Jesus continues to present the imagery of the shepherd in today’s Gospel reading from John. He presents an assurance for security and protection that is to be found for those that are in his fold when he says, “No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:28-30). How does one enter the fold of the Good Shepherd? All who hear his voice and follow him will be known by him and so be a part of his flock.
Yet, there are those that hear his voice and do not recognize the Shepherd. They do not follow him and so are not known by him, although he seeks them out. They may know about the Shepherd, have heard of him, but do not know him. Their hearts and minds are closed to Jesus. They do not believe in his miracles, his exorcisms, his teachings, and the question of those opposing him in today’s reading is, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (Jn 10:24). Jesus did just that by saying that he and the Father are one. The response for the forthright comment of Jesus is that the Jews pick up rocks to throw at him (see Jn 10:31).
Jesus offers, free of conditions, the gift of relationship with him, and his Father, to experience the love shared between them, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is completely open as to who he is, who we are, and who we can become in participation with him. Those who say no to this invitation do so for their own reasons; some being, a demand for proof, a listing of the terms and conditions on their part that need to be met first, assurances sought for and/or excuses offered. Just as Jesus invites us to freely come to him, he will only come so far as we are willing to receive him. He does not conform to us or our will. Jesus does not need us, he loves us.
Even we who have said yes, only go so far. We hedge our bets, dip our toes into the water, and maybe go in ankle deep, but not too many of us are willing to relinquish control and surrender fully all at once. We too see the promise Jesus offers, eternal life, true, but also a life of meaning and fulfillment now. A perfect life? No, there will continue to be challenges, because Jesus’ voice continues to call us to follow him to go deeper, to seek freedom from our anxieties, fears, weaknesses. He urges us to face conflicts, to be true in the midst of temptations, and to preach and stand up for the Gospel in and out of season. Through all our experiences, the ups and downs, the only assurance we often may have is to trust in Jesus.
No matter what we face today or tomorrow, we can be assured that Jesus will never let us go and no one can take us out of his hand. We can walk forward trusting, that Jesus our Good Shepherd, will be there to guide and protect us as long as we are willing to listen to his voice.