A few years ago I participated in an international mission trip to Wales. The land in Wales was beautiful, and incredibly green. The rolling hills were full of sheep. In fact, just outside the walls of the college where we stayed were sheep farms, and we could hear the bleating of sheep throughout the night. “Baaaaa” was our alarm clock.
To understand this passage, we must understand the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep in Jesus culture. Sheep are not the brightest of animals, but they will follow a shepherd. The sheep would be kept in a pen and from the pen the shepherd would train his sheep. They learned to leave the pen through a single gate, following the shepherd. This gate or door would lead them to the fields for grazing and water. The shepherd also trained the sheep to recognize his voice, using specific voice signals and commands. While the sheep do not understand everything about the master, they do learn that following the shepherd’s voice and leaving the pen through the only door leads to green pastures and a wonderful life. By training the sheep to exit the pen through the only door and to recognize the shepherd’s voice, the sheep were protected from thieves who would attempt to sneak in. A thief would call, but the sheep would not answer. A thief would try to move the sheep through another opening, but they would not go.
By using the sheep analogy, Jesus demonstrates some characteristics of people with a genuine faith in Him. He gives us this illustration to examine ourselves and make sure our faith is real, that we are truly one of God’s sheep. First of all, God’s sheep will enter the pasture through the only door. Jesus said, “I am the door (John 10:9).” Those with real faith realize that the only access into abundant life is through Jesus. There is no other way. Jesus is the door. Not only that, but God’s sheep know the voice of the true shepherd. Jesus said that His sheep know and hear his voice, and will follow the shepherd. If you don’t hear and follow the voice of Jesus, it is an indication that you are not part of His flock. I don’t mean that you hear weird voices, but rather the voice of God in your heart is real, and you follow Him. Third, God’s sheep will not follow a false shepherd (John 10:5). So often, a person who claims to be a Christian, will follow teachers and philosophers that lead them away from Christ. Jesus wants us to know that this sort of person was never really part of the flock. Last, because of the goodness of the Shepherd, God’s sheep experience the fullest life in the greatest pasture. “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly (to the full). When we hear the voice of God and follow the Good Shepherd, He always leads us to good places. The Shepherd always has the good of the sheep in mind, even when He leads them through dark valleys.
Are you one of His sheep? Do you hear his voice? Have you entered through the only door? Do you follow Jesus lead? Would you fall to a false shepherd who led you away from your faith? Are you experiencing the full life the Good Shepherd provides for His sheep?