Monday, September 10, 2012

I and My Father are one

Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?" Others said, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone 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 My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."

- John 10:19-30

In recent readings, Jesus has been speaking with the religious authorities after the Feast of Tabernacles. He healed a man blind from birth as He went out of the temple with His disciples. Later, the man was put out of the temple, and came to faith that Jesus was the Christ. On Saturday, we read that Jesus continued speaking with the religious leadership. He told them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." He said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."

Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?" Others said, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" The thing we understand from these verses is the division among the leadership (which is what is meant by "the Jews"). Some believe, some don't, some question. We know there are those who wish to put Him to death, and there are others who are His followers.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. John's Gospel takes us to the next feast in the religious calendar, so that Jesus is once again in Jerusalem. My study bible explains: "This encounter with the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem takes place approximately three months after the Feast of Tabernacles (ch. 7-9). The occasion of Christ's presence in Jerusalem is again a religious festival, the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), the festival of lights. This Feast commemorates the rededication of the temple to the God of Israel after the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the temple in 167 B.C. (see 1 Macc. 1-4). The leaders of Israel's past are commemorated, many of whom were literal shepherds." We remember that at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus has spoken of Himself as the light of the world, and the Good Shepherd.

And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." There are many ways in which Jesus has already clearly answered them, and many signs which also testify. These constant questions, with their hidden accusations, are meant to cover up, not to find truth.

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone 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 My Father's hand." Jesus points to His works (such as the healing of the man blind from birth, and the healing of the paralytic at an earlier festival). But Jesus' real defense here goes beyond simple proofs and even His signs. It is faith. His resting place is in His faith, in the faith that is shared by His sheep. And that's the place He goes to explain Himself. They don't understand because they are not of His fold, not given by the Father. He has said before that "He who is of God hears God's words." But they don't really want to hear, and His concern is with the sheep He is bound not to lose, but to gather: "neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." The Father, His Father, greater than all, has given them, "and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand."

"I and My Father are one." My study bible says, "Responding to their question, Jesus reveals Himself as fully God: one means one in nature. . . . The verb are indicates two Persons. They are always distinct, but united in essence, will and action." His fullness is revealed here; Jesus speaks boldly and completely about His identity to the leadership.

Jesus doesn't spare any words anymore, He doesn't pull His punches. He is out with the full truth about His identity. "I and the Father are one." This is a statement that will have strong effects, repercussions from the leadership. But He doesn't hide. He stands in the light. He reveals fully His identity. This is at a time when Israel was going through great turmoil, under the colonial leadership of the Romans. But local matters are left to local authorities: there is the temple, and there is also a king who serves Rome. It is a time of questioning. Where is the leader who will emerge? How will that leader lead Israel back to its former greatness and independence? There are all kinds of ways in which one can imagine that happening, all kinds of "leaders" who would tell people where their salvation lies. But there really is none like Jesus. He is a Messiah without an army, the Christ who leads as a single man speaking out in the temple about His identity, His relationship to the Father, and His mission. He will enter into Jerusalem on a donkey, not in a chariot. Yes, He has performed many signs. But how can such a Man lead Israel to its glory? He will be lifted up on a Cross for the whole world, where many others outside of this fold may also become people of God -- for God so loved the world. Jesus' defense of Himself doesn't exist in proofs, but rather in faith. He gathers whom He gathers for those are given by the Father. The Father is at work in us and in our hearts. Therefore we take care not to be blinded by the things that get in the way of that love, things like envy and the kind of pride that blinds us to the change we need to make to see more clearly. Let us rest in that faith, so that we may see and be known to ourselves as we are known to God, who knows the hearts of everyone.