A new section begins at John 10:22 where the author tells us that it is the Feast of Dedication. But we are not too removed from the shepherd illustration because Jesus will continue to use the image in this section. But we need to observe that it is a new scene. Throughout this gospel the author has been noting the feasts as the symbolic backdrop for the narratives that are recorded. The Feast of Dedication is not a feast that is commanded nor recorded in the scriptures. Around 167 BC (about 250 years after the books of Malachi and Nehemiah) a Seleucid ruler named Antiochus Epiphanies IV ruled over Judea. He defiled the temple by slaughtering pigs inside the temple in Jerusalem. Three years later the Maccabean revolt, led by Judas Maccabeus, began. They fought back against the Seleucids occupation, consecrated the temple, and rededicated the temple to the Lord. The story is that the oil to the lampstand in the temple did not go out, burning during the eight days, though there was only enough oil for one day. The event is still commemorated even though the temple was destroyed in 70 AD and we know it today as Hanukkah. The information about this feast must be kept in the back of our minds as we study this section because the author wants the symbolism to be undergirding the account. The author also makes the note that it is winter. This is an unusual declaration because the Feast of Dedication was always in the winter. It would be the same as writing down that it was Christmas and saying that was winter. It is a statement of the obvious. There is likely some symbolism in this, perhaps reflecting the spiritual condition of those in this account. However, it is difficult to be certain whether this statement about the season should carry this much symbolic force. The statement about winter may explain why Jesus is walking in the colonnade because it was a covered portion of the temple that would have protected Jesus and the people from the elements.
Who Are Jesus’ Sheep? (10:24-27)
The Jews ask Jesus to tell them plainly who he is. Notice that they ask Jesus to quit keeping them in suspense. They probably wanted a sign. They are waiting for some big messianic action. Notice the ominous words of verse 24. The people surround Jesus. It is the same Greek word that is used to speak of encircling or surrounding a city to lay siege to it. So the crowd is gathering around Jesus, which carries the tone of impending doom. Consider who the people blame for their unbelief: Jesus! Stop holding us in suspense! If you are the Christ, tell us plainly! They are blaming Jesus for their unbelief. Tell us plainly. Has Jesus spoken plainly about who he is? Consider John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd.” This is a declaration that he is the Messiah and Lord (cf. Isaiah 40:10-11). Consider John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I am (cf. Exodus 3:14). Jesus has been plain throughout this gospel, so much so that they are going to try to stone him in this very text for blasphemy. Rather than believing Jesus, they blame Jesus for their lack of unbelief.
I am amazed how often this continues to happen. People frequently blame God for their unbelief. “Why doesn’t God just show himself to me if he wants me to believe?” When God does not meet their expectations for life, they blame God and refuse to believe. We are always shifting responsibility from ourselves. So the Jews blame Jesus for their unbelief. Jesus responds to this in verse 25. Jesus says that he told them but they would not believe. Further, Jesus has shown them who he was but they would not believe. Jesus tells them that he has not left the information about him in doubt. He told them but they would not believe. His works testify to who Jesus is as well. But they will not believe. In verse 26 Jesus explains why they do not believe. “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” Jesus tells them that their problem is not a lack of information. It is a failure on their part to belong to his flock. You do not understand because you are not his sheep. If you belong God’s flock, then you would believe. Those who respond to Jesus’ calling are his sheep. Now we must maintain the context of what Jesus is saying and to who he is saying these words. If these Jews who were listening to Jesus’ words truly belonged to the Father and were true Israel, God’s chosen people, then they would be believing what Jesus is declaring. This is the point of this verse. This is not an explanation of how one becomes one of Jesus’ sheep. Verse 27 explains how one is part of God’s flock.
This is how we can know we belong to Jesus and we are his sheep. First, we hear his voice. Second, Jesus knows you. Third, we follow him. This is a simple formula. Listening and doing what he says means you are his sheep. Not listening to Jesus and not doing what he says means you are not his sheep.
The Blessing of Being Jesus’ Sheep (10:28-31)
Listen to the immense blessing of being his sheep. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” These are strong statements to our eternal security. We should not desire to backpedal or water down these statements. Jesus intends the strength behind these words. First, Jesus has a gift to offer all who are his sheep. That gift is eternal life. Jesus is laying down his life for the sheep and by doing so gives the gift of eternal life to his sheep. Second, his sheep never perish. We saw this powerful teaching back in John 8:51 and John 6:50. His sheep continue in life though the body is buried in the ground. His sheep do not die. This is a glorious hope to his sheep. Third, no one will snatch his sheep from his hand. This parallels the apostle Paul’s powerful words in Romans 8:29 that nothing can separate from the love of Christ. Our salvation is not contingent on external circumstances. There is no power that can take us out of the hand of our Lord and Savior. Notice the word Jesus uses is “snatch.” No one is able to snatch them out of my hand. You cannot be ripped away from Jesus. No one can take you by force away from Jesus. No one can seize your salvation. Oh how wonderful to know that his sheep will always remain his sheep! There is to be an assurance of salvation for the Christian. We are not to wonder whether we are saved. We should know at this very moment if we are his sheep or not, if we have salvation or not, if we have eternal life or not. Now let us not forget verse 27. Who are Jesus’ sheep? His sheep hear Jesus’ voice, Jesus knows them, and the sheep follow him. These have eternal life, never perish, and cannot be snatched from Jesus’ hand.
Notice what Jesus says in verse 29 because this brings further controversy. First, the Father has given the sheep to Jesus. This is why no sheep can be snatched from his hand. Listen to it in verse 29: “My Father is greater than all.” The Father is more powerful than any force. Satan cannot take you away against your will. Nothing can take you away. If you are listening to Jesus, nothing can take you away. So we have hope and encouragement to continue listening to the voice of Jesus, knowing his words, and following what he says. Now, the Jews in this text are asking Jesus to speak plainly about who he is. Well, Jesus does. Read verse 28. No one can snatch the sheep out of Jesus’ hand. Now read verse 29. No one can snatch the sheep out of the Father’s hand. Jesus just made himself equal to God. He just called himself God. If this was not enough, listen to verse 30. “I and the Father are one.” Is that plain enough? This is a direct, overt claim to deity to the people. This is the reason the Jews attempt to stone him.
Believe The Works (10:32-41)
The response of the people is to try to stone Jesus again. They attempted to stone Jesus in John 8:59, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. Now they try to stone him again. Therefore Jesus addresses those who are about to stone him with a question. For which good work are you going to stone me? All Jesus is doing is showing good works from the Father. They say that they will stone him, not because of his works, but because he makes himself God. We must recognize, against what many scholars, that Jesus called himself God. He did so right here. The way Jesus deals with this charge is fascinating. Jesus relies on the scriptures, which is not surprising. The scripture Jesus uses is surprising. Jesus quotes from Psalm 82:6. Jesus makes the argument that scriptures called those to whom the word of God came, “gods.” In Psalm 82 that is exactly what happens. Those that God uses to speak and act in his name and carried divine revelation are called gods.
Now look at verse 36. The Father consecrated Jesus and sent him into the world. This is our tie in for the Feast of Dedication. The feast remembered how the temple had been consecrated to function as the place where the people could meet God and worship God. Jesus is the new temple consecrated by the Father as our place to meet God. How can it be blasphemy for Jesus to call himself “the Son of God?” Jesus has been divinely appointed to carry the revelation of the Father as well as to speak and act in the Father’s name. So Jesus makes a scriptural maneuver to get them to put the rocks down and teach them further. Jesus is not denying his deity. If he was, then he could have clarified himself with a denial here. But Jesus does not do that. Instead, Jesus presses even further the point that he is God and has the right to make the claims he is making.
Verse 37 is the point. “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.” The works of Jesus show who he is. Listen to verse 38. “Believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” The works of Jesus prove who he is. Even if you will not listen to his teaching, look at what he has done. He has turned water into wine. He has healed a paralytic. He has fed 5000 people. He has given sight to the blind. He is going to give his life for his sheep so that they may have life. The works are to cause us to understand that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. His works are proof for his words. Jesus is drawing attention to his words so that we will listen to him. Unbelief occurs when we look at the works and nothing happens. Unbelief occurs when we hear the words of Jesus and nothing happens. Look at what happens in verse 39. The people try to arrest him. They will not stop and listen to what Jesus says. They will not consider his works which show that he is the Lord.
There are many here who do not believe. I am using these words, not the way the world speaks of belief, but the way this gospel speaks of belief. There are many here who are not his sheep. I am not only speaking to our guests. I am speaking to everyone who is not meeting what Jesus has described as his sheep. John has been teaching throughout this gospel that true belief and saving faith are far more than just being near Jesus. Our lives change when we are truly his sheep. We have so many people who are coming here each week but are not engaged with Jesus at all. You do not participate in the work of the church. You do not engage in our studies. We are offering bible studies together and most do not want it. You do not show spiritual growth. You come week after week but there is no change. You come from time to time and there is no greater devotion. Why do you not believe in Jesus? You may think you believe but notice what Jesus has described to be his sheep. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (10:27). Jesus is offering eternal life, satisfaction, and security. Salvation can belong to you. But you must let the Lord penetrate your life. Please consider what you are doing. Please consider what Jesus is saying. Will you see what Jesus wants you to have and let him transform your life? I want you to think about if you are really his sheep. I want you to think about what you are missing by not going toward greater love and devotion for Jesus. Jesus is God and nothing can snatch you out of his hand. You do not believe because you are not his sheep. Or to say this another way, you do not have life and transformation because you are not his sheep. Give your life fully to Jesus today.