My granddaughters are walking or very close to walking. As they develop this new skill, I love to walk with them as they hold onto my hand. It is a joy to hold those tiny hands or feel them gripping my hand or finger so tightly as they toddle along. When I walk with them, my hands are source of security for them. And when they fall and occasionally hurt themselves, they reach up with their hands to be taken into my hands because they know that these hands will protect them. They trust those hands. But I’m not their father and, since they don’t live with me, my hands are limited since I’m not always there. Moreover, in time these hands will become weaker as I grow older. These hands are strong but they are limited.
In our passage this morning, we read of other hands, the hands of Jesus and of our heavenly Father. These are powerful hands that hold tightly on to us and provide us with unbelievable security. And they will do this forever! How good it is to know that we are in God’s hands. We continue our study of Question and Answer One of the Heidelberg Catechism today. Last week we saw that Jesus’ death and resurrection free us from the tyranny of the devil. But God doesn’t just rescue us, he also provides for us beautifully now as well. In the next section of the beautiful summary we read: “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” Let’s read John 10:22-33.
I. The requirement for our security is to believe.
The Jewish leaders had told Jesus to tell them plainly if he was the Christ or not. The problem was that no matter what Jesus said, the Jews believed Jesus would be in trouble. If he said that he was the Messiah, they wouldn’t believe him or they would expect him to organize a rebellion against the Romans. If he said that he wasn’t, they would dismiss him as a phony. Jesus tells them that he had in fact told them many times. By His words, he had told them many times that he was the One they should be expecting. And through his miracles, he had also shown them that he was the Messiah. The problem was not that he hadn’t told them, but that they had not believed.
And Jesus knows that the real reason that they hadn’t believed is that they didn’t belong to him. These Jews have not responded to these works of Jesus for they are not his sheep who hear the shepherd’s voice. Jesus had said before that only his own sheep will hear his voice. Jesus teaches very clearly that God chooses those who will be his own sheep and will respond by believing. Believing in Jesus is the key, but how does one believe? First, we must hear the voice of Jesus. That means more than just reading the Bible or listening to sermons. When Jesus calls his sheep, they not only recognize his voice; they do what he tells them to do. When Jesus calls on us to believe in him, it is more than believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin and give us eternal life. Believing in Jesus also means that we are willing to follow him and live for him in every part of our lives.
What does Jesus, the shepherd, do for us? First, Jesus says that he knows us as his sheep. There are stories where actual shepherds of flocks were blindfolded and were still able to recognize their own sheep among many others just by the sound they make. That is how well Jesus knows us individually and personally. Second, he gives us eternal life and we will never perish. The Good Shepherd loves his sheep so much that he is willing to lay down his life for us. Because Jesus died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sin, we can have the assurance that when we die, we will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus; we will never perish. And then Jesus adds one more benefit: “No one can snatch them out of my hand.” Once a person is a part of the flock, one of Jesus’ sheep, there is nothing that can take our life with the Lord away from us. This world’s evil, serious illness, the power of Satan, death itself, our own sinfulness; nothing will remove us from Jesus’ hand if God has chosen us to be one of his sheep.
That should be very comforting to us. No matter what may happen to us, our eternal salvation is secured. A few years back, a young woman attended Faith Church and she loved to occasionally go sky-diving and one day she was challenging me to try it at some point. It was tandem sky-diving and so I would be in the care of an experienced sky-diver. I agreed that the rush of the free fall and then gliding to the earth in a parachute would be a blast, but I told her that I wasn’t concerned about the falling. It was the landing I was worried about. She said, “It’s no big deal. If you make it, it’s great; and if you don’t, you see Jesus!” The point is no matter what happens, we will be in the hands of Jesus. But Jesus takes the point one step further and reassures us even more.
Jesus says the Father, who has given the sheep to Jesus, is greater than all. There are many things in this world that are very powerful. Think of the power of terrorists who destroy innocent lives. Think of the powerful arsenals and weapons of the world. Think of the power of the world’s leaders or the billionaires who control businesses. God is greater than whatever power we can imagine. And it is in the Father’s great powerful hands that we are securely held. Jesus had said that no one will snatch us out of the Father’s hands. Now Jesus says we are also in the hands of the all-powerful Father. No one is able to snatch us out of his hands either. God’s hands are too powerful to allow any force of evil or any other person to pull us out of his loving hands.
I had an uncle, a farmer, who had tremendously big powerful hands. I can still picture his huge hands as he told this story with soft-spoken pride. One time he went to a store to buy some gloves but found nothing that was big enough or strong enough to contain his hands. The clerk pointed out a pair of heavy gloves and told him that these would work fine. Uncle Gerritt told him that if he wore them, they would break. The clerk told him they wouldn’t and that he could try them on. My uncle said again that they would break, but the clerk insisted. So Uncle Gerritt put on the gloves, made a fist and every seam in the glove ripped open. He laid them down on the counter and walked out.
That is a picture of God’s powerful hands; there is nothing that is stronger or that can restrain God’s power. Others may think they are stronger than God. They may challenge God’s power, but God will ultimately flex his hand and with little effort powerfully demonstrate his great power! And if we believe in Jesus, we are held securely in those powerful hands. Why does God hold us so securely? Because no one is more important in God’s eyes than those whom he has given to Jesus. Those who believe in Jesus are very important to God. He will certainly protect and watch over what is so valuable to him. God entrusts us, his children, in the powerful care of Jesus. The result once again, is that nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hands.
IV. Jesus then assures us of our total security in one last statement.
He says, “I and the Father are one. That was the answer that the Jews were looking for from Jesus. They were asking Jesus to confirm that he was the Messiah. In this statement, Jesus tells them that not only is he the Messiah; he is God. Jesus says this to assure his followers that nothing can separate them from God’s love if they believe in him.
Now while this does say much of who Jesus is with respect to the Father, we must not lose sight of the fact that the point here is assurance. One writer imagines Jesus using his hands as he is saying this. First, Jesus, using his one hand, says that as the Good Shepherd, no one will snatch his sheep out of his hand. Then, with his other hand, he says that his Father is the most powerful of all also holds his sheep in the Father’s very powerful hands. Then Jesus concludes by saying, “Remember, I and the Father are one.” I can imagine Jesus bringing his hands together keeping the sheep in both hands in a bond so secure that nothing will ever be able to get them out.
Whether or not Jesus did this, it gives us a good picture of what Jesus means. When we are his sheep, when we believe in Jesus, there is nothing that can pull us out from God’s love. Listen again to what the Heidelberg Catechism says, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” If we believe in Jesus, if we belong to him, then we can be assured that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ. No matter what we may have to endure on earth, we can be assured that we are being held securely in God’s hands.
Now we have to realize that this does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us. We know from our own experience that bad things do happen to good people. Good Christian people are being killed and injured by terrorists. Good Christian people do get sick with cancer and other terrible diseases. Good Christian people do lose their jobs and suffer financial setbacks. Good Christian people lose loved ones in death. Good Christian people suffer unjustly and are persecuted living in this sinful world. It is hard to understand the “why” of these hard questions. But the point is that no matter what we may have to endure on earth, we can be assured that we are being held securely in God’s hands.
“I share your faith in the almighty power of God to heal and sustain us. There may be times, though, when God’s greatest miracle is not the miracle of physical healing, but the miracle of giving us strength in the face of suffering .... As I read the Bible, God’s promise is to remove all our suffering in the next life, though not necessarily in this one. In this world, we will sometimes weep, suffer and die. But in the New Jerusalem, ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away’ Revelation 2:14). I sincerely hope that if my cancer continues to grow, no one will see it as a failure of my faith in God, but that perhaps people can see me as faithful even if I die while I am still young. I do not claim to understand God’s will, but I do know that I am in God’s hands, whether in life or in death.”
God has this whole world securely in his hands. But really the most important question is this: Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? Perhaps you have been hearing Jesus calling you, but have not yet responded; please consider doing so. If you know that you are one of Jesus’ sheep, take comfort and rest securely in the hands of the Good Shepherd; he will not let you go!