John, the Apostle and evangelist who wrote the fourth gospel, often reports what Jesus did during the various Jewish feasts that took place during His earthly ministry. He does so again in today’s passage, noting that the teaching episode recorded in John 10:22–39 occurred during the Feast of Dedication. Better known to us as Hanukkah, this feast celebrated the rededication of the Jerusalem temple in 165 BC after Judas Maccabeus led a Jewish force in expelling the Greek armies of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had defiled the sanctuary by offering pagan sacrifices there. This was the last great act of deliverance that the Jews had experienced, so the festival commemorated God’s salvation. Jesus’ words about salvation in today’s passage, therefore, reveal Him as the fulfillment of this feast.
This exchange between Jesus and the Jews began when the Jews demanded that He tell them plainly whether He was the Christ, that is, the Messiah (vv. 22–24). Their words in verse 24 are accusatory—they express the idea that Jesus was purposefully veiling His identity. However, this accusation was false. Jesus tells the crowd that He has revealed His messianic identity both in word and in deed (v. 25). This might seem strange, since throughout the Gospels we see Jesus being hesitant to declare openly to the Jews that He was the Messiah, probably because they wanted a Messiah who was only a political savior who would rescue them from Roman occupation (see, for example, Mark 8:27–30). But, our Savior’s words are not so odd in light of what He said in John 10:1–18. Jesus declared that He was the Good Shepherd, and any Jew who really wanted to know who Jesus was would have picked up His allusion to Ezekiel 34, where God promises to provide a holy son of David—the Messiah—to shepherd His people Israel. But these Jews wanted Jesus to say more, and our Lord pointed out that they refused to accept Him not because His identity was unclear but because they were not His sheep (John 10:26).
Christ’s sheep—the elect—on the other hand see in Jesus’ words and works that He is the Messiah and Savior. They heed His voice, and He saves them forever. No one can snatch them from His hand (vv. 27–29). This “no one” is universal—if we are in the hand of Christ, not even we can take ourselves from Him, for Jesus will not allow us to break free from His grasp. As Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John, “We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because He holds tightly to us.”