Blog 16: John 10:1-21

SNL 27 January 2013 7.00pm

My sheep know my voice

As before the blog, written by Derek McKelvey, is written as if by John the Evangelist. Of course it is not.

As so often when Jesus was in conflict with the authorities he told a story[1], this one has always stayed with me – it was a story but anyone who knew their Scripture[2] could not help but recall Ezekiel’s denunciation[3] of the Shepherds of Israel who did not care for their sheep and left them prey to whatever came along and devoured them themselves. Was this not the attitude shown by the Pharisees in their treatment of the ‘man born blind’?

It was not difficult for the crowd (or us) to know who is the (Good) Shepherd and who the Thief and Robber in this story. But there is so much more here that he wanted to tell us and I wanted you to hear. Jesus is the only Good Shepherd – he alone loves the sheep – he alone lays down his life for the sheep. He is Shepherd and sacrificial Lamb rolled into one. And he is more he is the Door – so often the shepherds in our time lay to sleep at night in the entrance to the sheepfold, they were themselves both the way in to the fold (Kingdom?) and the protection for those within.

But there are two things I want to be sure you have not missed – for you look after sheep so differently in your day.  These folds out in the country often would shelter several flocks at night to protect them from wild animals. In the morning each shepherd would walk off calling his call and his sheep would follow him since they knew ‘his voice’ – our shepherds always went in front of the sheep – only butchers drove sheep. We knew ‘His’ voice, and on the years that followed the death and resurrection when he was no longer with us we still ‘knew’ his voice for the Spirit told us all he had to say.[4] I want you to understand that you (his sheep) have the right to know his voice. What Paul later, I believe, would call a ‘gift of discernment’[5] to distinguish between the voice of the Saviour and the voice of Satan. Don’t neglect to listen for him.

And don’t be insular either; he has sheep in other folds whom he will also bring. It took us a long time to realize that it was not just Jews that Jesus came to save but that if he was ‘lifted up, he would draw all mankind to him.’[6] It is so easy to try and limit God’s love and salvation to our own people, those who think and act and look like us. How wrong can we be!

Listen to the love of the Saviour for his world and share it with them.

[1] John calls this passage a ‘parable’ – it is the only instance of a parable in John’s gospel. The Synoptics (Matthew Mark and Luke) are full of them. Many theories are advanced as why this should be so. Some depend on John having been aware of what the others had written, others that he (unlike Matthew and Luke who borrowed large chunks and their outline from Mark) started without knowing them and took a very different way of telling the story, not in contrast to them, but in response to the needs of the time and his audience.

[2] As always for the Jewish Church and the first two centuries of the Christian Church, Scripture equals the Old Testament.

[4] See chapters 14-16

[6] John 12:32