“...our Lord Jesus Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep...” —Hebrews 13:20b
Phillip Keller, a shepherd (and also an author), once wrote, “The day I bought my first thirty ewes, my neighbor and I sat on the dusty corral rails that enclosed the sheep pens and admired the choice, strong, well-bred ewes that had become mine. Turning to me he handed me a large, sharp, killing knife and remarked tersely, ‘Well, Phillip, they’re yours. Now you’ll have to put your mark on them.’
“I knew exactly what he meant. Each sheep-man has his own distinctive earmark which he cuts into one or other of the ears of his sheep. In this way, even at a distance, it is easy to determine to whom the sheep belongs. It was not the most pleasant procedure to catch each ewe in turn and lay her ear on a wooden block then notch it deeply with the razor-sharp edge of the knife. There was pain for both of us. But from our mutual suffering an indelible lifelong mark of ownership was made that could never be erased. And from then on every sheep that came into my possession would bear my mark.”
As a sheep of the Good Shepherd, you bear his mark, a cross. It may be painful, but it’s your mark of identification with your Shepherd. Ask yourself: Do I recognize his right and claim over me? Do I respond to his authority? Bear the mark he’s given me? If you do, you can exalt with the psalmist and say, “The Lord is my Shepherd!”
If his mark seems difficult to bear, remember, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
Lord, I remember how you came to earth to give your life for us — all we are like sheep who have gone astray. Thank you for being our shepherd. And thank you for laying your life down for your sheep, you, the Lamb of God.
Keller, Phillip, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970, p. 23-24.