The Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. We don’t really like being called sheep! We are insulted by it. We think of sheep as being stupid, dirty creatures who exist to give us lamb chops and wool sweaters! But Jesus doesn’t see sheep that way. In a pastoral era, the sheep and the Shepherd were One. Sheep provided life and the Good Shepherd loved the sheep so much, they were one in mind. We see this all throughout the animal kingdom. A mother lion will lay down her life to protect her cubs, and in that act there is absolutely no sense of separation. What happens to the cubs happens to her! So let us not be so surprised that the Good Shepherd loves the sheep so much that he would die for them. The image is that the Good Shepherd will search for one lost sheep as long as is necessary to bring him back into the fold. Never a fear is there that any of the sheep could ever be lost. This is a new image Jesus brings. In the Old Testament book of Amos there is a beautiful story of an earthly shepherd who guards his sheep against the wolves. But every so often a wolf will grab a sheep and start to eat it. In Amos, the shepherd knows the sheep is lost but he goes into battle anyway, hitting at the wolf, tugging at the sheep already in the wolf’s mouth, so that he might save even an ear or a piece of the sheep. Jesus’ image takes the story up one further step. All of the sheep are safe. If any stray, certain it is that the Good Shepherd will find him and return him to the fold. Unfortunately, the Bible is written dualistically and the sheep are opposite the goats! ACIM corrects this error and lets us know there are only sheep! Some of the sheep may be insane and think they are goats, even act like goats, but they cannot in truth change from who they are. The Good Shepherd will bring them all into the fold. Jesus said:
“Hear me, my brothers, hear and join with me. God has ordained I cannot call in vain, and in His certainty I rest content. For you will hear, and you will choose again. And in this choice is everyone made free.
I thank You, Father, for these holy ones who are my brothers as they are Your Sons. My faith in them is Yours. I am as sure that they will come to me as You are sure of what they are, and will forever be. They will accept the gift I offer them, because You gave it me on their behalf. And as I would but do Your holy Will, so will they choose. And I give thanks for them. Salvation’s song will echo through the world with every choice they make. For we are one in purpose, and the end of hell is near.
In joyous welcome is my hand outstretched to every brother who would join with me in reaching past temptation, and who looks with fixed determination toward the light that shines beyond in perfect constancy. Give me my own, for they belong to You. And can You fail in what is but Your Will? I give You thanks for what my brothers are. And as each one elects to join with me, the song of thanks from earth to Heaven grows from tiny scattered threads of melody to one inclusive chorus from a world redeemed from hell, and giving thanks to You” (ACIM).