A long time ago we had a hamster named Carmel. Carmel and I had a deep affection for one another. Even though she was my daughter’s pet, I discovered that petting Carmel and carrying her around in my pocket was a great stress-reliever. She and I had many conversations after work every day.
One night I got awake after hearing a loud crash. Carmel had managed to pop the lid off her specialized hamster house and was on the loose. I listened carefully and discovered that she had gotten into the ductwork downstairs. Climbing on top of a desk in our family room, I could hear her through a vent high up on the wall. She just scurrying along, happy as can be. There was one room in the house where the vents were on the floor, so I realized that if I could somehow get her over there, I might be able to take the grate off and get her out that way.
So there I was at 4AM, laying on the floor of the sun room and calling down the vent to her. I kept calling her name and talking to her. I’m glad we didn’t have security cameras back then…surely I looked like a lunatic. But crazy is as crazy does! In about 20 minutes I heard her little feet make their way up the duct where I was calling her, and sure enough, she crawled right up and into my waiting hand.
Carmel had recognized the voice of her Mama, and apparently exploring the house turned out to be scarier than she had thought it would be. I returned her to her abode and placed a Webster’s dictionary (you remember those) on top of the lid so she couldn’t push it up again.
In the passage below, Jesus is reminding us sheep that he is our shepherd, and he is a very, very good one. He loves us enough to sacrifice his life for ours. But we have to recognize his voice in order to be part of the flock.
John 10 (The Message)
11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.
You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice.
Sometimes God’s voice sounds like a guilty conscience. Sometimes it sounds like a good friend calling us out on our harmful behavior. Sometimes it comes in the form of a good sermon, a sidewalk chalk message, or a piece of music that moves us in a particular way. Sometimes it sounds exactly like Jesus whispering in our ear. The trick is to know him so well that you recognize him no matter what he chooses to speak through.
Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
One day Jesus will return to rule the people of all ages, nations, and races. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord. He longs to shepherd the entire flock, and be the One shepherd of all.
In the meantime, he speaks. He speaks words of comfort, hope, rebuke, correction, instruction, guidance, and above all, love. Jesus is speaking to us even now. Are you listening?