(Jesus said:) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 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.”
I had been to the Holy Land several years ago, and there is one memory that I have that is still very sharp in my mind. We were passing by a flock of sheep, when our tour guide stopped the bus. He had us get off, and then told us to call out to the sheep. We tried different things to get their attention. Not one of them even raised its head. Then the guide gestured to the shepherd, who made a little sound and walked away, and instantly all the sheep stopped what they were doing and followed him.
Whenever I read this passage where Jesus says that he is the good shepherd, and his sheep know his voice, I think about this incident. Sheep know their shepherd. They recognize his voice. They follow him. They obey what he tells them to do. If somebody else calls them — as we tried to do — they pay no heed. So, here’s the question for us today: If we are sheep that belong to Jesus, do we recognize his voice and follow him, obeying what he asks us to do; or are there other voices we listen to?
During this month, where we are counting down towards a very special anointing for Pentecost, I want us to reflect on this every day. Whose voice are we listening to? Our actions will indicate this. If we are doing things that aren’t quite pleasing to God, then the logical inference is that we aren’t listening to his voice. So, what should we do then? It’s simple. Draw closer to the shepherd. Get used to how he talks, what he says, the way he thinks. How do we do this? We need to spend time with him and read his word. There is no other way.
And when we start listening to his voice and the things he says, then we will ask ourselves other, more serious questions. Are we part of one flock, or are we scattered? Are there divisions in our ranks, or are we united? Do we have fences separating us from each other, or do we work together as one? When we listen to the voice of the shepherd, he will keep reminding us of what he said in today’s passage: there will be one flock, one shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. And his name is Jesus.
We have a tendency to follow charismatic leaders, and by charismatic I mean people with charisma. However, this leads to a problem because they often want us to follow them! And we do! This happened in the early church too, which led to quarrels, prompting Paul to ask: “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas.” Is Christ divided? Was I crucified for you? Were you baptized in my name?” I could ask you the same question. Know what I’m saying? That was 1 Corinthians 1:12-13. Please make a note.
So, let us listen to the voice of the shepherd. And if we are truly listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd, then we will become one flock.
God bless you.