I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me.
The shepherds of Israel have a custom of marking their sheep to make them distinct from each other. Each bears a unique notch or brand that makes them distinguishable from their companions. It is not done for aesthetics, but recognition. Christ gives each person who follows Him a certain recognizable characteristic. He “knows His sheep.”
He recognizes their faces. All have a common demeanor, a family resemblance. No matter where they go, they are marked as His follower. The Prodigal fed the pigs from his abject poverty, yet he belonged to his Father. Our voices also mark us, they are recognizable by those who are aware. When we speak there is a heavenly inflection and tone. I have a dear friend from Tennesee, and he couldn’t pretend to be from Boston. You might say we have a believer’s accent that IDs us as His own.
Last of all, He knows us by our hearts. Peter was one who not only betrayed his Lord, but he betrayed himself. He was not quite Peter the Rock, but Peter the weak. Jesus sees our hearts, the flaws and weaknesses are quite obvious to Him. We may feel like we are damaged goods. But His power to transform is legendary and without peer.
Jesus knows His sheep, He just does not tend the best, but seeks out the least. All who are weak and pathetic are cared for with a tender love. Those of us who are flawed and lame are given preferential treatment, but all are loved, all needs are met.
We have no power without Jesus as our Shepherd to lead us. We cannot manage on our own. Solitary sheep are nothing more than a wooly snack for predators, or they will fall desperately seeking pasture. I encourage each to merge with a local flock, a group of imperfect believers who are following the Shepherd of love.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”