At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 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.” 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, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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. I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:22-30)
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus has a personal relationship with his sheep. He knows them even as they know him. He knows them because they hear his voice, and because they hear his voice they follow him. They follow him.
The Jews that Jesus is talking to here are not those who hear his voice. They want to know if he is the messiah. He refuses to tell them plainly, as he told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in chapter 4. There is reason for this discrepancy. The Samaritans, as wrong as they were on so much, were right where the Jews were wrong concerning who the Messiah would be. Where the Samaritans thought of the Messiah as being a teacher bringing new light to God’s word, the Jews thought of him as a political figure. And because Jesus wouldn’t be the political figure the Jews wanted him to be, they could not hear his voice. They would not listen to him if his answer was not what they wanted to hear.
It’s odd, very few are prepared to listen to Jesus for what he has to say. They use his name a lot, but few if any care to hear what he has to say. They want to define the personal relationship with Jesus. In truth, it isn’t that they want to follow Jesus, but they want Jesus to follow him. This is why so many “believe” in Jesus today, but then don’t believe in church. They decry it as organized religion. (They would never confuse it with organized anything if they had been to a voters meeting in an LCMS cong.) They think they can be Christians in isolation. Me and my faith is all that matters they think. And it just isn’t true. Those who follow Jesus are members of his church, the communion of saints. Jesus established a church, he established an office of ministry, he entrusted men to be stewards of the mysteries of God, and he did this all for a reason. He know more wanted man to be alone in faith than he wanted man to be alone in creation. Those sheep whom he knows and loves are sheep he wants to know and love one another as he loves them. He builds us together and makes us one with one another in the church. For this reason he gave us the sacraments as well as the preached gospel, that we would have cause to gather together and celebrate, to be forgiven of our sins, and thereby forgive each other which is the truest expression of love one can have. Those who follow Jesus are those who hear his voice, and his voice speaks forgiveness it speaks the gospel upon which the church stands or falls, by which the church breathes and lives. And this is repentance then, not that we stop sinning, but that we believe Jesus and go where his forgiveness is found in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper, to be forgiven, to follow him and carry our crosses to Golgotha, even when that cross is putting up with fellow sinners in the midst of church, because there Jesus is with you always till the end of the age forgiving your sins as he forgives theirs.