One of the Bible’s most informative images of Jesus is as the god shepherd. This image involves His leadership or lordship of the flock. Jesus expresses that role by saying,“My sheep hear My voice.” Only the Lord’s true sheep follow and obey Him because they know and recognize His voice. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”
My interactions with pastoral communities gave me a glimpse of the relationship between a shepherd and his flock of sheep. I have a mental picture whereby a shepherd builds a relationship with his sheep, how he feeds them and gently cares for them. I have learnt that the shepherd doesn’t drive the sheep but leads them. This makes a huge difference in understanding the subject Jesus is bringing up of his relationship with us. The shepherd does not need to be harsh with them, because they hear his voice and willingly follow. One day we were driving out with my family and on the way, we met a young man chasing a flock of sheep. He was throwing sticks and rocks at them, whacking them with sticks and at some pint he even unleashed the dogs at them. So unfortunate that this man had eroded all that I had gathered about shepherds. I decided to ask why he is doing that yet he is supposed to be a good shepherd, his reply answered not only the question I had in my mind but also that he was not really the shepherd but was a butcher who was chasing after one for a birthday party.
The shepherd in the story of Jesus represents a place of security, a protective shelter of the family of God. No one can enter the fold except through Jesus the Good Shepherd. He protects His sheep and leads them, and even lays down His life for them. Only true sheep follow His leadership: “After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice” Christ leads by example. His life illustrates how we ought to live. He doesn’t have to push or prod us to follow Him but guides us by walking ahead of us. And His sheep hear His voice, that is, we know His voice and recognize Him as our leader.
the expression expresses personal intimacy between the shepherd and his sheep. In the first century, a single sheep pen held multiple flocks, so it was essential for the sheep to know and recognize their own shepherd’s voice. There had to be an unmistakable familiarity between sheep and shepherd for the sheep to feel safe and know which voice to follow.
Whose voice are you familiar with? Whom do you follow?