22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
When I was a boy, we used to have a dog name Hans. I have written about him before. We had lived out in the country when I was a small child but then my father took a Call into town. The transition was not to Hans’ liking. He had been free to roam but now he had to be far more constrained.
Not far from the little town in Nebraska where we lived was a large public area with a lake. There was camping, picnic areas, and quite a bit of room. We would spend warm summer days out there and bring Hans along. He loved it. He ran all over the place. We would have a picnic there, play in the water, and jump off a large sand sandy cliff. The first time we did this, when it was time to go home, we couldn’t find Hans. We called his name, but he did not come to us.
My father laughed. He said that dog was smarter than we gave him credit. He marched us over to the car, packed us and all our stuff inside, and started the engine. Like magic, a white streak came shooting out of the underbrush and jumped onto our laps in the back seat, panting and more than a little dirty from all his adventures that day. He did not come when we called, but he knew the sound of that car’s engine and he knew that car was his only ride home. My father laughed all the way home. It became the game we played every time we went to that lake. We would call but Hans only showed up when my father started the car.
Jesus speaks of his sheep knowing his voice. No other dogs came running out the bushes when my father started his car, but Hans always did. He knew that sound. Jesus, whose voice you have heard in every absolution, every welcome to his table, every baptismal gift, every loving word spoken to you by a Christian for Christ’s sake, that voice calls you. He gives you life and no one snatches you from his hand. He won’t leave you at the lake either.