Splattered with mud, I threw myself at the ewes and lambs that were dodging past me. I tried to stop one charging ewe, only to stab my hand on a thorny stick of gorse hidden in her fleece. Another jumping ewe hit me in the chest, ran me over and kept on going.
It was our first muster, in late August – the end of winter and the first month of our new lives on the sheep farm. Our arrival coincided with the lambing and docking season, one of the busiest times of the year. We didn’t know what we were doing, and lacked the experience to see that the docking pen was in an impossible place. It was stuck right in the middle of the long boundary fence we shared with Mt Zion, the sheep station in the next valley over from ours. I don’t know what the previous owners were thinking. It was a stupid place to put the pen, as there were no corners to herd the sheep into.
Ewes and lambs were launching themselves in every direction, with us six inexperienced children, aged eleven down to five, trying to hold them. There were no dogs for that first muster, we were the dogs. Our father, more used to cows than sheep, shouted at us in frustration.
That first dock took all day. Wearily trudging home in the dark, I decided to ask for a crook for my birthday, a staff with a curved end. It would make life easier mustering those sheep. I thought of the pictures I’d seen of sheep trotting after their Shepherd. What a contrast. Nothing could be further from that idyllic image. These sheep weren’t tame. We were strangers to them. There was no way they were going to follow us.
In Jesus day, the sheep were led in small flocks by their Shepherd. The pens were for the sheep to lie down in peace. The Shepherd would lay his own body across the gate of the sheepfold. Jesus was thinking about that when He said “I AM the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”
These are His words;
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:1-10
I know that the Lord has chased more sheep than I have. He’s run after me, before I knew Him as my Shepherd. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. Isaiah 53:6. He wants us to follow Him. May you hear the voice of the true Shepherd calling, and enter by the gate. Here is good pasture, and you will find rest for your soul.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14