Summary: In one of Max Lucado’s books he asks a very interesting question. He says “couldn’t God have thought of something better to compare us to instead of sheep? Probably not.
John 10:1-14; 27
Last week on Wednesday evening we had just gotten home from Bible study. I was getting out of my truck when I noticed a dog standing at the edge of our yard. She looked a bit scared—we called for her to come to us—but it took at least 20 minutes before the dog realized we weren’t going to hurt her.
We walked through the neighborhood for a while trying to find out who the owners might be; but to no avail. So we brought her in for the night. My wife who is basically the dog whisperer decided to name the dog Gracie. She said if it wasn’t for God’s grace this dog could get hurt. Gracie became very friendly and we had both decided that maybe God was sending us a dog to take care of.
The next morning as soon as animal control offices were open I called and gave them the tag number. They identified the dog and gave us her address and her name which was Betty Lou. I know. Who in the world names a dog Betty Lou? We continued to call her Gracie that morning but then I used her actual name and the moment I called her Betty Lou—her little ears stood straight up. Then I would say Gracie. Nothing. Betty Lou. Ears up. Gracie. Ears down.
It is a remarkable fact that certain animals recognize their name and also recognize the voice of their owner/master.
There was a television show about a man named Charlie Frank. Charlie Frank raised an elephant from birth and trained her as a circus performer. When he retired he gave the elephant to the San Diego zoo. He went for the next 15 years without seeing her a single time. They had not seen each other for 15 years when they filmed this reunion. Frank called to Neeta across a distance of about 300 feet. Immediately the animal came to him. After 15 years. And she immediately performed the tricks she had performed years earlier. How does that happen? It’s simple. She recognized her master’s voice. She recognized her name.
In the gospel of john the Bible says the shepherd of the sheep ….calls his own sheep by name and leads them out….He goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his name. I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me….my sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.
1. We share many things in common with sheep. Look at the nature of sheep. In one of Max Lucado’s books he asks a very interesting question. He says “couldn’t God have thought of something better to compare us to instead of sheep? Of all God’s animals the sheep is probably the least able to take care of himself. They are kind of helpless. If you go to the circus you may see an elephant trainer, a lion trainer, even a monkey trainer but never a sheep trainer. They’re just not as smart. Let’s face it. Sheep don’t do tricks.
Sheep are not particularly bright animals. It’s not that they occasionally wander off---wandering off is a way of life for them. They love to eat and they will keep their head down for hours eating until they find themselves lost in another pasture. But wandering off is what we expect from sheep.
A story ran in the Washington Post about shepherds in the country of Turkey who watched in shock as hundreds of their sheep followed each other over a cliff. First one sheep wandered away and fell to his death. Eventually the entire flock followed that one. In the end more than 400 sheep were dead. 3000 years ago the prophet Isaiah wrote these words, we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. We have followed the crowd instead of the shepherd.
Now that brings me to the 2nd truth I want to share with you. As sheep we desperately need protection. We need a gate. Look at verse 7. You can see in this picture the shepherd standing at the gate. He is there to protect the flock. In the OT it was very common for the shepherd to sleep at the entrance where the gate was located. Much of the time there was no gate. The shepherd actually became the gate. He would lie across the entrance to the sheep pen. In that way no one could come in and steal the sheep and the sheep could not come out unless they went through the shepherd.
This passage is being spoken by Jesus to a group of Jewish leaders who like us could not seem to grasp what he was teaching. It’s full of symbolism; it has a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. Look at v. 6. Jesus used this figure of speech but they did not understand what He was telling them. This is not the first time God as had to repeat Himself. Not the first time He has had to say something a second time. In the OT God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach but instead he ran away and went in the opposite direction. In the book of Jonah chapter 3 it says “that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.”