John 10: 22 – 42 Further conflict over Jesus’ claims
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered round him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’
Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you did not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 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. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’
Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’
‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’
Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, “I have said you are ‘gods’”? If he called them “gods” to whom the word of God came – and scripture cannot be set aside – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said “I am God’s Son”? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.’ Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptising in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, ‘Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.’ And in that place many believed in Jesus.
The Festival of Dedication is more usually known as Hannukah. It celebrates the restoration of temple worship after a period when Antiochus IV had defiled the temple and banned worship there. Jewish military action recaptured Jerusalem and restored temple worship. It is in the context of military action regaining Zion and the temple for the Jews that St John wants us to understand this passage.
‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’
Hannukah celebrated the rededication of the temple. The Jews of Jesus’ day longed for Israel to be free from Roman rule. Their question means, ‘Tell us whether you’re going to drive out the Romans.’
Jesus has already told them that he is the Son of God, the Messiah, (John 8: 58) and so he answers ‘I did tell you, but you did not believe… I and the Father are one.’ He points out once again, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father.’
The listeners pick up stones to stone himto stone him for blasphemy. We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’
They’re not prepared to listen at all, because Jesus doesn’t match their expectations of the Messiah. If he had been the military ruler they anticipated, his supporters could expect to share in his triumph and his power. The more devout among them could bask in the glow of renewed holiness for Zion, and vindication of their belief in themselves as God’s chosen people.
Jesus, though, is not making any effort to lead an armed insurrection against the Romans, and, perhaps worse that that, he’s making claims that strike right at the source of the authority of the chief priests and Pharisees. He’s claiming to have privileged communication with God.
They misunderstood Jesus’ mission and message, and refused to accept them, despite repeated teaching by Jesus, and despite the signs that Jesus did as proof that he did the will of the Father.
And what were these signs? So far in his gospel St John has listed these:
- Changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana
- Prophesied to a Samaritan woman about her history
- Prophesied his own death and resurrection
- Healed the son of a royal official
- Healed a man disabled for 38 years
- Fed 5000 people on 5 loaves and 2 fish
- Walked on water
- Healed a man born blind
I am frequently tempted to choose my actions based on how I perceive my self-interest. I am frequently tempted to want to believe the theology that appeals to me. These are the sins of the chief priests and the Pharisees.
There are two things I must do when faced with these temptations; I must look at the signs Jesus did, and I must seek with all my heart to follow him. I must be ready to be obedient.
Thank you for Jesus, and thank you for the record of his life in St John’s gospel. Please help me to follow him more closely every day.
In Jesus name, Amen