One of the most poignant and, simultaneously, hilarious descriptions he gives us is that of the 'cast' sheep.
According to Keller, a cast sheep is one that, for any number of reasons, ends up on the ground, belly up, all four legs flailing in the air, unable to get up, unable to help itself in any way. While the picture it evokes is pretty funny, Keller explains that a sheep in this position is in imminent danger of death. The center of gravity in its world has shifted and it literally cannot stand up. It cannot help itself. If the shepherd doesn't find it on time, it will die. It is desperately in need of the shepherd's intervention if it is to live.
Keller describes how, as a good shepherd, he would peruse the sky constantly, anxiously searching for any sign of buzzards circling over a fallen sheep. If there was even one missing, he would leave the rest and search for the one that was lost. Finding the sheep that was “cast down”, the shepherd would gently stand it up, lovingly reassure the terrified sheep with words of affection and calling it by name, he would rescue it and restore it to the flock. The lost sheep needed to hear the shepherd's voice and feel his touch to be fully reassured that he was safe and in the care of the shepherd.
This story made me laugh at the thought that we are so often like the cast down sheep, lying on our backs, unable to help ourselves, completely terrified of the buzzards that are circling overhead. We cannot help ourselves. We are totally dependent on the Good Shepherd to come after us, to rescue us, to calm us down, to reassure us that He loves us and is watching out for us.
What about you? Are you down and don't have the strength to get back up? Are the buzzards circling overhead? Are you lost? Are you terrified of what might happen next?
Do you know the Shepherd? Do you hear His voice? He's calling your name. He has you in sight. He's coming after you. You are the one He's searching for, the one He wants to rescue. You are the one He will rejoice over, throw a party for, and carry home on His shoulders. You are the one...
Scripture Reference: Luke 15: 4-7
“...And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”