14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) In the ancient world, a shepherd knew their sheep because they lived among them and knew each sheep’s needs. It was his responsibility to protect them from dangers and enemies, and to risk his life to face wild beasts or thieves, to prevent his sheep from being snatched away. Hired hands though were not so committed (vs. 12). Jesus called himself the “good shepherd” because he knows us and lays down his life for us (vs. 14-15). His knowledge of us is so intimate, and his commitment so great, that he draws a comparison between the the way the Father knows the Son, and the Son knows the Father. It is a unique communion and bond which Jesus does not share with the rest of the world, only his sheep. And the Father and Son share this commitment to the Son’s flock so that none may be snatched from either of their hands (vs. 28-29). If all this is true, should we ever fear that God will abandon us, stop loving us, or fail to meet our needs in a timely manner?
2) Jesus also said his sheep will hear his voice and applies that in two ways. First, those who will not listen to him are not his sheep (vs. 26). Instead true sheep will “listen” to his voice (vs. 16) and “will follow” him (vs. 27). Can we legitimately call ourselves Christians if we do not trust Jesus and follow his commands even in difficult situations? If we do not have Jesus as a shepherd, to provide for and protect us, what dangers are we exposed to if we are outside his flock?
3) Jesus made some profound statements about his own authority and special place before the Father. The Father loves the Son for accepting the charge to save his sheep. The Son voluntarily used his divine authority to become a man, lay down his life, and take it up again to save his sheep. The Son bears witness to the Father and his purpose of redemption through the Son. There is complete unity of purpose between Father and Son. Both act to save the sheep for eternity. Paul summarized the same idea in Romans 8:31-32 “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” All of God, and all that is in God, in all his triune majesty and glory, is “for you” and your salvation as his sheep, no matter what circumstances our good shepherd must lead us through. Though there is great mystery here in pondering the inner communion of Father and Son, there is also great comfort for us as the beloved flock who will never be snatched from their hands.