(A Lection Reflection on John 10:27)
If you look up today’s text on Google, you get 1.9 million hits. If you put the text in quotes (“my sheep hear my voice”) you still get 1.5 million hits. That’s 1,500,000 web pages that address this text in some way. Plus at least one hit for shopping.
Lots of those pages spend pixels focusing on the sheep part, and discussing that, yes, sheep actually do learn their shepherd’s voice, and yes, those same sheep only follow when they hear that voice. One page even noted that a recording of the shepherd’s voice works just as well.
I’m taking a different tack on the subject.
What I want to know is: what does this mean for us today? Jesus isn’t in the next room — at least as far as I know — and I think it’s safe to say that our physical ears are not going to hear his physical voice any time soon. So, forget the sheep — as a Christ-follower, what does it mean to “hear his voice”?
I’ve got two answers — or really, two sides of the same answer.
First of all, I think it means that, over time, our hearts and minds become attuned to the sound of the eternal. The values, the truths, of the Kingdom actually resonate with us, or even within us. We are able to discern the godly within the everyday.
In music, there is a phenomenon called sympathetic resonance. Check out the definition:
“Harmonic likeness” — isn’t that great? When we come in contact with the eternal, be it in a book, a talk, or a person, we respond. Better put, the eternal in us responds. We hear Jesus’s voice.
By the same token, I think we also come to recognize when something goes against God’s way, when something is out of kilter with the Kingdom and its values. We are able to know, or even to feel, that something isn’t right, even if we cannot always articulate it. We resist following it, just as the sheep resist following someone or something who isn’t the Shepherd.
It’s probably a good idea at this point to note: I am not saying that this sense is infallible. There are plenty of Christ-followers who hear things differently, and who don’t agree whether something is of God or not. This isn’t magic, and it’s not the final word, necessarily.
But I DO think it is something we should expect to grow in, over time, and something we should pay attention to. If we spend time both IN the word and WITH the Word, is it unreasonable to expect that eventually we would develop a sense around what the Word means, and be able to hear the Word in others’ words?
The world around us is full of words, full of messages. Let’s learn to hear the eternal, and to resonate with it when we do.