Summary: A talk given at our ’Pensioners Praise’ service. Jesus said his sheep know his voice. This talk encourages people to want to know Him.

A Shepherd loses his sheep, goes into a pub and hears it calling him. Which bit of the pub does he head for: The bar!

A few years ago I was reading a book by Stephen Gaukroger. He tells the story of a New York Methodist minister who saw the need to bring his ‘ninety nine righteous’ sheep back into the fold. He put an advert in the local paper:

“Lost, stolen or strayed; a large flock of Methodist sheep. They have been gone for some time. When last seen they were browsing along the road of indifference. Anyone finding these sheep please bring them home, if possible, and you will receive ample reward. If they refuse to come home drive them to the nearest fold, lock the door, and report to the undersigned. Plenty of fodder will be provided on Sunday.”

Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).

An ancient Jewish Hymn was familiar to Jesus: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23).

The Jewish King David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Years later Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd”!

Jesus is the noble shepherd who will never abandon his sheep. Jesus said “I know my sheep and my sheep known me” (10:14). It speaks of a deep and trusting two-way relationship.

Since there is a shepherd in our midst – a man who gave years of dedicated commitment to his flock of Jacob sheep (Mr Phil Hylton) - I feel quite inadequate to say much about the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep; but having read through Phil’s little book ‘The Sheep that taught me much’ a couple of times, I am struck by the stories Phil can tell about the sheep that put their whole trust and confidence in him, come rain or shine. In fact I was quite moved by the story of the mother sheep called ‘Little Lady’ and her 3 lambs. It was dark and pouring with rain, and yet she trusted Phil to carry her lambs and followed him to the safety of the sheep pen where safety and dry straw awaited. It’s difficult for me to do the story justice, but it speaks of trust in the shepherd.

God is our shepherd. Do we trust him? When Jesus came on the scene he often used stories and pictures to tell people who he was, why he had come, and what God is really like. When Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd” it was another piece in the jigsaw puzzle revealing that Jesus was not just a Good Man. Jesus was God wrapped in human flesh, living a perfect human life, and He is our shepherd.

In another ancient hymn of praise we read this: “Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Jesus is our shepherd. Do we know Jesus as our spiritual shepherd? Do we trust him? Do we know and recognise his voice?

A little earlier in John’s gospel Jesus said this of himself: “…the sheep listen to his voice” (10:3); “…his sheep follow him because they know his voice; but they will never follow a stranger” (10:4-5).

Do you know Jesus, or is he a stranger?

On Friday there was a new arrival in the Pidgeon family. A little baby! Not a baby Pidgeon in case you’re wondering, but a baby rabbit called ‘Flopsy’; and although its only been 3 days our little rabbit is already getting to know my wife Moira and our three children. There is a relationship of trust developing as they feed and clean Flopsy, and as Flopsy snuggles up in their laps. They are getting to know each other and Flopsy is already starting to trust them. However, if I go anywhere near the hutch Flopsy gets scared silly and bolts into his sleeping compartment because he doesn’t know my voice and he doesn’t trust me. I occasionally have the same effect on human babies, especially since becoming ill with dystonia; and if I were given a flock of sheep and lambs to look after in the fields I think I would very quickly scare them off because I wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing and they wouldn’t know my voice. We would be strangers!

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