Why did Jesus call us sheep?

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

Sheep and goat

Picture credit: Philipp Peter Roos (Creative Commons)

In John chapter 10, Jesus presents Himself as the good shepherd. He tells us of how deeply He loves His followers (up to the point of giving up His life for them) and how He wants a relationship with them.

What about the sheep? How can we relate to that animal that Jesus used in His metaphor?

Sheep (the animal) have the following characteristics:

  • They are natural followers.
  • They are social, they feel safer in a group.
  • They have a flocking instinct, what makes easier for the shepherd to move them all together from one location to another.

Jesus compares sheep to goats, indicating that He expects us to be like sheep, not like goats.

The goats usually show the following behavior pattern:

  • If they are in an open field, they tend to spread instead of flocking.
  • They have an internal hierarchy, so they fight to be leaders among themselves. Strenght determines who rules.
  • They are also known for escaping their pens.

If we look at the human being, they can show all the behaviors mentioned above. But human beings have one major difference: they can choose.

As human beings we were blessed with free will, and we can choose what we will do. We have instincts, desires, knowledge, and if we choose to, we also have the Holy Spirit. But in the end, we make the choice. We choose what or who to follow.

We can make the choice of being like sheep, as Jesus expects from His followers:

  • We can choose to listen to His voice and follow Him, only Him.
  • We can choose to belong to a group of believers who care for each other and worship Him together.
  • We can choose to walk together and help each other. If one falls down or wanders away, we are there to help them get back to the flock.

As human beings, we have the privilege and the responsibility of being able to choose. Our choices will determine our relationship with Jesus, and, in the end, they will determine how we will spend eternity:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” […]
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:34,41)


  1. My largest personality issue that can sheep/goat me is an independent attitude.  I”m better now, as I’m aging and learning more and more to trust the Lord to shepherd me, even going after me when I’m the “1 of the 99”.  However, He really is first in my life… more and more and more.  If I live to be 100 [not a desire on my part], I may be even MORE Shepherd-prone.

    Good sharing, writing, examples, thinking.

    • Joanne, I think everyone of us have to fight with that independence attitude, some more than others. And as you said, the more we learn to trust the Lord, the more we are able to learn to be dependent upon Him.
      Thank you so much for your comment, Jo!

  2. Ezekiel 34 talks about the evil shepherds, great he-goats and the fat sheep. How they are allowed to trample down the feeding grounds and muddy the waters for the other sheep. I also like the fact that these type of animals “butt” others. “Yeah, but . . . but I think” etc. Taking over and controlling conversations, pushing their own agenda. Just some thoughts to add to your analysis.
    Gayle Howell
    Prayer Coordinator


    • Thanks for enriching the conversation with your comments, Gayle, I appreciate it.
      God bless you!

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