One of the most comforting and memorable images portrayed throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures is the picture of the loving and protecting Shepherd and His faithful, following flock. The beautiful words of the 23rd Psalm come to mind, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” And in chapter 10 of his gospel – the Good Shepherd Chapter – John, the Evangelist, records the words of Jesus, about Himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (v. 11) and again, “I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me… and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:14) Jesus was predicting that the time would come when He would take our place; give Himself up; and die sacrificially for the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of all time, of all people, all over the world!
Our text tells us that in the winter “Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade” when the Jews were celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. (Almost exactly 100 years before the events of our text, the Jews had rededicated the temple after its desecration by the Greeks and legend says that a very small quantity of temple oil burned miraculously long, until new oil could be consecrated and used.)
At that time, the Jews questioned Jesus “point blank.” They asked Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24) To which Jesus replied, equally direct, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak for Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10: 27) In other words, Jesus said, “It’s not that that I haven’t told you, rather, you have refused to listen to what I have said, and have refused to see what is plain for everyone to see!”
The prophets had long foretold the work of the Christ (the Messiah)… how He would be anointed by God to open the eyes of the blind; preach good news to the poor; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim freedom to the captives; proclaim the Lord’s favor; comfort those who mourn; and to give them a crown of beauty, the oil of gladness and a garment of praise. (See Isaiah 42: 7-9 and 61: 1-3) Many in the temple that day refused to see, listen and follow the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Likewise, there are many, today, who do not know, trust or follow the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Instead, they listen to and follow “other voices” which are calling for our attention; calling us to follow. Amidst this noise, among these voices calling to us, are the world, the devil and our own sinful flesh. But, if we know the Shepherd intimately, we can pick out His voice as He calls to us. He calls us to know Him, personally and intimately – as the sheep know, listen to and follow the voice of their shepherd! He sweetly, tenderly, lovingly, mercifully calls to us through worship, His Word, the Sacraments, and throughout our time of fellowship and service together. Our trust in the voice of Christ is not our own natural possession. Our faith is a gift from God.
Jesus calls His faithful flock to be calm and confident in His almighty care. “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. 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 greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. The Father and I are One.” (John 10: 27-30) We truly are, “Safe In the Shepherd’s Hands!”
See you in church this next weekend!
Blessings in Christ,