Today, we heard the beautiful Good Shepherd gospel. In Jesus’ time, shepherd was a career opportunity where the sky was the limit. It is still practiced in the land of Jesus’ birth. Many people’s understanding of a shepherd is this pastoral type of guy who wanders through the fields, cuddling a little ewe lamb.
Not so. The shepherd is a tough guy. If the sheep do not hear his voice, they are easily led into danger. A person familiar with shepherding stated, “It is strictly true that the sheep know and understand the eastern shepherd’s voice; and that they will never answer to the voice of a stranger. They know his voice and follow on; but, if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger.”
So, this is what Jesus means when he says, “I am the good shepherd. I know mine, and mine know me. They will hear my voice.” Jesus Christ leads us with His voice, His word. He is even willing to lay down His life for us, and so He did, of His own free will.
We hear many voices in contemporary culture. Our world is flooded with voices, leading us in many different directions. Our task is to listen to the voice of the shepherd, in the midst of many false voices. The shepherd will always take care of us. He knows what is dangerous, and what is helpful to us. He cares for us. Did you know that a shepherd in the Middle East does not raise sheep for meat, but mostly for wool? Because of this, he takes care of the sheep throughout their lives. He often calls them by name. Each respond to the name given to them by the shepherd. And so, Jesus knows us by name.
If we listen to Jesus’ voice, we have life. We have peace. This is in contrast to the hireling. This is a guy who is working only for pay. When the wolf, representing a mortal threat to the sheep, comes, the hireling takes off and runs away. The wolf is able to kill the sheep and scatter the flock to an unknown fate. There are a lot of people who want you to recognize and follow them for the end of material greed, political power, or other ulterior motives. They want to use you. But, when times are tough, they take off and leave you to your own defenses.
Whose voice do you recognize? Will you recognize Jesus, the Good Shepherd’s, voice, and no other voice? It is hard to distinguish the true shepherd from the thousands of hirelings in the field of our culture.