Occasionally, I lose my wife. I pick up my phone and dial her number and get no response. So, I text her. Nothing. Where is she? I try a different text service; then I start blowing up her Facebook. I do everything short of asking the neighbors to go and see if she’s okay. Almost always, she has turned her ringer off and “forgotten” to turn it back on. Who does that? It’s like she’s okay with being… lost.
It’s hard to get lost in the modern world. With GPS and location services on our devices, we intentionally unplug to get lost in the silence for a few weeks out of the year. The modern world requires that we unplug, but disconnection isn’t always healthy. In the first century, you relied on connections to family for your livelihood. Children grew up connected to family, tribe, and nation in a very specific set of social relationships. These connections were reinforced through religious ties. Leaving one’s religion meant leaving one’s family and becoming disconnected… lost.
Religious leaders enforce doctrinal and ethical purity through a system of excommunication. This aspect of social control exists in just about every social group on the planet. If you wander away from the norms of a social group, they will exert various controls to bring your beliefs or actions back into line. The person who refuses to align themselves with the group eventually faces official removal from the group. In first-century Judaism, the synagogue was a local meeting place for religious instruction, fellowship and social control. The leaders of Judaism in Jerusalem, largely composed of Pharisees, decided that anyone who followed Jesus would be cast out of the synagogue; excommunicated from the religious and social life of the group.
The Pharisees in John 9 cast the healed blind man out of the synagogue, severing his ties to family, tribe, and nation. Where formerly, he could rely on charity through his family connections, now he faces a real problem. No one can help him without coming into conflict with the religious authorities. He trusted in Jesus at great cost, and so did many other first century converts to Christianity. John writes the tenth chapter as a commentary on that situation; Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Father never rejects those who trust His Divine Son. Where it really matters, your eternal destiny rests secure with the Father because you trust in Jesus. John 10:27-28 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
The blind man got disconnected from his social group because of his trust in Jesus, but he got connected to God through Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. And once you’re in His flock, you will never be lost.