Hear and follow: knowing

I AM the Good Shepherd3Jesus Knows – Do We Follow? 27 My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.

John makes a connection between the sheep who hear the voice of Jesus and believing. Brian Stoffregen notes that Jesus makes the following statements about his sheep in John 10:27-29 (in a more literal translation of the Greek)

  • My sheep are listening to my voice.
  • I am knowing them
  • They (the sheep) are following me
  • I am giving them eternal life.
  • They will not perish for eternity.
  • No one will snatch them from my hand
  • My father has given [them] to me [the word “them” is implied and not stated]
  • The middle of v.29 is difficult to translate and can be rendered “My father is greater than all things”, or “what my father has given is greater than all things.” In other words, is the context taken to be God or what God has given Jesus. Almost all translators opt for the first meaning as the affirmation of God’s greatness seems more appropriate.
  • No one is able to snatch from the hand of the father

Listening and Knowing. There are numerous shades of meaning to “knowing” (ginosko) from no direct personal involvement in what/who is known, e.g., “to know about” someone to knowledge gained through an ongoing direct personal relationship with the person. In contrast to the question, “Do you know the Lord?”, the issue in this verse is Jesus’ knowledge of us. Frequently John talks about Jesus’ knowledge (ginosko) of people:

  • he knows Nathanael (1:48)
  • he knows all people and what’s in them (2:24-25)
  • he knows what the Pharisees have heard (4:1)
  • he knows that the ill man has been at the pool for many years (5:6)
  • he knows that “the Jews” do not have the love of God in them (5:42)
  • he knows that the crowd is about to come and make him king (6:15)
  • he knows the Father (8:55; 10:15; 17:25)
  • he knows his own [sheep] (10:14, 27)
  • he knows what his disciples want to ask him (16:19)

With this word (ginosko) and with a synonymous word (oida, e.g., knowing the betrayer, 13:11), John indicates that Jesus (supernaturally) knows what is in people, but this may not necessarily indicate the close, personal relationship that can be implied by this word, which is meant when it is used in reference to “knowing” his own sheep (see also 10:4-5 where oida is used concerning the sheep “knowing” the shepherd’s voice).

Both of these words are used in last week’s text: Does Jesus know (oida 21:15, 16, ginosko v. 17) that Peter loves him, as Peter declares? Does Jesus know (oida 21:17) everything as Peter declares? If so, what is our response to this knowledge that Jesus has about us? Perhaps it is easier to think about not believing that Jesus knows us, then we would believe that we can keep our evil deeds hidden in the dark (3:19-20). Perhaps like the question to Peter, they are not asked for the benefit of Jesus’ knowledge (who already knows the truth), but so that we may know the answer within us.

Notes

10:27 My sheep: The references to those who are and are not Jesus’ “sheep” in 10:26–29 build on the Good Shepherd Discourse in 10:1–21. The metaphor of the “flock,” an everyday feature of Jewish life, pervades the OT. God himself was known as Israel’s Shepherd (e.g., Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ps. 23:1; 28:9; 77:20; 78:52; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 31:9; Ezek. 34:11–31), and his people are the “sheep of his pasture” (e.g., Ps. 74:1; 78:52; 79:13; 95:7; 100:3; Ezek. 34:31). Part of this imagery was also the notion of chief shepherd and assistant shepherds and of hired hands. David, who was a shepherd before he became king, became a prototype of God’s shepherd. Jesus saw himself as embodying the characteristics and expectations attached to this salvation-historical biblical figure as the Good Shepherd par excellence.

 

Sources

  • Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 29 in Anchor Bible series, ed. William Albright and David Noel Freeman (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1966)
  • Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Volume 4, General Editor: Leon Morris (Downers Grove, IL :InterVarsity Press, 2003) 236-39
  • Francis Moloney, The Gospel of John, vol. 4 in Sacra Pagina series ed. Daniel Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998) 312-321
  • Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996) 675-77
  • Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources at www.crossmarks.com/brian/
  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007)

Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970 at http://wwwmigrate.usccb.org/bible/

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