Jesus shares with us today a “figure of speech” that is still being checked out today. Jesus says He is the good Shepherd and that His sheep know His voice. He says that His sheep will not follow a stranger. You would be surprised by how many YouTube videos I came across where people are checking out that very principle. Yes, I admit it, I googled it to see too.
While I was thinking about Jesus’ words I wondered about the sheep. How they knew the difference between their shepherd and a stranger. The sheep are not born knowing their shepherd and his voice. They learn it day by day and moment by moment. They learn to associate his voice with food and safety through daily exposure. They also learn from their mothers to trust the shepherd. There are times that the shepherd does things that momentarily distress the sheep, like branding and shearing, but the sheep have built enough trust in their shepherd to weather the tough times. A good shepherd also knows the needs of his sheep. He notices when one is sick or injured and he provides special cares for it until it is restored to health.
This is the Shepherd Jesus wants to be to each of us. When we are born into His fold, He speaks to our heart. We begin to learn His voice. His other “sheep” help us learn of Him and grow in the knowledge of His provision for us. He reaches out to us and coaxes us to draw nearer. As we find safety in His presence, He tends to our needs. As our trust grows, then He begins to work on some of the painful things in our life. He never starts there, but He will eventually move into those areas. Our continued growth and health demand this attention. He knows our every need and tends to them with special care. And He takes great pride in seeing each of His “sheep” become beautiful.
Jesus also talked about the thief and robber in His story. These two characters have no concern for the sheep, other than what they can gain from them immediately. They see how they could benefit from the sheep, not how the sheep would benefit from their care/relationship. I would expect this sort of person to have no care for the sheep’s safety or continued wellbeing. I see lamb chops in the future for those the thief or robber snatch.
Yes, God gave us sheep as food, but that is not what Jesus has planned for His “sheep.” I would say Jesus’ “sheep” were kept for their wool instead. The well cared for sheep would provide the best and most abundant wool. Starved sheep and unkempt sheep produce poor quality wool.
Our “wool” is our gifts back to our Shepherd. His love and care sparks in us a desire to give back to Him in some way. What we offer to others in His name is a direct result of His work in us. The one who is terrified to trust offers little to others, but the one who knows they are secure will give generously to others in need.
I was thinking about the religious leaders as the thieves and robbers. They were beating the sheep with all their added rules, trying to get them to follow their lead. Many did follow out of fear, but obedience out of fear does not engender trust or love. Not one of those leaders would have laid down his life for one of the “sheep.” Instead they would sacrifice the sheep for their own needs.
Jesus, however, laid down His life for each and every “sheep”, personally. Not only did Jesus lay His life down on the cross for each of us, but He continues to work in our lives and address our needs TODAY. His care didn’t end at Calvary. That was just the beginning. The spiritual birth place for each of us.
Lord Jesus, thank You for training me to hear Your voice. I want to follow no other but You. Thank You for caring for all of my needs. Thank You also for walking me through the hard places. Without them I would not know growth. Thank You for waiting until our relationship grew too before taking me to the tough places. Continue to teach me more of You every day. Guard my heart at all times Lord.