RECOGNIZE YOUR SHEPHERD’S VOICE – John 10:1-10 – David R. Clark
1“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. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Dear friends in our Shepherd, Jesus Christ,
When I was growing up and just about old enough to stay home by myself, I was entrusted with being a babysitter for my sisters. My parents gave me some strict guidelines. They told me never answer the door without the screen door locked. Never tell anyone that there were no adults home. Never reveal my phone number to anyone and never ever give out any information to people I didn’t know. They were concerned about my safety and the safety of my sisters. I needed to listen to them. They so impressed this upon me that when I saw one of those really horrible babysitter movies, I kept thinking how stupid those baby-sitters were. They never listened.
Jesus gives us similar directions for life in this world, but he used pictures that would have been very familiar to the people of his time. They are not so familiar to us. For safety sheep in Palestine were brought into an enclosure at night. If you think of a modern day corral for horses or cows you probably have the right idea. But this enclosure was not made out of wood. Dirt and clay are in abundance in Arizona, which is why we have adobe. In Palestine they used rocks.
Of all the animals in the world, sheep are probably the least capable of defending themselves. It’s like having the three little pigs defend themselves from the big bad wolf without the brick house. Inside the pen was safety. Outside was certain peril.
These enclosures or pens were usually large enough so that more than one shepherd would bring his flock into the pen at night. The only place to get in was through the gate, and that’s where the shepherd would spend the night, in the gate, so that he could keep his flock safe. It might seem confusing to have multiple flocks in such an enclosure, but Palestinian sheep are a little different. The shepherd would not drive these sheep like we think of cows being driven in a cattle roundup or even the way some sheep today are herded by a dog. When it is time to go, Palestinian shepherds simply call to their sheep and then walk out the gate. Their sheep follow because they know his voice.
Jesus treats all believers like a shepherd treats his sheep. But we are not sheep. We are people, his dearly loved children. So what does he want you and me to know through this figure of speech?
1. Run from the voice of a stranger. (1, 5-8, 10)
Jesus is the gate. The only way into heaven is through him. That also means that anyone who tries to promote another way into heaven is not a shepherd. Jesus calls him a thief and a robber. He does not have the welfare of the sheep in mind. If someone enters your house through a window rather than the door, he probably doesn’t have your welfare in mind.
In today’s terms that means there are a lot of voices out in the world vying for your attention. Those voices could be your family, your friends, a stranger, even the voice inside your own head. Those voices are not the same as Jesus’ voice, but because they seem to offer you something new, something better, something more reasonable, or just something that your sinful heart wants to hear, you will be tempted to listen to them. Brothers and sisters, don’t listen to them! There is one thing that is true. They are thieves and robbers of your soul. Keep the door locked, don’t answer the phone, and don’t give out information. Run from the voices of the stranger.
2. Follow the voice of your Shepherd. (2-4, 6-7, 9)
You need to listen to the voice of your Shepherd. Be so familiar with it that you are not confused. Be as familiar with it as you are with that pop song from your high school years, the one to which you know every single word even all these years later so that the voice of your Shepherd is unmistakable when one of those other voices starts whispering in your ear. Jesus is the only gate to heaven.
He has laid down his life for us and defeated our greatest enemies: sin, death, and Satan. He has come to give us eternal life – not half of it or three quarters of it or even 99 per cent of it. He has come to give us life fully. He will defeat any false shepherd that comes our way.
One of the jobs of every parent is to get their kids to listen to them and their wisdom, not only when they are with them, but also when they are not with them so that they make good choices. We are sometimes black sheep, naughty sheep, dumb sheep, so he knows that the more time we spend listening to his voice, the more we will follow him. If you have been irregular in hearing his voice, come and listen more often. If you have been regular, don’t stop. The love he has shown us will lead him to always tell us what we need to hear, even if it’s not what we want to hear. No one loves you like this. No one. Listen to the voice of your Shepherd and follow him. Amen.