The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.
Not only does Jesus call his sheep and they follow because they know his voice, but more importantly, he gives them eternal life also. The Easter season is our celebration of our eternal life, won for us when Jesus came into this world and gave up his life for us on the cross at Calvary.
Jesus uses the analogy of shepherd and sheep, he the shepherd and we the sheep. Jesus often uses such imagery, and he generally speaks in such a way that those who heard him could relate to what he was saying. No doubt 'shepherd and sheep' was part of the experience of the people of Israel, branded as they were as 'sheep without a shepherd'. And Jesus was the one, the shepherd, who would lead them to safety. Jesus was the one who would lead the sheep to pasture, and that pasture is eternal life: that is what we celebrate at Easter.
For us then who are the sheep, Jesus is the one who has come to call and gather; we know his voice and we follow when he calls. Jesus does not reject or turn the sheep away: he invites all to come into his presence and receive the life he freely gives to us. The shepherd is there ready to spread his tent over us, offering himself so that we will never hunger or thirst again. In this place neither the sun nor scorching wind will plague us, because Jesus the shepherd will lead us to springs of living water, where there will be no more tears but only joy. That is the assurance we have from Jesus who is our shepherd and who is leading us to pasture in God's kingdom, where we will experience eternal life.
Easter is about life. It is about renewal and transformation. Easter is about our redemption and our hope for future life in God's kingdom. It is about our death due to sin, but it is also about our life due to Christ's resurrection. We are fortunate though that Jesus chose to offer up himself for our benefit. And when Jesus offered up himself, he did so not just for a certain group of people but for all. His call went out, and continues to go out, for all, and the salvation he offers reaches the ends of the earth. The life he offers is for people of every nation, race, tribe and language: all are invited.
Because this gift is free, we have a choice to accept it or reject it. The gift is there still, and God invites us to share in it. God will not force this gift on us, but will gladly give it to anyone who wants it. The gift of his Son Jesus is our gift, and his death has won for us that chance to enter into his kingdom and share in the life he offers. So we are all invited to share in the kingdom and, if we accept, we will share in God's kingdom and will never be lost.
As we continue in this Easter season, we celebrate our redemption. We celebrate the shepherd Jesus calling us each by name to follow him. We are fortunate that he would do this, but it is up to us, the sheep, to follow this voice of Jesus. If we follow his voice, then he will lead us into green pastures, that is, eternal life, and it is this life that we should seek and accept, because it has been given to us freely, yet it is a gift we can reject. May we accept the gift of eternal life to which Jesus the shepherd is leading us!