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John 10_22-30

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TITLE:  Safe in God's Hand    SCRIPTURE:  John 10:22-30

   

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is in the Jerusalem temple.  His enemies are there.  The irony is that the Holy City is where Jesus faced his greatest opposition.  In this instance, Jesus' enemies are trying to trap him.  They say, "How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

But they aren't asking those questions so that they can become Jesus' disciples.  They're trying to get him to say something that they can use against him.  They're trying to trap him.

But Jesus isn't about to fall into their trap.  He says:

      "I have told you, and you do not believe.

      The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me."

Now let me stop just a moment and repeat that last line.  Jesus said:

      "The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me."

These enemies of Jesus have just seen him heal a blind man, but that didn't impress them.  They don't want to admit that Jesus is anyone special, so they refuse to believe.  But Jesus continues.  He says:

      "You do not believe, because 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."

Now let me stop again.  Do you know who Jesus was talking about there?  He was talking about you.  He was talking about me.  He was talking about everyone who believes in him.  He said:

      "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."

I find that very comforting.  Jesus says that we are his sheep.  He knows us.  He gives us eternal life.  We will never perish.  No one will ever snatch us out of his hand.

I find that very comforting –– and I am glad to be comforted, because we live in an uncomfortable world. I find so many things to worry about –– wars and rumors of war –– global warming –– crime –– violence. 

Some of the things that I worry about are more personal.  Will I have enough money to pay the bills?  Will I get sick?  Will I live to see my grand-children grown?  Will they manage to find their way safely through the minefields of adolescence?  But I find it comforting to hear Jesus say:

      "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."

He is talking about me.  He is talking about you.  He says:

 

      "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

But I should mention that Jesus did not mean that Christians would never suffer.  Our Gospel lesson this morning came from the Gospel of John, which was written late in the first century.  By the time it was written, Christians had experienced persecution.  Christians had been thrown to the lions in the Coliseum.  They had been crucified.  The person who wrote the Gospel of John knew that.  And still he reported Jesus' words: 

      "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

That is Jesus' promise that in life and in death we belong to him.  In life and in death we are his.  In life and in death we can count on him to be there to act as our shepherd –– to show us the way –– to help us.  Jesus says:

      "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

Many of you know what that means.  You have experienced it.  You have been through life and death struggles, and you have found Jesus walking along beside you –– guiding you –– showing the way –– helping you –– comforting you –– strengthening you.

But others of you have not experienced anything like that.  Recent years have been good.  The economy has been strong.  Just about anyone who wants a job can find one. 

Many people today are doing better financially than they ever imagined they would.  McMansions are popping up in farmers' fields.  We see fifty thousand dollar SUVs pulling fifty thousand dollar boats.  People spend a hundred dollars to fill the tank of their SUV and another hundred to fill the tank of their boat so they can have a little fun on the weekend.  I am amazed at how easy some people seem to have it. 

If you are enjoying that kind of prosperity, I respect the fact that you are here this morning.  I respect the fact that you understand that there is something more to life than money.  I respect the fact that you are trying to nurture your spiritual roots.  I respect the fact that you have made time to worship God. 

What you are doing here is important.  It will help you grow in faith.  Your presence here will strengthen you so that when times get tough you will be ready.  You will know Jesus.  You will know that he has said:

      "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

While I was preparing for this sermon, I came upon two stories that I would like to share with you.  They are both stories about fathers coping with the illness or death of their daughters.  Both fathers are Christians.  Both stories are true. 

The first father is John Claypool. Some years ago, his daughter's pediatrician called and asked him to come to the office.  When Claypool got there, the doctor showed him a slide taken from a sample of his daughter's blood.  Claypool wasn't a doctor, but he could see that something was wrong.  The something was leukemia.  It was many years ago.  At that time, there weren't many answers for leukemia.

Claypool was stunned.  As he looked back on it later, he remembered thinking:

      "I don't think I can stand to see this little one suffer

      the way I know leukemia patients often have to."

And he also remembered thinking, "I don't believe I can survive if she should die."

That was the beginning of an eighteen month walk through the valley of the shadow of death for John Claypool –– and his family –– and his daughter.  That journey ended with the death of his daughter.  Later, looking back on that journey Claypool wrote:

      "I don't know how we were able to survive,

      but the truth is we did....

      All I know is:  The Lord did provide as he promised

      and coming to trust in him is enormously encouraging to me

      as I face the future."

Jesus says, "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

The second father is Zig Ziglar.  You may have heard of him.  Ziglar writes devotional books.  He, too, experienced a daughter's death –– a grown daughter –– a married daughter.  He says, "The longest 24 hours of my life were those after my daughter's death."  He tells about a funeral home salesman "who was an incessant talker and who told us 30 times he wasn't a salesman."  Periodically Ziglar just had to leave the room.  He just couldn't take that guy.

He tells about tossing and turning in bed thinking that his daughter "was wondering when her daddy was going to come get her."  That morning he took a walk, praying and crying the whole way.  But then, when he returned, the Lord spoke to him.  The Lord said:

      "She's fine. 

      She's with me.

      And you're going to be fine, too.

      I'm all you need.

      You just keep walking.

      Keep talking.

      Keep praying.

      Keep crying."

Jesus says, "No one will snatch them out of my hand."

There is an old Irish blessing that I would like to share with you.  It's a lovely thing.  It goes like this:

      May the road rise to meet you.

      May the wind be always at your back.

      May the sun shine warm upon your face.

      May the rains fall softly upon your fields.

      Until we meet again,

      may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

What I am trying to say this morning is that I cannot promise that the road will always rise to meet you.  I cannot promise that the wind will be always at your back.  I cannot promise that the sun will always shine warm upon your face.  I cannot promise that the rains will always fall softly upon your fields.

But I can promise that, as you walk in faith, God will always hold you in the hollow of his hand. 

Amen.

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