Fourth Sunday of Easter

by Bear Wade

John 10:22-30
(The Fourth Sunday of Easter)
analysis by Mike Hoy

22At the time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.

DIAGNOSIS: Without a shepherd

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: In Suspense, in winter
The eastern portico of the temple can provide some shelter from the cold wintry blasts; but there is little solace from the suspense that is killing “the Jews.” Their “suspense” is actually more a sense that they are bothered and annoyed by the perpetual presence of Jesus at their major festivals (this time, at Hanukkah, the festival of lights and liberation). Is he or is he not the Messiah? Surely, Jesus is not the kind of messianic liberator like Maccabeus. But their suspense about Jesus’s credentials suggests that the call is still out for that kind of a liberator. However much we, too, cynically seek to weather the cold winds that blow our way, the search for a strong liberator may be on our minds and on our hearts.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Not hearing, not belonging to the sheepfold
Unfortunately, the cold chill outside may make its way into our hearts. The delusion may set in that if we have to brave it alone if no real (strong, powerful) messiah is on the horizon. We may even become unaware how desperately we are in need of a messianic liberator, even when One is standing right in front of us. In the process, “the Jews” (and we) reject the Shepherd by not hearing Him (that is, not believing in Him). So not only are we sheep without a shepherd, but we are also, by our own unfaithfulness, standing apart from Jesus’ sheepfold. How cold can it get?

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Snatched
Out on their own, we shepherd-less sheep are left to the elements. And the coldness of our being is not the worst of it. There are creatures out in the cold that will lead to our undoing. We are left to the snatching Wolves–agents of the divine hand by which we will perish. The real suspense is what will happen to us!

PROGNOSIS: With The Shepherd

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: In Jesus’ (and the Father’s) Hand
What might be the best news for “the Jews”–and for us as the cold-hearted and perishing sheep of today–is that the Messiah Jesus is the One around Whom all have gathered in the midst of the wintry blast! Actually, the real good news is that Jesus has made himself at home in our midst! He has allowed himself to be snatched and mauled by the Wolves in order to lay down his own life as a ransom for the sheep. But one thing is certain–he will not allow us to be lost from the grasp of his crucifixion-and-resurrection. Neither will the Father, who has sanctioned Jesus’ work on our behalf. That is the power of this Messiah.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Hearing, being known by The Shepherd
The true joy of the shepherded, with The Shepherd who stands up for them and in their midst, comes from hearing (believing) the Shepherd’s voice. The Shepherd has given a promise that cannot be broken–that they will have life in his name. Moreover, in their believing, they have the warm assurance that they are also truly known and treasured by The Shepherd. The Shepherd Jesus considers us, his sheep, as the greatest gifts from his Father, and we also get to enjoy the blessings of the Father, who holds and cherishes us.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: One, following The Shepherd
Jesus and the Father are one. But as the sheep in His sheepfold, we also share in the unity. We have passed from being bothered to being brother-ed (and sister-ed) by Jesus’ liberating, messianic credentials. Nothing can separate us from that liberating presence. And we follow the Shepherd, not as creatures in suspense, but as divinely-blessed sheep with dreams and futures still unfolding. We, who are dedicated to this Messiah’s festival, have an Easter life of following the good Shepherd.


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