and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
We are easily distracted creatures. Our eyes are always upon other sheep or upon our own fleece.
We move, shuffle, eat, gossip and rest with little awareness of what it going on around us. God knows this. He knows how little attention we pay towards the important things, that is why we can take comfort in knowing that he is always paying attention.
He is also much more merciful than we deserve because it is not only the temporally-important things we miss, but also the eternal ones. Did we see when Jesus entered the gate? Were we aware of his presence? The answer for most of us is no. We were not paying attention to the gate, nor were we expecting a divine visitor.
That is why he had to call us. We did not see his entrance but we could not ignore his voice. Being called by Jesus and hearing his voice in your soul sounds like a new-familiar. You know you’ve never heard it before, whatever it is – but at the same time it’s the thing you’ve been waiting to hear. You don’t know it but you recognize it. It’s intimate and refreshing; like making a new friend and reuniting with a best friend at the same time. The sheep listen to the voice because they know it and they want to hear more of it.
Jesus delivers on this desire for he proceeds to call them out individually. One by one…James, John…he makes his voice known….Andrew, Matthew…so that each one that comes…Thomas, Simon…has been called by name. There are no altar calls, no mass salvations, no group-think holy ones. Each Christian was sought out by Christ. At one time or another every one of those hundred sheep had to be carried back to the ninety-nine.
It is not enough to know his voice. He wants you to know his eyes and his arms. As he leads you out, he doesn’t want the only thing in your sight to be his back. He wants you to know his face. He does not distance himself when he leads the sheep out. The going out is another avenue of pleasure. They have heard his voice and felt his arms, now the sheep have an opportunity to trust in his protection and provision. The fence is gone. Yes there were dangers which crept in. But now the dangers are much more real. We have come to know that we love him, how our heart stirs at the sound of his voice, but it is not until we let him lead us out that we discover our trust in him.
How weak it is at first. If we are to be led well than our ears must always be attentive to our Shepherd. Even when we cannot see him, when the pasture has dried, when we cannot keep up with the flock, listen. Listen for his voice, he knows you by name. And once you are known by God even the stars in heaven will rearrange themselves for you if you pray; for with much more care does he listen to your voice.