“My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. .” Jn. 10:27
There are times when we long to return to childhood. Children are secure in the arms of their parents; all their needs are met. Life seemed uncomplicated and sweet before we went to school. This is in stark contrast to the angst we can feel as adults when all the responsibility rests on us. Jesus wants to be our comforter. The “good shepherd” is a prominent theme in both the old and new testament. The image of being carried “through” our troubles strengthens us when we are vulnerable.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; . . . Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love. . . Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
John 10:11-18; 27-30
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.
27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”
I could recognize my father’s voice in a crowd. Even if I was playing in the neighbour’s yard or wandering through a store. When he spoke, I listened. The image of Jesus calling us in that same way is strangely comforting. The good shepherd speaks and we “know his voice.” There have been many “false prophets” in the history of the church. They preach a message that doesn’t ring true to that internal voice of the Holy Spirit, and we stand back and turn away.
Having a “good shepherd” to care for us has other benefits. He fights our battles and carries us through the most difficult times of our lives. I had the Isaiah 43:2-4 passage tacked to the wall beside my desk at work. I looked at it frequently as I met with people going through a family crisis, illness, loss, depression, and uncertainty. It had been given to me by our Pastor’s wife who knew what it meant to walk through the valley of death. She added this comment to the verse, “You will get through this. Everything will be OK. The Lord has revealed it to me.” That was ten years ago, and while she has since gone to be with the Lord, the words of that promise have sustained me through every trial. She knew the shepherd’s voice and He gave her eternal life. She passed that blessing on to me.
Lord, We need to be carried by the good shepherd through the most challenging parts of our life. Spending time reading your word, praying and listening through the silence helps us to recognize your voice. We do not need to go through this life alone, and in the end, you will gently hold us as we pass through the gate to eternal life. Thank you. Amen