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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 9, 2000
Revised September 10, 2017
Safe in the Shepherd’s Hands
You can be given a wonderful promise, but unless the one making the promise actually has the ability to carry it out, it is at best well intentioned but ultimately empty words. Poems full of exaggerated promises may be romantic, but they are not reality. He cannot give you the moon or the riches of the world, and he will not be swimming the ocean or climbing the highest mountains to come see you. Hopefully he will still come over even if it is raining.
It is easy to get caught up in making promises beyond your control. Have you ever promised to go somewhere on an outing only to have bad weather cancel your plans? Perhaps you wanted to provide something that proved to be beyond your financial ability. Soldiers being deployed commonly promise their sweethearts that they will return, but as much as they want that to be true and for it to comfort their beloved, the reality is that the future is beyond their control. They cannot control where they are going or what they will be like if they return.
This morning we come to a very powerful passage of Scripture which contains not only a wonderful promise of Jesus to His followers, but also reveals why He has the ability to keep that promise. This passage has great theological implications about the nature of salvation and the nature of Jesus. Turn to John 10:22.
The Setting (John 10: 22-23)
“At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.”
The Feast of Dedication was started by Judas Maccabaeus in commemoration of the cleansing and rededication of the Temple after it had been profaned by Antiochus IV (Epiphanies). He was the Selucid ruler of Syria and Palestine from 175-164 B.C. Antiochus was a despot and eccentric. In his efforts to Hellenize the Jews, he not only slew thousands who refused his efforts, but he also desecrated the temple by having a statue of Zeus placed in it, sacrificing pigs on the altar and forcing the priests to eat the meat. He was overthrown by Judas Maccabees, and in the process of cleansing the temple in 165 B.C., it was found that there was only enough sacred oil to last one day, yet God graciously caused that oil to last 8 days until more oil could be made and dedicated. The Feast of Dedication is now usually referred to as Hanukkah. The feast begins on the 25th day of Kislev which is during our December, which as pointed out in the text, means it was winter.
Jesus is in Jerusalem for this Feast and is walking in the area of the temple called the portico of Solomon. This was a covered colonnade on the east side of the temple area adjacent to the Kidron valley and facing the Mount of Olives. The name suggests that it dated back to Solomon’s temple, but if so, it would have been rebuilt since Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in 586 B.C. This was an area in which rabbis would meet and teach their disciples, but it was also somewhat restricted making it more difficult to easily leave. This, coupled with the fact that crowds would have been smaller since this was not a required Feast such as the Feast of Booths in October, allowed the Jews take advantage of the situation and corner Jesus to confront Him.
The Confrontation (John 10:24) The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
The sense here is that they saw their opportunity and surrounded Jesus. Though the text is unclear, it is probable that some of Jesus’ disciples are with him, but they are few in number compared to the Jews that have now surrounded them. They then confront Him with the question that has been long on their mind. It is not an honest question of those seeking the truth. It is an accusatory question followed by a command. This is a challenge.
Their question charges Jesus with purposely keeping them in suspense. The literal meaning is that their “souls are lifted up.” They are in a state of agitation. Their demand is that Jesus tell them openly whether He is the Christ, the Messiah, or not. The manner in which He has been revealing Himself has caused division within their ranks as we saw last week. They want a plain statement so they could respond. They are determined to end the suspense. As we have already seen by their earlier responses, many of them have already determined that Jesus is not the Christ, so if He makes such a claim, then the stones will fly to kill the blasphemer.
The Rebuke (John 10:25-26)
Jesus’ response is a rebuke to them and strikes at the hardness of their hearts. Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me. 26 “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”
They are demanding a straight answer and Jesus rebukes them that their question has already been answered. Some have wondered why Jesus just did not simply declare it again. He had plainly told others, such as the woman at the well in John 4, that He was the Messiah. There are two reasons.
First, keep in mind that these Jews are not looking for a Christ who is like Jesus. It is the Feast of Dedication and they are looking for a Christ that will be like Judas Maccabees. They want a political Messiah who will overthrow the oppression of Rome and re-establish Israel as the world power. If Jesus stated plainly that He is the Christ, they will not understand what is meant by that.
Second, remember that Jesus has already declared that because of their earlier rejection that He would speak to them in parables as a means of fulfilling Isaiah 6:9-10. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 13:11-13 concerning these Jews, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 “For whoever has, to him shall [more] be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief. Not only had He revealed His identity in words using Messianic titles for Himself, but His many miraculous works also bore witness of His identity. They simply refused to believe the evidence. Jesus also plainly pointed out the reason for their unbelief. “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”
The tension between human responsibility and divine sovereignty is brought out again in this verse. The strong adversative (ajllav / alla – but) and the repetition of “you do not believe” emphasizes that it is their sin and they bear full responsibility for their unbelief. At the same time, they do not believe because they are not one of Jesus’ sheep. They are not of the elect. There is a tension here that will not be reconciled until we are in heaven. Man is responsible for his own sin and no one can accuse God of injustice in letting them perish because of their own unbelief. At the same time, He chooses others out of this mass of corruption to be His own. God is not obligated to save those who have brought destruction upon themselves. Perhaps part of this tension is eased when we keep in mind that inability to believe and ill will toward God to hand in hand. God is holy and sovereign. He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Jesus’ Sheep (John 10:27-29)
Jesus goes on to describe the nature of His sheep, the benefits He gives to them and their security in Him in verses 27-29. 27“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand.”
Characteristics of His Sheep (vs. 27). Jesus had described the nature of His sheep earlier in His description of Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). (See: The Good Shepherd). He points out again here that His sheep hear His voice. They recognize their shepherd and listen to Him. They physically heard what Jesus said but they did not listen because they were not His sheep. We have all had conversations with people who physically heard us but did not listen. They either did not pay attention, did not understand or simply rejected what we were saying as we were saying it. They rejected what Jesus said and did.
Jesus also knows His sheep. That is a thrilling truth. It is easy for the crowd to know something about the leader, but is quite a comfort when that leader knows you. How much more infinitely true that is when that person is the Messiah who knows you even better than you know yourself. According to Matthew 10:30-32, He even has the hairs of your head numbered. Jesus knows His sheep personally and He loves them and cares for them as a shepherd.
The final characteristic Jesus points out is that His sheep follow Him. That is the consequence of listening to Him. His sheep recognize Him as the shepherd and will follow Him. What He declares, they will believe. What He says, they will do. Where He leads, they will go. These Jews were not Jesus’ sheep because they would not listen and follow Him.
His Benefits to His Sheep (vs. 28). Jesus’ sheep receive great blessings from Him too. They are given eternal life. I have pointed out before that this is referring to the quality of life by being in relationship with the Creator and not to length of life or existence. All human souls will exist eternally, but only those that are Jesus’ sheep will spend eternity with Jesus. All the rest will spend eternity in the torment of Hell (cf. Matthew 25:46, etc.). We have eternal purpose and meaning to our existence in Jesus Christ.
His Security for His Sheep (vs. 28-29). Jesus not only gives eternal life to His sheep, but He guarantees the security of that promise. They shall never perish. This is stated in the strongest terms possible in Greek (ouj mh; / ou m ). It cannot happen. This is not a reference to annihilation, but that they will never be lost or destroyed. They are safe in His hands and cannot be taken from Him. That is a wonderful promise, but like any promise, it is not worth anything unless the one making the promise can fulfill it. Jesus can!
The security of the promise begins with Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and which includes being the Creator and having all authority over His creation. Colossians 1:15-17 explains, 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, [both] in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
The security of His promise is further guaranteed in verse 29, “My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. Being secure in Jesus is enough, but this security is also in God the Father. No one is greater than the Father and no one is able to snatch one of Jesus’ sheep from the Father’s hand.
Now lest anyone think that this “no one” only applies to humans, turn to Romans 8:38 where the Apostle Paul expands on this theme. In this passage Paul is explaining the ramifications of our salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. We are delivered from our bondage to sin and given victory in Jesus Christ and nothing can separate us from His love out of which flows our salvation in His provision. Paul states, 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That is the security of our salvation in Jesus Christ. There are those that claim that the Christian can lose their salvation. The problem with the claim is that it goes directly against the very nature of our salvation. If nothing can snatch me away from the security of God’s hand, where would the idea come from that I could somehow jump out of it on my own? Jesus said in John 6:39, “This is the will of Hm who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
The reason that some teach you can lose your salvation is because they also teach that you are responsible for your salvation. For them, salvation is something that you do either by good works or your “decision.” But good works cannot save you because all of your “righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” before our Holy God (Isaiah 64:6). In addition, you cannot “decide” on your own to become a true Christian because you were born dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) with an unbelieving mind blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4, etc.). Paul states in unequivocally in Romans 3:10-18 quoting from various Psalms and prophets that all are unrighteous and no one seeks God on their own.
Salvation is the work of God through the Holy Spirit’s work of convicting you of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8) and regenerating your spirit (making it alive) so that you can believe in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5). You cannot come to the Son unless the Father draws you (John 6:44). You can only “decide” to become a Christian after that has happened. Once you are saved, you remain secure in that salvation because it is the work of God and not that of man. John 1:12-13 puts it this way, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” If you are one of Jesus’ sheep, then you are safe in the shepherd’s hands, for the security of your salvation is bound up in the very character, nature and work of God Himself. Absolutely nothing, including yourself, can take you out of His hands once you are there.
The real problem is that many people think they are in God’s hands when in fact they are still self-righteous and trust in themselves instead of in Christ. They think they have met God’s standards. They may even say, “Lord, Lord” to Jesus and claim to have done all sorts of things in His name, but He will command them to depart because He never knew these practitioners of lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23). It is a false claim to know Jesus and not follow Him. The greater question is whether Jesus knows you? Jesus knows His sheep. Does He know you?
In saying this Jesus is continuing to declare what He has said over and over again to these Jews. The work that He is doing is the Father’s work. It is a declaration of His identity as the Messiah. It is a declaration of His deity. In verse 30 Jesus does answer their question plainly in a declaration they would not have expected.
Jesus’ Declaration (John 10:30).
I and the Father are one.
This is a short sentence and in some ways a plain and simple statement, but it is loaded with theological truth. In a wooden literal translation this is “I and the Father one we are.” In this statement the nature of the relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father is revealed. They are different persons, but of unified essence.
The diversity and plurality of the persons in the eternal Godhead is demonstrated in the separation, “I and the Father,” and in the use of the plural verb, “we are” ( smen / esmen). These two distinct persons never become one person. In addition, the gender of the word translated “one” ( n /en) is neuter and not masculine (eÉV /eis). If it was in the masculine, it would mean that they were one and the same person. Since it is in the neuter it means they are of the same essence, the same substance, but they are not the same person. Paul states this in Colossians 1:15 when he calls Jesus the “image of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 puts it this way, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” Jesus is not the Father, but He has complete equality with the Father being of the same substance and essence. Jesus is deity. Jesus is God.
Their Response (John 10:31)
The response of these Jews was just what it would have been if Jesus had simply stated, “I am the Christ.” The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. This is the same thing they had done a couple of months previously (John 8:59). The soil there is very rocky. They only had to go to an area not covered with paving stones, any planted area or area under construction, to pick up stones to stone Him.
Jesus’ Question (John 10:32)
They have stones and they are ready to start throwing them, but Jesus does not leave and He was not hidden from them this time. Instead, He boldly faced them and questioned them. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”
Jesus goes back to His earlier statement that the works that He had done among them bore witness to His claim to be doing the Father’s work and that He and the Father were of one essence. What a person does is much more important than what a person says, for it is the action that the true nature of a person is demonstrated. In other words, you can claim anything you want, the proof of the claim will be in what you do. Jesus’ actions backed up His claims, so He challenges them about which of His good works was causing them to stone Him.
Their Accusation (John 10:33)
They either purposely ignored or completely missed Jesus’ point about the works. They now accuse Him and state their reason for seeking to stone Him. The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out [to be] God.”
They regarded Jesus simply as a man making a blasphemous claim to be God. They ignored the proof Jesus had given for His claim. As we have already seen throughout our study of the life of Christ, they had their minds made up before the arguments and evidence was even presented. They had already reached their conclusions and judgment and would not be side tracked by facts and the truth.
Jesus’ Defense (John 10:34-38)
Jesus does not give up. He gives an even stronger defense based on His person and purpose as well as His works. Once again we are going to find a compassion in Jesus that could only come from God.
Defense by His Person and Purpose – (vs 34-36). 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world,’ You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
What Jesus says here can be confusing if you do not go back to the passage in Psalm 82 that Jesus is quoting from and then follow the argument that He is making.
They accuse Jesus based on the Law that it is blasphemy for someone to claim to be God. Jesus takes them back to the Law, here used as a reference to all of the Old Testament, and shows them that they have reached a false conclusion. In addition, within the rest of the Psalm Jesus quotes from there is a warning to them which those familiar with the Psalm would have understood.
In Psalm 82 God rebukes those He had placed in authority in Israel for their unjust judgments and warns them that though they have been given a high position, they are yet just men who will face His judgment. In verse 6, in speaking to these judges of Israel, God says, “I said, ‘You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.” Jesus only quotes the first part here, but they would have know the rest of it. Verse 7 states, nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.” They will be judged by God for their unjust judgment. I believe that since they would have been familiar with this Psalm, they would have also understood the implied warning that they will also have to face God’s judgment. I think that explains their response later on.
The argument Jesus makes is this. God Himself calls these judges “gods” because the word of God had come to them. They had received their position as God’s representatives as judges in the Theocracy by divine appointment. Jesus emphasizes here in an objective and absolute manner that the Scriptures cannot be broken. They cannot argue against the fact that God Himself called these judges gods because of what they had received from Him.
Jesus then contrasts Himself with them. They had only received the word of God, but Jesus was both sanctified and sent by God into the world. This is infinitely greater. Jesus is from God Himself. He is the Word of God in human flesh (John 1).
If I can paraphrase this argument, Jesus is saying that they would not accuse a judge of Israel for applying Psalm 82:6 to Himself because of the position they held as God’s representative, so how could they accuse Jesus of blasphemy when He has an infinitely higher position as the one sanctified and sent by God into the world? But Jesus does not stop there. He goes back again to the proof of His claim to be the Son of God.
Defense by His Works (John 10:37-38). 37 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. ”
This is not only a defense of His claim, but a wonderful extension of His grace to them though they are accusing Him. The essence of this argument is that if He did not do the works of the Father they should reject Him, but even if they do not believe what He is saying to them, they ought to believe the works that He has done and then come to understand that His claims are true that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. He cannot be guilty of blasphemy because His claims are true. Jesus is one with the Father. He is the Son of God. He is the Messiah. He could have just condemned them, but instead He once again explains the truth and invites them to believe.
Their Response (John 10: 39)
Their response is slightly tempered, but still rejects Jesus’ claims and arguments. Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. Instead of stoning Jesus on the spot, they now at least try to respect the Law of Moses and bring Jesus to trial. That is what is meant by their effort to seize Him. But Jesus’ time was not yet come, so He eluded their grasp though He had been surrounded and cornered in a restrictive area of the Temple. It would be another four months before Jesus’ time would come and they would seize Him and bring Him to an unjust trial where He would once again be accused of blasphemy.
The Response of Others (John 10:40-42)
John concludes this section by showing that not everyone in Israel was responding to Jesus in the same way. The religious leaders had rejected Jesus and so would the majority of the people, but God always has His remnant that will follow Him in faith.
40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. 41 And many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in Him there.
Jesus left Jerusalem to the place where John the Baptist had first been doing his work in Bethany, beyond the Jordan, which was about 50 miles away to the Northeast. While He was there, many were coming to Him and they recognized the truth of John’s testimony about Him and then believed themselves.
John’s testimony is recorded in John 1:29-30, 34 and 3:34-36. 29 “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” (John 1:29-30). 34“I have seen and born witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). 34“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:34-36)
If you are one of Jesus’ sheep, you will hear His voice and you will believe His claims and you will follow Him. Jesus knows His sheep and they are safe in the shepherd’s hands for nothing can separate them from His love. Does Jesus know you? Are you safe in His hands? If you rely on yourself, your own goodness and your own efforts, you will be like one of these Jews in today’s text who rejected the truth even when it was right in front of them.
Sermon Notes – 9/10/2017
Safe in the Shepherd’s Hands – John 10:22-42
A promise is only as good as the _____________ and integrity of the person to keep the promise
It is easy to get caught up in making promises __________ your control
Jesus has the ability and integrity to __________ the promises He makes
The Setting (John 10: 22-23)
The Feast of Dedication (______________) starts on the 25th of Kislev in early winter (December)
Jesus is in the area of the portico of __________in the Temple in Jerusalem – an area He cannot easily leave
The Confrontation (John 10:24)
The Jews confront Jesus about being the __________- as if He purposely kept them in suspense
They are ___________for the manner in which He has revealed Himself has caused divisions among them
The Rebuke (John 10:25-26)
Jesus has told others ___________that He is the Christ (John 4), but He will not tell them for two reasons
First, they are looking for a ____________Messiah, so they would only have false expectations if He said so
Jesus rebukes their _______for He had revealed Himself using Messianic titles & doing Messianic miracles
This is and will remain a ___________between human responsibility and divine sovereignty
Man is __________for his own sin including unbelief, yet God chooses sinners to become His sheep
The inability to believe & ill will toward God go hand in hand – and God resists the __________
Jesus’ Sheep (John 10:27-29)
As in John 10:1-18, Jesus points out that His sheep hear Him – and ________- pay attention to what He says
Jesus ___________His sheep – individually and intimately – and still loves them
Jesus’ sheep _________Him – they believe what He declares, they do what He says, they go where He leads
Jesus’ sheep are given ____________life – a quality of life belonging to those adopted into God’s family
Security for His Sheep (John 10:29)
Jesus’ promise is in the strongest possible terms – they are given eternal life and they ______________perish
Jesus can guarantee this because He is the Creator with ___________over His creation – Colossians 1:15-17
Jesus can guarantee this because the Father is ___________than all and no one can take you away from Him
Romans 8:38-39 – “no one” includes _____________________creature or power
The nature of salvation ______________losing it – John 6:39, Jesus loses none the Father gives Him!
Salvation could be ___if it was dependent on you, but man is unrighteous and does not seek God on his own
Salvation is the _____of the Godhead who convicts, draws, regenerates and seals as He wills – John 1:12-13
Many _____to be Christians, but they do not hear and follow Christ & He does not know them (Mt. 7:21-23)
Jesus’ Declaration (John 10:30) Jesus the Father are different persons, but of unified __________
Jesus’ Question (John 10:32)
Jesus points back to His good works as _________of His claim, so which of these was a cause for stoning?
Their Accusation (John 10:33)
They _____________His miracles & considered Him to be just a man making blasphemous claims of deity
Jesus’ Defense by His Person and Purpose (John 10:34-36)
Jesus cites Psalm 82:6 in which the judges of Israel _________God in the theocracy – but will be judged too
God called them “gods” because they received ________________and represented Him
Jesus also received God’s word, was sanctified and sent by Him, and represented Him – a ________position
Jesus’ Defense by His Works (John 10:37-38)
Jesus points to His _______________are the proof of His claims, and He invites them to believe
Their Response (John 10: 39)
They attempt to seize Him for _____________instead of immediate stoning, but Jesus eludes them
The Response of Others (John 10:40-42)
Jesus goes to Bethany, beyond the Jordan (~ 50 miles NE) where many came ___________John’s testimony
Jesus’ sheep hear and follow Him, and Jesus knows them. They are __________in the shepherd’s hands
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the words “sheep” and “shepherd” are said. 2) Discuss with your parents what it means to be safe in Jesus’ hands.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the background for the Feast of Dedication? What do the Jews who confront Jesus want from Him? Why? Why wouldn’t Jesus give them a direct answer now? How had Jesus answered their question previously? Why wouldn’t they believe Him? What are the characteristics of Jesus’ sheep? What benefits does Jesus give to His sheep? What security does Jesus give to His sheep? What is that security based in? Can a person lose their salvation? Why or why not? What is an apostate? Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? Why or why not? What is your personal response to the security of the believer? Will this knowledge change the way you live in anyway? Why or why not? What are some of the theological implications of Jesus statement, “I and the Father are one.” What is the response of the Jews to Jesus’ declaration? Why does Jesus point out His works to them in verse 32? What is their response? What is Jesus’ defense to their accusation? Why was their accusation false? What hope does Jesus still offer them? What is their response? How did other people respond?
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