“He Knows My Name”
Text: John 10:1-10
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“He knows my name.” That might be a phrase spoken by an ambitious politician as he realizes that his message is beginning to turn heads and people are beginning to see him as a contender. Or perhaps the starry-eyed girl, excited and joyful that her high school crush picked her out of the crowd and spoke her name. She might say, “He knows my name.” Or maybe it’s the fearful businessman, trying to stay under the radar but realizing his boss knows who he is and that he really messed up this time. “He knows my name.” It’s amazing that the exact same phrase, spoken by different people in different contexts can mean such totally different things. In one context it elicits pride. In another joy and excitement and in still another fear and trepidation.
In our Gospel lesson today from John 10 we hear the account of the Good Shepherd. The One who the other Gospel writers point out has every hair on our heads numbered. The One who knew Jeremiah, and each of you, before you were ever formed in your mother’s womb. The One who set you apart; who knows your name. When you, the sheep of His pasture say the words, “He knows my name,” those words might elicit pride, they may produce excitement, and maybe a bit of reverent fear, but more than anything the fact that your Shepherd knows your name should create a great sense of comfort in you. Because the fact that the Lord of Creation, the King of the Universe, the Savior of the World knows your name, means that
HE CARES FOR YOU AND YOU ARE PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.” If that robber, that thief, enters your life by climbing over the wall and avoiding the door, and he calls out to you by name, the appropriate response would be fear and trepidation. Because he’s the one who seeks to kill and destroy, just like the wolf who avoids the shepherd who guards the gate and seeks another way into the sheepfold. Satan is prowling. He’s seeking a way to draw you away from the Good Shepherd and to himself. And he knows very well how to get around whatever walls you put up and which God guards to protect you from him. Even so, he cannot enter our fold unless we allow him in. Be vigilant. Stay on guard. Keep focused on Christ, who continues to protect you from the intruder, even when our desire, as it so often is, is to stray from Him.
When the world calls out to you by name, lifting you up and praising you for all that you have done, remember that the seduction of pride is real, and it’s very often harmful. Proverbs reminds us that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” There’s nothing wrong with being praised for a job well done, but when that praise begins to make us believe that anything that we have or anything that we do is of or for ourselves, we demean the giver of all good gifts and the One who truly lifts us up because He was first lifted up for us.
And when the world offers you excitement and joy, remember true joy is only known in Christ, who produces a joy in us which knows no bounds. And He does this because He too knows joy. The joy of a shepherd who lost a sheep and cared so deeply for that single sheep that He left the 99 and sought after that one until He found it. Luke captures Jesus’ true joy when he records the Shepherd’s own words, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” And He says, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” And when the prodigal son returns home, He says, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.” And that is the true joy with which we live our lives. The joy of a sheep, sought after and found, and returned to the loving arms of his Shepherd.
There’s nothing wrong with having all of these other emotions. They’re a part of our human nature. We’ll experience them all in different ways and at different times throughout our lives. But remember that when the Good Shepherd calls out to you by name, that He offers to you all this and more. The excitement of knowing that He cares for you and loves you. The pride in being chosen by the One who created and rules over the entire world. Even a little bit of healthy, reverent fear of the One who will judge us all on that last day. But above all, the fact that our Good Shepherd “calls His own sheep by name and leads them out,” should be a great comfort to us.
As David, who knows a little bit about being a shepherd, writes in the 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Today might be one of those days where you feel like you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death. As though that “thief is coming to steal and kill and destroy.” But remember that your Good Shepherd promises to you, as He has to all people throughout all time, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Your life today might not feel abundant, but it certainly is because you have a Shepherd who guards and protects you, who chose you and comforts you, and who gave His very own life as a ransom for you, that you might live abundantly.
There’s so much more to say about the Good Shepherd, who guards and protects. Who gently leads and guides. And who even lays down His life for his sheep. But it’s all summed up so nicely in the first stanza of our opening hymn, I am Jesus’ Little Lamb, which says,
I am Jesus little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name. AMEN.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.