Hear and follow: chosen

I AM the Good Shepherd3Being Given. In v.29 it is clear that it is the Father who has given the sheep to Jesus. This small part of one verse, when reflected upon can be a quite challenging revelation. We are part of Jesus’ flock because of what God has done, not because of anything we have done, (cf. “You did not choose me but I chose you””15:16a). Can we refuse to be God’s gift to Jesus? Jesus is clear that “the Jews” to whom he is speaking do not belong to his sheep. Why not? Clearly they have heard Jesus words – yet they refuse to listen and follow. What is the word they refuse to hear? It simply this: “God has given you to Jesus.”

It is the mission of the church to proclaim over and over again to its people: “You have been chosen by God. You are part of Jesus’ flock. You belong to Jesus. You are a sheep of God.” The hearers can choose to believe or not believe these words. The hearers can choose to follow up on what God has done for them or not. Based upon those choices, now and in the end of all things Jesus will say (or not say): “I know them and they follow me” (v.27)

Can We Follow? The Father who gives us to Jesus is greater than any other power. There is nothing that can snatch us away from Jesus or from the Father. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). If salvation (i.e., belonging to Jesus’ sheep, being part of the family, and thus being given eternal life by Jesus) is dependent upon God and Jesus; then it is not dependent upon my faith or my love or my knowledge – all of which can be somewhat unstable. Salvation is rooted in the Word of God which proclaims: “You have been chosen by God. You are part of Jesus’ flock. You belong to Jesus. You are a sheep of God.” The hearers can choose to believe or not believe these words. The hearers can choose to follow-up on what God has done for them or not. “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). The implication of “being given” and “hearing” is to discern and do the will of the God who has already given you to Jesus.

The Oneness Of Jesus And The Father . The Oneness of Jesus and the Father are at the heart of our Christian confession – there is a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit). That oneness is expressed in Scripture as a oneness of nature, of will, of knowledge, and many things, all the while being a distinct persona. Some Christians point to v.30 (The Father and I are one.) are a simple proof text of the uniquely Christian confession. While this verse is part of the confession, this verse is actually quite limited in what it claims.

In Greek the word “one” has masculine, feminine, and neuter forms. In v.30 the neuter form (hen) is used so that Jesus is not saying that he and God are one person, nor even of one nature or essence. Rather, he is saying that he and God are united in the work that they do. It is impossible to distinguish Jesus’ work from God’s work, because Jesus shares fully in God’s work. John 10:30 presents in summary form what Jesus said at length about his relationship with God in 5:17, 19-30. God gives life; Jesus gives life (5:21; 10:28). God judges; Jesus judges (5:22; 9:39).

The question for us is whether are we one (hen) with Jesus? Are we united with Jesus in the work we do in the world so that we are witness to wholeness of God’s salvific plan already in action?

O’Day [679] offers these reflections on this verse.

The most important difference between the discussion of the early church fathers and the Fourth Evangelist about the relationship of God and Jesus is that the church fathers were developing doctrine and the Fourth Evangelist was telling a story. This does not mean that the Fourth Evangelist’s reflections are inherently any less theological, but because they are cast in a story, they have a very different theological intent…. When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” it does not come as any surprise to the Gospel reader, because that reality has been acted out throughout the Gospel narrative. Jesus has done the works of God, spoken the words of God, identified himself with the I AM of God. The relationship of God and Jesus is not a metaphysical puzzle for the Fourth Evangelist, but evidence of God’s love for the world (3:16-17). The wonder of the incarnation is that God is palpably available to the world in the person of Jesus, that those who believe in Jesus, who see the works of God in Jesus, have access to God in ways never before possible (14:7-11)….


One non-negotiable point that John and the early framers of doctrine have in common, however, is that Jesus’ relationship to God is the crux and stumbling block of Christian faith. For the Fourth Evangelist, that relationship is the dividing line between Jews and Christians, and hence is the focal point of most of the controversy between Jesus and the religious authorities. For the second-, third-, and fourth-century theologians, it was the dividing line between orthodoxy and heresy. For contemporary Christians, it is the source of Christians’ distinctive religious identity in their conversations with one another and with people of different religious faiths.

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.

10:28 eternal life: The gift of eternal life is depicted in several ways in this Gospel. It is (1) like water for the thirsty (4:14; 7:37–38); (2) something experienced now, culminating in the resurrection on the last day (5:24–26); (3) like bread for the hungry (6:27); and (4) a relationship with the living God (17:3).

10:29 My Father…is greater than all: The textual evidence for the first clause is very divided; it may also be translated: “As for the Father, what he has given me is greater than all,” or “My Father is greater than all, in what he has given me.”

10:30 The Father and I are one: This is justification for John 10:29; it asserts unity of power and reveals that the words and deeds of Jesus are the words and deeds of God. John does not use the masculine form of the adjective ‘one’ (heis), which would suggest that Father and Son are one person. Instead, he uses the neuter form (hen), suggesting that the oneness of Father and Son spoken of here is oneness in mission and purpose. Father and Son are at one in their commitment to prevent anyone from snatching believers out of their hands. Here the nature of oneness is functional; later in the Gospel it involves unity of being (17:21–23).

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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