When he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. John 10:4.
The Eastern shepherd does not drive his sheep. He depends not upon force or fear; but going before, he calls them. They know his voice, and obey the call. So does the Saviour-Shepherd with His sheep. The Scripture says, “You Lead your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Through the prophet, Jesus declares, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” He compels none to follow Him. “I drew them,” He says, “with cords of a man, with bands of love” (Psalm 77:20; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:4).
It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him.
As the shepherd goes before his sheep, himself first encountering the perils of the way, so does Jesus with His people. “When he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them.” The way to heaven is consecrated by the Saviour’s footprints. The path may be steep and rugged, but Jesus has traveled that way; His feet have pressed down the cruel thorns, to make the pathway easier for us. Every burden that we are called to bear He Himself has borne.
Though now He has ascended to the presence of God, and shares the throne of the universe, Jesus has lost none of His compassionate nature. Today the same tender, sympathizing heart is open to all the woes of humanity. Today the hand that was pierced is reached for to bless more abundantly His people that are in the world. “And they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
The soul that has given himself to Christ is more precious in His sight than the whole world. The Saviour would have passed through the agony of Calvary that one might be saved in His kingdom. He will never abandon one for whom He has died. Unless His followers choose to leave Him, He will hold them fast.
Through all of our trials we have a never-failing Helper. He does not leave us alone to struggle with temptation, to battle with evil, and be finally crushed with burdens and sorrow. Though now He is hidden from mortal sight, the ear of faith can hear His voice saying, “Fear not; I am with you.” “I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.”