Month: August 2014

John 11:01-45, “When God Is Late”

I’ve heard it said that God is never late. He is never early, but He is never late: He is always right on time.

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Well, I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have the impression that God is late. And I’m not the only one to feel that way. Today we will consider a story about God showing up late.

Punctuality — being on time — might just be a western value. My grandfather used to say, “If you leave on time with plenty of time, you’ll get there on time.”

On time? What does that mean? Sometimes we joke in the islands about being on island time or being on Vanuatu time. We show up on our time.

Christians often say that God is always right on time, but frankly, I sometimes have the distinct impression that God is late. Perhaps my watch needs to be adjusted. Or perhaps God is on another timezone. Whatever the case, sometimes God does not show up when we think He should.

That’s the story we read in John 11. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends with Jesus. They lived in Bethany, about three kilometers from Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, chapter 10, the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem had just tried to stone Jesus because he had claimed to be God. So Jesus went far north, about a four days journey because it was not yet his time.

John 11:1-14 NLT A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” 8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” 9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

God is late and Lazarus is dead. What further proof do we need that from our perspective, from our way of calculating time, God is often late.

Some people think that everything is going to be alright. That everything will work out perfectly for the Christian. But that is not the case.

Nor is it the case that God will never allow us to suffer or sorrow or go through any difficult circumstances. That is the message that some preach today, that if you come to Jesus

  • you will have no more problems,
  • you will always get on well with everyone,
  • you will never be short on money,
  • you will never get sick.

Here we have the story of Lazarus. Lazarus is sick. And dying. Mary and Martha have had Jesus in their home. They have listened to his teaching (Mark 10). They have heard about his miracles or even seen him work miracles. They know that Jesus can heal their brother.

They also know that they can call on Jesus. He is their friend. They know that Jesus loves them. They know that he loves Lazarus.

But Jesus has travelled far north to get away from the hostility of the religious authorities in Jerusalem. Mary and Martha know where Jesus has gone. Anyway, it would not be hard to find Jesus. He always drew crowds of people even when he was trying to be alone. If Mary and Martha can get the message to Jesus, all will be well.

So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3).

It is a four-day journey from Bethany to Jesus. Mary and Martha send the message. The first day passes. The second day. Lazarus has not improved. The third day comes and goes. Lazarus is getting sicker. By the end of the fourth day, Mary and Martha are getting quite concerned. Jesus receives the message but decides to stay:

John 11:6 ESV So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

“Oh, I wish that he would come!”

The fifth day comes and goes. Lazarus is dying. Mary and Martha are ringing their hands. “Hold on, Lazarus! Jesus is coming! Jesus will heal you! You are going to be alright!”

The sixth day comes and as the sun sets, the life of Lazarus comes to an end. And Jesus was not there.

  • Jesus was not there when Lazarus was sick.
  • Jesus was not there when Lazarus needed to be healed.
  • Jesus was not there when Lazarus died.
  • Jesus was not there to bury Lazarus.
  • He was not there to comfort Mary and Martha.

Mary and Martha prepare the body of their brother to be buried. Again and again, Mary and Martha tell each other that their brother would not have died had Jesus been there:

John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

John 11:32 ESV Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The sisters had talked. Time and again they had shared their disappointment: “If only Jesus had come, our brother would not have died!” He did come, but he came too late.

Sometimes God is late. He does not follow our calendar. He is not watching our clock. Our time is not His time. There are disappointments in life. Disappointments because God is late.

Surely Mary and Martha thought that Jesus was late: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Have you ever felt the disappointment of unanswered prayers? Have you ever been kept waiting, watching, hoping, only to have your hopes dashed because God did not show up?

Sometimes God is late. But this story gives us several truths to hold on to when God is late.

1. When God is late, it is not because of a lack of love.

Twice in three verses, John tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha:

John 11:3 ESV So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

John 11:5 ESV Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

There are times of waiting and there are times of disappointment. There are times when it seems that God is late or that He does not show up at all, but if you are a child of God, you should know this:

God loves you. This is one of the great convictions of the Christian life. Time and again we are told that God loves us. In John 3:16, we read that well known verse:

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Apostle Paul expresses the great love of Christ for us in Galatians 2:20 when he says,

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul exults in “the great love with which he loved us” in Ephesians 2:4. And he prays that we may be able to comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18-19 ESV).

Again, the Apostle John says,

1 John 4:10 NLT This is real love– not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This is the ultimate proof of God’s love toward us: Christ died for us. If you doubt God’s love, look at the cross. Never has there been a greater demonstration of love than the cross. Never has there been a greater demonstration of the love of God for sinners than the cross. We will go through times when it seems that God is late, that He is absent… It may seem that He did not show up. Look at the cross! Whatever else we may not understand, let us look at the cross! There is proof of God’s love for us. When God is late, it is not because of a lack of love.

2. When God is late, it is never by accident (v. 6).

John 11:6 ESV So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Lazarus was sick. Lazarus was dying. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that the one that he loved was sick. Four days later, Jesus got the message. But there is no panic. He does not jump and run. He does not take a fast camel to Bethany.

No. He waits. He stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

This may seem callused to us. Why does God wait when we suffer? What does He not respond immediately to our cry? Why must we wait?

Waiting on the Lord is the characteristic of the faithful.

ESV Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

ESV Psalm 38:15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

ESV Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

God is never in a hurry. He stands in eternity, knowing the end from the beginning, knowing everything that will happen before the beginning of time itself. He is never taken by surprise.

MUSIC: LINCOLN BREUSTER – EVERLASTING GOD

3. When God is late, He still plans to show up (v. 7).

John 11:7 ESV Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

It had been six days since Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Jesus had received the word after four days but had stayed where he was for two more days. Now after six days, Jesus says, “Let’s go.”

The disciples are confused. Why would Jesus want to go back to Judea? The Jewish authorities wanted to kill him. But Jesus had already said that as the Good Shepherd he would lay down his life for his sheep. Now he risks his life for one of his sheep, a sheep named Lazarus.

John 11:11 ESV After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

“Oh, that’s good!” the disciples thought. “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”

But Jesus was speaking of his death, but they had misunderstood. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”

It’s late. It’s too late. What is the point? The point is this: Jesus was going to do the unthinkable. He was going to awaken the dead.

When God is late, he still plans to show up. Daniel had been fasting and praying for 21 days without a response. But when an angel finally came with the answer, he said

Daniel 10:12 ESV … “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

Judah would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years, but God still had a plan:

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

The prophet Habakkuk did not understand why God did not seem to answer his prayer. But then the word came to him:

Habakkuk 2:3 ESV For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end– it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

There was a time for its fulfillment and that time had not arrived. It would surely come, but Habakkuk would have to wait for it.

When Jesus asked Philip how they would feed the five thousand, he already knew what he was going to do.

John 6:6 ESV He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Mary and Martha had to wait. Lazarus had to die. But Jesus knew what he was going to do.

When God is late, He still plans to show up for He knows what he is going to do.

4. When God is late, He want to increase our faith.

4.1. Some people have a conditional faith.

Mary and Martha seem to have had a faith that Jesus could have done something had he been there:

John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

John 11:32 ESV Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Some of the friends of Lazarus had a conditional faith:

John 11:37 ESV But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Couldn’t things have been different? It’s too bad that Jesus wasn’t here! He could have done something! He could have kept this man from dying!

Some people believe that God is limited by the conditions. God can only do what he wants to do if all the conditions are perfect. But Jesus is purposefully showing that he is the master of every situation. There is nothing that is too hard for God. That does not mean that he is going to do everything we want him to do. I have been to funerals where people tried to raise the dead. They wanted God to do what they wanted Him to do. God can raise the dead and one day he will raise the dead again, but he does not raise the dead because we command him to. God is still God. He is sovereign and he gives life to whom he will, not to whom we will.

But our faith must not be conditioned by the conditions. Our faith must be conditioned upon the all powerful God.

4.2. Some people have a future faith.

Martha believed that Jesus could have done something had he been there:

John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

When Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, she responded,

John 11:24 ESV … “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Her faith was good for the past: “If you had been here…”

Her faith was good for the future: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

4.3. We need a present faith.

But her faith was inadequate for the present. She had past conditional faith, and future faith, but she did not have faith for the present.

Now in verse 22, it appears that she has faith for the present:

John 11:22 ESV But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

But when Jesus told them to remove the stone from the tomb, we read in verse 39,

John 11:39 ESV … Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Martha did not have faith for the present. Jesus was too late. Lazarus was dead. There was nothing to do but wait for the resurrection on the last day.

When God is late, he wants to increase our faith. When Jesus received the word about Lazarus, he purposefully waited two more days. He wanted Lazarus to have been dead for four days before he got there. He wanted it to be well established that Lazarus was dead because he wanted to increase their faith. He told his disciples,

John 11:14-15 ESV Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus wants to increase our faith not only in what might have been or in what will be in some distant future. He wants us to have faith in him in the here and how.

John 11:25-26 ESV Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus does not say that he would have been the resurrection and the life or that he will be the resurrection and the life. He declares that he IS the resurrection and the life.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus had gone through a terrible trial. It was neither by accident nor by unconcern that Jesus allowed them to pass through this suffering. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. The death of Lazarus was greatly troubling to Jesus:

John 11:33 ESV When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

John 11:35 ESV Jesus wept.

Jesus had allowed them to go through this trial to increase their faith:

John 11:41-42 ESV So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

John 11:45 ESV Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,

5. When God is late, He is going to display his glory (11:4, 40).

John 11:4 NLT But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”

The glory of God is manifested when God does what God alone can do.

Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus:

John 11:39-45 NLT “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” 40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” 45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

When God is late, he is going to display his glory. We suffer in this present time, but glory is coming:

Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

MUSIC: HILLSONG, GLORY

Do you know this Jesus?

Do you know who he is? Have you put your faith in him? Do you trust in him? It is easy to believe when everything is going well, when life is grand, when there is food on the table and singing in the home. But when we pass through difficult waters, our faith is put to the test. When we pass through the fire, we have an opportunity to trust. Our trust is not put to the test with we understand. Our faith and trust can only grow when we go through tough times.

Do you know this Jesus who is the resurrection and the life? Do you know this one who will call forth the living and the dead at his return? Are you ready to meet him? Have you trusted in him for your salvation? Do you know this Jesus who is life, abundant life, eternal life? Do you have the life of God in your soul?

The Bible says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. What does that mean? That means that you recognize that Jesus Christ is the Lord. He is the Lord of your life. It is no longer your life, but his life: you belong to him. You obey him and live so that people would come to know him and love him.

Call out to him. Tell him that you need him. You need his forgiveness. You need his life giving power in your life. You want the deadness of sin to be removed. You want his life, his resurrection power that makes us dead to power of sin, but alive unto God.

Summary

God is sometimes late. But when God is late,

  1. It is not because of a lack of love.
  2. It is never by accident; he is purposefully late.
  3. He still plans to show up.
  4. He wants to increase our faith.
  5. He is going to display his glory.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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John 10:30-42, “Jesus, the Most Controversial Person in History”

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I would like to talk to you about the most controversial person in the history of the world. Who is he? Who does he say he is? I think you know who that is. What did he say about himself? What did people say about him then? And what do people say about him today? More importantly, what do you say about him?

Let’s begin with our text:

John 10:30-42 ESV I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

1. The Most Controversial Person in History

Jesus is clearly the most controversial person in history. Both history and mankind are divided over Jesus Christ. Typically, we date historical events based on whether they occurred BC “before Christ” or A.D. “anno domini” (“in the year of our Lord”) or “after Christ”.

But Christ divides not only history. He also divides men. And he said that he would do so.

Matthew 10:34-37 NLT “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

This is exactly what frequently happens when someone becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ. His own family members oppose him. Right now in Iraq and Syria, Christians are being crucified and beheaded by Muslims who consider them to be infidels. Jesus demanded absolute allegiance and loyalty to himself. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. You cannot say that he was simply a good man or a good teacher. That will never do. He did not leave us with that option. He claims to be God. You either worship and serve him, or you deny him.

Here in John 10, he makes three inflammatory statements… statements that provoke the Jews to take up stones to stone him to death because what Jesus said was blasphemy. Unless, of course… unless he was telling the truth.

What does he say?

  • John 10:30 ESV “…I and the Father are one.”
  • John 10:36 ESV ‘I am the Son of God’
  • John 10:38 ESV “…the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

When Jesus asked why they were going to stone him, the Jews responded,

John 10:33 ESV “…because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

This controversy over the identity was not limited to the Gospels and the earthly life of Christ. Sometimes we think that the gospel of Jesus Christ was first preached in a vacuum, in a world where there were no competing religions or beliefs. Sometime we have the idea that people were simply waiting for Christians to come with the gospel. But that was not the case.

The gospel was preached in the context of much opposition. There were many different religious beliefs. People believe in many gods and lords. There were so-called mystery religions. There were Roman and Greek divinities, some of them mentioned in the pages of the New Testament such as Artemis, Zeus, and Hermes. The city of Athens was filled with idols, even an altar to “the unknown god” (Acts 17:16, 23). Acts 19 tells us that the new believers in Christ Jesus had practiced magic arts before coming to Christ, and that they brought their books to be burned in the sight of everyone. Those books were worth about 600 million vatu ($6,000,000 USD).

Not only were there many different religions in the world. Some people tried to change the message of the gospel to make it conform to their ideas of what was better. Time and again we read warnings in the New Testament about people who would deny the truth about Christ.

  • The Apostle Paul warns us about people who would say “twisted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30).
  • The Apostle Peter warns us about false teachers who “cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1, NLT). He further warns us about those who are ignorant and unstable and who twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
  • The Apostle John warns us about many deceivers in the world who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (2 John 7). He tells us that “everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (2 John 9).
  • Jesus himself warns us many times in the Gospels about false teachers and false prophets.

Our problem is that we do not take these warnings seriously. We somehow think that all the false teachers live in other parts of the world, that here in Vanuatu we are immune to them. The truth is, they are all around us. They preach another Jesus, a Jesus who is not the same Jesus that we find in the pages of the Bible. They preach a different gospel, a gospel different from the gospel that we find in the Bible. They may be on television. They may be walking the streets of our villages. The Scriptures warn us to be careful, to be vigilant, and to study the Word of God so that we are not deceived.

Thankfully, there are true churches here where the Word of God is preached and taught and lived by. These are churches that have only one authoritative book: the Bible, the Word of God. There are many good translations that are used by many different churches and denominations. Some faithful versions are

  • King James Version
  • New King James Version
  • English Standard Version
  • New International Version

In French there are also faithful versions:

  • La Colombe,
  • La Nouvelle édition de Genève
  • La version de Darby

The Bislama Bible is also a good paraphrase of the Bible.

But there are other false churches that promote and hand out false Bibles that are not faithful to the biblical text. Some churches add other books to the Bible and claim that they are just as inspired as the Bible or more inspired than the Bible.

If you belong to one of these false churches, I would encourage you to get a true Bible and study it for yourself. Prayerfully consider what Jesus says about himself.

So you see, to this day, people are divided over Jesus Christ. The question is crucially important. As the Apostle John says,

2 John 1:9 ESV Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Jesus is still today the most controversial person in the history of the world. Who is this Jesus?

1.1. Jesus’ Oneness with the Father

We see the controversy in John 10 when Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” What does this mean? Is Jesus simply saying that he is united with God in a mission? Does this mean that Jesus and the Father are the same person? What does this “oneness” mean?

The French language has two genders: masculine and feminine. For example, a tree is masculine: un arbre. But a door is feminine: une porte. But in the Greek, there are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. When Jesus said that he and the Father are one, he could have use the masculine form (heis), but that would have meant that he and the Father were one person. He did not use that form; he used the neuter form of the word “one” (hen) to show that the Father and the Son are two persons.

If the Father and the Son were one person, there would be no distinction between them. John could not say as he did in 1:1b and 1:2, “the Word was with God.” John could not refer to Jesus praying to his Father, or being sent by the Father, or obeying the Father, or returning to the Father. He could not say as he does in his First Epistle, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). He could not say as he does in 2 John 9, “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” he is not saying that there is no difference between the Father and the Son.

This saying, “I and the Father are one,” does not stand by itself. Jesus makes this declaration in a book that openly declares that the Word was God (1:1), and that the Word is the only true God who is at the Father’s right hand (1:18). That is very strong language pointing to the deity of Jesus Christ. It is in this book that the climactic confession is “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). Jesus himself takes the sacred name of God on his own lips and states that he himself exists before Abraham.

The context is all-important for understanding what Jesus meant. The Jews had asked him to tell them plainly if he was the Christ. Jesus responds that he has both told them and shown them through the works that he does in his Father’s name, but they do not believe because they are not his sheep. His sheep hear his voice. He knows his sheep. They follow him. And he gives them eternal life.

Jesus is not merely some great prophet; he gives eternal life to his sheep. No one but God can give eternal life. But Jesus explains further by comparing what he does with what the Father does:

  • “…No one will snatch them out of my hand…” (v. 28).
  • …No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (v. 29).

In 5:19, we saw that whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. In the previous verse (5:18), we are told why the Son does whatever he sees the Father doing: Jesus is equal with God.

Now, Jesus protects his sheep just like the Father protects his sheep: “No one will snatch them out of my hand. No one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

1.2. Worthy to be Stoned

The immediate context tells us that the Jews knew exactly what Jesus meant:

John 10:31 ESV The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

“Again.” This was not the first time. The Jewish authorities had wanted to kill him in chapter 5. Jesus had called God his own Father: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17). In other words, “I have the right and the power to do whatever God my Father does.” Then John explains, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (5:18).

Once again, they want to stone him for making himself equal with God, this time by saying, “I and the Father are one.”

To claim to be equal with God is blasphemous. Unless, of course, it is God who is saying that He is God!

John 10:32 ESV Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

Jesus is asking them to consider his life and his works. He had already challenged them, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (8:46). Now he challenges them, “I have shown you many good works that could only come from the Father. I changed the water into wine (2:9). I healed the nobleman’s son (4:51). I healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5). I fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish (6:10-12). I healed the man who have been born blind (9:7). For which of these works that only God could do are you going to stone me?”

1.3. First Degree Irony

John 10:33 ESV The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

Notice those words “you, being a man, make yourself God.” This is delicious irony. The Jews do not fully understand what they are saying. On one level it is absolutely true. They understand that Jesus is talking like God: “I and the Father are one.”

In John 8:53, they had asked, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Now they answer their own question: “You, being a man, make yourself God!”

Yes, in declaring that he was one with the Father, Jesus was once again claiming equality with God. But the reader of John’s Gospel knows that the full truth is the very opposite of what the Jews were saying: Jesus was not merely a man who was making himself God; Jesus was God who made himself man! That is precisely what we read in the first verses of this Gospel:

John 1:1 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

More than 40 times in this Gospel, Jesus says that the Father sent him into the world. He is not merely a man who makes himself God; Jesus is God who made himself man that we might be believe on him and have eternal life.

2. You are gods!

Now we come to some verses that are greatly twisted by cultists and other false teachers:

John 10:34-36 ESV Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

There is a so-called church here in Vanuatu that says that we can become gods. It teaches that God became God by evolution. He was first just an ordinary man like you and me, but by obeying certain teachings, he evolved and became a god. They have a saying from one of their false prophets: “As we are, God once was. As God is, we can become.” According to the teaching of this church, you can become a god, have your own planet, and have your own worshippers. So this false church does not believe in only one true God. It believes in many gods. It is not monotheistic; it is polytheistic. It teaches that there are many gods and that you can become a god, too. That seems incredible, but it is not too surprising that some people are attracted to the idea. After all, that was the first lie of Satan, “God knows that when you eat of the fruit of this forbidden tree, you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

So here is a passage that is twisted to teach that there are many gods.

Jesus is quoting from Psalm 82:6,

Psalm 82:6 ESV I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

The very next verse says,

Psalm 82:7 ESV nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

The psalm is addressed to humans, to human judges who have judged unjustly:

Psalm 82:1-8 ESV A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

These men are unjust judges, ruling over others as if they have absolute right, as if they are gods. God himself mocks these so-called gods and reminds them, “Nevertheless, you will die like men, and fall like any prince” (v. 7).

God had said to Moses,

Exodus 7:1 ESV And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.

Yet, Moses was still a man, not a god. One pastor said,

Don’t fail to notice Jesus’ purpose for choosing that verse. It would have been a very familiar one to the Scribes and Pharisees. They would have understood that that verse was a condemnation of wicked rulers, and Jesus is simply echoing the irony of the original Psalm.

Walter Martin wrote an excellent comment on this, he said, “Jesus mocks the people as if to say, ‘You all think you’re gods yourselves. What’s one more god among you?'” Oh, the irony. You’re going to stone me for claiming to be God, you’re all claiming the same thing, what’s one more god? The sarcasm. (MacArthur)

2.1. The “Little Gods” Doctrine

Unfortunately, much of this “little gods” teaching has hit the church. Earl Paulk writes, “Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods.” I have heard that very teaching from a visiting false prophet who spoke in one of our churches. I also heard Kenneth Copeland say, “You don’t have a god in you. You are one!” Kenneth Hagin is gravely mistaken in asserting that the Christian “is as much an incarnation [of God] as is Jesus of Nazareth.” And Kenneth Copeland is in grave error when he insists, “Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God.”

This false teaching is now available to us on our televisions. Do not be deceived. The Scriptures are clear:

ESV Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

ESV Deuteronomy 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

ESV Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

ESV Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

ESV Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.

ESV Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

ESV Isaiah 44:7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

ESV Isaiah 44:8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

ESV Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,

ESV Isaiah 45:6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 45:21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

ESV Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

There is no god like the “one true God” (John 17:3). And yet, Jesus claims to be one with the Father. He explains in verse 36:

John 10:36 ESV do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Jesus is saying, if God can mock human judges and call them gods, then how can you say that I am blaspheming when I say that I am the Son of God since the Father consecrated me and sent me into world?

2.2. Jesus the Creator

Let’s consider one more passage from Isaiah and see how it relates to what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 44:24 ESV Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

In this verse, the LORD — Yahweh — says that he created the entire universe all by himself, “I am the LORD. I made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. I spread out the earth by myself.” Twice in that verse he says that he did it alone, by himself.

Yet, when we come to the New Testament, we read that God created everything through Christ:

ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

ESV Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

God says this to His Son in Hebrews 1:10,

ESV Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

ESV Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.

So in Isaiah, God says that he created the universe alone, all by himself. But in the New Testament, he says that he did it through Christ. What does that mean? That means that Jesus Christ is God. Yahweh is the name of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. The Works that Jesus Does, Prove that He is God

Jesus does the works of God, like creating the universe, giving eternal life, raising the dead. He challenges the Pharisees:

John 10:37-38 ESV If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus once again claimed equality with God: “believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” But they would not believe, though many others would. Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

This chapter concludes with Jesus removed from Jerusalem across the Jordan where John the Baptist had been baptizing. ***Many came to him. Many believed John’s testimony. Many believed in Christ there.

Your Decision

What will you do with Christ? The Pharisees said that Jesus blasphemed by making himself God. What do you believe? Do you believe they were mistaken? Do you believe that they had misunderstood Jesus? Do you then agree with the Pharisees that Jesus is not God?

“These things were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in his name” (20:31).

John 10:41-42 ESV And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

Put your trust in Christ. He is God in the flesh. He is your only hope.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 10:22-30, “Missing the Obvious: Jesus is the Christ”

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-centur...

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai. NB – slightly cut down – for full size see here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a story about the detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Mr. Watson. Watson is highly intelligent, but he always misses the obvious.

So Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. “Watson” he says, “look up in the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions of stars, Holmes,” says Watson.
“And what do you conclude from that, Watson?”

Watson thinks for a moment. “Well,” he says, “astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?

“Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!”

Sometimes we miss the obvious! What does that have to do with the gospel

1. MISSING THE OBVIOUS: JESUS IS THE CHRIST

In John 10, the people had somehow missed the obvious. In John 10:24-25, we read,

John 10:24-25 NLT The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”‘ Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.

How is it that people can miss the obvious? On every page of this Gospel, John is telling us who Jesus is. In the Prologue, the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus is God in the flesh:

John 1:13 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word

was God.’ He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:14 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

In the first chapter alone, Jesus is introduced as

  • God (1:1, 18)
  • Lamb of God (1:29)
  • Son of God (1:34)
  • Messiah (1:41)
  • King of Israel (1:49)
  • Son of Man (1:51)

In chapter 2, he performed his first sign pointing to his deity by changing the water into wine.

In chapter 3, we read that he is the unique Son of God that the Father sent into the world that the world through him could be saved from the wrath of God (3:16-17, 36).

In chapter 4, he is the living water, and the Savior of the world (4:42).

In chapter 5, Jesus heals a man who has been lame for 38 years. Jesus claims the prerogatives of God, the right to do the works of God on the Sabbath, the right to be honored as God. In fact, John tells us that when Jesus called God “my Father”, he was making himself equal with God (5:18). Jesus does this 21 times in John’s gospel (5:17; 6:32, 40; 8:19, 38, 49, 54; 10:18, 29, 37; 14:7, 20-21, 23; 15:1, 8, 15, 23-24; 20:17) besides 77 more times when he refers to “the Father.”

In chapter 6, Jesus multiplies five loaves of bread and two fish and fed 5,000 men plus women and children. He then claims to be the true source of life, the bread of life.

In chapter 7, Jesus promises to give the Spirit of God to those who were thirsty (7:37-39).

In chapter 8, he invokes the name of God and claims to have existed before Abraham (8:58).

In chapter 9, Jesus claims to be the light of the world and opened the eyes of a man born blind. He says that the Pharisees were blind because they refused to follow the example of the blind man who worshipped him.

Now in chapter 10, Jesus claims that he is the door to salvation; no one enters except by him (10:9). He also says that he is the Good Shepherd. He has the authority not only to die, but also to take up his life again. My father died earlier this year. He had no control over the time of his death, and he certainly was not able to take up his life again. Jesus did what no mortal man could do.

On every page, John is showing us who Jesus is. He will tell us in 20:30-31 that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that were not written in this book, but these were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life through his name.

It is rather obvious, isn’t it, that Jesus is the Christ? So we are surprised that the Jews would say to Jesus,

John 10:24-25 ESV “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.

  1.1.  The Meaning of Christ

The word “Christ” is the same as the word “Messiah.” “Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah” which is in Hebrew. Both words mean “Anointed.” There were three classes of people who were anointed with a special oil: prophets, priests, and kings. This anointing would symbolize the blessing of the Holy Spirit on these three classes of leaders.

But God had also promised a very special Anointed One who would embrace all three categories. He would be The Anointed One par excellence. The Spirit of God would be upon him as the Prophet who would speak for God (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15). He would also anointed as The Great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrew 7:24­28). He would also be anointed as the King of Israel (in. 1:49; 6:15; 12:13, 15; 18:33, 37, 39; 19:3, 12, 14-15, 19, 21) and will return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16).

The Jews ask Jesus to tell them plainly if he is that very special Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.

Now it is interesting that in John’s Gospel, Jesus does not go around telling people that he is the Christ. He makes more claims to being God than to telling the Jews that he is the Christ. This is the big question that the Jews are continually asking: Is he or is he not the Christ?

John tells us that Jesus is the Christ both in his introduction (1:17) and in his statement of purpose (20:30-31). The disciples of Jesus believe that he is the Christ. Andrew told Peter that they had found the Christ (1:41).

John 11:27 ESV She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that he was the Christ (4:25-26), and in his prayer to his Father in 17:3, Jesus refers to himself as “Jesus Christ.” But in John’s Gospel, Jesus never tells the Jews that he is the Christ.

John 10:24 ESV 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.”

  1.2.  Adjusting Their Theology

It should have been obvious to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, but why didn’t Jesus simply answer their question? Why didn’t he just say, “Of course I am!”?

As a matter of fact, he did affirm to his disciples that he was the Christ. On one occasion, Jesus asked who people thought he was. A lot of different ideas were thrown around, but the more important question had to do with the disciples. They were to carry on his work. Who did they think he was?

“You are the Christ,” Peter said, “the Son of the living God.”

Jesus tells Peter that he was spot on: “You are blessed, Simon Bar-Jonah, because this did not come from human reasoning. My Father in heaven revealed this to you” (Matthew 16:16-17).

So why didn’t Jesus simply tell the Jews that he was the Christ? Because the Jews were confused about what the Christ was going to do. Even Peter was confused. As soon as Jesus began to tell Peter and the disciples that as the Christ he would suffer and die, Peter said that that would never happen. Just like Muslims today deny that Jesus died. Peter said that it would never happen because he was confused about what Jesus the Christ had come to do.

The Jews were confused because Jesus was not lining up with their expectations. The problem was not Jesus; the problem was they thought that the Christ was going to overthrow the Roman government. That is not why Jesus came.

1.3.     Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication

John gives us a clue in verse 22. The New Living Translation tells us,

John 10:22 NLT It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication, is never mentioned in the Old Testament. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written about 400 years before Christ. At that time, the Jews were under the rule of the mighty Persian Empire. But then a young Greek named Alexander decided to conquer the world. Alexander the Great extended the Greek Empire all the way to the Indus valley by about 330 B.C. When he died, his empire was divided among four generals and the land of Israel eventually came under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria.

Antiochus set out to make Greek or Hellenistic culture the unifying bond of his empire. He imposed heathen religion on the Jews. He forbade them to circumcise their children, to observe the Sabbath, and many other Jewish practices. He set up a heathen altar in the Jewish temple that had been rebuilt. A lot of Jews went along with Antiochus. They wanted to be cool. Others followed Antiochus out of fear. It was a terrible time in the history of Israel.

But there were some courageous Jews who would not bend their knee to Antiochus. This led to the Maccabean revolt. Jewish warriors liberated Jerusalem and the heathen altar was removed. The temple was rededicated and the Jews celebrated the event every year at the Festival of the Dedication.

Here Jesus was speaking to the Jews during the Festival of Dedication. The Jews were now under the Romans. They wanted to be delivered. They expected the Christ to be like the Maccabees. They expected the Christ to overthrow the Romans. Jesus did mighty things that no ordinary man could do. But it did not appear that overthrowing the Romans was on his agenda.

John 10:24 ESV 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.”

1.4.  What Kind of a Messiah Is This?

Jesus had spoken in verse 16 about followers from outside the fold of Judaism. He had also said that some of his Jewish hearers might die in their sins (8:21, 24).

Does this mean that being the Christ means putting no different between Jew and Gentile when we stand before God? That some Gentiles must be brought into the fold? That some Jews will die in their sins, and therefore be excluded? What sort of Messiah is this? Most Jews of the day did not think that the Messiah would treat the Gentiles with favor and judge the Jews in this way. They usually saw the Messiah as a Jewish deliverer of some sort.[1]

People turn away from Christ today because he isn’t what they are looking for, or because they were expecting something else. They have their own agenda and Jesus doesn’t seem to be following their agenda. They want to be rich. They want easy success. That’s the kind of Christ they want: one that will promise them wealth and success. And there are a lot of preachers who preach that kind of a message. But Jesus never said, “If anyone will come after me, I will make him healthy and wealthy.” He said,

Luke 9:23 ESV “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

  1.5.  Show and Tell

Sometimes schoolteachers have a “show and tell” day. Children come and show something from home — for example, a toy, a game, a pet — and the tell the class about it.

Jesus tells the Jews that he has both told them and shown them:

John 10:25 NLT Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.

All the teaching that Jesus had done about himself, who he is, and his mission—they should have understood. They had recognized when Jesus called God his own Father, that he was making himself equal with God (5:18). When he said, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58), they picked up stones to stone him. “They had heard enough and understood enough to have an answer to their question if they really and sincerely wanted one.”[2]

He had told them.

He had also shown them:

“The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (10:25).

He had done works that no mere man could have done.

2. THEN WHY DID THEY NOT BELIEVE?

  2.1.  They Were Not Listening

They did not believe because they were not listening:

John 10:25-27 NLT Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 ***But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

The shepherd speaks. The sheep listen. But the Jews were still asking questions because they were not listening:

Romans 10:17 ESV So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

It is too easy to pretend that we are listening when we are simply trying to think of a reason not to believe. You can hear and not listen.

Jesus emphasizes the word “you”: “But you don’t believe me…” (v. 26). They had not believed though many had. The Gospel of John records many examples of people who had come to faith in Christ. For example:

  • His disciples believed on him (2:11).
  • The Samaritans believed on him (4:42).
  • The official at Capernaum believed when Jesus told him that his son would live (4:50).
  • The blind man saw Jesus and believed and worshipped him (9:38).

2.2.    They Were Not His Sheep

John 10:26 ESV but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

The sheep who belong to a particular shepherd hear his voice and respond to it, but those who belong to another shepherd do not. These Jews were showing quite plainly by their attitude and their questions that they do not belong to the flock of which Jesus was the Good Shepherd, the Messiah. Of course they could not recognize him as their Messiah when they followed all sorts of other shepherds.[3]

Jesus gives the characteristics of his sheep:

  • My sheep hear my voice.
  • They follow me.

This is the habitual trait of true sheep. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. They follow the Good Shepherd. This is not a one-time decision. This is not repeating the so-called sinner’s prayer. This is daily following the voice of the Good Shepherd, walking in his paths, following where he leads.

Leon Morris comments on the sheep hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd:

…those who are Christ’s hear his voice in all the circumstances of life.., those who are not his do not. For them life is simply a succession of haphazard happenings with no meaning and no pattern. For Christ’s sheep there is always the thought of the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for them and who constantly leads them into the places where they should go. His voice gives meaning to all of life.[4]

Not only do sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. They follow.

When that shepherd calls his sheep there are results. The sheep know his call and follow the shepherd when they hear it. This has it equivalent with people who hear Jesus’ call. If they really are his sheep, they will certainly respond and will follow him as the disciples had done.[5]

 3. THE WORK OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

While the sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him, the Good Shepherd shows himself to be the Good Shepherd:

  1. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep (v. 27). Jesus is going to talk about the security the sheep. So rather than putting the emphasis on the sheep knowing their shepherd, Jesus stresses the fact that He knows His sheep.
  2. The Good Shepherd gives his sheep eternal life:

John 10:28 ESV I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Jesus is not only talking about a life that never ends; he is talking about a quality of life as he said in verse 10:

John 10:10 ESV I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Yet, this abundant life is a life that has no end: “they will never perish.”

The German scholar A. Oepke says that this verb means “definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of the extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death in the depiction of which such terms as wrath, anger, affliction and distress are used.” We should be clear that perishing is a terrible fate and to be delivered from it is a priceless gift.[6]

On this verse, Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (the Little Kittel) says, “In view is not just physical destruction but a hopeless destiny of eternal death.”[7]

  1. The Good Shepherd has a firm hold: “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).

The word snatch refers to a violent action. But Jesus says that no matter how strong the force is against us, no outside force can remove us from the hand of the Good Shepherd. We are safe in the hands of Jesus.

Yet, we need to take all this passage together. The verbs indicate continuous action. The sheep continue to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. The sheep continue to follow the Good Shepherd. John has already told us that Jesus did not trust himself to everyone who believed in his name (John 2:23-25). The Good Shepherd is looking for faithful sheep.

 4.  THE UNITY OF THE FATHER AND THE SON

Jesus has made two parallel statements:

John 10:28 ESV …no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:29 ESV …no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Who is holding us, the Father or the Son? Both. No one will snatch us out of the Good Shepherd’s hand. And no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. The second statement puts the emphasis on the power of the Almighty Father. No one is strong enough to snatch us out of his hand. We are safe in the hands of the Lord.

Now Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” It is not surprising that the Good Shepherd would say that he is one with the Father. After all, in Psalm 23, David said, “The LORD is my shepherd.” Now Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd. He is the LORD.

Yet, the oneness refers to a deep basic unity, but he is not saying that he and the Father are identical. After all, the Father sent him into the world, and Jesus says that he will return to the Father. There are innumerable transactions between the Father and the Son which indicate that they are not the same person. C. K. Barrett says, “…the oneness of the Father and Son is a oneness of love and obedience even while it is a oneness of essence.”[8]

Again, Jesus is claiming to be one with the Father. He will tell Thomas, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (John 14:7). He will tell Philip in 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Conclusion

Everything points to the same conclusion. It should have been apparent to Watson as he stared at the starry sky, that someone had stolen their tent. It should be obvious from the words and the works of Jesus, that he is God manifested in the flesh.

Have you put your trust in the Good Shepherd? Are you following Jesus? Do you hear his voice? Are you obeying him? Only he can save you from eternal destruction. Only Christ can give you eternal life.

[1] Leon Morris, Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John, p. 387.

[2] Ibid., p. 388.

[3] Ibid., p. 388.

[4] Ibid., p. 388-389.

[5] Ibid., p. 389.

[6] Ibid., p. 389.

[7] Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (“Little Kittel”), “ἀπόλλυμι

[8] Morris, Ibid., p. 391.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 10:07-21, “The Good Shepherd, Part 2”

English: Jesus, the Good Shepherd window at St...

English: Jesus, the Good Shepherd window at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Attributed to the Quaker City Glass Company of Philadelphia, 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

INTRODUCTION: Who is your hero?

It seems that everyone is looking for hero. Verhaps it is the need for a role model, to follow someone’s example as a leader. Perhaps it is something deeper. Perhaps it is our need to see glory, our need to worship.

And yet, heroes let us down. Sooner or later, we discover kinks in their armor, flaws in their character. We find out that they are less than perfect, not as selfless as they first appeared.

Actually, we use the word “hero” today rather loosely. We have sports heroes and

superheroes, but few of them have ever saved anyone, and fewer still would put their lives at risk for someone else. And very few indeed would voluntarily lay down their lives for another.

And yet, in the Gospel of John, chapter 10, we find Jesus telling us that that is exactly what he would do. He would voluntarily lay down his life: “I am the good shepherd.” he says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Is Jesus a hero? No. He is far more than a hero. He is the God who can lay down his life and who can take it up again. No one but God alone could become flesh in order to die and raise himself up from the dead.

Jesus does not lay down his life because we are worthy of his death or because we are so valuable. He does not lay down his life because we deserved it or somehow earned this infinite expression of love. We were not strong or good or godly or righteous. We were weak, ungodly, and sinful. Yet Christ died for us. This is how the Apostle Paul says it in Romans 5:6­8,

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. “No one takes it from me, “he says, “but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

LET’S LOOK AT THE CONTEXT

In John 9 and 10, Jesus has healed a man who was blind from birth. In the history of the world, nothing like this had ever taken place. Jesus saw the blind man and said that he would open the man’s blind eyes to show that he, Jesus, was the light of the world. He made mud with his spit, put it in the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man went. He washed. He came back seeing.

This caused quite a stir. Everyone wanted to know how this had happened. The man told people that Jesus had healed him, so they took him to the religious authorities to find out what all this meant.

Now the religious authorities were quite jealous of all the attention that Jesus was getting and they had already decided that if anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ, they would cast him out of the synagogue.

Never mind that, the healed man knew that he had been blind and that Jesus ha given him his sight. The religious authorities could not intimidate him into saying anything against Jesus, so they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, found him, and opened his spiritual eyes so that the man came to faith in Jesus and worshipped him (John 9:34-38).

False Shepherds and the Good Shepherd

Jesus has something to say to the Jewish authorities. They were the ones who were truly blind. They were blind because they would not see. These religious authorities were the leaders of Israel. They were false shepherds doing everything they could to protect their own position and reputation. They were abusive to the sheep and did everything they could to intimidate the people—the sheep—and turn them away from Jesus Christ.

Jesus takes them on, head-on. He denounces these false shepherds as thieves and robbers. They have no right to rule and repress the people. They are out only for themselves. Their care neither for the truth nor for the sheep. They use scare tactics to keep people from following Christ. They have cast out the blind man, but Jesus puts another twist on it: They think they cast the man out; Jesus called him out. Jesus says in effect:

“All who enter the sheepfold of Israel without proper messianic credentials are thieves and robbers. But I am the true shepherd. I have entered the sheepfold of Israel by the door. I have the qualifications. I fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah. I have the messianic credentials. You think you have cast the man out. No, I have called him out. The sheep hear my voice. I call them by name and I lead them out. The sheep follow me because they know my voice. They do not follow false shepherds. They flee from strangers. True sheep do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

1.      JESUS IS THE DOOR TO LIFE

Now that seems pretty clear, and perhaps my paraphrase made it even more clear than Jesus intended it to be because John tells us that the Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was saying to them. So Jesus changes the illustration.

John 10:7 ESV So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

What does he mean? What does it mean to be the door of the sheep? Well, the purpose of a door is to let people in. You enter a room by going through the doorway. Jesus says that he is the way in. In to what? He tells us in verse 9:

John 10:9 ESV I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

“If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” Jesus is clearly the door to salvation. Again, we read in verse 10,

John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So Jesus is the door to life.

Notice that Jesus does not say that he is a door. He says that he is the door. His words are emphatic: “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”

It is He and no other who enables men to enter salvation. There is a certain exclusiveness about “the door”. If there is one door then men must enter by it or stay outside. They cannot demand another door.1

Some people think that all religions are superficially different but fundamentally the same. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, who grew up in India, says that that’s not true. All religions are superficially the same but fundamentally different.

Truth by its nature is exclusive. As Andy Bannister says,

If it is true, as Christianity claims, that Jesus was crucified, died, and rose from the dead, then it is not true, as Islam claims, that Jesus never died in the first place and that somebody else was killed in his place. Both claims cannot be true. Truth is exclusive.2

Jesus claims to be the only door to salvation. He will declare in John 14:6,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

Some people think that it is arrogant to believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Rather, it is arrogant to think that we can dictate to God the conditions of our entry into eternal life. Who are we to say that there must be other ways to God than putting our total and exclusive trust in the one who died for us and rose from the dead?

“I am the door,” Jesus says. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”

Jesus says that he alone is the door to eternal life. He alone is the means by which we can be saved.

Saved from what? Saved from the consequences of our sin. Saved from perishing. Saved from condemnation. Saved from the wrath of God. This is exactly what we read in John 3:16 and following, that verse that so many of us know by heart:

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The next verses show that Jesus came to save us from condemnation:

John 3:1718 ESV For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The final verse of that same chapter 3 tells us,

John 3:36 ESV Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Jesus is the door to salvation. He is the door to eternal life.

   1.1.  Contrast with Thieves and Robbers

Jesus contrasts himself with those who claim to be the Messiah but are not. They are thieves arerobbers. Why does he characterize them as thieves? They are thieves because they did not enter through the door; they did not come to the positions of leadership by legitimate means. They are thieves because they take that which does not belong to them. Jesus here makes reference to

Messianic pretenders who promise the people freedom but who lead them into war, suffering and slavery. The freedom Jesus wins for his people… will be achieved not by sword and shield, but by a cross. If large crowds are taken up with the pretenders, the real sheep do not listen to them.3

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus comes “that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

There is only one means of receiving eternal life…, only one source of knowledge of God, only one fount of spiritual nourishment, only one basis of spiritual security—Jesus alone. The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviours—its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots—and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ‘only… to kill’) and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only… to destroy’). “Jesus is right. It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.”4

But there is another means they use to kill, steal, and destroy: the very words they use. The message of the false shepherds and false messiahs only leads to destruction. There are people who walk the streets of Port Vila and the paths to your village who are false teachers. They teach from books other than the Bible, the Word of God. They follow the teachings of prophets rather than the teaching of Christ and the apostles that he designated in the New Testament. Their promises are empty. They are waterless clouds and fruitless trees. These false shepherds lead people astray, but they have no effect on the true sheep for verse 8 tells us that “the sheep did not listen to them.”

   1.2.  Life Abundantly and the Prosperity Gospel

The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Now here is a verse that has been much abused. The abundant life! What is it?

The prosperity gospel preachers tell us what our itching ears want to hear. They tell us that Jesus came that we might become financially rich. Jesus does not want you to be poor, they tell us. He wants you to be wealthy. If you have faith, you can have anything you want. Jesus came to satisfy your greed! Just have faith. Give me your money, and God will replace it with more.

There is a gross injustice in this kind of preaching. First of all, it is not the gospel. The Bible never said that the gospel is the power of God to make us rich. In Romans 1, Paul tells us that the gospel concerns God’s Son and that “it is the power of God unto salvation.” Jesus did not come to make us rich. He came to make us righteous. He came to reconcile us to God.

Can we measure the abundant life that Jesus came to give us in terms of money? Jesus warns us about the desire for money:

Luke 12:15 NLT Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

The Scriptures are full of warnings about the deceitfulness of riches:

Mark 4:18-19 ESV And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Luke 18:24-25 ESV Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 1:53 NLT He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.

Luke 6:24 NLT “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.

1 Timothy 6 shows quite clearly that the abundant life is not about money. There Paul warns Timothy about those who think that being a Christian is a way to get rich:

1 Timothy 6:5-11 NLT These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. 6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.’ After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.’ So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.’ But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.’ For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

To reduce the gospel of our crucified and risen Lord to the false teaching that he came to make wealthy is as pernicious as any of the false cults that we find around Vanuatu today. It is a twisted, perverted gospel. lt is a different gospel that is not the gospel at all. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, but that has nothing to do with money. The abundant life is a treasure that cannot be measured in vatu, dollars, or yen.

Romans 14:17 NLT For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

It does not take a work of the Spirit of God to make people want more money. We are naturally greedy. Jesus does not appeal to our greed. He does not say, “If anyone will come after me, I will make him rich.” He says, “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to enable us to deny ourselves and embrace the cross.

Jesus himself leads the way in laying down his life for his sheep.

2. JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP

   2.1.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Jesus now changes the image. He is the door—the only door—by which we can enter into the abundant life, the eternal life, that God wants for us.

Now in verse 11, he makes another great “I AM” declaration.
John records seven great “I am” statements made by Jesus:

  1. John 6:35 ESV – “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
  2. John 8:12 ESV – “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  3. John 10:7 ESV – “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
  4. John 10:11 ESV – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
  5. John 11:25 ESV – “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”
  6. John 14:6 ESV – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  7. John 15:1 ESV – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”

So we come to the fourth great “I AM” declaration by Christ: “I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD” (John 10:11 ESV).

Jesus has contrasted himself with the false shepherds of Israel, the religious authorities who use scare tactics and intimidation to try to control people and maintain their power. They will do anything to hold on to their position of power and influence: they kill, steal, and destroy.

   2.2.  Hired Hands

Now he contrasts himself with the hired hand, those who lead not out of love or concern for the sheep. They lead simply for the money. Unlike the false shepherds who will do anything to protect their position, the hired hand will abandon his post at any sign of danger.

John 10:12-13 NLT A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.” The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

The hired hand has no investment in the sheep. They don’t belong to him. He is not a shepherd. He does not have a shepherd’s heart. So when the wolf comes, he flees and the flock is scattered. The hired hand does not have the courage to stand up to the wolf. Instead of fighting off the wolf and protecting the sheep, he lets the wolf attack the sheep and scatter them.

Jesus also speaks of wolves in Matthew 7.

Matthew 7:15 NLT “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

Here is the problem with wolves: they look like sheep. They are disguised as harmless sheep but they are vicious. How is it that they look like sheep? Well, they look like Christians. They are false prophets. They pretend to speak for God, but they say things that God never said.

They have strange new doctrines, new teachings, new revelations, new insights that no one else has ever seen. No one else has ever seen them because they are not in the Bible. These wolves are kind, and suave. They smile, and say lots of nice things to people. They look very spiritual. They look like Christians. The use Christian words and vocabulary and say lots of things about God and about Jesus. But what they say is false. They confuse the people and lead them astray.

The Apostle Paul saw the same problem in Ephesus. In addressing the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20, he said in

Acts 20:29-30 NLT I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock.’ Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.

So Paul tells the shepherds of Ephesus,

Acts 20:28 NIVO Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has

made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

True shepherds keep watch over themselves and over all the flock. When they see a false teacher drawing away believers with some false teaching, they drive them out. They protect the sheep. But the hired hand will not take the risk. He will not stand up to the wolves. He will not stop the false teachers. He does not have the courage to lead. He is not the shepherd. He will not risk himself for the sheep. He does not care for the sheep.

2.3. The Shepherd’s Relationship with the Sheep

The hired hand does not care for the sheep, but the true shepherd has a very different relationship with the sheep:

John 10:14 NIVO “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-­There is a mutual knowledge.

John 10:3 ESV The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

What a marvelous intimacy between the good shepherd and the sheep. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls us by name. We hear his voice. He leads us out. He knows us, and we know him. Can you grasp it? He knows my name. 

2.4. The Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep

The thief kills, steals, and destroys. The wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. The hired hand flees in the face of danger. But the good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Four times Jesus tells us that as the Good Shepherd, he will lay down his life for the sheep.

Dying for one’s sheep must have been a rare event in Palestine. The shepherd David killed both lions and bears in defending his sheep. It was never the intention of shepherds to die for their sheep. Whenever a shepherd died for his sheep, it was by accident.

The shepherd planned to live for his sheep, not die for them. “A” good shepherd does not characteristically die for the sheep. “The” Good Shepherd does.’

This is …

not some sentimental demonstration to prove his love… The sheep are in mortal danger. In their defense, the shepherd loses his life and in his death the sheep are saved. That is what makes Jesus the Good Shepherd. He carries a cross, not plastic explosives.’

…the death of the Palestinian shepherd meant disaster for his sheep. The death of the Good Shepherd means life for His sheep.’

The Good Shepherd must die so that the sheep may live. The Good Shepherd had to die that we might have life and have it abundantly.

3. JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO TAKES UP HIS LIFE AGAIN

John 10:16-18 ESV 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.” For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” 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.”

Who is this Jesus? Who is this Good Shepherd that can voluntarily lay down his life and voluntarily take it up again? “No one takes my life from me,” he said. “But I lay it down of my own accord.”

“I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” Who is this who has the power to die and raise himself up again? Who but God could lay down his life and take it up again? Who but God could save us from the wrath of God? Who but God could give us eternal life?

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. Have you heard his voice? Have you heard him calling your name? He calls you to himself. He alone is the Good Shepherd. He alone can save you from your sin. He alone can give you life in abundance.

1 Leon Morris, John, p. 508.

2 http://www.rzim.orgia-slice-of-infinity/arent-all-religions-equally-valid/

3 Carson, John, p. 385.

4 Carson, John, p. 385.

5 Leon Morris, John, p. 510.

6 Carson, John.

7 Morris, John, p. 510.

See also “Gospel of John”: