During the days of the Wild West, there were skirmishes that were known as range wars. There were various reasons for these range wars, from disagreements over grazing rights on federal and territorial lands to the use of barbed wire to fence and partition land. But the most prevalent reason was over sheepherders moving into the western territories and bringing their large flock of sheep. Sheep can clear a range of grasslands faster than a herd of cattle. The shepherd and his sheep were considered a threat to the cattle and the investment of the cattle barons of the west and their large herds.

Because of the threat the shepherds and their sheep posed to the cattle barons’ use of open grazing rights on the federal lands of the great western ranges, there was no length to the extreme the cattle ranchers would go to protect their lands and their perceived rights. These extreme measures led to the range wars. It is hard for us to believe a shepherd and a flock of sheep could pose such a danger to the lifestyle and fortunes of such powerful people.

It has been the case for more than 2,000 years that a shepherd has been a threat to the lifestyles and fortunes of many powerful people. They have gone to great lengths to try and silence this shepherd and have tried in many various ways to scatter the flock. “Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30) 

The shepherd of the flock is a good shepherd because he cares for the flock and protects the flock from being attacked and scattered. “The Lord is good; his kindness endures forever and his faithfulness, to all generations.” (Psalm 100:1-2,3,5)
Challenges to the flock’s existence began early in the Church. Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch to gather the flock together and to call others to join the flock, especially inviting the Gentiles. Because they gathered the flock together from far and wide, they were expelled from Antioch: “The women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from the territory. So, they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The Disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:50-52)

No amount of persecution could stop the forward movement and growth of the Christian faith, just as sheep can quickly multiply, so too the Christian people were multiplying at a great rate. “I John had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” (Revelations 7:9) The shepherd of the flock is also the Lamb of sacrifice. The Good Shepherd who laid his life down for his sheep will always protect his flock. “The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelations 7:15-17)

The Psalm 100:1-2, 3,5 reminds us that we are his people, the sheep of his flock. This relationship to the shepherd is one of love and intimacy with Jesus Christ. The relationship that the flock has with the shepherd reflects the intimacy that the father and the son have with one another. As members of the flock, we are given a share in the love and intimacy that the father has with the son and the son has with the father.