Summary: Learning from Sheep what is it really like to be a Christian
What Animal are you Most Like?
What Animal are you most like? Do we have a lion here tonight? How about a bear? Perhaps an Iguana? Many years ago, I was pastoring a Church in Calgary. Muriel was invited to the young married couples fellowship night. And they put her on the hot seat. The question they asked her was: Which Animal is Alvan most like first thing in the morning: a bear, a lamb or an octopus? I will not tell you the answer she gave!
What I want to know is what animal you are like. From God’s point of view, we must be a lot like sheep. In both the Old and New Testaments, we are likened to sheep. In the world famous 23rd Psalm that we will sing in a few minutes humans are likened to sheep and God is their Shepherd. And here in our Gospel text tonight we are sheep. So, let me address you as sheep.
I should start by telling you a bit about sheep-keeping in First Century Palestine. The sheep never ran loose, especially at night. There were too many dangers. The shepherd always led his flock into a pen at night. Every village had a sheep pen with a high fence, a strong gate and a night watchman.
The village coral was used by several shepherds. There could be as many as a dozen flocks in the one pen. In the morning each shepherd would stand at the gate and yell ‘sheep, sheep, sheep’ or whatever shepherds say, and his flock, and only his flock would respond to his voice and follow him out to green pastures. It is this village sheep pen that Jesus is talking about in John 10. And of course, he is talking about us. And from this lovely analogy we learn that His sheep are Selected, His sheep are Supervised and His sheep are Satisfied.
His Sheep are Selected
In verse 3 it says that He calls his own sheep by name. Out of the many sheep in the pen He selects His own. What a wonder! What a mystery! What a joy! God chose us.
Most happily married couples have this feeling of gratitude. Out of the millions of possible partners, you chose me. And God chose us. God picked us. Before the worlds were born, or the morning stars gave forth their song, He chose us, he picked us to be his sheep.
Jesus said: You have not chosen me but I have chosen you. The sheep did not line up a bunch of shepherds and then pick one. It was the other way around. We are not here by luck or fate or chance. We are here according to the good pleasure of His will.
And he knows your name. It’s never ‘hey you’. He knows all about you. Your down-sitting and your uprising. Your thoughts afar off. Your strengths, your weakness, your sins. And still he calls.
And the sheep, his sheep, listen to his voice. Out of a thousand beckoning voices in our world, the sheep know their Master’s voice.
I am not sure how this works with real sheep but one time I did see it work with humans. I was in Israel, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Our Israeli guide said: Now I am going to let you look around the Church courtyard for about 20 minutes. When your time is up I will stand at the gate and shout my name: Hillel, Hillel.
And I thought right away: this is not going to work. The Church was jammed with hundreds of people. The noise was unbelievable. I thought, my 30 souls are lost forever.
We spread out, got lost in the crowds of pilgrims. 20 minutes later I couldn’t believe it. Above the din – Hillel, Hillel and lo, they came from the East and from the West; from the south and from the North and when we got back on the bus we had 30 people, not 28 or 32 but 30. We didn’t lose any and we didn’t pick up anyone from another tour.
The Good Shepherd calls his own my name and they listen to his voice and they follow him. The sheep are selected.
The Sheep Are Supervised
It says in verse 3 that He leads them. Judean sheep were never left on their own. They were supervised, guarded, guided, led. The Sons and Daughters of God are led by the Spirit of God.
Friends, our great shepherd never slumbers or sleeps. He is always watching over us. Leading and guiding. Not all of His ways of protecting us are pleasant, of course.
One tool every shepherd in Palestine had was a sling. They did not have sheep dogs but they did have slings. And they were very skilled with them as we learn from the story of David and Goliath.