My Sheep Listen
4th Sunday of Easter Year C
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. John 10: 22 — 30
For some weeks we have been following the events during the seven days leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. In a few weeks we will pick up the chronological sequence again as we prepare for Ascension and Pentecost.
For two weeks, however, we pause and reflect on our Lord’s teaching about those who follow Him as His disciples: that is, we take time to reflect on the teaching given during His active ministry and recorded for the Church to study prayerfully until His Return.
In our reading for this week (officially John 10: 27 — 30) we are going to reflect briefly also on the five preceding verses to help get the picture more fully. But before that it will help us to remember some important (and wonderful) things our Lord said, as recorded earlier in chapter 10:—
● He talked about our entering his sheepfold and staying in his care.
● He said (to his disciples):—
“I am the gate for the sheep.”
“I am the good shepherd.”
“I know my sheep, and they know me.”
You can’t talk like that without your opponents eventually hearing about it. Our Lord was soon to face the consequences of sharing this sort of knowledge with His listeners.
Reflections on Our Text
“The feast of the Dedication was then taking place
in Jerusalem. It was winter.”
This festival was not one of the three original festivals dating from the time of the Exodus (Leviticus 23). It was established only in B.C.E. 165 when the Machabees won back and rededicated the Temple, profaned and desecrated by the ruthless Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Maccabees 4: 36 — 59). We can imagine the excitement of God’s people who had, under that regime, been put to death for having any portion of Scripture in their possession. For those less familiar with the description of this Dedication, we include a portion of Sacred Scripture (which some call the Apocrapha), describing the Festival to which the Gospel of St. John refers to (1 Maccabees 4: 52 — 59. N.A.B.)
52 Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the
ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev, in the year
one hundred and forty-eight,
53 they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law
on the new altar of holocausts that they had made.
54 On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles
had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated
with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals.
55 All the people prostrated themselves and adored and
praised Heaven, who had given them success.
56 For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the
altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of
deliverance and praise.
57 They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold
crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the
priests’ chambers and furnished them with doors.
58 There was great joy among the people now that the
disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.
59 Then Judas and his brothers and the entire
congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the
dedication of the altar should be observed with joy
and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight
days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.
It was not obligatory to attend the festival at Jerusalem. It was therefore, celebrated widely in Jewish homes. It became known also, therefore as the Feast of Lights, because of the lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes. Today it is generally referred to as Hanukkah (approximately 10 — 17 December each year).
There is no doubt that St John had included this great celebration in his account of the Gospel since it was understood, as with other feasts, to be fulfilled in Jesus the Son of God. As with many small details in this Gospel account, they are often very significant. If you would like to understand how this festival was fulfilled in Jesus Messiah, read: “Hanukkah: Feast of the Dedication“.
“And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the
Portico of Solomon.”
We note “it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch.” This porch was in fact a covered cloister forming the Eastern boundary of the Temple. Because of the cold, our Lord walked along the covered porches as He taught His disciples, and those who gathered out of interest.
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,
“How long are you going to keep us in suspense?
If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Now that Jesus was being acclaimed publicly all throughout Judea, the Jewish leaders thought the time opportune to have a definite declaration from Him. Never in any Jewish setting had He publicly and explicitly (i.e. in direct language) declared Himself to be the Messiah. However His opponents never gave up trying to get some material statement or action which they could bring up in their own Council, or if need be before the Roman Governor. They had been waiting their opportunity — now they had it. The Jewish authorities therefore “gathered around Him”, that is, they encircled Him. They closed in on Him so that He was cut off from His disciples. Clearly this was designed to intimidate Him and add pressure to their demands for answers.
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ (Messiah), tell us plainly.”
Verses 25 — 26
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.
But you do not believe, because you are not among my
Jesus is therefore quick to retort: “I told you and you do not believe.” He thus implies — “What do you think I’ve been doing all this time? Although my actions and language have actually been very restrained, nevertheless if you really knew the Scriptures and had been willing to see and hear, they were shouting the truth at you”.
Then comes an essential ingredient in our Lord’s teaching that He had chosen to demonstrate long before it needed to be spelled out: “The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.” In all of Jesus’ teaching and miracles to date He had been extremely careful to assure His observers that in nothing whatsoever did He speak, or judge, or witness, or act apart from His Father. There was the most perfect oneness between them. It is crucial for us to note this.
Thus, in fact, Jesus had gone much further than simply telling them that he was the Christ. He had honoured them with a conception, a revelation of the Christ infinitely beyond (and so contrary to) their low, underdeveloped expectations.
Jesus implies, therefore, “You have not just my unsupported word, but works in number and power such as no one before me has done. Haven’t you heard the people commenting: ‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more than this man has done’?”
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Jesus returned to what he had been saying in verses 4 and 14. “My sheep hear my voice“. He is, of course, talking about his disciples, not sheep. Thus he is emphasing that His followers listen in every way possible, at every opportunity, not for the sound of His voice, but to what He is saying to them. His followers therefore are clearly identifiable as constantly choosing to listen to Him, to keep their focus on what He is saying to them. There is therefore a choice, which must be made to remain attuned to the Word of God and to reject all that is contrary to His Divine Word; or be forever confused and disabled. Jesus declares that those who commit themselves to this kind of listening will indeed hear what He is truly saying; will be able to recognise such understanding as coming from Him, and will follow Him.
Despite a difficult path, they will be enabled to follow Him. How will this become a reality? Because Jesus said, “I know them,” meaning I know each one intimately. The construction of His words suggests that those who follow Him can have a similar knowledge of Him. This is the empowerment He promises.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.”
Jesus says of His sheep, “I give them eternal life.” He has already been teaching that He came to bring humanity “life to the full”, and “abundant life”. Now He goes a step further and comes out into the open with a declaration that the life He imparts is eternal, implying it is His own to give. Despite all appearances He adds, “they shall never perish; no one can (meaning will be able to) take them out of my hand”.
It is obvious to His listeners that He is referring to one who would try and take; i.e. delude, trick, mislead. It is no less than the Good Shepherd who knows His flock intimately, and who gives His life for them, who will keep them secure despite the myriad of dangers surrounding them.
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than
all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.”
Jesus repeats and enlarges the promise; “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.”
Consistently, Jesus builds into His teaching the understanding that everything He does is done in union with the Father. Again He echoes this sublime truth which surfaced in verse 25.
What is the lesson which the sheep should learn here from the True Shepherd? Not continually to boast of security, but to commend themselves to God unceasingly in such words as:
“Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you will redeem me, Lord God of truth”.
(Psalm 31: 6)
“The Father and I are one.”
Our Lord still cornered by the authorities who were tracking His progress, completes this section of His teaching, with a beautiful proclamation:
“The Father and I are one.”
Battles have been fought over the differences in the way this is interpreted. Much scholarship, even in modern times, remains in harmony with St Augustine’s maxim: “It is invariably found in Scripture that things called ‘one’ are things of the same nature.”
For those who like a theological statement, Sadler (1898) commented on verse 30 in this way:
“This, no doubt, primarily means, One in the exercise
of Almighty power in the protection of the sheep, and
therefore One in the possession of what must be the
substratum of that Almighty power, One in the Divine
Substance. The Oneness of the Son with the Father in
will, in action, in knowledge, in judgement, in the terms
in which the Lord asserts this Oneness throughout this
Gospel, can only arise from Oneness in Divine Essence,
and cannot be even thought of apart from such
Oneness of Essence: and so this is the most absolute
assertion on the part of our Lord of Oneness with
His Father in the Trinity, which can be conceived.”
Throughout this passage (and of course, beyond it) Jesus strives to demonstrate that He is totally obedient to the Father’s will. In this way He is one with the Father, fully united in mind and purpose.
Jesus is therefore the perfect model of one who listens and follows the Father’s Divine Will. Those disciples who are willing to reflect this same listening and obedience in their lives are thereby brought into that same intimacy between Father and Son who love to share it with them. Is this not one of the most beautiful gems of our Faith?
Blessed be God who loves to share Himself
intimately with the members of His Household.
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Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and
My Sheep Listen
4th Sunday after Easter Year C St. John 10: 22 — 30
1. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sheep — in our Lord’s day — were still able to hear their shepherd’s voice as distinct from every other voice, and follow when called. Jesus often referred to His disciples as “sheep” insofar as they were constantly alert, listening for Him, and when they heard, obeying instantly. This is a fundamental skill He expects of His followers who thus remain close to Him. Like all skills, it requires consistent practice. It begs the question, how can we do this? Frequent meditation on Sacred Scripture is our “mainstay” — our chief support keeping us on course.
2. The Word of God dwelling in us abundantly is the fuel which will bring light to those in darkness. Jesus said (John 9: 5), “I am the light of the world”. Our love and practice of constantly listening to the voice of our Shepherd will allow His light to shine in us and beyond us as we look for opportunities to share it with others.
3. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one”. He had explained this and demonstrated it consistently. He went out of His way to model constant listening to His Father and obeying His will. That is the key to our union with God and unity among God’s people: reflecting always the divine intimacy between the Father and the Son who love to share that with us and with all to whom we relate.
John 10: 22 — 30
4th Sunday of Easter Year C
22 The feast of the Dedication 9 was then taking place in Jerusalem.
23 10 And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you 12 and you do not believe.
26 But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.
27 My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, 13
30 The Father and I are one.”
10  Portico of Solomon: on the east side of the temple area, offering protection against the cold winds from the desert.
11  Keep us in suspense: literally, “How long will you take away our life?” Cf ⇒ John 11:48-50. If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly: cf ⇒ Luke 22:67. This is the climax of Jesus’ encounters with the Jewish authorities. There has never yet been an open confession before them.
13  The textual evidence for the first clause is very divided; it may also be translated: “As for the Father, what he has given me is greater than all,” or “My Father is greater than all, in what he has given me.”
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,