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He Knows Your Name

May 1, 2017

The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice.” John 10:2-4 (Good News Translation)

Who knows your name? For most of us, only family, friends, and colleagues know our names. Those who know us very well, know the sound of our voice, and we know the sound of their voices.  A mother will wake up from a dead sleep at the sound of her child’s cry from another room, even without the aid of a baby monitor.

The Scripture texts[1] for Sunday explain that God knows our name, and hears our cries. We know the sound of his voice. He comes to us in our despair to lead to fresh places where we will thrive.

Phillip Keller explains that when he and his family lived among the Masai people of East Africa, he was moved by the devotion shown by those who owned sheep. Some of the sheep had grown up as members of the family, much like dogs are to us in our culture. The lambs were “cuddled, hugged, fed, and loved like one of the owner’s own children.”[2] Nathan refers to this relationship in the story he told King David about the poor man’s little ewe lamb (2 Samuel 12:3). Keller explains that the good shepherd is up at the crack of dawn to open the gate to lead his sheep out of the sheepfold into green pastures. The sheepfold is full of debris and dung, and the shepherd does not want the sheep to spend any more time there than necessary. He calls each of his sheep by name as they pass through the gate. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice and follow him to pristine pools of water and green pastures.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He calls us by our names and leads us out of the debris- filled and cramped spaces of our lives, through the gate and into places where we are spiritually fed and nourished: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23: 1-3).

In writing to Jewish Christians who were driven out of Jerusalem, and to all Christians everywhere, Peter reminded them that Jesus did not retaliate when insults were hurled at him. He suffered and died on the cross for our sins. They had strayed from Christ, like sheep, but now had returned to him, the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls: “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2: 25).

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows your name. He knows the sound of your voice. He knows the unkempt, cramped places where you have been. He knows how you have been injured, and he feels your pain. He is with you in your deepest despair. He longs to comfort you and take you in his arms. He will guide your steps when you don’t know where to turn. When you return to the Shepherd, you will recognize his healing voice as he speaks to you in prayer, in his Word, and through the people he puts in your path.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Fourth Sunday after Easter are Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2: 19-25; John 10: 1-10.

[2] Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd (1970) Zondervan, p. 172

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