Jesus portrays Himself in various ways. In one of His “I am” statements He refers to Himself as the good shepherd.
One of the things that piqued my interest is the fact that Jesus does not refer to Himself as a sheep herder but as a shepherd. There is a significant difference between the two: Sheep herders drive their herds much like cowboys drive their cattle by pushing them from behind, while shepherds guide their flocks by leading them from the front. Also herds and flocks carry very different notions. While herding associates with feeding and running together, a flock is meant to congregate in places or alternatively head towards a location. To put it bluntly: Jesus is no cowboy and God’s children are not mindless sheep driven by one.
In Psalm 23 we put ourselves in sheep’s shoes (that is to say if sheep wore shoes) because King David wrote the lyrics of Psalm 23 entirely from a sheep’s perspective (Psalm 23:1-4):
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23 could not showcase the relationship between sheep and shepherd more beautifully. I believe this is what Jesus is referring to when He says about His sheep (John 10:15):
“Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Our relationship with the Lord is designed to grow past mere acquaintance. We are invited to get familiarized with Him – just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father. It is special indeed to know Jesus and to be known by Him.