1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
They know his voice.
I have my dad’s old cell phone. It’s still listed in my iPhone’s address book as belonging to my dad, though he is gone and Jennifer now carries that phone.
And it still has the outgoing message he recorded. I cannot delete it — it is the last copy of his voice I know that I have. I simply cannot let go of it.
I know my dad’s voice. I have always known it, whether I was waiting with anticipation or terror at his coming.
Here, Jesus tells his disciples that his sheep know his voice. They know it. The teaching is made after Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees, some of whom cannot believe that Jesus is the long prophesied Son of Man.
It sounds here like you either know the shepherd’s voice or not. And maybe that’s true. To follow the master, and refuse to follow the thief, or a stranger, is to know something about the shepherd. The shepherd has come by the right way — the gate — and the gatekeeper has opened the gate for the shepherd.
Jesus is the gate, the one through which entry to the sheep is given. He is also, later in the reading, the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep. He speaks and those who follow know he has spoken.
I have heard the voice of Jesus. And yet, I did not know him. I was not one of his when he spoke to me. I could not follow the voice of what was then, to me, a stranger. It took others — faithful followers, struggling as best they could — to show me who he was. Who he is. I did not know his voice then but I do now. He is not a stranger to me now. He is the shepherd, and I know his voice.
I don’t think I’ve followed a stranger. Or been robbed by a thief. I have followed. I have life. I have it abundantly. I have that promise.
I wonder, though, what that means. Because what I’m living now … does not feel to me like abundant life.