Strayed Sheep – 23 April 2018
Here is a pastoral scene, painted by Holman Hunt at Lover’s Seat above Hastings in 1852. It divides into two along a diagonal line running from top right to bottom left. The left hand section is a peaceful depiction of the coast running away to the sea. On the right a flock of sheep are in varying kinds of jeopardy.
The sheep have made their way along the cliff. Here some have chosen to rest, while others jostle together on the very edge. One sharp movement and several could plunge to their deaths. At the front of the picture are viscous brambles where one sheep finds itself tangled and unable to get free. Someone will have to rescue this one, and liberating the animal will probably mean that blood is shed. In the bottom left hand corner (look carefully) there are butterflies (a symbol of resurrection) feeding on the flowers.
There is no shepherd to be seen, but one is implied. The sheep are a flock, well fed, but they have strayed. They will need to be sought for, and driven away from the dangers of the cliff, taken to safer pasture elsewhere. Sheep cannot be left to their own devices, they require a shepherd to watch over them and keep them safe.
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
Psalm 23:1 (Good News Version)