My Sheep Follow My Voice

In John 10:6, Jesus uses a “figure of speech” (Greek, ) one that requires insight to understand the point. We may miss that point, perhaps not from lack of insight, but from lack of cultural familiarity. Jesus’ teaching here is clothed in a figure of speech, but it was very familiar clothing to Jewish people of the first century. It is not to us.

For one thing, it is about sheep, and everyone there and then – unlike here and now – knew something about sheep. For another, Jesus talks about shepherds, and not only did everyone know about shepherds, the Old Testament often used the word shepherd to refer to teachers and national and religious leaders. In this figure of speech, the sheep represent people like us, the robbers represent the religious leaders of the day, and the Good Shepherd represents Jesus.

I would rather be classified among the sheep than the robbers. It is not, however, a compliment to be compared to a sheep. I remember an old truck driver telling me that sheep are about the most stupid animals he had ever hauled. If allowed, he said, the sheep will congregate so tightly in a corner of the truck trailer that some of them will be suffocated.

The old Scot preacher, Andrew Bonar, once told how sheep in the Scottish Highlands wander off into the rocks and get into places from which they cannot escape. The grass on those mountains was sweet and the sheep would sometimes jump down ten or twelve feet to reach it, and then be unable to get back out. They would stay there until they had eaten all the grass. Then the shepherd would hear them bleating in distress. But he would have to wait until they were so faint that they could not stand, and then he would put a rope around himself, and go down and pull the sheep up out of the jaws of death.

Someone asked, “Why don’t they go down when the sheep first gets stuck?” And Bonar answered, “The sheep are so foolish they would dash right over the precipice and be killed!”[1]

Being compared to a sheep is not a compliment, and yet, are we not like them? How often people won’t go to God until they have lost everything and have no friends left. Before he can bring us back to himself, the Good Shepherd must wait until we have given up trying to save ourselves and are finally willing to let Him save us in His own way.

Jesus says that his sheep know and follow his voice. And note that word follow in verses four and five. The shepherd does not merely speak to us; he leads us.  e is going somewhere, and he wants us to go with him. We may think that the Good Shepherd only speaks to us while we are sitting stationary in church. Certainly he may speak to us then, but his intent is that we follow him into the world, into action, into service and noble sacrifice. He does not call us to vegetate in comfort but to follow in obedience.


[1] D. L. Moody shared this story

About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
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