Summary: Jesus speaks in no uncertain terms of the status of those who continue in unbelief, and the security of His own sheep.
A PLACE OF SECURITY FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Place is perhaps as important as time in this text.
It was winter, and Jesus was walking under the shelter of Solomon’s Colonnade in the Temple (John 10:22-23). This was evidently a part of the original Temple which had remained standing, even after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. It would become a place where the church would meet after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 3:11). According to later Roman historians, it was also the place where the Jews would make their stand against the Romans in their defense of the Temple some forty years after this conversation.
It was a place where Jesus spoke of the total security of His flock: and that security is found in Him (John 10:27-30).
The occasion was the feast of the dedication: Hanukkah (John 10:22). This was a celebration of the re-opening of the Temple after its desecration by the Seleucids, and its re-dedication in the days of the Jewish folk-hero Judas Maccabaeus. It was not a compulsory pilgrimage feast, but could be celebrated in the home, as it is today.
It is interesting to notice, in passing, that Jesus did attend the Temple at this time. The inference may be, that Jesus did not disapprove of this festival. This would be one last chance for “the Jews” (John 10:24), in the person of their leaders, to figure out just who Jesus is.
Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Colonnade (John 10:23), when suddenly a small crowd surrounded Him, demanding to know if He is the Messiah (John 10:24). The tone of their question seems to go beyond mere enquiry to impertinence, although they were admittedly at odds amongst themselves (John 10:19-21).
Jesus was perhaps recognising some of them from an earlier encounter when He replied, “I told you before” (John 10:25).
The problem with their timing was that Jesus knew that if He, on such a feast as this (with all its nationalistic overtones) were to “without equivocation” (cf. John 10:24) announce that He is the Messiah, then they would have ‘taken Jesus by force and made Him a king’ (John 6:15) after their own liking.
Jesus spoke of His Messiahship as of a different order than their limited expectations, calling in also the witness of His works (John 10:25).
Any ‘leaders of the Jews’ or ‘students of the law’ who saw Jesus’ works, should have surely seen that He is the One spoken of in so many of the Bible’s types and prophecies, ceremonies and sacrifices. As He had told them earlier, if they were of God they would have heard God’s words: but ‘they did not hear God’s words because they were not of God’ (John 8:47). So Jesus now explained to them that their inability to believe was because they were “not of my sheep” (John 10:26).
This recalls the conversation at the beginning of the chapter (John 10:3-4): the sheep hear, He calls them by name, they know His voice, and therefore they follow. Jesus here elaborates with the intimation of a new relationship with His followers, and a change of lifestyle on their part: “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27) – shifting the emphasis from our knowing Him, to His prior knowledge of us (cf. John 15:16).
Jesus, the good shepherd, “gives” (present tense) eternal life to His sheep (John 10:28). This is an ongoing work of the risen Lord Jesus, and provides a dynamic assurance not only for the Easter season, but forever. Eternity touches time, and time cannot overcome it.
With it comes the threefold assurance that we shall never perish, and nothing is able to pluck us out of Jesus’ hand, because nothing is able to pluck us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29; cf. Romans 8:38-39). “My Father is greater than all” (John 10:29) forms the basis for the assertion that nothing can snatch us out of His hand.
Jesus goes on to say, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). This is a far-reaching claim, recalling the theme of the unity of the Father and the Son in John’s prologue (John 1:1-14). It was certainly understood by His hearers to be a claim to equality with God (John 10:33)!
Jesus told His questioners that their unbelief was evidence that they were not His people (John 10:26). On the other hand, our acceptance of Jesus’ words upon the earth, and our subsequent obedience of them, are evidence that we have already been accepted by Him (John 10:27).
Our security rests entirely in Him.