This week’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary have several references to sheep (Psalm 23 and John 10.22-30) and to Jesus as the Lamb of God (Revelation 7.9-17). In Jesus’ time, shepherds were a despised class yet one of Jesus’ most famous parables is the Parable of the Good Shepherd which immediately precedes the reading from John (John 10.1-21).
In the reading from John, the Jewish leaders gather around Jesus and ask: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”
Jesus was pointing to the many miracles he had performed – giving sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk, and curing people of a variety of physical and mental ailments. In other words, “You see, but you do not believe! If you were my sheep, part of my flock, you would believe.” Jesus further said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Although no one will snatch the sheep from Jesus’ hand, we sometimes decide to wander of our own accord. The prophet Isaiah tells us, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way” (53.6a; NRSV).
When we depart from God’s way, we suffer the consequences for having done so. These consequences may well be God’s judgment which some preach. Yet our God has a gentle voice which calls us to return to the flock. In Luke 15.3-7, we read the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
God searches for us and calls to us even when we are lost, when all seems lost. God’s voice calls us into moments of profound transformation.
All too often, we refuse to listen for, or to, the voice of God. We drown it out with popular entertainment or social media. The lengths to which we go to avoid moments of solitude and silence are rather astonishing. Yet Jesus gently calls us to be members of his flock, to hear his voice and to follow him. When we do, we find the rest and refreshment of which Psalm 23 speaks.