The greatest evidence of a mom’s love is on display when harm threatens her children. This instinct doesn’t go away when you kids leave the house, doesn’t it moms? Certainly, moms have stressful moments where their love can be in question. You’ve seen your mom in those. You moms who have experienced it and want to take back some of your words and actions that arose in the heat of anger. You may question mom’s love at that moment. But no one questions the love of mom when the kids are in danger or in need of some protection. You can binge-watch YouTube videos of momma bears fending off tigers, wolves, and male bears (also known to eat cubs).
I love how nature and our human experience so perfectly illustrates the character of God. You see little glimpses of God artistically woven into the fabric of his creation. When God’s children are in danger, his defenses go up. When Satan enticed Adam and Eve to sin, God promised to crush the enemies head. When Egypt subjugated the Jewish people, God dramatically stepped in with 10 miraculous plagues. When sin threatened his people, he scolded them with a 70-year time out in exile but humiliated and conquered the nations who hurt his children. God loves to protect his people. God loves to protect you. But do we always recognize that love?
Jesus was challenged and his character threatened. It is interesting how Jesus responded to a challenge the way he did. To set the stage of this attack, John provides a few details. 22 Then the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter. The Festival of Dedication is the celebration of Hanukah. It was started about 165 BC by Judah Maccabeus. He defended God’s honor in Jerusalem. Judah cleared the temple of false gods and re-established worship to the true God. They celebrated and had such a good time that they decided to make it an annual celebration, which is still celebrated today.
Like many holiday gatherings, there was a dispute. This is when the Jews challenged Jesus. 23 Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s Colonnade. This was along the eastern wall of the temple compound. Like a pack of wolves, the Jews surround Jesus. 24 The Jews surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” They challenged him and wanted Jesus to be open and honest about who he is. The Jews understood the Messiah as the ultimate person God promised all throughout the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to Malachi. It sounds like a legitimate question.
The answer may have surprised them. 25 “I did tell you and you don’t believe,” Jesus answered them. And on top of that, here is more evidence. “The works that I do in my Father’s name testify about me.” They want Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the Messiah. He tells them “plainly” that they have not and continue to not listen to him. He refused to hand the answer to such questions on a platter. Why? Because he knew what’s behind the question.
They didn’t believe and they didn’t want to hear that Jesus is the Messiah because of the implications. Jesus could have explained it all over again. The real barrier between simply recognizing that Jesus existed as a person standing in front of them and believing in him as the Savior is not their understanding. What stands between people and Christ is sin. The pharisees didn’t want to give up their pride in what they could accomplish. They were rule keepers, the law and order. They thought the Messiah would come and approve of their good behavior. All their good deeds were to cover up inside they didn’t want the type of Messiah God offered.
We cause ourselves a lot of headache and heart ache when we find our identity in this type of thinking. No where is it clearer than in our self-help society. We love this material. “How to be a better leader.” “How to be a better mom/wife.” “How to be a better ‘you-name-it.’” Any of you who have ever read through them or implemented the structure know that they are flawed. You’ve tired it or it didn’t work. Or you’ve tried it and once you achieved it you still were lacking something. You were un-whole. Don’t get me wrong, I read some of these books myself. But you will never find you wholeness in them or in yourself. If you continue attempting to make life better all by yourself, you will end up in a world of hurt. 26 “But you don’t believe because you are not of my sheep.” Unbelief is a dangerous game.
Being part of the flock is a relief. 27 “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.” They follow because they know they are in need. They follow because they are not whole and need someone to make them whole. You don’t know that Jesus is all you need till Jesus is all you have. Nothing says this greater than watching someone you love die.
I ministered to a family who lost their little boy. The mom stood by his side night and day at the hospital. She was so troubled and worried because she was helpless. Then I asked, “Can I baptize him?” And there was a short respite of relief. Two days later, God took his lamb home eternally to heaven. Jesus will protect his lambs. That protection might not always be health and prosperity this side of the casket. It is stronger. It is eternal.
Listen to the protective yet comforting voice of the shepherd who will defend his lambs till the end. 28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Now listen to it again as he speaks to you. “My dear lamb, do not worry about what opposes you! You will never perish, for no one and nothing can pluck you out of my hand. In fact, let me double that assurance! It was my Father who gave you to me as my own, and he is holding you too. No one can snatch you out of my Father’s hand. And if you ever wonder whether my Father and I are on the same page as the events of your life unfold, well, don’t worry about that, for we’ve been one from all eternity. You see, my dear lamb, nothing has filled your Father and me with greater joy from eternity than the thought of getting you – and our other sheep – safely home!”
Jesus draws the un-wholeness, suffering, and sin to himself and makes things new by the cross and empty tomb. Isn’t is neat that it is in the empty where we find our substance. The empty cross and the empty tomb we find our wholeness. When we are empty, we find our wholeness in God. We find our great need fulfilled. No more death. No more struggle to be better me because he makes me my best me in baptism.
Be what God called you to be. Be a good leader. Be a good employee, student, or child. Be a good mom and protect you children. But best of all, be a lamb. Know that you have the best shepherd who will always protect you and all his other lambs.