“No one shall 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.” It is a portion of the Gospel that kept popping up in my head. While I tried to reflect on the entire three verses, I was drawn to this part time and time again.
Jesus’ full statement was in response to being challenged by Jewish authorities. They were looking for a definitive statement from Jesus that he was the Messiah, though not necessarily a divine Messiah, but a king that would return Israel to greatness, a second King David. What they got was an answer that is filled with references to Jesus’ divinity. From references of the voice – the Word of God incarnate, to the gift of eternal life, and most clearly, “I and the Father are one.” And just before this portion of the dialog with the authorities, Jesus states that he is the good shepherd. His use of “good” brought to mind Mark 10:18. After asking a rich man why he called Jesus good, Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone.” Even the two sentences that kept popping out imply equality between Jesus and God, as no one can snatch the sheep from Jesus’ hand or God’s hand.
But it wasn’t the aspect of equality between Jesus and God in this portion of the Gospel that intrigued me. It was the message of protection that kept coming to mind. “No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” As I thought about this, I recalled what was said early in formation, that Satan was going to try and stop us from responding positively to this calling, this vocation. I remember the session on discernment and talk of the evil spirits that were going to do their best to dissuade us from formation. I remember talking about these forces are going to constantly be trying to turn us from this calling, and could intensify in the period just before ordination. Sadly, while I remember talking about the challenges that we were going to face, I don’t remember if this verse was referenced to give us hope, to give us strength. Regardless, I will remember these words in the days and weeks and months and years ahead. Whether it is in response to challenges from evil spirits during formation or life in general, these words give me hope.
And just as Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, that he is the fulfillment of the Psalms, we see this protective nature in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Exactly what we would expect from our Good Shepherd.