By Robert Halsey Pine
“If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and not one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’” (John 10:19-42, NRSV).
People search the world over looking for the meaning of life. They look in all kinds of places and in all kinds of company. These are the lost sheep that do not recognize the shepherd’s voice, for they do not belong to his sheep. They do not follow him, for they do not know him.
The Jews at the temple in Jerusalem taunted Jesus by saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” They were talking to God and did not recognize Him.
After this exchange with Jesus, John tells us, “The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” These Jews were not wanting to stone Jesus for doing good works, but because they thought it blasphemy that He claimed to be God. He told them that if He was not doing the works of His Father, then they should not believe in Him. He also told them that if they did not believe Him, they should believe the works, so that they would know that the Father is in Him.
In his letter to the Romans (11:1-12 NRSV), St. Paul instructs them that Israel has stumbled but not fallen in its rejection of Jesus. Because they have stumbled, Paul says; “Salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Paul goes on to say, “Now, if their stumbling means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean?” This new life in Christ is so forgiving and so inclusive. The more that are converted, the merrier. There is a joy in watching the blind gain their vision in Christ. Jesus instructed the faithful to go to all places in all nations to claim the good news. We are to go even to the prisons.
When I was going on my monthly visits with a group of brothers-in-Christ to a nearby state prison, we spent a couple of hours with some other brothers-in-Christ. We would sing and pray and share with a group of HIV-positive inmates. Many of these men had accepted the Lord as their savior. We “street” people for Christ got a tremendous blessing out of being with those men. God’s promise is lived out in the prison with these men. No matter where, His sheep hear His voice. He knows them and they follow Him. He gives them eternal life and they will never perish. Those that turn to Him cannot be snatched out of the Father’s hand.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.