Jesus continues to present the imagery of the shepherd in today’s Gospel reading from John. He offers the assurance of 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 who 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. 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 to the forthright comment of Jesus is that those who are closed to his answer pick up rocks to throw at him (see Jn 10:31).
Jesus offers the gift of relationship with him and his Father, to experience the love shared between them, the Holy Spirit. This offer is without condition. Jesus is open about who he is, who we are, and who we can become in participation with him. Those who say no to his invitation do so for their own reasons; a demand for proof, a listing of the terms and conditions that need to be met first, assurances sought for, and/or excuses offered, diversions, distractions, temptations, and many unique to each person. 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 to our will. Jesus does not need us, yet he loves us by willing our ultimate good.
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, let go, and surrender fully all at once. Jesus offers, eternal life, true, but also a life of meaning and fulfillment now. A perfect life? No, there will continue to be challenges, conflicts, mistakes, and mis-steps as well as Jesus’ voice continuing to call us to follow him to go into the deeper waters, to seek freedom from our anxieties, fears, and weaknesses. He urges us to face conflicts, to be disciplined in resisting temptations of apparent goods, and to risk and trust him as he has his Father.
Through all our experiences, the ups and downs, the only assurance is that we are not alone. No matter what we may 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. Each step of the journey we take, we can be confident that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will be there to guide and protect us.