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He Knows Your Name

April 24, 2023

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 also 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 next Sunday tell us that God knows our names 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. He is with us now in our everyday pain, feelings of helplessness, frustration, and anxiety.

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 dirty 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). David had been a shepherd, and he had spent ten years in the close quarters of caves when he was hiding out from Saul at En Gedi.  He wrote about what he knew in Psalm 23.  

God heard David’s cries and guided him for years, keeping him safe from Saul: “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23: 3-6).  

During the months of lockdown orders across our land, we, like David, found ourselves in cramped spaces for months at a time.  We longed to be out in the parks, hiking trails, beaches, and at other recreational sites that were closed. We longed to be with our extended families, friends, and colleagues.  We longed for life to return to normal.  Yet, like David, we took comfort knowing that the Good Shepherd was with us in our anxiety and frustration.  His words were with us in our despair; they comforted and refreshed our souls. 

In his letter to Jewish Christians who were driven out of Jerusalem, and to all Christians everywhere, Peter reminded them that God loves them as a shepherd loves his sheep.  Jesus suffered and died on the cross for their sins and for our sins.  Like us, 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, the Overseer of our souls, knows your name.  He knows the sound of your voice.  He knows the unkempt, cramped places where you have been.  He knows when you feel boxed in by fear and anxiety.  He knows that you have been injured, and he feels your pain.  He knows your frustrations and your anxieties about the future.  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 on your path.  Listen to him. 

Prayer: Gracious Father, we praise and thank you for being our Good Shepherd—for always watching over us, for leading us out of the quagmires of our lives, for putting balm on our open wounds, for refreshing us, for listening to us, and for feeding us with your nurturing words.  Protect us, our loved ones, and our friends to keep us healthy and nourished in body and soul. We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Fourth Sunday of 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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