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 if we do that?
What will 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 around the time of Passover, in a place on Galilee Sea’s far side where grew “much grass.” 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 His disciples:
Where shall we get bread for them?
No idle remark, this, nor bread’s meaning simply literal…
After collecting a tiny amount of barley bread, He made them lie down in green pasture. (The Greek word translated “sit” in John 6:10 actually means recline. In the prevailing 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 Jesus told them of the vital bread they needed even more:
“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?
Sheep need to ruminate. The sheep that doesn’t, remains in want. Its body makes no use of what it’s taken in. It just accumulates, 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. The first receives food as a storage tank—a personal food bank, deposits for later withdrawal and 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, where, processed, it can send out nourishment to strengthen and fuel for action.
So we must stop and rest, or we’ll not assimilate our spiritual nourishment, and benefit from it.
Our sheep ruminated. They settled down, tucked legs under… quite on their own. But I 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.
[Edited repost from the “Pasture Parables.”]