I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. John 10:14
Shortly after Kendall and I were married, her dad took me hunting at a Hunting Club near Georgetown, SC. Spending time around a bunch of hunters is a unique experience to say the least—a true cultural experience. It was clear from the start that I was an outsider—a “city boy”. My father-in-law took the initiative to introduce me to the group. He said, “This is my son-in-law Roger”. Boy did that put me in an awkward position. If my father-in-law were a jokester it would have been quite the joke. I love a good joke and I would have enjoyed playing along just for fun. Unfortunately he’s not. I had a choice to make. Either I could be Roger, who I am not or I could embarrass my father-in-law in front of this unique group. I decided to be Roger. I didn’t think it was worth embarrassing my father-in-law. I didn’t see how that would be advantageous in the long run. I also don’t think the men really cared that much what my name was. They were there to hunt, not to build community.
After 18 years I remember that moment well. I’m able to laugh about it today but there was something unintentional that was communicated to me in that moment. Obviously my father-in-law cared about me. He’s the one who invited me to go hunting with him. Yet even the people closest to us can let us down. It hurt to think that he had forgotten my name or that my name wasn’t important enough to remember. After all, I wasn’t a stranger—I was his son-in-law. I was married to his only daughter. We all desire to be known and valued by the people around us. Relationships are of the utmost importance to us. At the very least we expect people to know our names. Our greatest desire is that they would know us and love us at the level of the heart. Such knowledge is a scary thing. We worry that people will reject us if they really know who we are. That’s why we like to sell counterfeit versions of ourselves to the people around us. We assume that people will like us if we present a false yet likeable version of ourselves to them. It takes courage to allow people to know the real you. Who could blame them for rejecting us if they really know who we are? Unfortunately, there’s a lot not to love about every one of us. Perhaps the greatest desire every human being has is to be known and loved by God. Could God really love me? Could God really love you? With all of the people in this world, why would God care to invest in you or me? What reason would he have to remember your name or mine?
In John 10 Jesus answers this question for us through a word picture. Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd and believers as His sheep. He makes one of the most simple and yet profound statements ever recorded in the Bible. He says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Wow! Jesus not only knows our name, he knows us at the level of the heart. He knows us inside and out. He knows us with divine knowledge. He knows everything about us. Better yet, He doesn’t reject us. Just the opposite! Did you see how the good shepherd responds to the sheep he knows? He lays His life down for His sheep. Whoa! Can you believe that? Jesus responds to us not with rejection but with redemption. Instead of pushing us away, He pulls us in with love and mercy. Instead of giving up on us, He gives Himself up for us. That’s the best news ever told! Believe it. Rest in it. It’s true!
“God made us for himself. Our sense of God runs in us like a stream, even though we divert it toward other objects. We human beings want God even when we think that what we really want is a green valley, or a good time from our past, or a loved one. Of course we do want these things and persons, but we also want what lies behind them.” Cornelius Plantinga Jr.