Why Jesus compares us to sheep (it’s kinda funny)

Written by Julie Plagens
Published on October 21, 2020

Raise your hand if you have ever wondered why we are often compared to sheep in the Bible. 

Is it because we are cute and cuddly, or is there more to the analogy? 

There has to be a reason why Jesus would refer to himself as the Good Shepherd and us as his sheep.

After much research, I found out why there are so many sheep references in the Scriptures. 

Some of the reasons are funny and heartwarming while other comparisons are embarrassingly true. Frankly, it is amazing we do some of the same things as these misguided but adorable creatures. 

5 ways we’re sheepish people 

As a Christian, you have to wonder if God was giggling when he formed these fluffy balls of fur. 

Perhaps he made them just so we would see ourselves in a nonthreatening way and realize we too can’t make it without a shepherd. 

Check out these five characteristics of sheep and see what I mean. 

1. Sheep follow others blindly 

Many people say sheep are stupid. Perhaps they are just “challenged.” 

I’ll be nice. 

For example, I read about a farmer who stretched a rope across the door of a barn and called the sheep out. He let a few sheep jump over the rope as they exited the barn door. He then cut the rope. The remaining sheep continued to jump over the “invisible rope,” not thinking twice. 

Here’s another true story: About 1,500 sheep were left unattended for a while. They got scared and started running until they ran off a cliff. The first 400 died while the other 1100 were saved. It turns out the first 400 broke the fall for the remaining 1100.

It’s funny to listen to stories about sheep—until we realize Jesus was talking about us. 

We are compared to sheep because we will follow anyone without thinking, we have no sense of direction, and we cannot defend ourselves in times of trouble. 

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).

2. Sheep are emotional and recognize the shepherd’s voice

Sheep have a remarkable instinct for knowing the voice of their shepherd as they are emotional creatures. Amazingly, they will fear a stranger’s voice and flee.

Since they are emotional, they also have the ability to build friendships with other sheep. 

In fact, they can get anxious, distressed, or feel sad when their sheep friends are gone (dead).

Just like sheep, we get anxious, distressed, and feel sadness. It is important we listen for the shepherd’s voice to keep us calm in times of trouble. 

Otherwise, we could be led off by a stranger’s voice and encounter real harm. 

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

3. Sheep are not meant to carry burdens

You will never see sheep carrying a pack on their back. 

Other animals are good for carrying things, but not sheep. 

They were not meant to carry a heavy load. In fact, they would be crushed under such a weighty burden.

We were not meant to carry our burdens either. 

In fact, we are to give Jesus our heavy load so he can carry it for us.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22a).

4. Sheep will settle for less

When sheep are thirsty, they will stop at a dirty puddle right in front of them instead of going for the clean, still waters ten feet ahead.

Sadly, they are content with filth, so long as it satisfies at the moment. Furthermore, they will stink and never even know it. Truthfully, they lack discernment and judgment and, frankly, don’t know what is good for them.

How many of us have settled for less and not realized there was clean water ten feet ahead? 

We are content with filth and don’t know we stink. 

This is why we need a shepherd. He leads us to better things and cleans us up when no one else will touch us.  

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:1–2).

5. Sheep are valuable

Sheep were treated as prized possessions in Jesus’ day. 

You were counted a wealthy man if you owned large flocks because they provided meat, milk, and wool. In addition, they produced offspring.

Shepherds made many sacrifices to make sure their flocks were protected. They knew it was their livelihood at stake.

How much more precious are we than smelly sheep? 

God compares us to sheep in the Bible because he views us as priceless. So valuable that he was willing to give his life for us. 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).

Why we need a shepherd

Just like sheep, we have no direction without Jesus, the Good Shepherd. 

We lack protection on every side, and we were never meant to carry a heavy load. 

Furthermore, we need someone to show us a better way, so we don’t settle for less. 

Even though sheep are dirty, smelly, and lack sense, God made them valuable. In fact, they are a symbol of great blessing and prosperity. 

Oh, that we would take a lesson from sheep and run to the Good Shepherd who will lead us to the spring of living waters and take care of us forever. In addition, may we truly know our worth as one who is priceless.

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

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Julie Plagens

Julie is a wife, mother, teacher, blogger, and author. Before she married, she taught speech, drama, and English for three years in the Richardson Independent School District. Now that her children are grown, she is a substitute teacher for a private school in Dallas and works intermittently for her husband
After a heartbreaking estrangement from parents who were in ministry, Julie realized she was not alone in her feelings of shame and her struggles to interact with family in a healthy way. Now that she has reconciled with her family, she wishes to help others find hope when they experience family problems. When Julie is not talking about forgiveness, she is sharing helpful tips on her blog about parenting, faith, and family. Julie lives with her husband of 27 years in Dallas, Texas.
You can check out her book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon. Her blog is called Mom Remade at momremade.com.

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