The Father and the Son
Bible Text: John 10:22 – 42 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: John – Encountering the Word | John 10:22 – 42
The Father and the Son
A good time for a Messiah
In 167 BC a Syrian king named Antiochus Epiphanes captured the city of Jerusalem, desecrated the temple of God, and, according to some ancient sources, sacrificed a pig right there in the sanctuary. Just about the worst possible offence you could cause the Jewish people.
For 3 years Antiochus brutally oppressed the people of Israel and outlawed the Jewish religion, and all the practices and traditions associated with that.
If you were caught with, even a fragment of the Jewish Scriptures in your possession, you could be put to death.
Of course, it’s the exact situation that many Christians today find themselves in, in countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, where possession of a Bible or part of a Bible can get you killed.
But 3 years after this invasion, a group of Jewish freedom fighters, called the Maccabees, managed to overthrow Antiochus and his army, and they cleansed the temple, they rededicated it, and celebrated with a big feast of dedication.
This festival is what Jews today celebrate as Hanukkah.
It tends to be late November, early December, and although it’s not one of the Jewish festivals instituted in the Old Testament, like Passover, or the Feast of Tabernacles, it was still is, enormously popular, and celebrates this victory over the Syrian oppressors.
And you can imagine, by the time of Jesus, 190 years later, this week in the calendar is a political hornet’s nest.
So November 11 1975, what happened in Australia?
The dismissal of the Whitlam government.
Even today, for some people, that is a day unparalled in infamy, right?
You just need to mention that date, and depending on who you’re talking to, the level of tension in the conversation goes up a notch!
Multiply that that tension a thousand-fold, ratchet it up throughout an 8-day feast, and that was the Feast of Dedication.
The authorities, the military, would have been poised and ready to deal with any trouble, because since the Syrians had been kicked out, Israel had come under the rule of the Roman Empire.
Another foreign ruler is deciding what’s allowed and what’s prohibited,
Which religious practices you can continue, and which are banned.
If the Jewish nationalists are going make a move against the Romans, this is the time when they’re going to do it.
If anyone thinks he’s the Messiah, God’s chosen king, the Feast of Dedication is when he’ll make himself known,
You know the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie arriving in Scotland in 1745 with his 7 loyal men, and by the time he reaches the scene of his final battle at Culloden his army is 5000 men!
That’s the kind of response that anyone claiming to be God’s chosen king could have expected at the Feast of Dedication.
The real reason for disbelief
No wonder then, that having noted the political significance of the date, the Apostle John, one of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, tells us, the crowds gathered around Jesus, saying verse 24, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
It’s a complaint, really, isn’t it?, and it’s a complaint that exposes the heart of these people.
In John’s gospel the term “the Jews” is usually shorthand for the “the Jewish religious people and their leaders who were opposed to Jesus.”
It’s not just Jewish people per se.
And here we’re getting to the very end of Jesus’ public ministry.
And it’s true that Jesus hasn’t explicitly identified himself as the Messiah many times at all.
Now the reason for that is that there were so many mixed up ideas about what God’s king would be like.
The Jews were expecting the Messiah to do the same sorts of things as the Maccabees did.
They wanted a political leader,
A military leader,
Someone who would defeat the Romans.
Jesus wasn’t the Messiah that people expected, and so he was very careful about using language that would be misinterpreted,
But his ministry had been filled with, sick people being healed,
Blind people receiving their sight…
The offer of forgiveness and a right relationship with God,
He claimed to be the ultimate fulfilment of people’s needs,
All the things that God had said in the Old Testament would happen when the Messiah turned up, have been happening around Jesus!
There’s enough evidence for anyone to see that Jesus is the Messiah
And yet, the people blame Jesus for their lack of belief, don’t they?
You haven’t told us plainly.
You’re keeping us in suspense.
“It’s your fault that we don’t believe that you’re God’s chosen king.”
It’s extraordinary, isn’t it!
But perhaps not surprising.
Since the beginning of human existence, people have been blaming God for their own failure to honour him, and obey him, and recognise him.
Think of Adam in Genesis 3
God asks, Did you eat from the tree I told you not to eat from?
Adam replies, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me the fruit,
Sure I disobeyed you, but it’s your fault, God! You put her here.
I was talking to someone recently, who complained that “God hasn’t made himself clear enough.”
Maybe among the friends and family you’re praying for on your Prayer Focus card, there are some who say “It’s God’s fault that I don’t believe.
God hasn’t given me enough reason to obey him.
God hasn’t shown me who he is, so how can I believe him?”
Maybe even you’re here this morning, and you think a little like that. It’s great that you’re here, because you’re obviously saying, well there’s still more stuff for me to find out.
But if you do tend to think like that, have a listen to how Jesus responds to that allegation that God hasn’t made himself clear enough.
Verse 25 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
Jesus says to these opponents, not only have I already told you, but the miracles,
The things I’ve done, should tell you who I am.
Tthat’s John’s point in writing the gospel isn’t it? Chapter 20 verses 30 and 31, Jesus did many other miraculous signs , 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
No Jesus says, the reason you don’t believe, is because you’re not my sheep.
That is here is the evidence, that people, even wise, religious, educated, people, are completely unable to choose God.
Cannot find God on their own.
God himself stands in front of them, surrounded by all the promised signs of his coming , and yet, without the gracious hand of God at work in their lives, they cannot recognise, and choose, and follow Christ.
And while wading into the waters of predestination and the questions of who are chosen to be God’s people, and who are not, is difficult for some people, The fact that these ones here are not Jesus’ sheep is not an excuse for unbelief, is it?
It’s an indictment.
Even though God is sovereign, and in his grace and kindness chooses those from among his enemies who will become his people,
No one can ever blame God, for the fact that they’re not one of God’s people.
Could any of these people protest to Jesus, “but you said it yourself, we’re not your sheep, how could we possibly believe in you?”
No, the very fact of their disbelief condemns them, and demonstrates their culpability.
They are to blame for their rejection of God’s chosen king.
See the message of Christianity, isn’t just about amassing facts, cognitive knowledge.
If I know enough I’m a Christian,
If I can learn the right stuff, I’ll be OK with God.
No, the message of Christianity is not knowing facts, but knowing a person, it’s about a personal relationship with Jesus.
Being Jesus’ flock
And so Jesus goes on to speak about what it means to be one of his flock.
And this isn’t everything that belonging to Jesus entails, but it’s some broad brush strokes.
These 3 privileges we could call them, we see in verses 27 – 30.
We’re called 27
The first one, in verse 27, is that if you’re a follower of Jesus, then you’ve been called.
Called into relationship with Jesus.
See there in verse 27, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
The entry way into a relationship with God is through hearing the call of Jesus, in your life.
For some of you, I know, you can recall the day,
You can picture the place where you were standing, when you heard Jesus voice in the Scriptures, calling on you to take up your cross and follow, to use those words from Matthew 16.
There is no other way to come into a relationship with God, than through hearing the words of Jesus.
These opponents of Jesus, they won’t listen to him, and believe him, because they’ve refused to accept the possibility that God could calling to them through Jesus.
The God they claim to worship speaks, but they do not listen to his voice.
But those who do listen to the voice of Jesus, who are known by him, well this new relationship leads to a new lifestyle, a lifestyle of obedience. Did you see how verse 27 continues?, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Preachers love to talk about how Middle Eastern shepherds back in Jesus’ day, and still today, aren’t guys on motorbikes and in helicopters, like we see in Australia, but they walk along, and their sheep follow them.
The sheep know the voice of the shepherd, he knows them, and they know him, so when it’s time to move off to greener pastures, the sheep follow the shepherd.
And a friend of mine who is a preacher, was in Israel a few years ago, and saw this image that he’d preached about so many times, but when he got closer, what he saw was a man walking down the road, not with the sheep following him, listening to his voice, but the man was behind the sheep, driving them along, yelling at them, swearing at them, and hitting them with a stick.
And he thought, “My entire imagery of biblical shepherding has just fallen apart.” And so he stopped the car and said to this man with the sheep, “I thought a Jewish shepherd was supposed to walk in front, and the sheep would follow him.”
And the man said, “Yes, that is what happens, except I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher!
My sheep listen to my voice;, and they follow me.
You see, in Jesus’ eyes, obedience is the proof of faith.
If you really are one of his sheep, you’ll follow him.
And if you don’t follow Jesus,
If you don’t hear his words as the Holy Spirit brings the Scriptures alive in your life, can you really claim to be one of his sheep?
Again, back in the first Century AD, when multiple flocks of sheep would graze on the same land, or be kept in the same sheep pen overnight, sheep were sometimes marked with a small cut on their ear, just an early version of National Livestock Identification System that sheep in Australia are tagged with.
But the Puritan preachers in the 16th and 17th Centuries, used to say of this mark, “well, each one of Christ’s sheep have a double mark. They have the mark on their ear, but they also have a mark on their foot.”
The mark on their foot is that they follow Jesus.
You can tell whose sheep they are by their feet.
You can tell whose sheep they are by where they walk.
By how they live.
We could also say, the mark is on the wallet,
On the diary,
On the tongue,
In all the ways that our following of Jesus is expressed, or should be expressed.
We’re given eternal life
The second privilege of being in Christ’s flock, is that we’re given eternal life, and notice both the positive and negative ways Jesus emphasises this. Verse 28, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
We’ve heard this before on Jesus’ lips, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, the one you’ll see held up on signs at the cricket, and written under the eyes of football players in the US, John 3:16, 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.
Jesus wants his hearers, to be absolutely certain what he’s promising.
Eternal life isn’t just a new quality of life,
Eternal life is not a metaphor for opening up a new part of your consciousness or something.
No, Jesus is very clear. Eternal life means not perishing.
It doesn’t mean, skipping death, but not ever facing spiritual death.
Never having to pay the due penalty for a life lived in rebellion against God.
What had God said would be the penalty for sin?, For living in God’s world in disobedience and rejection of him?
Having to face God’s rightful anger at sin, and being separated from him and his blessing forever.
Jesus says, “if you’re one of my people.
If you’re one of those who hears my voice and follows me, you will never face that spiritual death and separation, instead you will have eternal life.”
And the means by which this eternal life becomes ours is hinted at in John 3:16, God gave his Son, and it’s made explicit in the passage Andy took us to last week, The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep
The reason that Christ’s people can be spared, spiritual death, is because Jesus stood in our place,
Jesus died the death that we deserved,
Jesus faced God’s anger at sin and evil so that we wouldn’t have to.
In the Eastern states, there’s a ministry among students in trade schools, much like the university work that we’re connected with here.
And this movement’s slogan plays on the theme of being a tradesman, tradeswoman. It says, “Jesus did a trade…”
Which is true! Jesus was a carpenter.
But it goes on, “Jesus did a trade, his life, for yours”
Jesus did a trade, his life for yours.
Those who are God’s people, Christ’s sheep, are given eternal life, because Jesus gave up his life.
The third great privilege of being among Christ’s flock, is that we are secure.
And I want to spend a bit of time here, because if we grasp this, it’s so encouraging, and comforting, and can shape our Christian lives.
Look with me again in verse 28, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
If you’re someone who looks at the world around you, and thinks it’s becoming harder and harder to live as a Christian,
Or you think, “I’m constantly tempted by sin, and one day it’s just going to destroy my Christian life,
Or you keep saying to yourself “I need to work harder at my faith,
I need to believe more strongly,
Me standing firm to that last day means I have to dig deeper into myself,
If that’s you, then please listen to these great words of assurance and security.
Do you hear what Jesus says?
None of his sheep will ever be snatched out of his hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
A claim to equality with the Father
That is a huge claim about Jesus’ identity. I and the Father are one.
And the religious types just erupt in rage, at this claim.
If the Bible had pictures, you’d be able to see these guys, they’d be bright purple and they’d have veins bulging out of their heads!
They picked up stones to stone him, verse 31,
Again, verse 39, they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
They wanted to know if he was the Messiah.
He told them he’s so much more than just God’s chosen king, but they refused to hear it or accept it.
Now, my friend who’s a Christadelphian, is exactly the sameHe doesn’t believe that Jesus is God.
The same for y friends who are Muslims,
Just this week, Muslim leaders in South Africa complained about an ad for Red Bull energy drink that mocked Jesus, because and this is the newspaper report, “Christ is a revered prophet in Islam”.
They’ll acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, but to say he’s God is blasphemy.
My friends who will happily quote Jesus alongside Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Junior, and Gautama Buddha,
Who think that Jesus was just a wise man, a good, moral teacher,
They have no time, for this claim.
The religious leaders understand exactly what Jesus is saying, don’t they?
When Jesus says I and the Father are one, he is making a claim to absolute equality with the Father.
And in fact he’s echoing, what was perhaps the single most fundamental confession of faith in the whole Jewish religion, the words found in Deuteronomy 6 verse 4. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”
The reason the Jews want to stone him, is verse 34, because you, a mere man, are claiming to be that God!
They’ve misunderstood so much of what Jesus has said, but they’ve got this one right.
But remember we’re talking about security.
We’re talking about God’s people remaining God’s people, and never being torn away, snatched out of his hands.
The Father and the Son are one in their protection of the sheep
This is the context in which Jesus says, I and the Father are one.
God the Father and God the Son are one in their protection of the sheep.
See verse 30 is not an abstract, ontological comment about the nature and essence of the Trinity. It’s a statement about how God acts for his people.
It’s a statement about just how confident you can be, that if you are one of Christ’s people you will never be snatched out of his hand.
Of course it is a statement about the nature and essence of the Trinity, but here we see that such complex theological doctrines, like that of the Trinity, are not just abstract theology best left to the experts.
No, here is where the rubber of Christian doctrine, hits the road of the Christian life.
Yes, Jesus is teaching an essential truth about the nature of God, that’s the background to this picture, it’s out of focus, but it’s there.
What’s in focus, is the unity of purpose and will of the Father and the Son, when it comes to protecting and preserving the people of God.
Last week when we were on holidays, we spent a few days down at Victor Harbor, and as you do, we walked to Granite Island a couple of times.
My son Jamie, who’s 2 years old, was much more interested in sticking his head out between the railings of the causeway, and looking down into the sea, so I was constantly saying to him, “hold my hand, hold my hand”
But as he leaned out, as far as his little body could reach, what was it that was really keeping him safe?
It wasn’t just that he was holding my hand, was it?
But that I was holding his hand,
His grip on me wouldn’t stop him tumbling into the sea, but my grip on him would.
That’s the point Jesus is making.
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
And do you notice it’s my hand, verse 28,
And my Father’s hand, in verse 29.
Behind this great picture of Jesus as the shepherd stands the Father, offering his weight and authority and credibility to Jesus
It’s like if I held a coin in my hand, it’s pretty hard for that to get out of there, isn’t it?
I’m fairly well able to protect what’s been entrusted to my hand.
But then if I asked Andy Buchan to come up here, he’s even bigger than me, he’s got bigger hands, if Andy puts his hand around my hand, then there’s even less chance that anyone’s going to snatch away what’s in there.
And let me say that this is probably the only time in my life that I’ll suggest that I’m Jesus and Andy is God the Father, and OK, there are flaws in this little dramatisation, but this is the image I want burned into your consciousness as you wonder,
Even though I love God and honour him,
Will I get snatched away?
Will I get to the end only to discover I fall at the last hurdle?,
Jesus and his Father together preserve those who are followers of Christ.
Now, a Christian person must never presume upon their relationship with God. That’s exactly what Jesus’ opponents here were doing.
Remember from 2 weeks ago? “Abraham is our Father”, which was code for, “we don’t need to give any thought to ongoing obedience or the responsibilities of being God’s people!”
There’s no room for that in the Christian life.
That’s not perseverance,
That’s perhaps demonstrating that you’ve never actually heard Christ’s voice.
But I want you to feel the breadth, and the depth, and the weight, of this assurance, this promise. No one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.
It’s not too late to believe!
Now, all this discussion about perseverance,
And hearing the voice of Christ,
And that word, predestination, might make you think, well what hope is there?
Perhaps you think, I’m not a Christian, so obviously God doesn’t want me.
I can’t hear his voice,
So I’m never going to have eternal life, .
Or maybe you are a Christian, you’ve been praying, well for years, decades maybe even, that people you know and love and care about would come to faith,
And so you wonder, what’s the point in talking about Jesus, if them understanding who Jesus is depends not on me convincing them but on God doing something in their life.
But do you what happens down in the last few verses, 37 and following?
Jesus again, extends the invitation to believe!
To these opponents!
It’s not too late!
Even for these ones, if you looked at them, you’d have to say, there’s no way any of them are going to believe in Jesus, they hate him!
They’ve tried to kill him!
But to these ones, Jesus says Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
Even if you still haven’t worked out who I am, Jesus says, look at the works,
Look at the signs,
Ask yourselves, what would God do, if God turned up on earth?
Hey, that’s a great question isn’t it?
What would God do if God turned up on earth?
Well he’s told us!
That’s the Old Testament!
The promise of God coming to be with his people.
Don’t just think off the top of your head, “what would God do?”
If I were God, I’d dot dot dot…
No, if you want to know if you can believe in Jesus, compare the promise to the reality.
You might think of yourself as the person furthest from God.
You might have on your prayer focus card, the name of someone who you don’t think could ever become a Christian, but they’ve got nothing on these religious leaders.
They tried to kill Jesus twice in this one section!
And yet Jesus offers this gentle and earnest appeal.
It’s not too late to believe.
If you’re a Christian person, there’s your motivation for evangelism.
It’s not too late to believe.
There’s your motivation to pray for friends and family.
There’s your motivation to live a life that commends the gospel of Jesus to the people around you.
It’s not too late to believe.
And if you’re not a Christian, there’s your invitation.