At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:22-30 ESV).
In this life, so many things threaten to snatch us from Jesus’ hands. From seemingly small to overwhelmingly horrific, the devil, our sinful flesh and the world make every attempt to snatch us from Jesus’ hands. False teachers prey on us, telling us to believe “hard enough” and we’ll have everything we want. They try to snatch us out of God’s hand of grace and set us once again under the curse of the law. The loss of a job and the burden of caring for our families in the face of mounting debt shakes us to our cores, threatening to snatch us out of God’s hand of provision and throw us into a world where we place our trust in money and success. The mounting stress of everyday life adds up and adds up snatching us from God’s hand of peace and throwing us into a world of anxiety. Sometimes these little things seem so successful at their ploy. And then there is the biggest threat of all: death.
Death comes in so many guises. Sometimes quietly and without warning, sometimes slowly and painfully, sometimes horrifically and unimaginably. The picture above is of a statue outside St. Laurentius (Wilhelm Loehe’s church) in Neuendettelsau. The statue is Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The German inscription reads: “Jesus said, ‘No one will take you out from my hands.’ Admonition and trust: In memory of all of the handicapped who in 1940/41 from our homes were taken.” A reference to the handicapped taken from the homes run by the deaconesses due to the “Euthanasia” laws under Adolf Hitler (this happened systematically throughout Germany) and murdered. If my boys had not been with me when I first saw this, I would have wept out loud. I almost didn’t hold it in in front of them. The impact of death was suddenly so overwhelmingly real.
Such a visual and a remembrance is almost unbearable. It cannot be fathomed how such a thing could be done. Yet death rages on all around us. Cancer and car accidents. Miscarriage and stillbirth. War and genocide. Suicide. The systematic murder of Christians takes place. The systematic murder of those who are “other” by those who have power continues. Abortion ravages the lives of innocent babies and the mothers and fathers who believe the lies abortion tells them. In times of death, in times of such horrific violence and unbearable sorrow, what can possibly be said? But those who made this statue knew what to say. Well, they knew Someone Who could say it best:
“Jesus said, ‘No one will take you out of my hands.'” The stresses of life, the doings of our sinful flesh, terror, sorrow and especially death, in whatever way it comes, may threaten to snatch us out of Jesus’ hands. But they cannot succeed. They cannot overcome the Good Shepherd, who cares for all our needs of body and soul. Death may try hard as can be. It may devour us and those we love, the weak, the strong, the young, the old. It may swallow us whole. But the Good Shepherd reaches His hands down the throat of death and snatches us back from its jaws. Not even the most evil of all enemies can truly snatch the sheep from the hands of the Shepherd. Because our Good Shepherd has gone the way of death and has returned, and He takes us with Him from death to life. On the Last Day, we and all those whom death tried so desperately to hold, will rise again and stand together and look on our Good Shepherd and live.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, when cares, worries, failures, tragedies and death threaten to snatch us from Your hands, rescue us, feed us, seek us, call us and raise us so that we may live under Your care and rise again to new life on the Last Day; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.