Several years ago Dennis and I traveled to New Zealand to celebrate 20 years of FamilyLife ministry with our friends and partners in that beautiful country. It was spring in the southern hemisphere; a heavy snow was just melting as we arrived in Queensland. And it was lambing season.
For miles we drove over hills and into valleys soaking in the vibrant new greens peeking through patches of snow, leaf buds about to burst on trees, and best of all, farm after farm of grazing herds of sheep. Every time we could park safely and walk to a nearby fence row to watch the newborn lambs cuddled next to and peeking timidly from beneath the safety of their mothers we did. And I took hundreds of photographs of these beautiful creatures. My favorite was the rare sighting of a ewe and her young triplets.
Springtime is for birthing. New life in the animal and plant world bursts forth on wobbly legs and tender shoots. Newborn lambs with their snowy white wool and pink ears are among the most lovable. With their gentle demeanor, close family associations and eagerness to follow their leader, sheep have been a metaphor for Christians and our relationship to Jesus for centuries.
Jesus describes us as the sheep of His pasture. John recorded a long conversation Jesus had with His disciples and followers in which He used repeated terms and phrases familiar to these mostly rural folk. The words of Jesus, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27) is one of the most memorable statements in a section of 30 verses in John 10 all about sheep.
Not only are we referred to as sheep, but Jesus Himself is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We celebrate this glorious truth every year at Easter, Resurrection Sunday, the culmination of His sacrificial death at Passover.
Because of these associations in the Bible I have a growing love and appreciation for sheep and lambs. To learn about these beautiful animals is to develop a greater understanding of the words of Christ about me. This spring I hope you will take your children or grandchildren to a farm to see some baby lambs and adult sheep; and at the same time I hope you will read John chapter 10 and listen closely to the voice of Jesus so you can follow nearer and not be led astray.