Held in Jesus’ Strong Grip – John 10:28
By: Northern Seminary
I’m not usually keen on one-verse Bible studies, for so often understanding comes only when the wider context is taken into account. But there are moments when a verse, or even a phrase, gives rich food for thought and deep comfort to the soul. That’s what I’m aiming for with this study.
We begin with the story of one of my many accidents when I was a child. I was about eleven, and with my parents and my brother in a large park about seven miles from home. It had been raining earlier but had brightened up enough that we were exploring every part of this large and beautiful country park. I started to run back to my parents, and the grass dipped down as it came towards a gravel path. My foot slipped on the wet grass of the down slope, and at full speed I crashed to the ground onto the path. My left knee took the impact.
My mom and dad saw me fall. They rushed over, picked me up and looked at the damage. I had several scrapes, but the only serious injury was to my knee. Blood was pouring from a gaping wound about three inches long. Worse, it was obvious that small stones and dirt were embedded deeply into the hole in my knee.
I remember Mom and Dad got a cup of hot water and paper towels from a café, but they soon realized they couldn’t fix me up like that. Besides, they understood enough medicine to realize that the stones and dirt embedded into my knee could lead to a dangerous infection. So they half-carried me the half mile or so back to our car, and then drove the seven miles home as fast as they could.
When we got there I stripped off, climbed into a bath of warm water and my mother poured a very generous amount of antiseptic into the water. I think I smelled of antiseptic for days, but the bathing in warm water did help clean out the wound. I was also taken to our doctor who gave me antibiotics to prevent more infection.
At some point my mom asked: “Why did you fall like that onto the gravel path? Why didn’t you put down your hands to save yourself?”
I smiled in a slightly guilty way, and hobbled over to pick up my pride and joy, the Kodak Instamatic camera I’d been given for my birthday. “I was holding my new camera,” I said, “and I didn’t care what happened to me but I wasn’t letting go of that.”
Jesus made a much more serious and wonderful promise about not letting go in John 10:28.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My focus in this study is on the second half of that verse, Jesus’ promise to hold on to everyone who is his.
But why? Why would Jesus do that? Why will he never let go?
The first answer is because we matter so much.
I saved a camera because it was precious to me. It was my first proper camera, and its importance was well beyond its monetary value, so I had made sure it didn’t get crushed when I fell.
But of course people are more precious than things. During the main address at a recent Northern Seminary Commencement Service, the four hundred people in the hall heard a loud scream from just outside the doors, and suddenly people were running through the entrance hall towards a flight of stairs. We stopped the ceremony for a few minutes while others went to give assistance. Later we found out what had happened.
A mother with her small baby had stepped out of the hall, and begun to go down the stairs to the ladies room. But she’d caught her foot on a step and fallen forward down the stairs. That’s when she screamed. Those who rushed to her were especially concerned for the baby who was only a few weeks old and could easily have been crushed. But that mom’s instincts saved the baby, because as soon as she began to fall she’d twisted round, held her baby tight, and allowed her body to absorb the impact. Apart from being upset, the baby was absolutely fine. Happily the mom needed only minor treatment.
Here is a simple and obvious truth: Whatever or whoever you love, you hold on to.
God does that. Paul wrote this:
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32)
God has so loved us he gave up his Son Jesus so he could have us, and now he continues to supply all we need.
God has patience – he doesn’t give up on us.
God has kindness – he does not will that we should fail.
God has grace – he does not give us what we deserve.
The TV series Downton Abbey is the story of an aristocratic family in England gradually adapting to changing times in the first half of the twentieth century.
In Series 5, part of the drama involves one of the servants confessing to the countess that she’s done very bad things in her past. (I won’t get specific so I don’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the program.) Because what’s in the servant’s past is so serious, the automatic action for the countess is to fire her. But will that happen? What will the Countess do!?
Our sins should automatically mean we’re shut out forever from God’s presence. And many struggle to believe God could ever forgive their sins, and especially the sins that we can’t shake off.
Here is good news for you. God has always known your past, and he knows what you struggle with today, and he even knows every sin you’ll commit in the future, and he still loves you.
Here his word to you now: I give you eternal life, and you will never perish; no one and nothing will snatch you out of my hand.
The second reason Jesus will never let go of us is because he’s powerful, and no-one can take us away from him.
John 10:28 isn’t actually about Jesus dropping us. What he says is: “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” No one can take away his disciple.
Who or what would have done that?
- It could have been the hostile Jews. They were threatening to Jesus and eventually murderous.
- It could have been temptations of many kinds. Judas took money to betray Jesus.
- It could have been weariness or fear. It happened with Elijah. Just after he saw God win a great victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah ran away into the desert and prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19:1-5).
Certainly there are not good outcomes for every person who hears and even seems to receive the word of God. Jesus’ parable of the sower highlights many dangers of seed that never grows. People can be lured by Satan, trouble, temptation, the worries of this life, the riches of this world (Mark 4:1-20).
It would be naïve to imagine no one ever gives up on Christian faith. Theologians debate subjects like eternal security, and some hold that no one truly saved could ever fall away, while others think turning back is possible. This Bible Study is not the time to take on a subject that whole books can’t cover comprehensively.
But this I know: the emphasis of Scripture is that we may rest safe in the arms of our God.
The old hymn “Standing on the Promises of Christ my King” has these words in verses 2 and 3:
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
standing on the promises of God.
So Jesus’ word to you is this: There is no person or problem, and there is no sin or circumstance, that has more power to drag you away from Christ than he has power to hold on to you. That sentence is worth reading several times.
That is true today, as it will be tomorrow and for all eternity.
- Jesus loves you – you matter so much he will never let go.
- Jesus has all power, and we may rest safely in his arms.
At a swimming pool I watched a father with his young son in his arms. The little boy – probably only about two years of age – was holding on very tight round Dad’s neck.
But Dad was being mischievous, bobbing up and down in the water and taking step after step away from the shallow end into deeper water. Every time he bent down, he said: “Deeper.” Another step: “Deeper.” Again: “Deeper.”
The little lad’s face looked more and more frightened, and he grabbed tighter and tighter round his dad’s neck.
That father should not have been frightening his child, but two things were always true. One was that he would never have let go of his boy. The child was completely safe in his father’s arms. The other truth? That boy was so small he couldn’t have stood up on his own even in the shallow end. It really didn’t matter that he was going into deeper water because he needed his father to hold him wherever he was in that pool.
Those truths apply to us too.
- God holds us, and he will never let go. He will not drop us, nor allow anyone to take us.
- There is never a time when we don’t need God. Maybe we’ve thought we could cope when things were going well, but it wasn’t true. Whether we were in the shallow or deep waters of life we have always been held and we’d have been lost without God’s gracious and caring grasp on our lives.
Jesus gives you eternal life, and nothing and no one can wrestle you from his loving hands.
Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instamatic