John 10:27-30 | Have we missed the obvious?

Michaelangelo's The Creation of Adam

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

Every now and then it is good to take a pause from whatever it is that we’re doing and look back, to see things in perspective. I am thankful that I was able to do just that this past week, and am specially more than thankful that Jeanie is now back in the Philippines, safe and a million times wiser. Lastly, I am thankful also of the Lord’s providence to my father as he had just celebrated his 80 years of his life here on earth yesterday.

Looking back, I could not believe my eyes that we’re already half-way through the year, it’s already June and I’m pretty sure that almost (if not), all of you who are still studying have already started your classes. Looking back at the 6 months that have past I cannot help but feel thankful that I have been reminded of my mortality especially in the preceding two months prior to June.

As a church we all wept when Pastor Tenefrancia, passed away during the start of April, leaving a huge legacy of faith in Christ who has blessed him with numerous ministries that have reaped its fruits in time. His death was soon followed by the deaths of Ate Nancy, Paul and Mrs. Repique, their passing are a vivid personal reminder that keeps my mind and heart awake to the reality and certainty of my death and my family’s death and my friends’ death and the death of all of us.

In fact, John Piper while speaking to his congregation about the ministry of funeral services came up with this statement:

It is easy to forget about our dying. Except for those in terrible suffering, death is not usually what we want to happen. It terminates some things we enjoy very much; it severs us from people we love. And for many it is an awful door leading they know not where. Perhaps to judgment and eternal hell, perhaps to utter nothingness. For many it is a great and terrifying unknown. And since our minds cannot endure such constant threat, we very naturally forget. Or, more fundamentally, we really avoid the thought of death by filling our minds with other things. When the Bible says in Hebrews 2:15 that “through fear of death men are subject to slavery all their life,” it doesn’t mean, of course, that human psychological experience is one of constant fear. It means, rather, that, since death is fearful, and since we impulsively flee fear, man is enslaved to perpetual flight apart from Christ. He may know periods of peace and happiness when for a season he has put the haunting thought of death off his trail. But he will awake and remember that he is a fugitive and must keep running. There is no true freedom where happiness depends on denying the inevitable; there is only slavery disguised in a thousand forms of fun and busyness. And therefore I count the ministry of funerals a gift because it keeps my heart and mind awake to the reality of death and protects me from the enslavements of being a fugitive.[1]

The past two months also reminded me of the value of the church as an incarnate community of faith that collectively proclaims the hope of eternal life in the midst of grief and death. It bears witness to the hope that we all have in Christ who has brought us eternal life through His victory over the power of sin and death on the Cross.

The reason why I have opted to open this message with the reality of death is that in pondering the reality of death that my mind and heart are kept awake to the promises of God that go beyond death.

If I were to never think of my death, then I would not think of the promise of resurrection and eternal life. The word “forever” would make very little sense without thinking of our death (or at least the prospect of it); and yet the benefits that God promises are terribly deflated if they don’t carry us to eternity. 1 Corinthians 15:19 says that: “If we have hoped in Christ only for this life, we are of all men most to be pitied”.

It is with that verse in mind that that I am persuaded to opening this sermon with the reality of death because I believe the thought of such would cause us again and again to set our gaze “not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal”[2]. And the more that we would set the eyes of our hearts on the invisible gift of eternal life the more precious Jesus becomes, who alone can give it to us.

That’s why I believe it is fitting that this sermon should be entitled as such, because as human beings we tend to miss the obvious, because we do not like to look at things in perspective, the hustle and bustle of our daily lives gives little time for us to pause and look at things in perspective. I hope and pray that this sermon would be a point of reflection for us in looking at things in perspective.

The Christ of the Beloved

This message is a part of the sermon series on the Gospel of John, which is an account of Christ as testified to by the Apostle John who was the son of Zebedee, and brother of James, who was also a part of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus.

For those of us who were able to follow this series, I’m pretty sure that you can still remember Kuya Benjie’s story of the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth, who in his old age was asked by his students at the seminary, as to what he thinks is the greatest theological truth of all, and after posing for a deep thought on the question the old theologian (teary eyed and smiling perhaps), answered with this eternal truth: “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.

There is no truer statement than this, in fact the profundity of this statement was no more real to me than it was before when I heard it sung in Chinese at Rev. Andrew Tenefrancia’s funeral during the time when the Episcopal Parish of St. Stephen’s held their necrological service in this very sanctuary that we are sitting in right now.

As a Christian I believe that the deep truth of this statement have often been put into the realm of the obvious and trivial for who could deny the truth of the love of God in Christ.

For those of you who’ve been writing down notes while following this series from its beginning, Kuya Benjie has noted that:

“It’s sad that in our time, the love of Christ has been treated in a trivial, superficial and sentimental way…As a result, there are common misconceptions and misunderstandings about God’s love, prevailing even among Christian churches…” [3]

I for one have fallen to a misunderstanding of such profound truth, in the sense that I have merely encapsulated it as mere presumed truth. As a part of a local congregation that boasts of its orthodoxy in doctrine I have fallen into the trap of doctrinal complacency since I have always held the truth of God’s love with such confidence that I have taken for granted this reality as a believer, instead of living out this manifold truth, I have enshrined it as a doctrine that merely needs to be expounded in Bible Studies, Sunday Schools and all the other ministries of the Word at church; I have held on to this truth that I have at times misguidedly acted as a self-appointed ‘defender of the faith‘ who sees this precious truth as something that needs to be defended from possibly heretic upstarts that I have perceived to know little about the Bible or are out rightly deceiving the Lord’s flock. It is with this zeal that I have totally missed the point, the truth of the love of God in Christ has profound significance, because of the ‘One who loves’ according to the statement.

Barth said: “Jesus loves me…” imagine that truth Jesus loves us as individuals. As a theologian Barth could have easily differentiated between God’s love for mankind and for individuals and it is in this statement that he declared God’s love for him – for Karl Barth, for the individual whose name He knows and loves. More so it is profound because of the ‘One who loves’ according to the statement was no ordinary man, He is Jesus Christ, whose two thousand years ago in His birth rocked the world. His birth changed its calendar and tailored its mores. The atheist dates His checks, thereby declaring Christ’s birth. The rulers of countries both east and west, regardless of their religions, use His birth date. Unthinkingly, we declare His birth on letters, legal documents and datebooks. [4]

I believe it is also noteworthy that what has been said earlier is just the tip of the iceberg if we were to talk about Jesus Christ. That’s why it is very important for us to ask who exactly is this Jesus Christ that we are all talking about?

In this series we have talked about the love of God in Christ, as testified to by the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved,’ I suppose it is equally important to know who exactly is this Jesus that John is talking about, and what does it mean for the believer if He gets a deeper understanding of who Jesus is.

To quote the author Philip Yancey in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew:

“No one who meets Jesus ever stays the same. Jesus has rocked my own preconception and has made me ask hard questions about why those who bear His name don’t do a better job of following Him.”[5]

It is with this thought in mind that (God willing) I hope to set things into perspective as we attempt to do a theological exegesis of the 10th Chapter of John’s Gospel, which I pray would stir us into a deeper appreciation of Christology[6], that would hopefully challenge us all the more to pursue theological treatise that is applied – for theology that is not applied or practiced is ‘dead theology‘ that is on par with ‘dead faith,’ that James has spoken about in his Epistle. [7]

The Word that became flesh is the Son of God

In the start of the series it has been noted that John established Jesus Christ as “the Word that became flesh”[8]. In saying that the Apostle meant that Jesus Christ was God’s fullest and clearest revelation. He was God incarnate. “The image of the invisible God,” “The Word became flesh,” and “We beheld His glory” are but few descriptions of Jesus Christ. The writers in Hebrews and Acts explained it this way: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). “All the prophets testify about Him [Jesus] that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43)[9] Therefore the Word of God is Christ, but that entails the entire narrative of the Bible.[10]

Moreover, Christ declared close association with God as His ‘Father’ of which He constantly talked about. So close was His connection with God that He equated man’s attitude to Himself with his attitude to God. Thus, to know Him was to know God (John 9:7); to see Him was to see God (John 11:45, 14:9); to believe in Him was to believe in God (John 12:44, 14:1); to receive Him was to receive God (Mark 9:37); to hate Him was to hate God (John 4:23); and to honour Him was to honour God (John 5:23). [11]

The Claims of Christ

What’s astonishing also about Christ are the claims that He made about Himself, these are what has come to be called the “I am” sayings of Christ and we will try to use two of these sayings in order to chart our way towards the passage that we will be studying today.

The first of which was spoken, just before the scene of the previous message in the series when many disciples turned their back on Christ in John 6:66.

  • “I am the bread of life”  (John 6:35, 41, 48-51)

Just before the disciples turned away from Christ he declared: “I am the bread of life.” [12] Thinking about this passage reminded me of an activist friend of mine way back during college, who I had a talk with a few weeks ago, and while talking about politics and NGO-stuff, that we are both accustomed to he came to talk to me about social revolutions that allow space for a spiritual dimension, in his words he said an interesting critique of the Marxist dictum of religion as the opiate of society: “it seems that there are things in life that cannot be addressed in dialectical materialist terms, and history is not a mere mode of production narrative.”

I believe that it is in this claim that Jesus Christ highlighted our need for inner fulfilment beyond the material. Back during the Cold War,  there was a novel that was smuggled out of the former Soviet Union entitled: Not By Bread Alone, where the author of the book spoke of the account of how even in an atheistic environment many held on to the Christian faith. In a society that is melded by the philosophic vision that only the material is real, people still reached for something beyond the material.

As the late, Paul Little puts it:

“When the stomach is empty, it calls for food. When the spirit is empty, our feelings smolder, sometimes grow bitter, and even a best friend may be unable to console us. We might seek other palliatives, but the place inside calls for spiritual bread, that is, contentment and peace from our divine Creator. To this inner space inside us Jesus promises to be our bread of life, our sustenance, our filling, our satisfaction, in circumstances good or bad.”[13]

  • “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12, 9:5)

This statement was given immediately after Jesus encountered a lonely troubled woman, in John 8:1-11. The woman was surrounded by a group of religious leaders who were pointing accusing fingers at her. The woman was said to have been caught in the very act of adultery – and now she would have to pay for it. At that time the religious leaders were also hoping to trap Jesus and test Him. Would Christ obey their tradition, which allowed them to stone her? To use more relevant born-again language they must be thinking: “What would Jesus do?” Jesus knew the hearts of the accusers. Without flinching, He said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Convicted, these men paused, and watched Jesus as He wrote in the sand, and gradually, one by one, the accusers left.

In this brief encounter and few words with the woman, Jesus brought more light to her than she probably had ever known. Jesus could have easily sided with the accusers, and derided her actions. But He was controlled and thoughtful. Jesus’ light came with compassion. The Lord wanted to forgive the woman and get her going in the right direction. He defended her even though she had made some wrong turns in her life. He told the truth: she had sinned. In return harming herself, and other people. It is in that state that Christ came to give her hope that a change could take place. “Go, leave your sin.”

It was after this that Jesus turned to his disciples who were with Him and said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

The light of the world brings us understanding of our weaknesses and gives us His wise solution, that is – to turn away from our sinful life and turn towards the light.

  • Christ as the Good Shepherd

“I am the Good Shepherd: I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me” (John 10:14). A divine Shepherd for us! Jesus knows we need love and companionship, someone involved with our lives who prudently guide us as a shepherd guides his sheep. Every facet of a sheep’s life is important to a shepherd. As a true friend knows the worst about us but still remains our friend, this is consummately true of Jesus as Shepherd. He knows us better that we know ourselves. Connection with Him gives us love and companionship unequalled in human relationships. [14]

This claim of Christ echoes that of the parable of The Lost Sheep:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it – there’s more joy in Heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” [15]

When we think feel no one cares about us, and wonder if God is alive, we can always recall Jesus’ words about the one stray sheep. We will get God’s view of us and the things we care about. The Shepherd left ninety-nine sheep to find and rescue one small lost one. It was urgent that this sheep be found and brought back to the fold and safety. The result was exultant joy in heaven because the lost was found. The Shepherd, Jesus, is good. Relationship with Him can only be for our benefit. If a “thief or robber” attacks the sheep (John 10:8), He gives us protection. He stands with us when evil and temptation pummel us, directs our thoughts, and guides our actions. Our part is to choose to follow His wise directions. A prescribed antibiotic tablet will zero in on a harmful bacterial infection and destroy it, but we must choose to swallow it. In a similar way, when difficulty of any kind hits us, we find help when we turn to our Shepherd. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me…I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14,15)[16]

It is in the context of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that we will now attempt to reflect on His words on the passage that we will be studying today.

Theological exegesis of John 10: 28-30

Background

The location of this story has often disturbed commentators who fail to see links with what precedes and what follows. Recall that in John 9:1 that Jesus was still in Jerusalem in the 2-month period between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of the Dedication (10:22). It seems very clear that 10:1-21 is to be related to the preceding: no new audience is mentioned or suggested; it seems evident (10:1) that Jesus is continuing his remarks to the Pharisees with whom he had been speaking in 9:41. This is further indicated by 10:21, where some in the audience even recall the healing of the blind man, while others repeat the charges of demon-possession that have been made of Jesus in chapter 8.

It is true that there is an abrupt change of topic between chapters 9 and 10, from “light” to “sheep and shepherd,” but although the imagery has changed, 10:1-21 is still a polemic against the Jewish leaders, who are to be identified with the “thieves and robbers” of 10:1 and following. In fact, chapter 9 has provided a perfect illustration of these very actions: instead of properly caring for the man born blind, the Pharisees have thrown him out (9:34). Jesus, in contrast, as the good Shepherd, found him (9:35) and led him to safe pasture. Just like the sheep in 10:4-5 will not follow a stranger because they do not know his voice, so the man born blind refused to listen to the Pharisees, but turned to Jesus, an illustration of the sheep who recognize the voice of their true master. [17]

  • My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me – John 10:27

Taking-off, from the theme laid about in the beginning of the chapter that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He now turns to the disbelieving Jewish leaders and spoke that His sheep listen to His voice. It is in this passage that Jesus has made such a profound statement and that is – from the standpoint of eternity there are two kinds of people: the sheep of Jesus, and those who are not his sheep. Even though it is true that his sheep always come to believe on Him, it is not adequate to define the sheep simply as those who believe. For Jesus clearly taught that one must be His sheep in order to believe. Being His sheep is why one does believe. This passage highlights the sometimes hard-to-swallow truth that, there is more to being a sheep than the human act of believing.

People like you and me are sheep because God acts. God chooses the sheep and works in them the transformation of heart which inclines them to love what Jesus loves. He breaks their pride and gives them a lowly and contrite openness to God-exalting, human-abasing truth. It is no accident that they are called sheep: they are not wise in themselves; they need a shepherd to save them and guide them. When that transformation happens, then they will believe. Then Jesus will appear for what He really is, precious as their all-sufficient hope.

Now you may be asking why I am talking about this, well the reason I teach this is because Jesus did. He said to a crowd of unbelievers, “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” It was to unbelievers that Jesus taught the glorious truth of ‘prevenient grace’ which is the grace from God that comes before faith and which works to bring us to faith. This is divine grace which precedes human decision. Evidently this doctrine is not to be preserved just for Christians that we might give all glory to God for our conversion. But it is also useful for who have not yet believe, because no doctrine is better suited to show the utter helplessness of man apart from Christ. On a personal level this teaching causes me to be reminded of who I am as a human being – I am a complete moral failure, if not for the grace of God in Christ. It reminds me that as a human being I am deeply rooted to selfishness that manifests even at my best intentions. A reality that as I grow older becomes ever more real in my life. It is a call for all of us to come clean before the Lord and admit that we are utterly helpless to believe until God causes you to be born anew.

A deeper look at the passage will also guide us into answering how we will be able to know if God is at work in us, as John Piper puts it:

You will be able to know if God is at work in you now by how you respond to what Jesus says next in verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” There are two outstanding evidences that you belong to the sheep of Christ: “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” Do not look inside yourself and ask: “Am I a sheep? Am I a sheep?” Turn your eyes and your ears to Jesus, and when he speaks, if you are drawn to listen and to follow, you are a sheep! This is the evidence that you are born of God: that you listen eagerly to his words and follow. Jesus said in John 8:47, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (cf. 18:37). Only those who are born of God hear his words and believe and follow. Do not look for signs of ecstasy or for outward changes of circumstance. Look to Jesus, and if you are drawn to listen and obey, you are born of God and a sheep of Christ. [18]

  • I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given to Me, is greater that all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. – John 10:28-29

I don’t know about you, but reading this passage makes me shiver, primarily because of the immense promise it holds for those who belong to the Lord’s flock. Note at the beginning of the passage that it is another bold claim of Christ, for it says there that “I,” meaning Christ gives eternal life, we must understand that in this context the fullness of the redemption story was not yet fulfilled, at the time this is just another scene in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and yet He now claims to be able to give life everlasting.

The gift which Jesus gives to those who are His own is “eternal life”. This is not a new concept for the reader of the Gospel, who will have encountered it before as testified to by an earlier verse in Chapter 3 that is – John 3:16.

When Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall not perish,” He means very bluntly that there are two eternal destinies. The one is eternal life, which comes to those who hear his voice and follow Him. The other is eternal punishment, which comes to those who refuse his voice and go their own way.

Note here that eternal life in this sense not only means a secure place in Heaven, (although that is part of it), it points toward a later truth that Christ, Himself would articulate in a later passage that eternal life is: “that we may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” [19] which denotes a special relationship based on our knowledge of who God is and who is Christ to us in our lives. Also this denotes a quality of life wherein we as God’s children through Christ according to John 1:12, will in time be consummated into the Divine life of our Triune God, at the end of all ages, where our existence is thus placed in a new context, transposed into a new key, and we are set free by the Spirit to participate in the unceasing harmony of God’s own identity. In this divine harmony, that all created things find their meaning, their place, their fittingness. And so, in the end, all creatures are brought together in this surprising and joyful dramatic unity, this story of the God who raised Jesus from the dead, this story of the God who is love.  The goal that awaits us all is participation in God. Our stories are lifted up and integrated into the story of God’s own identity. This is precisely what “salvation” means. Our little stories are broken and fragmented, but God heals them and makes them whole. Our stories are without meaning, without narrative closure, but God completes them, so that our lives are flooded with the radiance of His own truth, his own meaning, His own reality.[20]

Furthermore, it is in this passage that we are assured that the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself will not let us be snatched out of His hand. We are not told who it is who might try to snatch the believer out of Jesus’ hand, but the implication is that the forces of evil are actively at work. The believer has Jesus’ assurance, however, that this attempt will not succeed.

This passage now points to an important doctrine that I believe are key for all believers into understanding the finality of God’s work of redemption. The doctrine that I am talking about is the Doctrine of Eternal Security which says that salvation, once attained, is eternally secure and therefore cannot be lost.[21]

On our part this doctrine means that if one truly believes in Christ – that is, places his or her total trust in Jesus and confesses Him and lives under His lordship – there is every reason to be confident of one’s salvation. Jesus said that everyone who believes in Him will be saved (John 6:40) and that none who are His will be lost (John 10: 27-29).

If we truly believe that through Jesus we can be restored to a right and righteous relationship with God, our salvation is secure. If we had to work out our salvation, it would rest on our achievement rather than the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

By verse 29 the image now changes slightly: the flock is no longer in Jesus’ hand, but in the Father’s hand. This gives added assurance, because the Father is greater still. Those in the flock are eternally secure, kept by the Father’s power. For Calvinists this refers to what is called “the perseverance of the saints,” placing the emphasis on the instrumental cause of one’s security–God’s sovereign electing will. This sovereign will is evidenced in the perseverance of the faith of the believer.

Note the phrase “My Father, who has given to Me,” which echoes the theme that has been set by the Apostle Paul in the start of his Epistle to the Ephesians where it reads: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.[22]

The Dutch theologian, G.C. Berkouwer writes this about the phrase – before the creation of the world:

“The issue here is not a metaphysical contrast between time and eternity, but the foundation of salvation in God’s plan as immutable reality. ‘Before’ (in Eph. 1:4) indicates that this divine act of salvation, preached to us by the Gospel, is free from what we know in the world to be arbitrary and precarious. To be sure in this depth-aspect of God’s salvation it becomes at the same time evident that this salvation did not originate in our flesh and blood that it is by no means of human merit or creation. But precisely this fact does not obscure the way; on the contrary it illuminates it. ‘Before the foundation of the world” means to direct our attention to what can be called the opposite of chance and contingence.[23]

  • I and the Father are one – John 10:30

Here we are met with Christ giving us another bold claim where He moves from His close association with God as His ‘Father’ to claiming equality with the Father Himself!

It is in this passage that I am reminded of the words of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley who while, preaching about this verse said:

I and the Father are one — Not by consent of will only, but by unity of power, and consequently of nature.

Are — This word confutes Sabellius, proving the plurality of persons: one – This word confutes Arius, proving the unity of nature in God. Never did any prophet before, from the beginning of the world, use any one expression of himself, which could possibly be so interpreted as this and other expressions were, by all that heard our Lord speak. [24]

For theologians this is a significant assertion with Trinitarian implications. Wherein the identity of the two persons (the Father and Son) is not being asserted, but instead highlights the essential unity (unity of essence) of the two persons of the Blessed Trinity.

Looking again at the verse also reveals to us that Jesus’ identification with the Father in verse 30 seems to be understood clearly by the Jewish authorities: note their response in verse 31: they took up stones to stone him for blasphemy.

In his commentary on John’s Gospel Matthew Henry writes:

“All who have any thing to say to Christ may find him in the temple. Christ would make us to believe; we make ourselves doubt. The Jews understood his meaning, but could not form his words into a full charge against him. He described the gracious disposition and happy state of his sheep; they heard and believed his word, followed him as his faithful disciples, and none of them should perish; for the Son and the Father were one. Thus he was able to defend his sheep against all their enemies, which proves that he claimed Divine power and perfection equally with the Father.”

At a deeper level this reveals something important about Jesus and His claim. When he said that He and the Father are one He claims deity or divinity that is tantamount to saying that He is indeed God, which was a clear claim that was understood as such by the Jews who were persecuting Him, because they were now in the act of stoning Christ for claiming to be God (John 10:33). In such a bold claim of deity that Christ is also revealed here in His full humanity for the Person here claiming equality with the Father is one that is of flesh and blood.

The fact of the matter here is that here stands that God, although He is transcendent with all the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, He is at the same time immanent or near as, a person that is of flesh and blood.

It is here that we are met with a Christ who is both human and divine. This truth is testified by a term that theologians call ‘hypostatic union‘ which is a Christological term used to describe the union of natures in the person of Christ during the incarnation. According to the definition of Chalcedon, Christ’s constitution is that of God and man, with the nature of each being fully represented in one person. [25]

It is in this truth that we are given comfort that as Christians who believe that our life and history has goal and meaning and that this goal and meaning are determined by God and guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Jesus, which becomes fully manifest at the end of our lives here on earth where in due time we will encounter God. And that in this encounter we do not meet an anonymous and an unfathomable God, but one who has a human face who has revealed Himself in the history of God’s people as well as in Jesus’ life as “God with us.” [26]

Bearing witness to doctrine

Earlier we read a quote from Philip Yancey who said that: “no one who encounters Jesus stays the same…” Indeed it is my belief that no one especially us should stay the same after encountering Christ in this passage, moreover this is a call for us to not only have a firm grasp of the doctrines that have been briefly discussed in the passage, it is in ending this message that I believe for all of us these doctrines imply a response on our part particularly to bear witness to this truths with our lives as individual Christians and as a local church.

For the individual Christians I believe that what we have studied should be a reminder and a call for us to be constantly be humbled by the sheer profundity of God’s love in Christ. This humbling entails us to not consider ourselves higher than others but should furthermore cause us to take seriously the Apostle Paul’s call to follow the example of Christ based on Philippians 2:5-7:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

This entails a dying on our part to our selfish ambitions and to our false humility wherein we project ourselves to be more spiritually mature than others, as ministers in the church this is a wake-up call to us to heed Christ’s example of servant hood, who made Himself nothing.

Also for those of us who are going through difficult times this serves as a comfort of the certainty of our salvation because it God Himself who guarantees us of it. I believe that it is in realizing this truth that we as Christians can live lives in gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, as we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives, even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth, praying “Come, Lord Jesus!”

As a church the words of the passage entails an implication for us as a community of faith that gathers around Christ to a more active proclamation of the deep truths about Christ according to the testimony of the Scriptures. Furthermore, this implies that as a community that we are now given a serious mandate to bear witness to Jesus in both word and deed.

At the deepest level of our life and ministry as a church it is a call to be a community that incarnates the present reality of Christ as the God incarnate who stepped into human history because of His love for mankind. For it was a Christ of flesh and blood that was present in the passage that we studied earlier.

By saying incarnate it implies that the life and ministry of our church should move beyond the theological truth that Christ was literally God in flesh.  Jesus came as God in flesh to be with people.  He told his disciples that his mission was to seek and to save that which was lost.  Jesus did not camp in the temple in Jerusalem and build a ministry around a physical location.  No Christ Jesus came to love the masses. Jesus went to the lost and served them.  An incarnational ministry means that the church goes to people the way Jesus did![27]

Therefore as a community it also implies the willingness to live in relationship – establishing a physical, emotional and spiritual presence that requires constancy in our words and deeds, for as we place ourselves entirely in the world.

Lastly, as a church the passage serves as a call for us as the body of Christ to a doxology with believers in every time and place, to rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If there’s anyone here who has not still count his/herself as one who has come to Christ this passage also points to a truth that is encapsulated in the most prominent verse that we have all taken for granted.

John 3:16 says that: For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Note here in the beginning that there is God, therefore revealing to us the truth that there exists a God who created all things including us. But that does not stop there not only is there a God it is a God that loves, and it is love that is not mere sentimental feelings it is a love that is directed to an object of affection that is the world, or mankind, and it is in this love that He gave, thus revealing to us a God that makes His love manifest in His deed wherein He gives us something that is precious and dear to Him – that is His one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is here that I would like to pause share an insight from T.F. Torrance:

What could we then have to do with him? We stand before God as flesh of sin under God’s judgement, and it is into this concrete form of our sin-laden, corruptible and mortal humanity in which we are damned and lost that Christ came, without ceasing to be the holy Son of God. He entered into complete solidarity with us in our sinful existence in order to save us, without becoming himself a sinner.[28]

The concluding part of John 3:16 reveals to us a two-fold truth about our personal response to God’s act of love in Christ, that is to believe and disbelieve thus leading us all to an eternity of everlasting life or of entropy wherein we perish in our sinful, fallen humanity separated from the God who made manifest His love for us in Jesus Christ. If you have not yet believe, I hope and pray that God would use this message take serious thought on the eternal implications of our response to who Jesus Christ is for us, in light of this passage.

Conclusion

As I end this message I would like to draw your attention to an image that is a part of a fresco in the Sistine Chapel ceiling (which Jeanie was able to personally see during her stay in Europe), that was painted by Michelangelo.  Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, of which the Creation of Adam is the best known,

Michelangelo spent four years suspended on a rack sixty-five feet above the floor, blending finely ground pigments and pasting them onto the damp plaster ceiling. Without a doubt, the message of this piece was apparent. The hand of God was pictured straining and stretching to clasp the hand of a man. Correspondingly, a man’s hand was shown struggling to join His hand with God’s, but doesn’t quite make it.

Both God and the man are revealing their built-in yearning to connect – hand to hand, skin to skin, Spirit to spirit – with the other. With uncanny brilliance, this fresco tells God and humanity’s story from the beginning of Creation. Unlike any other relationship, God and man connecting is core of the Christian message.

The coming of Jesus Christ is the centrepiece of God and man’s story. He was the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). In 3 years of public ministry Jesus repeated His message, calling people to come follow Him. Twelve men left all and became His disciples full-time. Their lives were transformed. He demonstrated what a trusting relationship with Him would be like. He called to all the crowds who heard Him.

Frequently Jesus used the words “I am” to underline His life’s purpose and His identity. These statements can help us see His compassion and the everyday practicality of a connection with the God who came to earth. We can be joined with Him hand to hand.

As I close I leave you now with this quote from Dietrich Bonheoffer’s, book Ethics which I was blessed enough to have received as a Christmas gift from Jenny Anne it says:

“In Jesus Christ we have faith in the incarnate, crucified and risen God. In the incarnation we learn of the love of God for His creation; in the crucifixion we learn of the judgment of God upon all flesh; and in the resurrection we learn of God’s will for a new world. There could be no greater error than to tear these elements apart; for each of them comprises the whole”[29].

May these words stir us all the more to strive ever more boldly our struggle to not miss the obvious to the things that pertain to God and His will for our lives. Amen.


[1] Piper, John – Jesus Is Precious Because He Gives Eternal Life http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/sermons/byscripture/6/335_Jesus_Is_Precious_Because_He_Gives_Eternal_Life/

[2] 2 Corinthians 4:18

[3] Baclagon, Benjie – BELOVED | Studies from the Gospel of John – Introduction

[4] Little, Paul – Know What You Believe p. 41

[5] Yancey, Philip – The Jesus I Never Knew p. 25

[6] The word “Christology” comes from two Greek words meaning “Christ / Messiah” and “word” – which combine to mean “the study of Christ.” Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. – http://www.gotquestions.org/Christology.html

[7] James 2:14-28

[8] John 1:14

[9] Op cit

[10] Pugh, Jeffrey – The Matrix of Faith | Reclaiming a Christian Vision p. 106

[11] Stott, John – Basic Christianity p. 26

[12] John 6:35, 41, 48-51

[13] Little, Paul – Know Who you believe p.24

[14] Op Cit

[15] Luke 15:3-7, The Message

[16] Ibid

[17] Harris , W. Hall III – Exegetical Commentary on John 10 – http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2696

[18] Ibid

[19] John 17:3

[20] Myers, Banjamin – Theology for beginners – http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2006/09/theology-for-beginners.html

[21] Reclaiming the Mind Ministries | Theological Word of the Day – http://wordoftheday.reclaimingthemind.org/blogs/2008/12/17/eternal-security/

[22] Ephesians 1:3-4

[23] Berkouwer, G.C. – Studies in Dogmatics, Divine Election p152

[24] Wesley, John – Commentary on the Gospel of John

[25] Reclaiming the Mind Ministries | Theological Word of the Day – http://wordoftheday.reclaimingthemind.org/blogs/2008/2008/09/08/hypostatic-union/

[26] Hendrickx, Herman – The End Will Not Be At Once: Studies in the Synoptic Gospels p. 134

[27] Cowin, Timothy – Incarnational Ministry: The Way of Jesus – http://timothycowin.com/2007/05/08/incarnational-ministry-the-way-of-jesus/

[28] Torrance, T.F. – Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ p. 62

[29] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Ethics p. 130

Click here to download this article

5 thoughts on “John 10:27-30 | Have we missed the obvious?

    • Hi Peter, indeed for Christians living in the present the word Immanuel has great significance because Scriptures say that whenever people gather in Jesus’ name there He is in their midst3 .

      As a family, a church and a fellowship of friends we can be certain that as we look we will realize God indeed is with us.

      God was with us in the pains, disappointments, tragedies, triumphs and jubilation that we experience throughout the year. In fact, we can be confident that God was present in history to accomplish His will of restoring the broken relationship of His creation with Himself –the context of our passage points directly to that as we shall see that the Immanuel came out of a line of people like you and me, frail, sinful, and imperfect.

      The promise that God is with us is ours to claim because this Christmas gathering is a gathering that’s done in Jesus’ name.

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Fide Quarens Intellectum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s