In yesterday’s post, I talked about a new perspective on the 23rd Psalm and the phrase, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”.
From that line of thinking, my mind went to another familiar story: the Parable of the Lost Sheep—Luke 15:3-7. The reason the sheep was lost is never given, but it’s always spoken of in terms of the poor little guy just wandered off and wasn’t paying attention. Suddenly he looks up and realizes that he’s all alone, or maybe he’s fallen down a ledge and can’t get back up. The Jesus, the Good Shepherd comes and lowers His hand or His staff and lifts the sheep to safety.
In the artist renditions of this, I’ve seen pictures of a smiling Jesus, casually carrying the lost sheep on His shoulders—looking like he’s having a conversation along the lines of:
“You silly little sheep! What were you thinking wandering off like that?” Kind of like this.
But what if the circumstances of why the sheep is missing changes? What if it is more like when David described himself to Saul before facing Goliath; paraphrasing, “when a lion or a bear carried off a sheep—I went after it, grabbed it by the throat and killed it.” Those moments of facing down the lion and bear—knowing that God was with him and had his back—it was in those moments that David knew he could defeat Goliath.
Back to the lost sheep story—I considered—maybe the reason why the sheep is lost is more like David’s experience with the lion or the bear. What if the reason that the sheep is lost is not because it is just wandering around not paying attention but instead because it is carried off by a hungry predator?
Does that change the mental image of this picture? It does for me. A predator was one of the greatest enemies of a shepherd. And once a predator began to see the flock as an easy meal—it would continue to pick them off until it is killed.
So a predator, a lion is an enemy of the shepherd. Then I turned to 1 Peter 5—Paul is giving instructions to the elders of the church to “Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care.” He then says in vs. 4—“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
It makes sense then that in v. 8—Peter brings up the subject of a lion. 1 Peter 5:8—“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Applying that passage and David’s description of the life of a shepherd to the story of the lost sheep changes it’s tone. In this scenario, the Good Shepherd is not just thinking, “the poor little guy has wandered off again” but instead sees signs that the sheep has been attacked and carried off. He picks up his staff and begins to follow the trail of blood, looking for footprints to let him know what He’s dealing with, hoping that He’ll find his sheep in time before the predator kills it.
His face is stern and ready for a fight. When He finds the sheep, He first has to fight and kill the predator, a daunting task for a single shepherd with a staff and His bare hands—much like David. The shepherd’s body is charged with adrenaline and is now focusing on the probably injured sheep.
So now, when I think of this parable and the description of the Good Shepherd carrying the sheep on his shoulders—it’s no longer the casual, smiling face—it’s the stern face of someone who has just come out of a fight. There is blood on his hands and there is a dead lion a short distance behind Him. He is rejoicing because He has rescued His sheep. From certain death. Once again, we are rescued from the dominion of darkness by our Warrior Shepherd.
A friend from work, Sharon, worked with me for a month to get this concept down. This is done in colored pencil. She did an amazing job!