““Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.” John 10.1-6
It’s obvious to me (and should be to all believers) what Jesus is talking about in this passage. It’s much more than just about sheep pens, or who opens the gate, and or how sheep respond to the voice of their shepherd. Of course, it’s about knowing the Lord, recognizing his voice when he speaks to us and following Jesus faithfully.
The Pharisees would understand part of the analogy of Jesus. They knew the context in which he spoke, it was their reality. Everyone knew about sheep, shepherds, sheep pens and sheep gates. They lived in first century Israel when this was a common part of culture and life.
Yet they failed to understand Jesus’ deeper meaning. How can one know the voice and truth of the Lord if they do not know the Lord? Jesus said the sheep will know the voice of their shepherd just as his followers will know the voice of the Lord. These were religious people Jesus was speaking to. Religious and faithfully in their own right. But just because they practiced a form of religion, they did not know the shepherd who led them.
The way the sheep know the shepherd is through his voice. Not by sight, nor smell, nor touch, but sound. How do we know the Good Shepherd today? By his Word, his Spirit and his Witness. Yet we must believe what we read. We can’t dissect Scripture to such a point that we black out everything we believe to be untrue. We can’t take Jesus and not Paul, Moses and not David, Mary and not Ruth. We must believe the whole of the Bible is the whole of God’s word for his people; that what was canonized 1700 years ago is indeed what God wants us to know today.
Sadly, many in the church do not know him. Bishops, pastors, teachers, both clergy and lay do not know the Lord. It might sound judgmental but don’t blame me– take it up with Jesus! How do we know if someone knows him or not? First, do they believe the Bible is God’s sole authority? Do they believe the Word is perfect, infallible in intent, without error? When they speak, write or talk do they mention the Lord? Does he come up constantly and continually without hesitation or apology? As Peter and John said in Acts 4.20, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (I’ve read many a letter and heard many a sermon whereas the preacher either didn’t ever mention the “Lord”, “Jesus” or “God,” or did so in a way that seemed distant, foreign or was unfamiliar.)
I am not here to judge but to echo Jesus’ words, “the sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice.” Do you know his voice? I didn’t recognize his voice until I was 17 years old. And from that point on, once I surrendered to Jesus, I’ve know his voice ever sense.
What a beautiful promise that we as the sheep of God can know, hear and follow his voice. Listen to it. Put down whatever is keeping you know hearing God’s voice. Cling to the cross and obey him with your whole heart by following the Good Shepherd without regret or hesitation.
“O Lord God, you are good. Help me hear your voice clearly! Help me surrender my life to your cause. Help me study your word, listen to your Gospel, walk in your ways without delay. I am a sinner saved by grace! I am but a fellow pilgrim seeking to know the truth of your Word and am far from perfect. But you have delivered me! You have redeemed me. You have broken down barriers and are winning the battle in my heart and soul. Come now, Lord Jesus, help me find fulfillment in serving you. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen