Greetings, everybody! Grace to you in our Lord Jesus, and welcome to Wednesday’s edition of EDiBS. Thanks for stopping by for time in God’s Word here at the midpoint in our week; I’m praying that as we return to our study in the Gospel according to John today, our few minutes together will be a blessing for you as you give yourself over to the Scriptures. Let’s pray and open our Bibles as we begin.
Lord Jesus, you are holy, and we proclaim in your presence today that power, glory, wisdom, and strength belong to you. We ask that you draw near to us in our study time over these next few minutes, and that you make us aware of your gracious presence throughout the rest of our day. We love you and we thank you, in your precious name we pray. Amen.
As we get started today, we’ll be moving through a transition of sorts, from talk of shepherds to talk of sheep. Our focus: My sheep listen and follow Me.
22Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30I and the Father are one."
I shared with you several years ago now that when I decided to step down from my pastoral position in California at the end of 2005 to move into a different kind of life and a different kind of ministry, it put me into a bit of a no-man’s land as far as my official status with my denomination. I remained a clergyman in good standing, and I continued to serve my church body in several different ways in a different part of the country. But when I would speak to fellow pastors about my transition from a large, upper-middle class southern California congregation in Suburban Orange County to rural living in a tiny place accompanied by service to a tiny, long-vacant church in the middle of nowhere, things didn’t add up for them — and frankly, many of them were skeptical about my story.
Guess what? All these years later, they’re still skeptical. Admittedly, part of it is that I’ve never been very good at explaining what makes me tick as a person and why I do what I do, but another part is their assumption that for me to leave behind all that I had in the professional realm — serving a big church, enjoying a nice paycheck, living in a beautiful place with beautiful weather — there must be a real story behind the official story. Today with EDiBS, that assumption among my colleagues sometimes continues. Even though I’m able to be more supportive of congregational ministry and the pastors who carry it out than I’ve ever been, even though I love coming alongside the local church as a teacher and an encourager and a supporter and cheerleader of its mission, and even though my effectiveness as a person in ministry now is greater than it ever was when I was in the parish, there remains an insistence among those outside my circle that there’s a story behind the story. They just have a hard time taking my life — and my identity as a servant of Jesus, different as it is from the expected norm — at face value.
Verse 22: In today’s reading here in John 10, let’s start by marking off some time. Being that our text tells us in verse 22 that it is winter and that the Feast of Dedication (or Hanukkah) has arrived, we can surmise that about two months have passed since Jesus first told the people that He was the Gate for the Sheep and the Good Shepherd of God’s flock.
Verse 23: That being established, verse 23 proceeds to give us the setting of this latest exchange: once again, it’s in the temple area, specifically in Solomon’s Colonnade, which we also call Solomon’s Porch. That makes sense, because if it was chilly outside at the time, this part of the temple complex would have offered some protection from the cold. So here’s Jesus walking in the Colonnade, and what happens? The Jews gather around Him for the purpose of interrogation. Remember, when the text mentions “the Jews” it is almost always a specific reference to those in authority rather than the common people. In other words, the Jews gathering around Jesus and questioning Him are the scribes, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law…the guys who can’t wait to get their hands on Jesus so that they can rid themselves of a Person who for them has become a royal pain in the neck.
Verse 24: Verse 24, to note just very quickly, provides us with the chosen ammunition of the detractors: the question of whether Jesus is the Christ. “Don’t keep us in suspense,” these men say; “If you’re really the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Think about that for a minute. Why are they asking this? Haven’t they settled the question in their own minds already? Haven’t they already determined that Jesus is a pox on the principles of good traditional Judaism and that as such, He needs to be done away with? Of course they have. They’re not curious, nor are they seeking truth; they decided a long time ago that they don’t believe a word of anything our Lord claimed for Himself, and so the reality here is that they’re just looking for an opening to nail Him.
Verses 25-26: Jesus knows all of this, which is why, harkening back to His teaching of two months’ previous, He informs these men that He’s already answered their question as plainly as it can be answered, but that they refuse to believe Him. And why is that? They are not His sheep. Pastor Gary Baumler points out here that by this time in the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus has spoken the reality of His being the Messiah, has shown through His miraculous deeds the reality of His being the Messiah, and has modeled by the way He has lived the reality of His being the Messiah. He is the Christ. The only reason that the Pharisees reject the clear evidence of our Lord’s claims is because they have hardened their hearts against Him and His message. They just have a hard time taking His life — and His identity as the Servant Savior of the world, so different from the expected norm — at face value.
Verses 27-30: That’s why, in light of this situation, Jesus’ final words in this portion of the dialogue are so amazing. To these leaders who don’t believe Him and who continue to actively oppose Him, what do we see in verses 27-30? A clear, explicit presentation of the Gospel! If you’ll take a moment and read these verses, what you’ll probably realize is that Christians down through the ages have seen these words of our Lord as a source of great comfort in times of trial and difficulty. They’re such a beautiful expression of the security we have in our Lord Jesus, such a powerful reminder for us of the fact that we belong to Him and that no thing and no one can snatch us away from Him. Jesus gives us life now, and life eternal! But now look again at the context: though for you and me as believers these are words of great comfort, we cannot fail to understand that to the Pharisees and for others who refuse to enter God’s flock by the Gate of Jesus, who refuse to look to Jesus as the Good Shepherd, these words are for them words of condemnation. In refusing Jesus as the Christ, they are saying no to life itself.
As we wrap up for the day, what does it take to say no to life? And why would anyone say no to life? The truth here is that though this may sound like abstract talk, it’s really about as concrete as things get. The call of John’s Gospel message has from the beginning been this: Believe and live. That’s the work of God, remember? To believe in the One whom He has sent. Jesus has come to bring you life. Surely there is no compelling reason to reject it – and yet chapter by chapter, verse by verse, the reasons to embrace it keep stacking up. If you remain a skeptic today, think about that truth, won’t you? I promise that we’ll keep having at it in the days ahead, so do stay close and come along for the conversation. Take care everyone, God’s peace, and I’ll see you again next time. Have a great day!