The holidays are only a few weeks away. Before long we will be running from holiday activity to family gathering. In fact, next week we begin a series of holiday messages. And it is appropriate that we leave John as He tells of a conversation the Savior had during a holiday.
Verse 22 comes about three months after last verse 21. The setting is the southern walkway of the temple courts. It is the time of Chanukah. This was an annual festival that was 8 successive days which is observed in the third month of the Jewish calendar and is in our month of December. This was a celebration of the restoring of the temple from a time of great defilement at the hand of the wicked Antiochus Epiphenes.
All this is to bear out the significance of the time that Jesus met with these men. It was a holy time. A time of celebration. A time when many people would have been around.
The leaders of the Jews try to get Jesus to stumble and create a riot. They ask His specifically if He is the Messiah. If He says yes, they will draw the wrong conclusions because their idea of the Messiah was wrong. But, If He says “No”, He lies. Rather than either of those options, Jesus returns to a familiar metaphor . . .that of the Shepherd and His Sheep. Because Jesus saw fit to return to the analogy we will do so as well.
What Jesus Says About Himself
The first thing Jesus tells us about Himself . . . we should recognize Him from the things that he does. In verse 25 Jesus tells us that we should know whether or not He was the Messiah by the miracles He performed.
It’s important that we recognize that the word “miracle” is different from the way we often use the word. We call anything that is wonderful or awe-inspiring a miracle. (The birth of a baby, coming through a difficult surgery, a Bears victory). In the Bible however a miracle was recognized as something which was beyond what is natural. In other words, it had no human explanation. Look at the miracles Jesus performed: He gave sight to a man born blind by putting mud on his eyes; he walked across the sea of Galilee; He brought his friend Lazarus out of the grave after he had been buried for three days. These were extraordinary events. The very uniqueness of the events should have been evidence of God’s involvement in Christ’s life.
The second thing Jesus tells us is that the miracles He does should reveal that He is one with the Father. (Vv.30-39). Jesus claims to be God and the people accuse Him of blasphemy. The people pick up stones to kill Him and Jesus appeals to Psalm 82. It seems like an odd thing to do.
Psalm 82 is addressed to the leaders and judges of the people. They are especially commissioned by God. In fact their status is so significant that they were often called “gods” by the people. Jesus uses this fact to argue from the “lesser to the greater”. In other words, if it is appropriate or at least acceptable to call human leaders “gods” then how much more appropriate to call the Son of God, God? Jesus reminds these folks that claiming to be God is not blasphemy AS LONG AS YOU ARE GOD. He calls these leaders to see if His claim is born out by His life. It is.
Jesus tells the leaders that the reason they are not grasping all He is saying is because they are not a part of His flock. A non-Christian does not fully grasp who Jesus is.
So, the practical and all important question we ask is this: How do I know if I am part of His flock? This leads us to our second point….
What Jesus Tells us About the Sheep
The True Sheep Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice
- This means regular Bible READING. We can just meditate in silence and see if we hear anything but we can never be sure what we are hearing: the Lord, our own subconscious, the Devil or the influence of society and culture. The only SURE way to hear God’s voice is to read the Word of God.
- It means HEARING the Word of God. We must read the Word but it is also important for us to be taught the word of God. It is important to be involved in study groups, listen to tapes, read great teachers of the past and present.
- It means REFLECTING ON AND MEMORIZING the Word. We must interact with God’s Word. If we “hide it in our heart” then we can recall God’s Word whenever we need it. It takes reflection to allow the Bible to do it’s work in our hearts.
The True Sheep Obey the Shepherd’s Direction
James (2:14ff) reminds us that faith that is not accompanied by a change of behavior is not genuine faith. It is one thing to hear the Word it is another to allow it to take authority in your life. The true believer doesn’t just know Bible information. The true believer is one who is living out Biblical truth.
The True Sheep are Confident of the Savior’s Promise
In verses 28-29 Jesus tells us: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is great than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. This repetition of truth shows us that Jesus is telling us something important. What is it? When we are a part of the Savior’s flock we HAVE eternal life (you can’t have eternal life and then lose it . . . because then it wouldn’t be eternal life!). Second, we are told that no one can remove us from the Savior’s flock.
There are two things a Shepherd must do in defense of the sheep. 1) He must protect the sheep from outside predators. 2) He must protect the sheep from themselves. Sheep are naturally prone to wander, to get in trouble, to do foolish things. Jesus knows that . . . . just like He knows us. He protects the sheep from themselves.
Those that have trouble with this doctrine are having trouble because they are placing their hope in their ability to remain faith rather than THE SAVIOR’S ability to keep His promise to them.
This is a doctrine many reject. It is a doctrine that many can abuse. However, that doesn’t change what Jesus is saying.
What would happen if we dared to take the Savior at His Word?
- We would live with less anxiety. We would have less anxiety towards death because we would know what awaited us. No need to doubt. We would also have less anxiety toward trials in life. It’s like going to Disney World on vacation. If you know your destination detours on the road to the park will not upset you as much. You are going to Disney World and you will endure what you need to endure in order to get there. Our destination is much much superior to Disney World!
- We would have a greater willingness to risk being faithful. Most of us are timid in our faith because we don’t want to do anything that might disqualify us from the Kingdom. We are always looking over our shoulder. The person who takes Christ at His Word does not live recklessly but does live with a greater sense of freedom.
- We would have a building fascination with Heaven. Our focus is too earthly because we are anchored here. We are convinced that we have to “survive” this world before we can rejoice over the next. That’s not what we are supposed to do. Jesus has promised us that “nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.” (Romans 8). Nothing is a universal . . . it excludes everything. God has promised that we can trust Him to bring us home. So . . . we can begin to dream of Heaven. We can allow ourselves to be intoxicated by eternity. Then with Paul we will be able to say honestly, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
Let me ask you friend: Do you believe in Jesus? Do you follow Him? If you say you do, let me push a little harder. Does the Jesus you believe in look like the Jesus of John 10? Is He the miracle working Savior who is one with the Father, who died as a sacrifice for sin, and rose again as a grand declaration of victory? If the Jesus you serve is anything less than this, you are worshiping a false god. . . .and it’s time to repent.
Are you part of the flock? Is yours merely a superficial faith or has Christ taken hold of your life? Is He changing the way you think, feel and act? Is He building in you a hunger for His Word? Is He moving you into involvements with other Christians who are qualified to teach? If not, then maybe it’s time to consider the issue of salvation anew. Maybe you have not come to Christ at all. Maybe it’s time to see Him as He is and then give you life and hope to Him.
And if you are one of the flock and you setting aside time to listen to the voice of the Shepherd? Does you schedule and priorities need an adjustment? Are you making excuses for absenting yourself from worship, study times and other opportunities to learn? When was the last time you read a good book teaching you about the Christian life?
If you are one of the flock it is time to align your lives with the character of the Savior. It’s time for us to rejoice, give thanks, and serve with reverent fear and gratitude. It’s time for us to lift our eyes beyond this world in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Heaven. It’s time to start straining for eternity . . . . that’s where we are headed. We have His word on it.