I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. This may make you tremble in fear. Jesus knows all about you because His Father in heaven knows all about you. He knows every hair on your head…or the lack of them. He knows all your sin and doubt. Knowing this, believing this, makes you wonder if God is well pleased with such a miserable person as you.
Don’t be afraid. We’ll sing in a little while, “The King of love my Shepherd is/Whose goodness faileth never.” Take a second to think about that last phrase. “Whose goodness faileth never.” Holy Scripture says that all His children, as long as they live on earth, remain full of misery and affliction. The same Word also says that despite all afflictions the Lord is well pleased with His own. His goodness never fails. He knows you, and you know Him.
The Lord knows you means more than He knows your vital statistics. He acknowledges you as His own. He holds you dear, despite all afflictions. He never forgets that He always takes care of you. Jesus says later in John chapter ten: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
The verb “to know” in this case also means more than mere recognition. It’s not as if Jesus will give you a nod or a wink on Judgment Day. The nuance of the verb here means “to love, to accept someone from the bottom of the heart and also to care for them”. That’s unconditional love.
Mankind isn’t good with unconditional love, especially when there’s something in it for someone else. Take marriage for example. We say we love our spouse with an unconditional love, but if he or she does something that makes me mad, well, maybe our time together is over. Maybe our love for each other has run out. That does happen to marriages. Sin creeps in and Satan destroys love for each other. It happens in friendships, too, even among the closest of friends. Families are destroyed as well by the conditions we place on what is supposed to be unconditional love.
Jesus Christ knows nothing of conditional love. As a Shepherd, a Good Shepherd, in order to know His sheep, He marks them. Jesus marks His sheep just like an earthly shepherd marks his livestock of sheep. Jesus has written your name in the Book of Life. The prophet Isaiah foretells this marking when he writes, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.
The engraving is the mark where the nails were driven for your sin. Jesus knows you so well that He is willing to die for your sin. His blood cleanses you from all sin. His righteousness is your glorious dress, for His righteousness is perfect and pure. His goodness never fails.
You recognize your shepherd because He has spoken His Word of comfort to you. You have everything He promises you, both here in time and yonder in eternity. You cleave to Him, for there is no other Good Shepherd than Jesus Christ, the Door to the sheep pen. You are able to hear His voice and distinguish His voice from other voices, especially the voices of strangers and wolves who preach another gospel that is not the true Gospel of life from Jesus Christ.
There is comfort in believing the Word of the Good Shepherd. Jesus is your holiness. His Word is your dearest love, even His Word of Law. Yet you will never meet the perfect standard of the Law, even on your best day. The new creation and the old man in all of us struggle for supremacy to the grave. This is why you cling to Christ and His absolving Word on your behalf. You are baptized into Christ. He clothes you with His holiness. You live to do His will. You will fall short of that will. He will work repentance and give you forgiveness. His goodness faileth never.
When you know Christ in this way, you are one of His sheep. He knows you. He chose you from before the foundation of the world to be His precious child. There’s no need for you to seek how you may become a sheep. You are already a sheep. Be glad and take comfort that when you hear the voice of Jesus Christ, you have a dear Shepherd Who knows you. He cares for you as one of His own. He provides for you. He gives you daily bread. He gives you forgiveness of sins. He gives you eternal life. He feeds you with His Body and gives you to drink of His precious Blood. He protects you from the evil foe. He saves you. You don’t need to fear the devil, hell, and death. The Good Shepherd fights for you. The Good Shepherd picks you up when you stray and returns you to His fold. All this He does because His goodness faileth never.
“I nothing lack if I am His/And He is mine forever.”