Last year, I read a news story about a sheep that had been lost.
The story reported that: An Australian champion sheep shearer has set a new record after clipping a sheep that had become so overgrown its life was endangered. The gigantic sheep, now named “Chris”, could barely walk when it was found. Shearer Ian Elkins volunteered to shear the mammoth creature after the royal society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in Australia contacted him. The sheep had to be sedated throughout the haircut. It took 45 minutes to remove the 18-inch fleece, which weighed about 88-pounds. It easily beat the 60-pound fleece previously shorn from a New Zealand sheep, known as “Shrek”. The RSPCA said sheep like Chris need to be shorn regularly. Otherwise, they can develop serious medical issues.
From what I now understand, an unshorn sheep can eventually develop infections and other issues that stem from being able to relieve himself. They will eventually die from the complications.
This reminds me of some of the 23rd Psalm, that begins with the familiar words, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." I typically hear those words at funerals. For a long time, I did not realize that this is not actually a funeral Psalm. It is not about the Lord being my shepherd after I die, but when I am in danger. The comfort of the Psalmist comes from the nearness of God. Left to himself, he would be pursued by his enemies who would overtake him.
Instead, the Psalmist declares that it is goodness and mercy that follows him all the days of his life, not his enemies. The shepherd watches over his sheep, he protects them, examines them, binds up wounds, leads them to clean water and good pastures where there is plenty of food.
If a sheep wanders away from the fold, he is in trouble even if there are no predators. What happens when there is no shepherd to shear his wool? The article I read about the lost sheep included a couple of pictures. The before picture was pitiful. After the sheep was finally shorn, it is almost as if the sheep has a look of relief and peace on his face.
Jesus said in John 10 that he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He has come to give us abundant life. In Matthew 18, he points out how the shepherd will leave the 99 sheep and go out in search of one lost sheep, and when he finds it, he rejoices and brings the lost sheep back home.
I can imagine the lost sheep pictured in the photo was so glad to have been found, and especially when all of that matted wool was sheared off so he could be healthy again. If this sheep had remained lost, he would have died. Thank God that Jesus the good shepherd came after us and began the process of making our hearts healthy and whole again. He laid down his life for us, and rose from the grave, and because of this, he has the power to save us when we are lost.