“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.” 6-10
Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. 11-13
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him. 14-18
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.” John 10:1-18 MSG
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is generally compared to a shepherd in relation to the people and fully revealed in the person of Jesus. The imagery of John 10 offers us an example of the way church leaders are to lead and care for God’s people but always being dependent on the care, compassion, and grace of the one true Shepherd.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he used a parable of the sheep recognizing his voice and then following him. Our spiritual journey will inevitably follow the same progression. As young fledgling sheep, we learn how to follow Jesus by his voice. As we grow, we find ourselves out in the world as a more deeply committed follower of Jesus. You may be in the midst of distractions and worldly temptations but Jesus has not abandoned or forgotten you.
Let us pray: Jesus, may we always hear your voice and follow you in all things, Amen.