“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.
According to the requirements of a good shepherd in Ezekiel 34 a shepherd needs to:
- care for the sheep
- strengthen the weak ones
- heal the sick sheep
- bind up the injured ones
- bring back the stray sheep and
- search for the lost ones.
None of these requirements can be met if the shepherd, spiritual leader or pastor does not have compassion. The word means to have mercy or pity or to have a feeling of suffering with another from your inward parts. In Matthew 9:36 Jesus felt compassion towards the crowds as they appeared helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He consistently throughout his life displayed that compassion.
I while ago, you might have read how Jesus, the Shepherd of all shepherds, cares for the sheep by being with them and guiding them to the greenest pastures. Let us now also look into the how he strengthens the weak sheep.
He Strengthens the Weak Sheep
In various scriptures, we as His sheep are invited to come to Him when we are weary and not try to battle on by ourselves. (Mat.11:28) He promises to give strength to the weak so they can run and not grow tired. (Is 40:29-31) The Lord never stops to amaze me how He just arrives at the perfect time with the perfect assistance and strengthening! Even when you run away from Him, he comes to you!!
Jacob runs away from his angry brother after he betrayed him by receiving the blessing form his father, Isaac. He arrived in Bethel, put some stones under his head and fell asleep. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable this must have been!! After an emotional and fearful time, he sleeps in the field with his head on a stone! And the Lord gave him an amazing dream and promised to be with him, watch over him and that he will bring him back to his homeland. What a major moral boost!! (Gen. 28:10-20)
After the Israelites left Egypt and trekked through the desert, a hostile, harsh environment, and bitter water, the Lord brought them to the oasis of Elim where there ‘were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.’(Ex 15:27) How wonderful it must have been to camp at an oasis after being thirsty, tired and weakened!
Then there was Elijah, tired and depressed of being persecuted by Ahab and Jezebel and actually cried out: ‘I have had enough, Lord. Take my life.’ (1 Kings 19:1-9) While he was asleep, the Lord sent an angel to wake him up and give him food to eat. He actually regained enough strength to travel for 40 days to Mount Horeb!
In the New Testament we read how Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Rejected by the village woman for her perverse lifestyle, she arrives alone in the heat of day to draw water. Jesus addressed her deepest needs by giving her ëliving waterí and instantaneously she changed from being a loner to an evangelist!
The Lord time and again strengthened the apostle Paul when he was vulnerable and physically weak, sometimes through a dream, sometimes by sending an angel or sometimes by sending somebody to assist or comfort him. Blinded, just after his conversion, the Lord sent Ananias to assist him and meet the other disciples. (Acts 9) In Philippi, the jailer washed his and Silas’ wounds (Acts 16: 31) On his way to stand trial in Rome, a severe storm occurred and those on board the ship feared for their lives, an angel came to comfort and strengthen him. After the ship ran aground on the island, Malta, meaning, ‘refuge’, the islanders showed unusual kindness. (Acts 28:2)
The list goes on and on! He promised:
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25) With this promise, all the weak sheep will be able to say like Paul: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)
Next time: Jesus heals the sick sheep..