Psalm 23 says the Lord is our shepherd. Jesus speaks of himself as a good shepherd. If the Lord is our shepherd then that means we are the sheep. So, Jesus points out to his listeners that they are the sheep because they don’t know their shepherd.
From our readings the shepherd and the sheep have a relationship. Jesus speaks of the shepherd calling his sheep. Sheep have no instinct for living in the rough, but they have an instinct for following their shepherd’s voice. They will come when they hear their shepherd voice.
My husband had a church member - one who kept sheep. She would go out in the pasture at night to call them into the barn and they would follow her. Once she broke her leg and her husband went out to call them in and they would not come. He had to put her in a wheelbarrow and cart her out to the pasture so that she could call them in.
They did not recognize his voice so they would not come. Sheep have a natural trust of the people who care for them. Often times several shepherds would keep their sheep together and one shepherd could come and call his own to himself out of the group.
So, the sheep know their Shepherd and they are loyal to him. The shepherd also knows the sheep. Jesus says the shepherd knows the sheep by name and calls them by name. Remember... when Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb she though Jesus body had been stolen! In her confusion she ran right into the Lord but she mistook him for the gardener. It wasn’t until he called her name that she realized it was Jesus and he was alive.
Do you know your shepherd’s voice? You have to be listening to it to recognize it. Listen through scripture, in the writings and hymns and songs of our faith, and in prayer… When you pray do you allow times of silence to listen to the Lord?
Spend some time learning your shepherd’s voice. A false shepherd may come along. If we don’t know our shepherd’s voice we might follow a false shepherd. The false shepherd comes to steal the sheep. Take time to cultivate your relationship with the Lord - learn to recognize his voice.
From these passages we also learn that the sheep are protected and delivered by the shepherd. Jesus says, “I am the gate to the sheepfold.” Just a minute ago he said he was the shepherd and now he is the gate. The shepherd sometimes lied across the doorway and became the gateway into the fold. Anything or anyone going in or out had to go by him.
This means two things. First, the shepherd keeps thief out of the fold. The shepherd protects the sheep. Psalm 23 says, “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” The staff would be used to beat off wild animals.
Second, it’s mean that you have to go through Jesus to get into the fold. This is one of those statements that are crucial to the Christian faith that many are uncomfortable with. Jesus is the way - No one comes to the Father but by him. No one else can save people from their sin.
Jesus is the good shepherd who delivers and protects his fold. But you have to be in the fold. Are you in the fold? Jesus is the only way in. Being a member of a church is not the way in - it is a good way to be a faithful member of a fold but it is not the way. Jesus is the way!
Just coming to church is not the way into the fold. Again, it is a good way to follow the shepherd. But Jesus is the only way. If you want the Lord to deliver and protect you as your shepherd you have to come through Jesus, he is the gate into the fold.
The benefits of this relationship and of being part of the fold are many. Because the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. The Lord will provide for all our needs. That doesn’t mean that Christians do not suffer from time to time. But God is with us through those times of suffering. He will lead us to green pastures and still waters. He will restore our souls.
Because the Lord is my shepherd I am protected and cared for. His rod and his staff they comfort us. Our shepherd protects us from wild animals. Later in John, Jesus says that the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. And our shepherd did die for us!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Our shepherd is there with us through the dark times of our lives. He is even with us sustaining us in the face of our enemies. He anoints our heads with oil; our cups overflow. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my live and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever, because the Lord is my shepherd.
Do you know the voice of your shepherd? Do you come when he calls? Would you flee from a false shepherd no matter how nice her voice sounded? Are you in the fold?
Sheep have a bad habit of wandering off. The Shepherd takes them to a green pasture. And they begin peacefully grazing. They don’t look up and they just graze their way away from the shepherd. But the shepherd comes looking for the lost sheep.
Is the Lord your shepherd? If not come in through Jesus the gate to the sheepfold. If the Lord is your shepherd, then listen to your shepherd and follow his voice. If the Lord is your shepherd; you shall not want and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! Shalom and Amen!
Scripture: Psalm 23, John 10:11-18