Respond Only to One Voice — the Voice of the Good Shepherd
User’s Guide to the Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice.” The Lord is not comparing us to majestic eagles, beautiful gazelles, swift horses or mighty lions. Why does the Lord use sheep as a sign for us?
Here are some qualities of sheep, positive and negative, that may help illustrate what he is teaching.
First, the negative traits. Sheep are:
They tend to wander off and get lost. They don’t know how to get back to the fold unless the shepherd goes out and brings them back. Scripture says of us: “All we, like sheep, have gone astray, every one to his own way ” (Isaiah 53:6). Yes, we easily stray. We need Christ the Shepherd to call us home.
Sheep are just not that bright. We train dogs, birds, horses and even lions, but you don’t hear about trained sheep too frequently. We human sheep like to think we’re smart. Sure, we have all this advanced technology, but we’re also so often witless that we do things that we know will harm us and stubbornly resist what we know will help us. In fact, we can think we’re smarter than God. We often think our way is better than God’s way.
Sheep have no way to protect themselves. When the wolf comes near, just about all the sheep can do is to stand there and be at the mercy of such a dangerous foe. We like to think we’re strong, but, often at the slightest temptation, we fall. We need the Lord and his grace and mercy, or we don’t stand a chance. We are weak and prone to sin.
Yet sheep also have good qualities. Sheep are:
In Jesus’ day, many a man counted his wealth by the number of sheep he owned. These valuable animals provided meat, milk and wool. So it is with us. At times we may not feel worthy, but we were worth saving because the Lord paid the price of our redemption. He knew the price and paid it all — with his own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Sheep flock together and are safer that way. To be a solitary sheep is dangerous. Scripture says, “Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10). Sheep are not supposed to go off on their own, and neither are we.
In the Gospel today Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.”
Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus is depicted as the Good Shepherd: “the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … The sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:11-14). But we can spend a lot of time and money to listen to other voices. Instead of rebuking them, we often rebuke the voice of God. We must be more wary, like sheep, and respond only to one voice: that of the Lord speaking though his Church.