The above quote summarises the dangers and reflects the reality, of detaching ourselves from the Lord. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus lays down His life for His sheep, protects and leads them to greener pasture (Jn. 10:9, 11, 15; cf. Ps. 23). However, when a sheep fails to follow its shepherd or strays from the flock, it exposes itself to its prey, who comes “to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10). The devil is represented as the wolf that preys on the flock and scatters it (Jn. 10:11-12). Similarly, Peter describes the Enemy as a roaring lion seeking whom to devour (1 Pe. 5:8).
Every sheep needs a good shepherd
Every bad shepherd would leave a flock to its fate when it is attacked by a wolf (Jn. 10:12). But a good shepherd will stand his ground and protect his flock. Nevertheless, a sheep must know and listen to the voice of its shepherd so as not to be exposed to its prey by failing to follow its master’s lead (Jn. 10:3-5). But how do we as sheep understand the voice of the Good Shepherd when He leads us?
It begins by developing an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible calls Him the Word (Jn. 1:1, 14) and the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:25-35). If this is the case, and the Bread of Life is life to the soul, it supposes that to be intimate with the Lord, we would always have to ‘eat’ the Bread of Life, literally, ‘eat’ Jesus Christ. This is done by consistently communing with the Lord through His Word and through prayer. Just like we cannot grow well physically until we have imbibed the necessary nutrients, detaching ourselves from communion with God hinders our spiritual growth.
As Christians who are the sheep of Christ, we must always be attached to Him. This means putting our trust in Him that He would lead us in and out to find pasture (Ps. 23:1, 2 ). Jesus says He is the gate to finding salvation and provisions for our souls (Jn. 10:9). Since Jesus is our Shepherd, it also requires our obedience to His will, for the shepherd knows where the good pasture is and which places to avoid so as not to put the sheep in danger, and in the event of an attack from a predator, knows how to protect the sheep (vv. 9, 11).
A flock of sheep need to stay together
For a sheep to stray from the flock is an invitation for an attack from its prey. This is why, as a form of maintaining defence against their predators, a flock must stay together and follow the shepherd’s lead (Jn. 10:8, 16).
Illustrating the importance of remaining in Him, Jesus referred to the inability of branches to bear fruit on their own (Jn. 15:4). Branches can only bear fruit if they are attached to a vine. Thus on its own, a branch is a dead branch just like a sheep that strays from the flock is a dead sheep. Those branches that are thrown away for failing to bear fruit are picked up and thrown into the fire (Jn. 15:6).
We can consider this in another sense. Jesus is the true vine and we are members of His body. In other words, we make up the branches of the Vine. Thus it is important that we do not “give up meeting together” (Heb. 10:25). This is an important ingredient for spiritual growth. Like the sheep which cannot survive in the event that it strays from the flock, so will a Christian fail if he should detach himself from the body of Christ, the Church. The Christian life cannot be journeyed alone. One needs the support of other believers who would provide counsel and encouragement in times of trials, persecutions or temptations.
To summarise, Jesus shows us that we expose ourselves to the the attacks of the Enemy and to worldly influences when we detach ourselves from Him. As our Good Shepherd, we can only follow His lead when we put our absolute trust in and remain in Him. But anytime we stray from His shepherding, we become ‘dead sheep’. Who is your shepherd? Is it Jesus, your parents, spouse, career or money?