“The True Shepherd Was Willing to Give His Life for the Sheep”

Matthew 18:12–13

12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

“Most of you are familiar with the Savior’s description of members of the Church and their leaders. True followers He called sheep, and priesthood leaders He called shepherds.

“We remember His unforgettable example of a true shepherd’s concern for his sheep:

“‘If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, . . . and seeketh that which is gone astray?

“‘And if it so be that he find it, . . . he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray’ (Matt. 18:12–13).

“In Jesus’s time, the Palestinian shepherd was noted for his protection of his sheep. Unlike modern sheepherders, the shepherd always walked ahead of his flock. He led them. The shepherd knew each of the sheep and usually had a name for each. The sheep knew his voice and trusted him and would not follow a stranger. Thus, when called, the sheep would come to him. (See John 10:14, 16.)

“At night shepherds would bring their sheep to a corral called a sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of these walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over.

“Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening them. Such a situation separated the true shepherd—one who loved his sheep—from the hireling—one who worked only for pay and duty.

“The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in amongst the sheep and fight for their welfare. The hireling, on the other hand, valued his own personal safety above the sheep and would usually flee from the danger.

“Jesus used this common illustration of His day to declare that He was the Good Shepherd, the True Shepherd. Because of His love for His brothers and sisters, He would willingly and voluntarily lay down His life for them. (See John 10:17–18.)

“Eventually, the Good Shepherd did give His life for the sheep—for you and me, for all of us.”

(“A Call to the Priesthood: ‘Feed My Sheep,’” Ensign, May 1983, 43.)

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