his sheep, we hear his voice and recognize his authority over us (v 2)
- We follow him only (vv 3-4)
- We do not follow the voices of strange shepherds (v 5)
- He protects us as our door (vv 7-10)
- We are his personal flock, and the relationship is not just a professional one (vv 11-13)
- Jesus would lay down his life for his flock (v 13)
- The flock is bigger than most people think it is (v 16)
Above all things, we must remember that we are his sheep. The church is Jesus’ personal flock and no one else’s. This is why Peter later wrote to the elders of the church:
Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:3-4)
There are a couple things I draw from this image of the church as a flock of sheep:
The flock follows the shepherd.
We don’t get our say on where the shepherd is taking us. When we get into deciding whether the church should really do what Jesus wants us to do, we get into a lot of trouble. Sheep are completely dependent on human beings. They would self-destruct left to their own devices.
There are a lot of congregations that are just fat sheep sitting around in the midst of a field devoid of food complaining that the shepherd isn’t taking care of them. When we refuse to follow the shepherd, he leaves us where we are – lets us have our will. But that means we’re going to die.
A flock is always moving, changing and growing.
That is the nature of life as a flock. The shepherd tends to our needs only so we can flourish under his care. He takes us through difficult times and comfortable times (read Psalm 23) but always it is with the intention of seeing us grow and mature for His ends.
The movement of the flock is necessary for new food, for protection from predators, for the birth of healthy young. A church that is not moving and changing as the shepherd leads will become inbred, self-absorbed and will eventually fall prey to thieves and predators.