“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27

President George W. Bush commented that if you ever felt really special or powerful, try bossing someone else’s dog around. Unless you are his master, that dog could care less how powerful you are.

Sheep are the same way. They know the shepherd’s voice. Even today in the Middle East, a shepherd will go into a crowded sheepfold, and his own sheep recognize his voice and follow him. They know the shepherd will literally lay down his life for his sheep. They will follow him wherever he leads.

In this verse, (John 10:27) Jesus is comparing those who follow Him as the Son of God with the sheep who follows the shepherd. The shepherd knows his sheep. Jesus says, “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

Both the Shepherd and the sheep are aware of this, and it enables the Shepherd to lead His sheep in the best possible way, helping them to learn what He teaches and to do what He commands.

Being known by and knowing the Shepherd implies that, not only do they know His voice, but they have an intimate understanding of the way He thinks and are inclined to reflect His way of doing things. Their imitation of the Shepherd becomes automatic because the sheep anticipate his will. They become one with the Shepherd.

Sheep need to be led. Unlike other animals, sheep rarely find their own way safely. Since sheep go astray, their guidance and safety lies in the Shepherd’s leadership A thief, a robber, or a stranger may call the sheep by name and try to imitate their Shepherd’s voice, but through long usage and intimacy, they can discern a strange voice and become alarmed.

With a large number of sheep, the true Shepherd may shelter them in many pens, but they are still all His sheep and all one flock. The flock does not create this unity, but because the nature of the sheep is in harmony with their Shepherd, and because their relationship to Him is intimate, they recognize and obey His voice.

As Christians, Jesus is our shepherd and we are his sheep. In a world competing with many voices, we should listen for His voice alone and follow Him wherever He leads, guides, protects us and where He gave His life for our eternal salvation.

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”  Luke 11:46

One Saturday morning, I got up early while everyone else slept in. Since I had extra time before my dentist appointment, I went grocery shopping. After loading up my shopping cart, I went to check out. The lines were long. I worried about missing my dentist appointment.

As I waited, someone jumped in front of the line. I could not help myself and gave it to the person hard. “You need to wait in the line just like the rest of us!”, I shouted.

In Luke 11, we see Jesus letting the Pharisees have it again. As I continued to read, I found myself cheering the Lord on, shaking my head in disapproval, and confirming to myself that the hypocritical Pharisees deserved it.

He used harsh words toward the Pharisees, no doubt, but Jesus was never short on love and compassion. He was always ready to forgive and forget. He wanted them to open their hardened hearts to hear the good news of salvation and to see the encounter as an opportunity to re-examine their views and receive him as their Lord one day.

Bumpy encounters with our brothers and sisters should not become a reason for bitterness and payback.

They should be opportunities to put on display our Christian charity and kindness instead. When tempted to lash out, let’s remember to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to watch over the words we say and to keep us from doing what does not glorify him.

We glorify God when we treat others kindly.

Lord, help me to see the bitterness in my heart, a heart ready to condemn. Replace these hurtful feelings with thoughts of love and kindness, which you have shown to me and even the scribes and Pharisees who often condemned you. Amen.

When tempted to react angrily to someone else, ask the Holy Spirit to help you exercise self-control and look at that person with compassion.