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 our recent readings, Jesus has been at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (beginning in chapter 7, with this reading). He has had extensive dialogue and confrontation with the leadership. On the last day of the Feast, they attempted to stone Him. As He passed from the temple As He passed from the temple, He met a man blind from birth whose sight He healed. The leadership questioned both the healed blind man, and later Christ Himself. In Friday's reading, Jesus spoke again about His identity, and His mission. In Saturday's reading, He taught, "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." Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, "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 fleas; 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 up 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?" My study bible says here that those who respond in faith to Christ are not merely impressed by the signs, but they perceive the holiness of His words. John's Gospel opens up our eyes, as well, to the true texture of this movement, and of faith. There are those who respond, and those who do not -- and John reveals also the divisions among the people as well as the leadership.
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. From chapter 7 up until this point, the events unfolded at the Feast of Tabernacles, an eight day autumn harvest festival, which is the Feast of the Coming Kingdom and commemorates the time Israel dwelt in tabernacles (or tents), led by Moses. Here events begin at the winter festival. The Feast of Dedication took place approximately three months after the Feast of Tabernacles (7:1-10:21). It is also known as the "Festival of Lights" (and as Hanukkah). This festival commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after the Seleucid King Epiphanes desecrated it in 167 BC (see 1 Maccabees 1-4). At this festival, says my study bible, the leaders of Israel's past were commemorated, many of whom were shepherds themselves.
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." Once again members of the religious leadership in Jerusalem surround Christ and demand to know plainly His identity. My study bible says that both what Christ told them and the works He had done have already answered their question. Only the Messiah could open the eyes of the blind (as part of prophesy) or perform the miracles that bear witness to Him. In addition, only the Messiah could speak to the hearts of people as did Christ (see 7:26, 9:21).
"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." The phrase as I said to you indicates these are the same Pharisees whom Christ addressed at the Feast of Tabernacles three months earlier (10:1-5). Jesus once again denotes the deeply personal qualities of the Son: His sheep hear His voice. He knows them, and they follow Him. He has come to give life abundantly (see Saturday's reading, above), even eternal life. And those who are His remain His; through the power of the Father, no one is able to snatch them away.
"I and My Father are one." Jesus reveals Himself as fully God. To be one means one in nature or essence. The plural verb are, my study bible points out, means two distinct Persons, but confirms at the same time a continuous unity.
Jesus reveals the unity of faith: it is a unity of persons. There are the divine Persons of the Trinity, and there are the persons who are the sheep. The sheep are dependent upon Christ and grow in Him for an abundance of life, even an eternal life. The Son and Father are two Persons, but one in essence and unity. John's Gospel gives us a picture of the growth of the understanding of the Church, and the depth of love and relationship given by Christ in His words and teaching. John also reflects the early Church's experience of the work of the Third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy the Spirit. We are given deep insights into faith and meaning. St. Paul speaks also of the unity of faith in the Letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 4:11-16), when he speaks of the Church as one body having many members, each with their own part but working as one and growing to the unity of what it means to fully mature spiritually in Christ, the true fullness of personhood. Each of these teachings gives us insight into the fullness of faith as a unified power, coming from the Father, but bringing growth to each through this depth of relatedness, of love. We read Christ's words about each sheep. In Saturday's reading (above), Jesus says of Himself as the good shepherd, that the sheep hear the voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Those who know Him and respond to His voice are each called by name; that is the true personal identity -- and He leads those who hear Him into the fullness of what that means. In today's reading, He makes clear His total unity with the Father, and His sharing in the power of the Father to hold and keep each one that is truly His. No one can break that bond. Again, in the Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says that we are led "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up i all things into Him who is the head -- Christ" (Ephesians 4:13-15). John's Gospel lays all the groundwork for this understanding, stating clearly the power of God and the work of the Son, and the relationships between Father and Son, Good Shepherd and sheep. May we be blessed with that understanding and the fullness of the faith in the knowledge of His love and truth. That is where we begin for real life and the fullness of that life.