Sermon from John 10:22-30
The Feast of the Dedication mentioned in our text is referring to Hanukkah, a celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people from a tyrannical ruler. So the people of Jerusalem at that moment had freedom on their minds as they pondered the unwanted rule of Rome at the time this story takes place.
The Jews in the temple expressed their dissatisfaction when they approached Jesus in an unfriendly way: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (verse 24). It seems as if they are blaming Jesus for their unbelief, as if their lack of faith is somehow His fault.
But He had been telling them plainly for a long time who He is, and He replies to them with that very truth: “I told you, and you do not believe” (verse 25).
Jesus goes on to say that it’s not because of His lack of truth-telling or His lack of demonstrating His power that they do not believe, but it is because they are not of His flock. He says that sheep know their shepherd, so if these people were of His flock, they would know Him.
In our culture today, most of us don’t have the chance to see a real shepherd in action to be able to envision how sheep follow them, but we can draw comparisons with our pets. My own dog, Walter, is a great example of how an animal will obey their master but not someone else. When we moved into a new home a couple weeks ago, Walter got loose and was running around the yard. One of the movers was trying to help by calling him to come back in, but Walter completely ignored the stranger. However, when I called, “Walter, come,” Walter came immediately, and he obeyed my command to go in the house. What a good dog! And this is a picture of how the sheep will obey only their shepherd and not a stranger.
The sheep of Jesus’ flock know their Shepherd. They recognize His voice, and they follow. Why? Because of the intimate relationship between a shepherd and his sheep, between the Lord and his people. He is, amazingly, both a mighty King – the Son of David, the Divine in flesh – AND he is our beloved Shepherd.
He says of His sheep, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (verse 28). What a wonderful promise! What blessed assurance! We are perfectly safe in our Shepherd’s hands. All we must do is hear His voice and follow Him.