John 10:22-23, NIV
22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was
winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in
Solomon's Colonnade.


September 27, 2011
This sounds like it should be the start of a new chapter, but in reality
it is a summation of the past few chapters.

The Feast of Dedication was a festival dating back almost two
centuries to the time of the Maccabees. It was their last national event
worthy of an annual celebration, when the Jewish people as a nation
were victors and not subjects of the more powerful nations
surrounding Israel.

John mentions several feast days throughout his gospel. It's a way
for us to count the years of Jesus' ministry. This appears to be the
last Feast of Dedication Jesus would celebrate in Jerusalem. It was
winter, and come spring, at Passover time, Jesus would again visit
Jerusalem and give up his life for his "sheep".

 

                                         John 10:24-27, NIV
24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you
keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The
miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do
not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen
to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."


September 27, 2011
Members of the Jewish community cornered Jesus at the temple
among the beautiful columns in Solomon's courtyard. They wanted to
hear it plain and clear--Are you the promised Messiah? Judging from
the answer Jesus gave them, however Jesus responded would not
have changed their minds about anything. Had Jesus told them he
was the Messiah, they wouldn't have believed him anyway.

They had other reasons for asking the question. So Jesus didn't
answer them plainly and clearly. They were probably the same people
who excommunicated the man born blind in the previous chapter
because he did believe Jesus to be the Messiah. For them to turn
around and ask Jesus this question does seem a bit odd. Likely, they
wanted Jesus to say publicly he was the Messiah promised in their
ancient scriptures. They wanted him to say it so they could turn his
words against him in their courts of law. His own words could convict
him, and justify their desires to put him to death for blasphemy.

Jesus did answer their question in his own way. Appealing to their
reason, he asked them to consider his miracles. His miracles were
the big stumbling block for those who wanted to kill Jesus. If Jesus
were not from God, how could he do such good deeds? That was their
dilemma. It gave them pause. Created doubts which they did not want
to have. Are you The Christ? My deeds testify that I am. Your unbelief
testifies that you are not one of my sheep.

There may have been a mood of suspense among the population in
general. Was he or wasn't he? Everyone wants to be on the right side.
But which was the right side?

 

                                          John 10:27-29, NIV
27 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one
can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given
them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of
my Father's hand."


September 28, 2011
In John's gospel there are two kinds of people. "Sheep" who belong to
Jesus and those who don't. There are believers and there are those
who don't believe.

What is all this business about snatching the sheep of Jesus out of
his hand? These words have led to something called the doctrine of
eternal security--once saved, always saved. My mother believed that.
She wanted desperately to believe that all five of her children who had
claimed Jesus as their savior in childhood would be forever secure in
the hands of Jesus no matter what they did throughout their adult lives.

I don't know if Jesus had that in mind when he said these "snatching"
words. More likely he was thinking about the religious leaders who
thought they could separate certain people from God by cutting them
off from the synagogue or persecuting them in other ways.

Humans have a way of forcing their will on others through fear and
threats. When that doesn't work, try torture. Jesus was telling his
listeners they could not snatch his sheep away from him using these
means, or any other means.

On the other hand, I do think people can walk away from their faith.
Jesus will not hold anyone against their will. There are many temptations
that lure a person into leaving the fold. Pain, hardships, and doubts will
also cause people to try other paths. As will spending too much time
outside the fold and not enough time with the Shepherd.

Fear, threats, torture--humans have even ascribed these methods
to God. But I don't believe that's how God keeps his "sheep" in the
sheep pen.

Jesus has already described the richness of life within the fold. He
elevated the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep as
being similar to what he experiences with the Father. Jesus invites
everyone to trust these words of his to be true. As we believe, so it
will be. Whoever believes in eternal life, shall have it. No one has the
power to tear me away from my Good Shepherd. That's what the
man said! The question is--can I accept it?

Two decades after the death of Jesus, St. Paul expressed the
strength of God's love this way: "In all these things we are more than
conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither
death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the
future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in
all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in
Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39

That sounds a lot like what Jesus said, "No one can snatch them out
of my hand." No one and no thing can separate us from the love and
care of our Good Shepherd. The security we have with Jesus is eternal.

 

                                         John 10:30-33, NIV
30 "I and the Father are one." 31 Again the Jews picked up
stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, "I have shown
you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do
you stone me?" 33 "We are not stoning you for any of these,"
replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man,
claim to be God."


September 29, 2011
When Jesus claimed to be one with the Father, that was clear. Finally
he said it. And what did he get in return. They picked up stones to stone
him. They called it blasphemy, and according to the law of Moses, that
gave them the right as a community of people in concert with each
other, to stone Jesus to death.

If Jesus just wanted to "die for our sins" a stoning would have been
less brutal than crucifixion. But the time was not right, neither was the
setting nor the circumstances.

As these protectors of the faith collected stones and held them in their
hands, Jesus continued talking. "For which of my miracles are you
stoning me?" The response--it's not what you have done, but for what
you just said. The Jewish religion was distinct throughout its history
in having one God, and not multiple ones like the religions of the people
surrounding them. For Jesus to claim to be one with God, that was
clearly outrageous. blasphemous and unacceptable. Anyone who
made such a claim deserved to die. In real time it all made sense.
A mere man can not be added to the one true God of Israel.

Historically, stoning was not uncommon. Some of their ancestors had
actually stoned prophets when they didn't like what those messengers 
had to say!

 

                                         John 10:34-36, NIV
34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, "I have
said you are gods'? 35 If he called them "gods,' to whom the word
of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broke-- 36 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'?"


September 29, 2011
Jesus had to really dig deep to get out of this one. He did what many
of us have done when we get into debates about our religion. He used
one obscure verse in scripture to prove his point.

I don't like when people do this. I think all of scripture must be seen and
understood as part of the whole. Picking out one phrase or verse can
distort the overriding message and intent of the Bible.

Jesus, when he was in dire straights and his opponents were about to
kill him, pulled one of those stunts. He singled out a line from one of
the Psalms. (The only reason I know the verse is because there's a
footnote to that effect in my study Bible.) Jesus quoted from Psalms 82,
wherein the Psalmist referred to the judges and rulers of Israel as gods.
Those who administered justice were representing God, and therefore
they could be called sons of God.

This is the argument Jesus used to save his life that day. It went like
this: If those who represented God in matters of justice could be referred
to as gods and as sons of God in holy scripture, why are you guys so
upset with me because I claim the Father in heaven set me apart for
the task given to me?

 

                                         John 10:37-39, NIV
37 "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38 But if
I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles,
that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and
I in the Father." 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped
their grasp.

 

September 29, 2011
Jesus goes on then to reason with his accusers. If you can't believe in
me because of what I say, then believe in the miracles I do. Believe in
the works of God which you see me doing. Believe that I do the works
of my Father in heaven.

You want to know who I am. Every time I perform a miracle, my deed
answers your question. I don't have to tell you, just watch what I do.

Jesus sounds like he is pleading with them to believe in order to save
their souls. You don't even have to like me or have faith in me as a
person, he told them, but please believe in the good works I do that they
are of God. If you can start there, you may be able in time to know and
realize that God and I are one.


Other Notes, no date
Here Jesus was addressing them as thoughtful, not emotional, people.
Charisma had nothing to do with this episode. Emotions are fickle,
those who followed Jesus based on their emotions could come and
go as they pleased. But those who faced Jesus on this day were
consistent in their commitment to their faith, and in their distrust toward
Jesus. Yet they were dogged with doubts about whether they were
making the right decision. Arriving at belief through the intellect is
more difficult than responding to Jesus with the emotions.

Considerations before killing someone who claims to be from God--
        If they killed him and he was not from God; great.
        If they didn't kill him and he was not from God; they would be
                 negligent, do-nothing leaders.
The other alternative was to not kill him and he was from God; no one
        knows what would have happened had they chosen that course.

The important thing that Jesus wanted people to believe is this: Jesus
was sent by God; Jesus was one with God; and God was in Jesus.
Is that what belief means in John's Gospel?

According to the gospel accounts, belief often meant believing in the
miracles, or believing that Jesus spoke with superhuman authority. His
healing miracles were a sign that he came from God, that his power to
heal came from God. Jesus wanted people to believe that, "the Father
is in me and I am in the Father." That was the very thing the Pharisees
called blasphemy and tried to kill him for.

 

                                           John 10:40-42, NIV
40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where
John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41 and
many people came to him. They said, "Though John never
performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man
was true." 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.


September 29, 2011
There's some irony in this verse. Regarding John the Baptist--he never
performed a miracle, but all he said about Jesus was true. Jesus, on
the other hand, performed many miracles, yet all that he said was
not believed to be true.

Jesus went back across the Jordan River. Back to happier times. Back
to the place made sacred by the life and preaching of his forerunner.
Jesus left the city of Jerusalem, the towns of Galilee and villages along
the way. He went to the wilderness where people would have to come
to him instead of Jesus going to them. He stopped momentarily looking
for "other sheep" and they would have to find him. Many people came;
many people believed.

Why was this? It sounds like some magic place. Maybe it's just that the
contentious ones were left behind and did not have the will to pursue
him that far. Jesus was out of their way, beyond their jurisdiction, and
they were satisfied with that. What harm could he do out there!

Are there actually places where it's easier to feel connected to God?
Easier to communicate with our Maker? You would think it would have
been at the temple in Jerusalem. But not so. John portrays Jerusalem 
as the place where people did not believe. Now out in the wilderness
where John used to preach and baptize, that's where people saw
the light and believed.

The people of Jerusalem thought they knew God through Moses and
the Prophets. Jesus said if they knew God, they would have known
him also. This was the blindness of the religious leaders, the false
shepherds of Israel.

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