Know That Voice
Have you ever bumped your knee or elbow and found yourself rubbing the spot to decrease the sensation of pain? Little did you know that you are doing the best thing you could do at that moment. Neuroscientists Melzack and Wall tell us why. They say that the sensation of pain can be blocked on its journey to the brain by a ‘gate’ in the spinal cord. When we rub the injured knee, that message speeds to the gate some ten times faster than the pain message and blocks the latter from carrying on to the brain. Nothing gets through unless it goes through the gate. I remember learning about the gate theory some years ago and it intrigued me then as it does now.
So when Jesus begins talking in John chapter 10 about a gate in the sheep-pen of life, my ears perk up. Do yours? He says that life is like a great sheep farm. It’s a little humbling when we find out which characters portray us. We are the sheep. It reminds us of a similar metaphor used in the most famous of Psalms, where we hear, “The LORD is my shepherd…” (Psa. 23). Here in the gospel, Jesus places himself in a provocative role in the picture of sheep, shepherd, watchman, pasture, sheep pen, gate, and thief. We see the drama: fearful sheep needing tender care, a good shepherd who provides guidance on the path to pasture and protection from danger, and a thief whose intention it is to steal the sheep, kill them and destroy the farm.
In an unprecedented move, Jesus describes himself as the scene’s unpretentious inanimate object, the gate. But he immediately expands our awareness of the significance of that role. The gate provides for the sheep an authentic entry point for their Shepherd. It directly affects their acceptance of the Shepherd’s leading in their lives, and it opens only for that one Shepherd. The Shepherd, a character Jesus shares with the Father, is intimately involved in the lives of his sheep, those who “listen to his voice”, “know his voice” and “follow him”. In contrast, the thief may attempt his dastardly deeds but cannot lure these sheep to follow him for two reasons: his voice is not the one they trust, and the gate protects the sheep from foolishly following the thief to their demise.
So I want to scrutinize this concept of Jesus the gate. No metaphor can adequately portray every aspect it intends to describe, but there are some intriguing facets worth exploring. Not the least of these is the ability of Jesus to incarnate as so many roles in the sheep farm analogy. He is gate; He is also Shepherd, pasture, fodder, rescuer, redeemer, and guide.
Our response today, I believe, is to learn the unique quality of the Shepherd-gate’s voice. Listen to him speaking today to us. Strain to hear every nuance in that voice. Learn to love it, obey it, turn only to it when other voices call. Come to know that voice as the one and only. That gate is the source of our protection, our true freedom, and the daily entry of the Shepherd into our lives to take us places we could never go on our own.
So open up that Bible of yours; or find it a mere click away. Read through the tenth chapter of the gospel of John. Go slowly, savouring every word of Jesus recorded there. Take time to let his voice imprint on your mind its unique quality. You are coming to the voice of the Eternal One and it must not be rushed. Then pray to him. It may be nothing more than the ba-a-a-ing of a lamb, but he has ears for his sheep and he is listening. Nothing is more important right now than getting to know that voice.