The sheep lie peaceful in green pasture, legs tucked under, recline and ruminate—do nothing else but gaze around (if even that), and feel the breezes on their faces.
What would people think?
It looks the epitome of laziness. And yet… And yet…
Psalm 23, the Psalm about the LORD as “my shepherd,” says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Why? Is His main concern that His sheep catch up needed rest, or just relax, because of their stressful, rat-race life? Or is there more to this?
It was a spot where “much grass” grew on Galilee Sea’s far side, around the time of Passover. The flock was large (over 5,000), so intent on following the Shepherd that almost none had brought food.
And Jesus posed a question, to one of His disciples:
Where shall we get bread for them?
No idle remark, this, nor bread’s mention simply literal…
After collecting a tiny amount of barley bread, He made them lie down in green pasture. (The Greek word in John 6:10 usually translated “sit” actually means recline. In the prevailing Roman culture people reclined to dine.)
They broke the bread, and it multiplied as they gave it to the people, there on Galilee’s hillside. The people partook and were satisfied, with abundance left over.
Then after this miraculous feeding, He told them the most vital bread they needed:
“The bread come down from heaven.”
“I am the bread of life.”
Sometime later, while His smaller flock “reclined at table,” He took bread again and broke it, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Take, and eat.”
The broken Word become the food to satisfy with Eternal life.
But why did He make His sheep lie down?
A sheep needs to ruminate. The sheep that doesn’t, remains in want. Without the ruminating, its body makes no use of what it’s taken in. It just accumulates there, useless, and that sheep, though full of food, is dying slow death from malnutrition. For sheep, like cows and goats, have more than one stomach compartment. The first receives food as a storage tank—a personal food bank, from which deposits must be withdrawn for use.
And sheep need to lie down to ruminate. After racing or grazing, it’s time to stop, recline, withdraw nourishment from the inner pantry, and chew. Chew it up, swallow it back down, to send out nourishment, to strengthen, and fuel for action.
We too need to stop and rest and ruminate, so that we’ll not just take in spiritual nourishment, but also gain the good of it.
Our sheep ruminate. They settle down, tuck legs under… quite on their own. But I have read of shepherds who must make their sheep recline, or the meandering flock will just keep grabbing and grazing, and never get around to ruminating. And die. From the inside out.
To do: Find time to get still and ruminate on the bread of life. Make time. It’s essential.