Read John 10:22-42
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
It all boils down to this: Sheep are incredibly attentive to their master… the shepherd. And the shepherd would do ANYTHING to protect and care for his sheep.
So, the text that we just read is really just trying to answer the lingering question from the previous chapter where Jesus’ doubters were asking, “Who is this Jesus?” and “Where does he come from?” At this point in John’s telling of the story Jesus has shown them sign after sign, yet they still don’t believe, so this time he takes a little different approach. Jesus basically answers by saying, “If you want to know who I am, ask the ones who follow me. My sheep (the ones who know me as their shepherd) know exactly who I am. If you were listening, you would too. My sheep hear my voice and they recognize me. There is no doubt in their mind who I am… and anyone else who tries to speak into their lives in the way that only I can… they can tell the difference. They know my voice, therefore THEY KNOW ME.
Now, maybe this image is a little bit lost on us… some of us may be sheep experts, but not many (if any of us) of us really have that much experience in this (at least in a literal sense) do we? So let’s look at this image just a minute within the context of those who would have originally heard it.
In the time of Jesus sometimes two journeying shepherds would bring their flocks together for the night. It was impossible for the shepherds to keep their sheep apart, so in the morning when it was time to depart, one of the shepherds would stand some distance from the herd and call out. And then his sheep, who knew and could discern his voice, would run toward him, and soon his entire flock would be accounted for. The sheep can ABSOLUTELY RECOGNIZE THE SHEPHERDS VOICE, but the interesting thing to me is that the shepherd also can recognize the voice of the sheep. The author goes on to describe the experience of watching this shepherdess recognize and call each sheep by name… not just by how they looked but by the sound of their voice. Amazing.
So let’s paint the picture a little further. In the time of Jesus, sheepfolds in the sheep farmer’s fields were usually crude corrals made of stacked stones. To protect the sheep and keep them in the fold at night, the shepherd would often lie across the entrance to the sheepfold… literally becoming the gate that would both keep the sheep in the fold AND keep predators out. Amazing. Makes me want to be a sheep with this kind of Shepherd. How about you?
So the question becomes, How do we become more attentive to the voice of the one who offers abundant life instead of being continually deceived by those who seek to harm us instead? HOW DO WE LEARN TO BE LIKE SHEEP AND TO LISTEN FOR AND RECOGNIZE THE VOICE OF OUR GOOD SHEPHERD?