When we were in Israel we went to a place called the Nazareth Village. Nazareth Village is a re-creation of what Nazareth could have looked like during the times that Jesus walked the earth. It was pretty cool! I’ll tell you that it was far better than I originally imagined it would be. One of the first things that we bumped into while we were there was a sheep pen and two shepherds. Our guide stopped us there and shared some facts about shepherds from the days gone by.
Did you know that the shepherds would pen the sheep up? Of course you did. But in your mind what did you think that the pen would look like? In my mind I think of Sean the Sheep… (can you tell that I have little kids?) What I mean is that I think that the sheep are kept in a large, open field. Like there would be a wall around the field, but for the most part those sheep could graze and go crazy in their pen. I viewed it a bit more like the way that the shepherd boy David penned them up in the old sunday school flanel graphs. But that’s not the way that it worked. They would’t do that! They kept the sheep in a tight little pen. “Why” you ask… Great question. It was so that there was less area for robbers to break in and steal sheep.
We were told that the shepherd would sleep laying down in front of the gate to this small pen. Why? Another great question! It is because you can’t very well lift a sheep over the fence without making a really loud noise. This loud noise would in turn wake the shepherd. That was a quick way to get a fist in your face, or a stone thrown at your head. You can however avoid all that by opening the gate and letting them out pretty quietly. Sleeping in front of the gate was a safeguard against loosing sheep to thieves. Smart stuff right?
This pen, may have looked something like this:
Pretty cool huh? Especially when you think of what Jesus said:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers. ~John 10:1-5
What do you think? Does this change anything you’ve thought about what Jesus was saying?