Summary: Year C. Fourth Sunday of Easter John 10: 22-30 May 6th, 2001
Year C. Fourth Sunday of Easter John 10: 22-30 May 6th, 2001
Title: “Jesus Voice”
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of
24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;
26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”
In the midst of the Feast of Dedication while Jesus was in the Temple area he is challenged to say plainly whether he is the Messiah. He answers by claiming a unity with God his Father, a unity he also shares with his Father’s “sheep.”
The general theme of chapter ten is that of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd.” In the ancient world it was common to view and explain the ruler by using shepherd imagery and language. God as ruler, the king as ruler or any other rulers would and could be compared to a shepherd and evaluated in those terms. Thus, in Ezekiel chapter thirty four prophecy against the shepherds of Israel, bad rulers are denounced as shepherds who failed to govern Israel well and wisely and God himself promises to shepherd his people, sheep and appoint a new David over them as his hand-picked king, shepherd, anointed one, the Messiah. When Jesus uses the seemingly idyllic and peaceful image of a shepherd to explain himself he is really claiming to be that anointed one sent by God to replace the old kings and priests and rulers and act in God’s stead. Jesus’ audience knew what he meant and the leaders of the Jews simply called “the Jews” in John, reacted angrily to his claim. Amidst all the imagery the chapter answers two questions: Is Jesus the Messiah, verse twenty four and Does Jesus make himself God verse thirty three? The answer to the first question is found in verses twenty five to thirty and the answer to the second in verses thirty four to thirty eight. To each answer the “Jews” react unfavorably, first with an attempt to stone him, then with an attempt to arrest him. These two questions are exactly the ones given in the Synoptics-Matthew, Mark and Luke, at the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. John is showing that these questions did not just pop up at the end of Jesus’ career but dogged him throughout.
In verses one to thirty, encompass the shepherd imagery. Verses one to five, consists of several shepherd related parables. Verses seven to thirty, contain allegorical explanations of three terms: first, the gate, explained in verses seven to ten; the shepherd, explained in verses eleven to eighteen; and the sheep, explained in verses twenty six to thirty. After that the imagery is dropped and Jesus speaks plainly about himself and the works he does as God’s Son. Within the parabolic language Jesus has compared the Pharisees to thieves, bandits and hirelings. This did not make him any friends in that group. He is showing them that they are outside his flock, not part of God’s “sheep” and yet not able to snatch any of God’s sheep away from him.
It is possible that during the Feast of Dedication, when this discourse is said to have been delivered, that the assigned reading was from Ezekiel chapter thirty four and would have prompted Jesus to preach about his fulfilling that prophecy.
In verse twenty seven, my sheep hear my voice, the sheep are the true believers. “My” means that not everybody is one of the flock. Jesus is referring to the “Jews,” specifically the Pharisees, who do not accept him. Jesus’ sheep can also distinguish between his voice, the voice of the good shepherd, and that of false shepherds, like that of the Pharisees and other false religious leaders.
I know them and they follow me: “Know” means a personal, intimate knowing. “Follow me” is merely the other side, the consequence, of being intimately known by the shepherd. The sheep also “know” the shepherd and do what sheep do in regard to their own shepherd.
In verse twenty-eight, I give them eternal life: The metaphors are dropped. Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. Eternal life is the very quality of life which God himself enjoys. He shares that with his “sheep.” In verse seventeen, Jesus said he willingly lays down his life for his sheep so that they may have that life. The picture, and it is only a picture, is that Jesus had to separate himself from his life, by death, in order to make that life available for others to take it up, pick it up, obtain it.