The time Jesus seems to condemn people, but actually isn’t – John 10:22-42, Part 3

In John 10, verse 26, Jesus makes a curious accusation to the religious leaders who are confronting him: “You don’t believe because you are not my sheep.” What does he mean? Is he condemning them forever?

No. We know that he cannot mean that it is impossible for them to be his sheep.  Why? Because some of the religious leaders actually did place their faith in Jesus.  One we learned about already way back in chapter 3, Nicodemus (see posts starting here).  There will be more, many more, religious leaders who believe in him.  So Jesus does not mean “It is impossible for you to believe in me.” 

I think it is far better to understand Jesus as trying to attack the religious leaders’ arrogance.  Almost as if he is using reverse psychology, telling them what they cannot be, and thus hoping to get them to imagine the opposite.  We do this with kids and with arrogant, overconfident people.  If you tell a person that they cannot do X, they will really want to do X, and they just might. 

For the most part, though, the religious leaders have made a vocal choice about not placing their faith in Jesus.  They have chosen to harden their hearts against him.  So he continues teaching.  In verses 27 and 28, he uses the sheep and shepherd metaphor that he had previously used in the earlier part of John 10.  Jesus describes his sheep, his disciples, as people who know his voice, who listen to this voice.  He also says that he knows his sheep.  There is a two-way relationship.  The sheep know him, and he knows them.  The result of this mutual relationship, Jesus says, is that the sheep follow him.

This is a picture of discipleship.  We are followers of Jesus.  A disciple is a follower, a learner from their leader.  We disciples of Jesus make it our practice to listen for the voice of Jesus, because we know he is good and wants good for us.  We do that by listening for his Spirit who lives in us.  We listen for his voice in his word, as we make it our practice to study his word.  We listen for his voice in our world.  We make space to listen, to be quiet and listen.  We listen for his voice in the words of his people, which means we intentionally and consistently place ourselves in a Christian community where we will hear other people speak into our lives, because we trust that God’s Spirit will speak through them.  This is why it is so important that we have people who disciple, mentor or coach us.  Spiritual directors.  Therapists.  Small groups.  Others who walk closely with God.  And we talk about it.  We don’t just have friends who walk closely with God, and then talk about sports, or our hobbies, we talk about our relationship with God.  Then when we hear the Spirit’s voice, we follow it. 

In verse 28, Jesus makes a comment that we have heard numerous times, that he gives his followers eternal life.  Notice the connection here to an important verse earlier in the chapter, verse 10.  Whenever we think about the life that Jesus wants to give us, we need to keep these two verses together.  In verse 10 he refers to abundant life, and here in verse 28, he refers to eternal life.  Both are important.  Jesus wants us to experience both eternal life one day after earthly death, and abundant life now while we are still living on earth. 

Jesus once told a parable about this. He said, think about God compared to a good earthly father.  An earthly father wants their children to have an earthly daily life where they know they are loved, supported and cared for.  Where they are guided with wisdom.  How much more does God want that for us because he is a good heavenly Father?

When it comes to eternal life, Jesus says two things.  First, we shall never perish.  We know that we humans will all die.  So Jesus clearly isn’t saying that his followers will never die a human death.   He is saying that in the eternal realm, we will never die, we will never be separate from him.  That’s eternal life. 

Second, he says that no one can snatch us from his hand. Here he is also speaking about our situation in the eternal realm.  Some have interpreted Jesus’ phrase as referring to Christians’ salvation status during our earthly life, that once we are saved, we will never stray.  I think it would be very odd for Jesus to be talking about our status of salvation during our earthly life, however, when the entire sentence is about eternal life after death. No, he is speaking entirely about the eternal realm, and he is saying that when we are in the eternal realm, we cannot and will not lose our lives. 

Jesus goes on in verse 29 to bolster his claim, saying it’s not just his strong hand that will protect us in the eternal realm, but it is his Father protecting us as well.  God the Father, who is greater than all, has given his followers to Jesus, and there is no way anyone can change that in the eternal realm. 

Then we come to verse 30 which is Jesus’ big finish, and we’ll talk about that massive statement in the next post.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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