READ JOHN 10:1-11
I think it is pretty safe to say that not many of us reading this have much background with sheep. I mean, we probably have all had a wool sweater or two, and maybe we have even met a sheep in person but I would imagine not many of us are shepherds. So, in reading a text like this one, because we don’t have a whole lot of personal connection to the context, the weight of this image can get lost on us a little bit. Just to set the stage a litte, I want to share just a one minute video of an actual shepherdess, calling her sheep.
What did you see?
I see sheep who don’t just begrudgingly come along. They hear the call of the shepherdess and come running. Also, the sheep did not come running at the sound of her voice out of fear. They came running (at least this is what it looked like to me) because at the sound of her voice they expected to receive love, and care. It was also obvious that this particular shepherd, really loves her sheep. For me, this is a helpful visualization of what Jesus is communicating in this text,
I have honestly heard countless sermons preached on this text and at the core of most of them is a theme that goes something like this: Sheep aren’t real smart, and left to their own devices they tend to find themselves in all kinds of precarious positions… so they need a shepherd if they are going to make it in this world. Then the preacher goes on to say that you and me are like sheep (translate you and me are not real bright either) and we need the “Good Shepherd” (Jesus) to save us. This is a fine message for sure… and it is certainly got some truth to it… we do need a shepherd to lead us and protect us, and that shepherd is most certainly Jesus, but I’m not sure the, “we are sheep,” part of Jesus’ metaphor here is his subtle way of calling us stupid and helpless. We were all created with brains in our heads… we aren’t stupid and any shepherd will tell you, sheep aren’t either. God would not have created us with such amazing capacity to learn if he just wanted us to check our brains at the door. It’s tru, we cannot attain our salvation on our own, so to that degree we are helpless, but at the same time Jesus chooses to carry out his ongoing mission in the world through us which means with him living in us and expressing himself through us we aren’t helpless. So, if not to put us in our place and call us dumb, why sheep? Why would Jesus choose this as his metaphor?
Going back to the video, you can see the way the sheep have learned to distinguish the shepherd’s voice so clearly that just come running. You don’t see them wrestling in their minds contemplating how to respond. You know, “I think the shepherd is calling me, but I’m not sure. I mean, it sounds like the shepherd, but just to be safe I think I should probably take a couple weeks to just really listen and discern if this is actually the shepherd calling.” That’s not what they do at all. They hear the voice and they come running because they know that no matter what else they are doing, whatever the shepherd has for them is going to be worth it… so I’m going to stop whatever I’m doing and come.
So I think the question worth asking, is how do we become more like sheep? How do we come to a place where we know Jesus so well that we can hear and distinguish his voice… and then respond with our lives?