( A commentary on John 10: 22-30)
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30)
In our scripture today, we read of Jesus expressing his love and commitment to his followers: “I am the Good Shepherd. I give those who follow me the gift of eternal life and they will never perish.”
What Jesus tried to say to the Jewish leaders who were demanding answers is precisely what I believe he would tell us today. Faith is not the result of an intellectual pursuit or a case of getting questions answered. Faith is the ability to hear the Shepherd’s voice and find connection, peace, and confidence from this intimate association.
The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd offers a source of emotional joy and visual pleasure, but it also gives us a valuable insight into what it means to be a Christian. We are the sheep who know the Shepherd’s voice and from that knowledge we gain confidence, purpose, and hope. This means that faith is more than intellectual assent. Faith is trust. Faith is a willingness to follow and not always be in charge. Faith is the ability to remain calm in those moments when maybe you cannot hear the Shepherd’s voice as clearly as you might like.
The gift of faith is experiencing a love like no other.
Have you ever watched an elderly couple crossing a street? Both hold tightly to one another, both are guiding one another, both are resolute in their love and protection of one another. Theirs is a bond of love that fear will not break.
Theirs is a relationship built up over decades of loving, understanding, forgiving and trusting; a union which gains its strength from knowing the other person so well that it is impossible to tell who is helping who, because their shared life is one. Their love gives them the courage to live another day in a world that could all too easily brush them aside.
This is the way that Jesus loves us. This is the kind of bond that Jesus establishes with us. Jesus does not love us from the outside, stepping into our life now and then to help us with this and that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows us as his own and who lays down his life for us. Jesus loves us from the inside, knowing who we are, remembering how our relationship began and then developed, understanding our every doubt, hope and fear. Jesus loves us from the inside. He knows our heart.
That kind of love does not promise that every phase of our life will be easy. it does not assure us that every good thing we attempt will be successful. But the love of Jesus promises this: He will hold onto us with a strength that nothing can break and walk with us faithfully, until we reach the other side.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who keeps watch over our lives. May I be ever attentive to your voice and submit fully to your wise rule for my life. Draw me near to you that I may always find peace and joy in your presence.”
We hear good news today. We have a loving Shepherd-God who knows us and loves us. We hear his voice and, by his grace, we follow him. He promises us that nothing will ever separate us from Him, neither in this life nor in a life to come. No one shall snatch us from his hands. What does this mean? Simply this: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.