In the distance the shepherd sees another shepherd walking towards him with a flock of sheep following closely behind. A smile forms across his face; the other shepherd is his father. As the shepherd's father approaches, the son's smile broadens. The two greet one another with a warm embrace. The father tells his son that the sheep that belong to him, now also belong to the son. The son embraces his father with tears in his eyes and whispers, “Thank you.”
The son remembers the price he had to pay for the sheep. Oh how he loves his sheep!
He left the rocky hill to go into the market on the street in the far away land in order to buy the sheep from their bondage. They had been trapped in small cages, feet tied, waiting to be slaughtered. As the shepherd approached the street vendor, his heart was heavy. He told the vendor, “I want to buy these sheep. I love these sheep. They are my father's sheep. What is the price for these sheep?” The price was death. And so the shepherd died on behalf of the sheep.
But when he purchased them, was slaughtered on their behalf, he set them free.
Now the sheep are free to live with him on the rocky hill, free to graze, free to be near him, free to be loved by him. They simply have to follow him. Follow him to the hill. Staying near him. Allowing him to love them. Trusting he will take care of their needs, always providing for them. Even when the shepherd must take them on narrow paths, they must trust him and follow close behind him. Even when the time comes for their wool to be sheared. They must not be afraid but must trust him.
It doesn't make sense that a shepherd would leave his peaceful hill to go to a street market, dirty and loud, to buy some dumb, filthy sheep by dying so that they would not have to. That just doesn't make sense.
But that's what Jesus did. For us.
And the father goes with us to gather the other sheep and bring them back to his son. He does not send us on our own but leads us and gathers the other sheep to himself, for himself.
We have everything to be thankful for.