Because there is a three-fold relationship to a sheep.
Number one: there is a loving relationship and it is a loving one because, after all, He died for His sheep and love demonstrates its veracity, not just by words, but by action as well.
Number two: there is a living relationship and it is a living relationship because He cares for the sheep. There is this idea of intimacy. But,
Number three: there is a lasting relationship and this is not temporary, it transcends all the trials of this world, including the valley of the shadow of death and brings us to the other side.
One of my favorite verses is in Colossians chapter three, where it says, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” There is a tremendous idea. There are two thoughts, which are very powerful. Christ is our life, and secondly, you have not been revealed until you reveal with Him in this context of great glory. Nothing can keep that from coming to pass. What God has begun, He will complete. And so, we see this beautiful picture of the completeness in our confidence in Him. Jesus goes on to say, “I and the Father are one,” in verse 30, which is about as plain an answer as you could give. They are one in essence and They are one in unity.
But, they are not each other. Remember that famous picture of the Trinity I posted it in part 2. It originated with Richard of St. Victor, who died around the year 1174 AD, and when he spoke about God and tried to describe the Trinity in this way, “The Father,” he said, “is God.” He also said, “It is equally true that the Son is God. Furthermore, it is equally so that the Holy Spirit is God.” But, he went to argue and to illustrate that the Father is not the Holy Spirit, the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit. In that one diagram, Richard of St. Victor gave us a very, very explicit portrait of Trinitarian theology. They are not each other but they are all God.
Now, I don’t claim to understand it fully, but it is to say that there are a unity and diversity, that there is a community in the God Head. It is this Divine Trinity, this divine community, where they are all God but not each other, where we have this deep, unique portrait of how it is possible, therefore, for there to be an utter, absolute basis for unity and diversity, the One and the many, for love and being loved, and the ‘I-Thou’ relationship, for other-centeredness, for communication and for communion. All of those are the things we most treasure in life. Would you agree with me on that? Relationships are really what we most treasure. The ultimate foundation for relationships is the Trinitarian truth that we were created, also, in God’s image. And so, it is being in the Father and having the Father in us; in Christ and having Christ in us, and in the Spirit and having the Spirit in us.
Somehow, there is the idea, though, that we are not absorbed, in the Eastern vision, where we would be absorbed into the ‘All’. In the ‘All’ there is no ‘I-Thou’, there is just an ‘I-it’, and there is just an ‘It-It’. An ‘It-It’ really isn’t much of a relationship at all, if you really analyze it. Instead, there is a personhood and a personal reality that we are invited to enjoy. And so, He says, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked this up. They actually had a clearer theology than most liberal theologians have today, where they try to water down the claims of Christ and reduce His Deity to just claims that they say were put in His mouth by the early church writers and early church fathers. I will discuss that at a later time, when I discuss The DaVinci Code, although I have already discussed the issue of the reliability of the Bible. Now, in verse 31, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.” This is the third time they tried to do this. Again, His hour has not come and they are not going to be able to do it.
Again I stress; you are a mortal until the will of God is fulfilled in your life. You must understand that you have been given a certain amount of time by the Father in this world. Until that purpose is finished nothing can take you out. That, by the way, is why Jesus was never in a hurry. He knew He had been given just enough time to accomplish the Father’s will. And so have you. Now, “Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me’? The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God’.” Nowadays the people would say “that’s subjective.” Now, Jesus does something very interesting here. We know the big issue here is the root problem of unbelief. BTW if you’ve never picked this up before, Jesus fulfills another prophesy that David spoke about Him.
What we have is a quote from Psalm 82:6. Let me read you Psalm 82, verses five to seven. “They do not know nor do they understand.” This is a critique, by the way, of Israel’s failure to respond to God. Jesus is using this Psalm, which reflects the reality that He Himself is experiencing. Now, “They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, ‘You are God, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless, you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes’.” What He is referring to, by the way, is this idea of ‘elohiym’, or you are all gods. It is the word that is used in Exodus 22:8-9, speaking of the judges. It says the judges would be ‘elohiym’.
Not that they were God per se, but that they were representatives of God and therefore if God called human judges ‘gods’, why should they stone Him for applying the same title to Himself? It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. He is saying, as well, that “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can not be broken),” and Jesus, by the way, had a very high regard for Scripture. The Scripture can not be broken. “Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world,” and by the way, that word, ‘hagiazo’, meaning sanctified, is very reminiscent of the word used of the sanctification of the temple in the feast of Dedication under Judas Maccabaeus when they cleansed it of the idols and the blood of pigs. They cleansed it and then sanctified it. It is no accident here that He is using that idea.
So, “Whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, you are blaspheming, because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” Here He just comes right out and says, “I am the Son of God.” This is the clearest communication of who He claims to be. “I am the Son of God.” He didn’t directly say it before, but now He does. It is what He has been implying all along. I want you to notice, by the way, the progressiveness of the revelation of Jesus. As He reveals this to them, and this is His last public declaration, He is saying whether you have a lot of light or a little light, the issue is going to be whether you respond to that light or reject that light. It always comes down to the central issue of whether we have a will to know Him or a will to reject Him.
And so, He goes on to say, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.” So, He refers to the works He has done and He refers to the fact that He has authority by virtue of the works. He has also talked about that in John chapter five. In verse 39 we see, “Therefore, they were seeking again to seize Him and He eluded their grasp.” Now, how He did that we don’t know. Again, the Gospel writers are masters of understatement. He hid Himself in one case, and in another, He walked out of their midst. You don’t generally do that in a mob crowd. He did that, though, because He had authority and His time had not yet come.
You remember there is a great little scene in Ben Hur, where Ben Hur is being beaten and sent off to the galleys? Remember that? You recall that there is a scene where the Centurion lets them stop and drink, but the Centurion says, “Not that one.” Judah Ben Hur is being singled out for special abuse. And so, he is in despair as the Centurion says, He can’t have any water.” There is that moment when Jesus appears, and in the film you never see His face, but Jesus appears and you see Him coming and taking some water and offering it to Ben Hur and the Centurion is about to whip Him and he looks Him full in the face and he meekly backs down because there was that power He has that the world does not know. It is a good scene because it reveals that the powers and the princes of this world have nothing on the Prince of God Himself, of the One who is, in fact, the ruling One.
God’s power is the sort of power that the world does not understand. It is the same idea, as well, when you recall the garden in Gethsemane. Remember, and we are going to see this in John 18, they sent this large cohort of people to come and take Him away. Remember He asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus said, “Ego ami.” When He said ‘I am’, they drew back and fell to the ground. That, again, is an understatement. They were pinned to the ground, was it angels that pinned them to the ground? The text doesn’t say. He could literally have walked over those soldiers and gone His own way. But, He did not use that power because the Son of Man is to give up His life.
Another illustration is, “No one takes My life from Me, I lay it down of My own initiative.” It was not a martyrdom and He was not a victim. He came for this very purpose. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve and to give His life, a ransom for many.” Finally, in the last three verses, “He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there.” See what John is doing now? He is bringing us full-circle, right back to where it started, in chapter one. John was baptizing in the wilderness and he is bringing us back to that desert motif. He was keeping Himself out of the public eye.
This, then, was the last public visitation He gives and He reveals Himself as the Son of God to those who will receive it. Now He turns away from them and for these last few months, He spends that time nurturing and building into the lives of the handful of disciples that have been given to Him by His Father. “Many came to Him,” and I want you to notice something interesting, “Many came to Him.” In other words, now the people who respond to Him aren’t the people in the city of Jerusalem, those that were there for the religious feasts. Who are they? They are those who pay the price of going out into the desert to seek Him out. Those are ones who go now to seek Him. “They were saying, while John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.”
So, we go back to this theme that John was a voice crying in the wilderness, the motif of John witness to Jesus. Though he did not perform a sign, all that he said was true. And so, it goes on to say, “Many believed in Him there.” Even there it continues. As we conclude, then, just a couple of final thoughts. We have to ask ourselves this question: what voices do we recognize? To whom do you and I go for shelter in this wilderness that we call a world? There are many spiritual predators and false shepherds have actually infiltrated John’s own churches. You recall that the one who writes this Gospel also had that very concern.
If we turn to 1st John chapter two and read verses 22 through 26, this is obvious. “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” He says, “These things I have written you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” There will be false teachers and there will be false shepherds. I am stunned by the Epistles, and how much of the material is dedicated to refuting false teachings. If you look especially in Galatians and Colossians and in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Peter, many of these are dealing with the problem of false teachers. 2nd Corinthians does the same thing and a good bit of Judah is very specific about that as well.
So, we have this problem of false teachers and we have to ask ourselves, how do we respond to that? I want to say just three things as I conclude. There are three things we need to respond to, as we listen to this verse. First of all, understand the perilous environment of your life. Understand that you are not in a neutral environment and that spiritual predators surround you. The world is no friend of the Gospel. You get to choose the voice you listen to. You would do well to be very, very careful about what you expose yourself to and what you think and meditate upon because it really starts in the mind.
Then it manifests itself in action. We need to recognize at all times our desperate need for guidance. We need to be people who learn to listen to His voice and the way in which we do that is by developing a skill, number three, of telling the right voices from the wrong voices. I have had people who started reading a book and soon think, ‘there is something wrong with this book’. Even if you have no sophisticated theology, you can quickly discern that it is not the voice of the shepherd. It is good to become familiar with His voice and the way to do it is with the Scriptures and by hearing it taught and preached faithfully and in a context of community.
It is then able to protect us, and guide us, and nurture us, and lead us safely home.