The Difference is The Shepherd

We’re all sheep. The difference is the Shepherd. Or, perhaps I should say it like this: We’re all sheep. The difference is whether or not we have a shepherd.

Matthew tells us Jesus was grieved when He looked out at the crowds because He saw them as “sheep without a shepherd” (9:37). A few verses later, however, we read Jesus Himself telling His disciples that He was sending them out as “sheep” (10:16).


In one instance Jesus is grieved because He saw people as sheep. In another instance He intentionally sent out His own to be sheep. What’s the difference?

The difference is the Shepherd. What broke the heart of Christ in Matthew 9 was the sight of people attempting to go through life disconnected from Him. They were trying to be right with God (“weary and worn out” 9:35) and trying to find fulfillment. But everything they tried was getting them nowhere. Likewise, they were susceptible and vulnerable to the world and the enemy. They didn’t know they were being seduced toward destruction. They didn’t have a Shepherd protecting them and fighting would be “attackers” away.

What Jesus did in Matthew 10, however, was send them out with the backing of Himself (the Shepherd). They were still sheep. They still were susceptible to aimlessness and vulnerability. They still had the potential of staying in a “grassless” field thinking it would satisfy. But the sheep in chapter 10 had something those in chapter 9 didn’t. The difference was the Shepherd.

What broke Jesus’ heart in Matthew 9 wasn’t that they were sheep. He considers all humans sheep. What broke His heart was they were trying to “do life” without the Shepherd.

Sheep without a shepherd are pitiful. They refuse to find better pasture and water. They are clueless to enemy threats. They are totally defenseless AND aimless without a shepherd leading them. They are, if we’re honest, just like us. We think the ways of the world will satisfy. We think the devil can’t bother us (or that he won’t!). We think we know where the best pasture and water is found. The whole time we are dying and empty and moving slowly toward destruction.

But imagine how things change when a sheep gets a shepherd? Better yet, imagine what happens when sheep know they are cared for by the shepherd. Or – dare I say it? – can you even begin to contemplate the implications on a sheep who knows he/she has a Shepherd who would lay his life down for His sheep?

We’re all sheep. The difference is the Shepherd. Is He leading you today? It’s okay. Let Him. He leads you to restore your soul (see Psalm 23).