Now back to the lesson. So, as I see it then, this intimacy is something that actually pervades the Scripture. You see it, for example, in the bridal mysticism of God, and the image of the Lord and His bride, the Lord and Israel, although Israel was an unfaithful bride, then you see it of Christ and the Church, His bride. By the way, when people say, about the DaVinci Code, what is wrong about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene? Well, a lot. Among other things, it is quite contrary to very explicit teachings in the Scriptures. Turn with me to Ephesians chapter five to see this portrait of Christ’s intimacy. When he speaks about the idea, in verse 25, Paul describes “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her; having cleansed her by washing of the water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
The church is the bride of Christ. He is married, then, to the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, which is the body of true believers. It would be nonsense, and silly, to actually suppose that it, therefore, okay if He married a particular woman. Actually, it is quite heretical, among other things as well. Of course, it goes on to say He had these kids and then He just went off and died. But, this mystery is great, and I am speaking of Christ and the church, and then if you want to more about that, you turn to Revelation 19 and you see the wedding feast of the Lamb. That is His bride. Revelation 19 tells us about that wedding. His wedding is a unique one and He is now preparing a bride for Himself, and when she is spotless and perfect, that is when the wedding and the consummation is complete. Let’s move on, though, to the text using this imagery that He is expanding and contrasting Himself with a person who is not committed, but He is committed to us.
So, He says, “I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” This intimacy is developed further in chapter 14 and especially in chapter 17. He has come for this very purpose. “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
We see very clearly that this is the first indication of what will become more obvious later in the Gospel, namely the opening of the Gospel not only to the Jews but also to the Gentiles. The Son of Man has come for the lost sheep only from the house of Israel, but then how does He end His earthly ministry? What is the commission He gives? Go to all of Israel? No, go to all the world. He tells them to make disciples in all the nations. And so, what we have then, as Paul develops in Romans 11, where he says the rejection of the people of Israel as a whole actually makes it possible, now, to show mercy to all. Paul also goes on, in Romans 11, to say that the hardening of Israel is only partial and temporary.
Partial, because there have always been faithful Messianic believers and temporary because the time will come when that darkness, that veil, will be removed and they will be able to see once again. The point here is that we see a profound portrait of how that which was formerly separate is now made one, and Ephesians two makes this very clear. Those who are far off, those who are alienated from the life of God are now brought near and enjoy the marvelous blessings of the new covenant, a covenant that was promised to the people of Israel in Jeremiah 31, and we now enjoy the blessing aspect of that covenant.
It is a covenant now offered to all people. By the way, I have had people, usually new-agers, who will say that these other sheep are references to extra-terrestrial beings. Talk about being exotic, there is no warrant for that silly idea at all. In any event, in verse 17, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.” This is a very important thing that we must understand. First of all, Jesus stresses here, “I lay down My life,” and He will take it again. That is to say, Jesus is not a victim of human conspiracies. We must understand that this was something that was planned even before the foundation of the world. In verse 18, “No one has taken it away from Me.” This one of His strongest claims and you must remember it. “I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Remember when they taunted Him on the Cross? What did they say to Him? Save yourself. Come down and then we will believe you. He says that He has all these legions of angels that I could call to my disposal but that He does not choose to do that, because it was not the nails that held Him to the Cross, it was love. That is what held Him to the Cross. He could have come down anytime. He elected not to do so. “Was it not for this purpose that the Son of Man came? So, the double meaning that John uses, that the Son of Man will be glorified when He is lifted up, is the imagery of being lifted up on the Cross, but also the imagery beyond that, of being ascended to the Father. It is a double meaning and thus it relates to His glory.
The Cross, really, is the preface to His glorification. It is the way, in fact, and we know, that before honor comes humility and so it always has been. And so, the way to glory is that we see the Cross precedes the Crown and as we look at our own lives, is it not true that all of us have a cross to bear? Who of us hasn’t got some pain in our lives, or broken dreams, or shattered hopes? The fact is we all have a cross. If it is not one cause it will be another.
It may be in a significant relationship. It may be in regard to your health. It may be in regard to your finances, or to your career, or to the dreams that you had of what might have been and now you see it will never be so in this world. The sorrow of lost possibility, or of unrealized potential, and there are many kinds of sorrows in this world. My conviction is that if it is not of one sort it will simply be of another because in this world we are not ready yet for the sinless and painless world of the next until we are made fully into the image of Christ. God uses the pain of this world to draw us to Himself and causes us to be surrendered to His will. Abandonment to divine providence is God’s vision for us. As we pursue Him, I am sorry to say that the old way is still very commonly practiced in Christendom. The old way is to approach God for any perceived blessings and benefits He may have to offer us like the people followed Jesus to get fed not with the word, but with bread and fish. Not with spirituality needs but with vain materialistic wants.
We try and use God as the utility to a better life, or as I say a candy store. The new way is the realization that there aren’t any promises of that sort and the reality is that God calls us to pursue a better hope, not a better life. What I mean by that is that we think we get to define what life ought to be and if we do our part He is obligated to do His part and we will be blessed in certain ways and then we get very, very angry with God or disappointed when He doesn’t deliver in the way we had in mind, like if we don’t receive a new car that we want. We often come with good hopes, perhaps godly children, but you didn’t get them. You read several books that said if you raise kids this way, this is how they will turn out. Then you discovered it didn’t work that way. There is no assurance of that, and I am not saying you don’t follow certain Biblical principles, but there is no guarantee things will turn out your way. You don’t come to Jesus simply for better kids. You don’t come to Him to have a more successful business or great wealth. You don’t come to Him for physical well being.
You come to Him for Himself. Only that is the ‘new way’. If you go the old way the pressure is on. You have to perform and do your part and we are back to pharisaic legalism once again. And so, the absolute surrender to Him, for Himself and not for His benefits is the real issue because He wants to be wanted and He waits to be wanted. He is not some kind of cosmic bellhop to satisfy our wishes. There is more to Him than that. There is a transition and all the pain and suffering and shattered dreams will be used. God, I believe, will use shattered dreams as a means to cause us to die to good dreams so He can give us an appetite for the better.
As long as you are clinging on to a good thing you will not have an appetite for the better. Then there is the desert, with periods of aridity, where He seems not to be present and then when it is the right time you realize there is a better thing to be revealed to you and you discover that. There is a process of waiting and trusting and, yes, not fully understanding. The point that He is saying is this: in the life that he is offering us a quality of abundance that still exceeds anything that the world can know. Because we think we are abundant when we have position and possession and power and actually we ought to know better. Yet we succumb to the same delusions of the world and we find ourselves listening to the wrong voices.
So, we would do well to train ourselves to listen with an ear cocked to that voice. And not to any other that would cause us to be deceived by another and to find only a mirage.
So, Jesus, then, offers Himself and says He has the authority to lay it down and to take it back. In verse 19, “A division occurred again among the Jews,” and we see yet another ‘division’ image in John’s Gospel. And the reader, too, is forced to make a decision, which side do I come down on? Because one thing about Jesus, you can’t remain indifferent to Him. You will either come to Him or you will avoid Him, but to ignore Him is not an option. Continuing on, “Many were saying He is a demon and insane. Why do you listen to Him?” Well, we have heard that before. In chapter eight they thought He was a Samaritan and a demon possessed. In chapter seven they said He was demonized as well. The point here is that “Others were saying, ‘These are not the sayings of one demon possessed. A demon can not open the eyes of the blind, can he’?” This is a connection back to the earlier miracle that would still be remembered only a few months later. It occurred in the same city, and He healed a man who was born blind.
So, I want to stress, before we go any further, that Jesus knows His sheep very well. He knows us through and through. He knows your name, He knows your nature, and He knows your needs. In fact, I want to tell you that He knows you better than you know yourself. You think you know what is best for you? Only the Good Shepherd knows what is best for you. He is committed, ultimately, to your highest good. Let’s continue on in our text, and in verse 22, we have this portrait of Jesus now having a conflict. After the reaction of the crowd, there is a controversy that is going to intensify. In this controversy, we have Jesus’ final disclosure of Himself to the people. In John, this is the final public disclosure of Himself. After this, He is going to go away into the desert and He will not manifest Himself until the time comes, in the following Spring, when His hour now has come. Remember, the theme in John is that His time has not come, His hour has not come. In verse 22, then, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him,” and it is almost like they circled around Him. They were longing to finally get a showdown, either tell us now directly or don’t. We want to know, who do you claim to be.
So, in verse 24, “The Jews gathered around Him and were saying to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly’. Jesus answered them, ‘I told you and you do not believe; the works I do in My Father’s name, these testify to me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” Remember that imagery that He uses again. He is saying, “If you are not of My sheep,” you will not understand this message. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” From the human standpoint, then, we become sheep by believing. But, from the Divine standpoint, we believe because we are a sheep. You see how both are true? From a human point of view, you have become a sheep because you believed. From the divine side of the same coin, you believe because you are one of His sheep, not a goat. There is a mystery.
There is also another side to this: these are some of the most important passages in the New Testament concerning the security of the believer in Him which is also why I so focus on this book of John. Continuing, “My Father, who has given them to Me,” and here you must understand that the follower of Jesus is actually a part of the gift that the Father has given to the Son. It is rather a wonderful idea, that you are part of the gift that the Father has given to the Son. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Try and snatch them from the Father by violence? Good luck. You will not achieve that; nothing can do so. He says, “I and the Father are one.” So, there is this profound security that they are in His grip. You are in His grip and the Father’s grip, and no force can snatch you away. It reminds me of a good deal of Romans chapter eight. You remember that very well known text there, that no one can really separate us from the love of God? Paul says, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, Nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now, I believe that the rest of the Epistles also will confirm this, that there is a great deal of difference between those that ‘profess’ and those that ‘possess’. Those that possess Him, that know Him, those are people who can have that assurance.