“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
It seems strange that our Lord calls us sheep. If a friend or random stranger decidedly to call us sheep – we would probably be confused beyond belief, or just plain offended. Being called sheep does not really sound like a compliment, or a salutary name for us.
Sheep graze in a heard and don’t seem to really do too much. Sheep are not hunters. They are not especially attractive. Sheep are not feared by anyone in the animal kingdom. They are not a particularly noble creature. Maybe the most discouraging of all is that they are followers and blindly follow wherever the heard goes.
Nobody wants to be known as a follower, or part of the heard.
In our country, the home of the free and the brave, few things seem more distasteful than being a follower. We much prefer being a rugged individual. Rather, than be sheep, we would prefer a comparison more complimentary for ourselves. Maybe like the bald eagle, our national icon, soaring independently high in the sky. Yea, that’s nice. Anything but sheep! If the city of Chicago decided to rename the Bulls basketball team to the Chicago Sheep, there would probably be a big problem. And if the owners of the Bears decided to rename the team, “Chicago Sheep,” there would probably be riots in the street. People would go nuts!
Although sheep may not be the most excellent name for a sports team, it is fitting for us in another way. Spiritually with our Lord we are not bulls and bears. We are not by ourselves spiritual warriors, who can fight for ourselves. We do not even put up much of a fight, but more a whimper. Left to our own rugged, individual selves, we have a hard time finding the green pastures and still waters.
We get tired and lonely. Threatened from the sides. Threatened by wolves in sheep’s clothing. As spiritual do-it yourselfers we run straight into the valley of the shadow of death. As the prophet Isaiah tells us “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.”
By ourselves, without the flock, it is easy to go astray. And it is not good to be a soloist in God’s creation, for from the very beginning God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And so he create his flock and his congregation. He formed his own heavenly chorus.
Hear today’s Gospel. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” How good and blessed it is to be sheep?! How wonderful to be helpless and following sheep. For we follow the Good Shepherd. We follow the crucified and risen Lord. We hear His calling voice and we follow His words. And His words are not just any words, but they are words that give eternal life. They are words that rescue us, and comfort us and lead us in the paths of righteousness.
But more than anything the calling of the Good Shepherd leads us into the paths of one another, where our lives intersect. Our paths all meet here, at this place, where the Good Sheppard speaks. And here, we call out each others names in prayer and thanksgivings.
Sheep are born and bred to live with one another. And how blessed to be not just any sheep but HIS sheep. The Lord God saw that we needed a helper so he sent His Son and He sent His Holy Spirit to guide us and keep us. He calls us all by our name and invites us to His table
You will fear no evil for you are with Him and He is with you. His wounds and His cross they comfort you. Your cup overflows with His blessings. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life and we together will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, as sheep in His pasture.