In John chapter ten Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. To those listening, His language is vague. They want to know who is right and who is wrong, who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, and they want to be able to measure the metrics. Jesus doesn’t give them anything they can use to judge that sort of thing, at least not in this chapter (elsewhere, He says if you love me you will obey me). But here, Jesus simply says that He is the Good Shepherd, and the sheep will know His voice.
Not only does Jesus say the sheep will know His voice, but He says He knows them, too. He even says He knows their names. The picture is intimate, guiding, loving and protective. Jesus talks about the enemy of the sheep, the previous guys who didn’t own the sheep but were put in charge of them, and how somebody who doesn’t own the sheep will flee whenever a wolf comes around. But Jesus implies He will not flee, because He loves the sheep.
So how do we know if we are the sheep, if we are hearing Jesus’ voice? Well, at this point we can only conjecture, but I think the conjecture is safe. As we read through the gospel of John, for instance, do we find ourselves sensing there is something special about Jesus? Do we find ourselves curious enough to want to keep following Him, even though we don’t know exactly what that means? Are we hopeful that we can set down all our religious checklists that give us false security (an an insatiable desire for more security, like an addiction) in exchange for a person, the person of Jesus? Do other religions or philosophies (perhaps even what we previously thought of as Christianity, or some mechanical version of Christianity) feel like dead ideas while Jesus seems to be living and breathing and in our midst? If this is true for you, I’d be willing to say you are one of His sheep. After all, He did say that you would hear his voice.
And when we are one of His sheep, Jesus says we will find rest. He says in John chapter ten we will be saved and go out and find pasture. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Not only this, but as we trust Jesus we begin to realize He knows us, personally. He is not like the faith in ideas we previously subscribed to, He is living and breathing and interacting with us. We feel like the Apostles, scurrying behind Him asking silly questions. And it’s comforting to know that He loves us and knows us, even as He and the Father love each other and know each other, which is the kind of love He describes in the same chapter.
Tomorrow, I want to look at a group of people who Jesus stated clearly were not in His flock, and did not hear his voice. It’s sobering stuff.