In John 9 Jesus heals a man who was born blind…on the Sabbath (9:14). This got the attention of the local authorities who began to question the healed man. After verbally assaulting him the man defends Jesus saying, “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” – John 9:31. The idea is that Jesus would have healed by the power of God and that God wouldn’t work like that through a sinful person or a blasphemer (that is what they are accusing Jesus of in this chapter). If you ever hear someone say God doesn’t hear a sinner’s prayer and quote this verse, always remember the context. If God doesn’t hear a sinner’s prayer we are all doomed. But keep listening.
In the next chapter we get the only parable in the Gospel of John – Jesus the Good Shepherd. In that parable Jesus says,
“3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” – John 10:3-5
Notice all the verbiage about sound – voices and hearing. The sheep hear their true shepherd. They not only hear him, they know him. They recognize his voice, listen and obey as He calls them by name.
Then, in John 11, we get the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus raises him Jesus says a few simple words phrased as a command – “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” – John 11:43. Lazarus recognized his voice, listened and obeyed as Jesus called him by name.
It is important that we are people who can discern the voice of Jesus. We see something similar later in John when Mary meets Jesus in John 20 and thinks he is the gardener. She doesn’t recognize Jesus until he calls her by name (John 20:16). We have so many distractions, it can be hard to hear Jesus’ voice and yet he calls. Maybe we think it is just the gardener calling. He calls us by name and we need to have the ears to hear…to discern His voice from all the other noise so that we can obey and follow Him as He calls us by name.