By Rev. Dr. Rick Chesher
Most of us live in a world far removed from places where they raise sheep, or for that matter, any kind of livestock. For that reason sometimes it is difficult to understand some of the things taught in the Bible. The Bible often times uses teachings and illustrations based in the setting of a shepherd, or how a shepherd would understand things.
The truth is some of those who were listening to Jesus, even though they lived in the time of shepherds really didn’t understand what He was saying. The good thing for us today though is Jesus translated those for us so we will be able to understand what He was getting at.
One of those passages we find in John 10:1-6. Jesus in this passage begins to develop the idea of Him being a shepherd, and not only a shepherd, but a good shepherd. He starts off by referring to some sheep in a pen, or a place where they are gathered and fenced in, so they will be safe and not wonder off, as sheep do.
Jesus gives us insight on how to identify the true shepherd of the flock. Jesus says the true shepherd of the flock will not try and enter the pen by any means other than the door. They will not climb over the fence, or go through the spaces in the fence. The true shepherd will go through the door of the pen.
Anyone who goes another way into the pen is a thief and a robber. They will be seeking to steal the sheep and even do harm to the sheep. The true shepherd has no need to enter in by another way, because he owns the sheep, and people around know he owns the sheep as well, so he doesn’t need to seek in.
Another insight into knowing the true shepherd is a way we don’t often think about. Jesus says the sheep will know the true shepherd’s voice. The shepherd in that day spent long hours and days with the sheep, and he would talk to them while he was leading them from one place to another. And the shepherd would lead them. He didn’t herd them or drive them, he led them. The he would lead them was by talking and singing.
The sheep recognized his voice because they would hear him talking to them, or singing to them. The sheep would follow him because they knew their shepherds and they knew who took care of them. Jesus adds, “they will never follow a stranger” they will only follow the true shepherd.
Two things we can learn from this passage. Jesus speaks to us and we will be able to hear Him. The other is maybe we don’t hear Him because He is a stranger to us. This means we need to spend time with Him so we will be able to recognize His voice.