My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
“Thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd.” So wrote Luther in the Smalcald Articles. The Church is believing sheep who are gathered around their Shepherd and who hear His voice and follow Him.
Sheep aren’t stupid, and that isn’t the point of comparison here. Sheep are wholly dependent upon their shepherd. That’s the point. They rely on their shepherd for everything. Fresh water, healthy food, care for their wounds, aid when they’ve fallen. They will not enter a place unless their shepherd goes before them. They recognize His voice, and he calls each of them by name.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day wanted to throw stones at him. They refused Jesus as their shepherd. They had other plans. His works weren’t enough to convince them. Not even rising from the dead would do it. But many did believe in Jesus–those who were baptized by John. They heard the voice of Jesus and recognized their Good Shepherd who would lay down His life to save the world.
You are sheep of the Good Shepherd’s pasture, my dear baptized believer. You hear His voice. He knows you by name. You follow Him though death to eternal life. He gives you eternal life, and in Him you will never perish. He holds you safely in His cross-scarred hands and will not let you go. His Father, too, holds you as His child. No one and nothing, including Death itself, can snatch you out of the Father’s hands, thanks to His Son Jesus.
What a privilege to boast with David, “the Lord is my Shepherd, therefore I lack nothing!” As you go to Confession to hear God’s forgiveness, as you go to the altar to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood, as you listen to the preaching of God’s Word, remember who you are: a sheep of the Good Shepherd’s flock.
And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never; Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise Within Thy house forever! (LSB #709, vs 6)
Questions or comments regarding the Reflections may be sent to the Rev. Mark Buetow, Reflections Editor, email@example.com.