Does your cell phone have facial recognition? Does “Alexa” recognize your voice? It’s interesting to me that our modern technology has developed to the degree that various devices, computers, etc. have the ability to discern specific people. Maybe as a distant precursor to modern technology, perhaps sheep were hardwired by divine design to recognize their shepherd’s voice. To this end, in John 10, Jesus said that His sheep know His voice.
These are famous words that Jesus said along with identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd.
I’ve always loved this whole passage where Jesus describes the shepherd metaphor with identifying His followers as sheep.
Throughout this metaphor, Jesus identifies several contrasting figures to the Good Shepherd that could be interesting to consider.
- Thief – this is the person who tries to get into the sheep pen without going through the door. The idea is that anyone who doesn’t go through Jesus is a thief.
- Robber – this person is similar to the thief, but the word in Greek used here includes a heavy amount of violence and not just thievery. This is the same word that Jesus uses to describe the bandits who beat up the man in the Good Samaritan parable, leaving him almost dead on the roadside. And again, this is anyone who doesn’t go through Jesus.
- Stranger – Jesus identifies this person as a contrasting voice that the sheep don’t recognize. Indeed, the sheep run away from this foreign voice. In contrast, however, the sheep recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice and follow Him.
- Hireling – this person would possibly be a substitute shepherd who isn’t concerned about the sheep. Jesus says that this person runs away from the sheep when a predator / wolf shows up. In contrast, Jesus says that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.
- Wolf – Jesus says that this person snatches up the sheep and we understand the intent of this kind of person is to harm, if not devour, the sheep. In contrast, the Good Shepherd runs off predators and protects His sheep.
These are all interesting contrasts to the “Good Shepherd” who leads His sheep, helps them find pasture, keeps them safe, cares for and protects His sheep and even lays down His life for them.
It’s also interesting to consider what the sheep “know” because in actual truth, sheep are really stupid. Their greatest degree of intelligence is probably their voice recognition ability for their shepherd and nothing more than that. The way that they recognize their shepherd’s voice is by time, familiarity and the intentional efforts of the shepherd. The Good Shepherd talks with His sheep, giving them names and stays around them day in and day out, giving them pasture and caring for them.
It’s interesting to consider all of the things the Good Shepherd does in this metaphor. At the same time, the sheep don’t do very much except listen for and follow their shepherd. If we recognize that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, then let’s be committed to hearing His voice – letting our voice recognition be the most sensitive to listening for Jesus. Let’s also keep our decision to follow Jesus’ voice committed and current. Jesus is our Good Shepherd!