The other evening, I went out with some friends. Since we were car-pooling to an event, I drove by their house to pick them up. Unfortunately, the babysitter was not there yet, so we had to wait. Once the babysitter arrived, I saw a tender moment between a mother and her child.
Jacey, the daughter, was seven years old and did not want her mom to leave. She clung to her leg and cried, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” Then her mom knelt down and looked her in the eyes. She said, “Later tonight, after you eat and play, if you go to bed and go to sleep, I promise I will come and see you when I get home.” Jacey looked at her, extended her pinky finger, and said, “You promise?” Her mom locked pinkies with her daughter and said, “Yes, I promise.” And, amazingly to me, that was enough. Jacey calmed down, turned to the babysitter, and was ready to play.
What I saw in that moment was the power of a promise. The mother offered her daughter a word of promise and the promise was enough.
Today, in our Gospel reading, Jesus the Good Shepherd comes with a Word of promise and His promise sustains our weary souls.
It is the Feast of Dedication. The Jewish people are gathering to remember a time when they were delivered from the weariness of war. Almost two hundred years ago, Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the Temple. He set up pagan altars and brutally oppressed the Jewish people. They, however, fought back. They recaptured God’s Temple and reconsecrated it to the Lord. So, on this day, the people were gathering in Jerusalem, in the Temple, to recall that war and to remember that victory.
Now, however, God Himself comes to the Temple. Jesus walks along the colonnade and looks out, over the people. He sees their joy, but He desires that their joy might be full. So, Jesus recalls another war, an ancient war, and promises His people another victory. It is a future victory, His victory. Not in a fight over stones which make up a Temple, but in a fight over lives who make up His Kingdom.
The Devil and the world claim God’s people. They fight and try to snatch them from God's hand. But Christ offers this promise: “My sheep know My voice.” He says, “I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
Jesus says He will not let you go. “No one can snatch [you] out My hand” (John 10:28). Whatever suffering you see, whatever tribulation you touch, whatever evil you endure, Jesus will be there. He will hold on to you and carry you through.
Whatever suffering you see, whatever tribulation you touch, whatever evil you endure, Jesus will be there. He will hold on to you and carry you through.
In this war, instead of overtaking His enemy with violence, Jesus allows violence to overtake Him. His body will be desecrated and hung on a tree. He will endure death, itself. God’s Temple will be destroyed, but He will raise it in three days (John 2:19). Rising from the dead, He will reveal His power over death. And that power is for you. No one can defeat Jesus, not even death and the Devil himself. And because no one can defeat Jesus, no one can snatch you from His hand.
This moment in John’s gospel reminds me of a passage from Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah once offered Israel a vision of the coming Messiah. He described the Messiah in this way: “The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught that I may know how to sustain with a word the one who is weary” (Isaiah 50:4). The Messiah will “know how to sustain with a word the one who is weary.”
Normally, when we encounter people who are weary, we want to provide them some kind of tangible help. If they are weary from working and forgetting to eat, we get them a meal. If they are weary from overnight travel and not getting sleep, we offer them a place to rest. If they are weary from projects which need to get done, we offer them a hand.
But Jesus knows a deeper kind of weariness, and, for that weariness, He offers us a Word. His Word of promise. Jesus knows our true enemy, Satan. Satan can take any weariness (wars and rumors of wars, economic disparity, struggle with sickness, anxiety over work) and use that weariness to pull us away from God. But the harder he pulls, the closer God comes. And the larger he looms, the more Jesus loves.
Today, Jesus comes as your Good Shepherd. You recognize His voice. He kneels down, looks you in the eyes, and says, “You are mine. You know My voice. I hold you in My hand and no one can snatch you out of My hand.”
Draw near and listen to His voice. It offers a word which sustains the weary. It is a promise that empowers the soul. As the psalmist says, “When troubles fill my mind, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19).
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 10:22-30.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 10:22-30.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Charles Gieschen of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John 10:22-30.