Why do the sheep follow Jesus? Why do you and I (the sheep) follow Jesus?
I have a two-part story to try to answer that question.
When Fr. Eugene went to the Holy Land a couple years ago, he was acting as a sort-of tour guide for part of the group. Just outside of Jerusalem, the bus had to stop to allow a flock of sheep to cross the road. Fr. Eugene was waiting for this moment and he spoke up so the tour group could hear him. He said, “Did you notice where the shepherd is?” Everybody craned their necks out the windows of the bus to watch – and they noticed the shepherd was IN FRONT of the sheep. Fr. pointed out that the shepherd had a certain unique call which the sheep knew – somehow each sheep knew which shepherd they belonged to – and eagerly followed them.
He went on to point out that this is what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel when he called himself the Good Shepherd and said – my sheep know me and follow me. Everyone was rightly impressed that Fr. Eugene knew so much – and seeing this with their own eyes made the Gospel just 'come alive' for them. Sure enough, three flocks passed them that day and each time they could see the shepherd with his staff leading the flock.
Why do the sheep follow instead of running off? The sheep depend on the Good Shepherd. They follow him because they trust him. He lives with them day and night. He sleeps with them. Walks with them. Leads them to verdant pastures to eat. He guides them to restful waters; directs them and protects them. He knows each of them personally.
But how did the sheep learn to follow their shepherd? Think about that – when a baby lamb is born, how do they learn which shepherd to follow? Most likely, they follow their mother… and therefore, they follow whoever their mother follows.
That’s something to think about on Mother’s Day, since for many of us, our mother played a huge role in introducing us to Jesus.
We may have been introduced to Jesus – But are we following him? If we follow the Good Shepherd, He will lead us to eternal life… says so right there in the Gospel.
But many of us get distracted –
What’s the consequence of that? I’ll finish our story to see where it leads us….
The next morning, again they were travelling out of the city, and once again they had to stop for a flock of sheep to cross. Everyone looked out excitedly, hoping to get a glance of the good shepherd – but something wasn’t right with this flock. The sheep weren't following anyone. This flock was being driven instead, being pushed along by a man with a staff and a dog.
Everyone started asking Fr. Eugene why they weren’t following the shepherd…. But he couldn’t explain it. Since they were parked, he decided to hop off the bus and talk to the shepherd.
“Why, sir, are you driving these sheep rather than leading them?” “I have been telling these people that a Good Shepherd leads his sheep.”
“You are quite right, Father,” replies the man. “The good shepherd does lead his sheep. But you see; I'm not the shepherd. I am the butcher.”