““I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me,” (John 10:14, HCSB)
My family and I keep cows on our ranch in Missouri. The name of the ranch is Bar-Bar-A, named after my mother. Like many other cow ranchers, we keep track of our cows by branding them. The reason for this is because many times, when a rancher handles hundreds of cows, a couple of cows will get lost. Or perhaps someone will come to the barn in the middle of the night and steal a couple of cows. Branding is a way of showing of ownership. It is also a way of organizing the herd. So a rancher will brand cattle. When I came to Germany, I noticed that the cows had bells on them. I was surprised to see cows walking down the street with bells on their necks. But I discovered that this was the way they herded cattle here. They use bells instead of brands to identify their cows.
Shepherds on the other hand, do not need to have their sheep identified. They do not brand their sheep. The first reason is the branding of a sheep will destroy the wool. Naturally the sheep’s wool will catch fire and will hurt the sheep. The second reason has to do with the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd. They learn their way by listening to the shepherd. When the shepherd speaks, the sheep listen.A shepherd will speak and the sheep will follow. You do have a few people that stay behind, but only so that all of the sheep will hear. Sheep don’t need bells, because the bells will prevent the sheep from listening to the shepherd.
Jesus doesn’t brand us like cattle. We are not burned with a spiritual identification brand. We don’t have crosses or fish branded on our legs. Jesus owns us, this is true. But He wants us to voluntarily follow Him. Like sheep, we must learn to follow sheep. We must learn to listen to the Good Shepherd.