And Sheep May Safely Graze

One of the unique things about Nazareth Village is that it teaches out of the box. Most of what one learns is from observation with a little push from the trained tour guides. Yes, there are many new things that one can learn from the guides. And not taking away from the guides’ professionalism and communication skills, most of what sticks with people and what amazes them most; what they will never forget, is what they learn through their first-hand, hands-on experiences and observations. I, as a Nazareth Village guide, am no stranger to such experiences, and not a day passes by without learning something new.

My name is Majd, I’m one of the guides at Nazareth Village. I got my bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries with a minor in youth ministry. I’ve got 40 hours of Bible classes under my belt. I’ve read many books in the process, I sat through many classes, and I’ve had much valued one-on-one time with some of my professors. When I started working at Nazareth Village, things I’ve learned in college expanded my ability to explain to people who visited the Village about the first century life. Little did I know then that I was in for a real life-lesson, pun intended.

The different areas at Nazareth Village provide a uniquely dynamic experience: seasons change and with that activities change. So, depending on what time of the year a group arrives they see certain things in action. That means that other things might be static, such as the tomb, which by not being used is a very positive thing! Other stations you can count on and predict what experience you can provide there, such as the carpentry shop as well as the weaver’s house.

Then, you have stations with animals. This is where it gets interesting, because if there is one things you learn in the show business, in our case it is show-and-tell business, avoid working with babies and animals. But even when there is a donkey on the loose, one can learn something about trying to catch it wearing first century garments and sandals. Although working with animals can be difficult, some things you can still rely on, like the sheep’s behaviour.

Of all the things one can explain about sheep, my favourite thing is explaining about separating the goats from the sheep. I remember reading that passage in Matthew 25 and understanding that it talks about the end of days and punishment. But why did Jesus talk about goats and sheep? Is it at all of a certain significance? Why would one separate the goats from the sheep? I took these questions and turned to my grandpa, as far as I know he lived a similar life to that which Jesus lived; he lived in a house made of stone, had to go to the well to draw water, and when needed he had to do some shepherding too.

My grandpa explained to me the difference between goats and sheep. Of course, there is the obvious outwardly difference, but he said, “it is what you don’t see at first glance that matters.” He said, “both goats and sheep wander around and graze, they move together, they lay down to rest in the same place, but if you spend enough time with them you will notice that sheep do not initiate the movement to a new location; goats do!”

So I decided to spend some time with the goats and sheep and I felt as if scales fell out of my eyes. I could not believe how obvious it was, just there, under my nose this whole time. I noticed, on one hand, that the goats wandered around, each on their own, reflecting their leading and independent nature. Sheep, on the other hand, seemed a more simple creature, following whatever or whoever leads, moving in groups unquestioning the direction they are going in. In simple words, they are not bright creatures, no-where near as bright as goats. Maybe there is a reason we are called “sheep” in the Bible!

The illustration Jesus was using in Matthew 25 started to make so much sense. He was talking about how there are people who are leaders, and unfortunately, like goats, they mislead the others. When sheep are following a goat that means they are not following the Good Shepherd. Goats are those false teachers, anybody who misleads people, taking them away from following Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Every time I stand before a group and explain about this connection I could see on their faces, their smiles, or even shaking their heads in agreement that something made sense to them. But it is when the goats start wandering around followed by the sheep that people start laughing making remarks such as “that is so true!” The most pleasing part for me is knowing that the sight of the illustration spoken by Jesus 2,000 years ago will never escape their mind.

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)