Offering himself to us as our one true king, Jesus addresses us with words of demand and challenge. ‘Follow me!’ is his insistent call, one in which his authority and love carry equal weight.
In today’s passage, speaking still as our good shepherd, he adds beautiful words of assurance and promise: ‘I give (my sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand … I and my Father are one’ (see verses 28, 30).
Although, sadly, these words of Jesus were received at the time with anger and scorn (v31 onwards), throughout the centuries they have brought immense comfort and assurance to his followers, often in situations of great suffering and danger. With Jesus as our good shepherd, we are completely safe for time and eternity.
This assurance is rooted in the fact that we belong to him twice over – by creation and redemption. He has never lost anything that belongs to him, and we belong – in the fullest sense. Even death cannot take us from him or him from us.
This promise is further grounded in his relationship to his Father. Jesus’ guarantee ‘is his own unbreakable bond of love and union with the father, and the fact that the “sheep” he owns are the ones the father has given him’ (Tom Wright). Our eternal destiny rests on an immovable foundation.
The assurance is almost too wonderful to grasp and its truth for now too deep. But this is Christ’s promise to all who follow him: belonging and security, now and forever.
God of endless love
In a society where too many are lonely and lost, we thank you for the belonging in Christ to which you invite us all. In a world of deepening uncertainty and danger, we give thanks for the eternal safety which the Good Shepherd gives. Amen.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.’