‘“I know my sheep.” Christ our Lord knows not only the number of the whole flock but the character, condition, circumstances, needs, and necessities of each one. He knows us perfectly and individually. He is deeply interested in us, because He made us, and because He died for us. He knows our capabilities, what we can do for His glory, how He can develop our character, and our capacity for happiness with Him here and in heaven. He knows, too, our limitations, and never expects more of us than, with His grace, we can accomplish. He knows our evil tendencies, and strives by His discipline to correct and eradicate them.
He knows our trials and our sorrows, and is ever close at hand to help us if we will come to Him. He knows our temptations, and will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but ever makes for us the way of escape. If He knows our failures and our falls, He knows also every step, every effort, however feeble it may be, which we make in trying to do better.
In Gethsemane, and on the Cross, He thought and prayed for each one of us, and offered the Sacrifice of Himself to save us. The Good Shepherd gave His life for His sheep – for each one, as if each had been the only one who needed to be saved. In His high-priestly work before the throne on high He makes continual intercession for us. As Aaron bore on his breastplate the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, so our great High Priest bears our names upon His heart, and intercedes for us.
It is of this intimate and personal knowledge of every one of us that He spake when He said in an earlier part of this discourse that the Good Shepherd “calleth His own sheep by name.” He not only knows us, but He calls each one of us by name; each by that new name which He gave us at our baptism, and which is a type of that other name which He will one day give, the new name “which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it”. Thus it is that the Good Shepherd knows His sheep’.
Fr WH Longridge SSJE, 1848-1930
Fr Lee Kenyon