Amasa: A Faithful Shepherd

My name is Amasa. My father tended sheep all his life, as did his father, in the hill country south of Jerusalem. Even now my father, brothers, uncles, and cousins still herd sheep throughout the territory of our ancestors. Today my seven-year-old son, Eli, is going with me into Jerusalem to deliver some sheep to a buyer. Eli has been with me in the fields since the age of four. He loves the sheep and the sheep love him. Wherever he goes they go.

This morning Eli and I gathered the six sheep for our walk into the city. Danielle, my wife, was the first to rise. She let the younger children sleep while she prepared our breakfast. As Eli and I ate, she wrapped food in a carrying cloth for our lunch on the road. She gave each of us a warm hug as we headed north on the trail. Her eyes were moist because this was the first time her young son was going on such a long journey.

As we herded our sheep along the hillside, the sky grew brighter and brighter until there was full daylight. The hills were already turning green although it was early in the spring. We had been on the road several hours when we reached the outskirts of Jerusalem where we came to a public well. I turned and asked Eli, "Would you like to rest awhile? We can draw some water and see what your mother has packed for our lunch."

"Yes, I am hungry."

Eli would never admit it, but I knew he must also be tired. We chose some flat rocks on a south slope that was greener than the rest. The sheep grazed close by as Eli opened the carrying cloth. Inside were figs, dried mutton, and honey-sweetened bread. Of the seven figs, Eli offered me four, and he pulled three to his side of the cloth. With his small hands, he passed me some mutton and bread. Eli watched his grazing sheep while I watched Eli.

The road was filled with travelers on this day following the Sabbath. People were preparing for the Passover which would take place in six more days. I had nearly finished my lunch when I saw a crowd gathering around a man riding on a donkey's colt. The people were laying branches in the path where the colt would walk. As the man riding the young donkey came closer, I could hear the crowd chanting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"

I walked up to a woman who was drawing water at the well to ask, "Who is the man on the colt?"

"That is Jesus, the Messiah."

By now I had forgotten about the sheep. Eli joined me and I held his hand tightly as I intently watched Jesus ride by us. Jesus' kind eyes met mine as He passed by. Though no words were spoken, I felt I knew this man and believed that truly He was our promised Messiah.

The crowd pushed on past. Soon just Eli, the sheep, and I remained. As Eli started to gather the sheep, I said, "Let's sit awhile longer. I want to share a story with you that I have never told anyone before."

Eli, sensing the serious tone of my voice, sat down, forgetting his beloved sheep.

"Eli, when I was just your age, I was in the field one winter night with my father and the sheep when suddenly an angel of the Lord stood before us."

"An angel of the Lord? What did he look like? Were you afraid?"

"I was very frightened, but I pretended to be brave. The angel said, 'Today in the city of David there has been born a Savior Who is Christ the Lord. You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' As soon as he finished, the sky was filled with the heavenly host singing, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"

"What happened next? Why did the angels sing such a song?"

"My father took me by the hand, and together with the other shepherds, we went to the town of Bethlehem to look for the child in the manger."

"Were you able to find him?"

"Yes, we walked directly to a stable behind the inn, and all of the shepherds knelt down out of respect for the baby who was sleeping there. As everyone knelt, my father turned loose of my hand. I wasn't tall enough to see the baby from where my father was kneeling, so I walked right up beside the manger and looked in."

"What did He look like?"

"A little like your baby brother when he was first born."

"How did you know it was the baby the angel told you about?"

"When I turned to look at the baby's mother, she was smiling at me, so I asked, 'The angels told my father and the rest of the shepherds that your baby is our Savior. Is that true?' The baby's mother pulled me close to her and spoke in a soft voice just to me, 'Yes, many months ago at my home in Nazareth, an angel told me I would have a son who would be known as the Son of God.' I then asked her what was the name of her baby? She answered, 'The angel told me to call Him Jesus.' It was then that I felt the crook of my father's staff around my leg nudging me to return to his side. I have never shared my story with anyone because I didn't want it disputed. From that day until this, thirty-three years have come and gone, but I have never forgotten the baby's name nor His face. Now today, more then ever before, I believe the words of the angels who said that Jesus will be our Savior."

With his hand reaching for mine, Eli said, "Oh, father, let's gather our sheep and follow Jesus into Jerusalem."

And so we did, and we went.

Based on Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 2:7-20; Luke 1:26-33.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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