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Soar Like Eagles #11 “I Am the Son of God!” John 10:22-42

16 May

“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter (23) and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade ‘The Jews gathered around him, saying “How long will vou keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

The origin of the Festival of Dedication lies in one of the greatest times of ordeal and heroism in Jewish history.  There was a king of Syria called Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned from 175 to 164 B.C.  He was a lover of all things Greek.  He decided that he would eliminate the Jewish religion once and for all, and introduce Greek ways and thoughts, Greek religion and gods into Palestine.  At first he tried to do so by peaceful penetration of ideas.  Some of the Jews welcomed the new ways, but most were stubbornly loyal to their ancestral faith.

It was in 170 B.C. that the deluge really came.  In that year Antiochus attacked Jerusalem.  It was said that 80,000 Jews perished, and as many were sold into slavery.  It became a capital offence to possess a copy of the law, or to circumcise a child; and mothers who did circumcise their children were crucified with their children hanging round their necks.

The Temple courts were profaned; the Temple chambers were turned into brothels; and finally Antiochus took the dreadful step of turning the great altar of the burnt-offering into an altar to Olympian Zeus, and on it proceeded to offer swine’s flesh to the pagan gods.

It was then that Judas Maccabaeus and his brother arose to fight their epic fight for freedom.  In 164 B.C. the struggle was finally won; and in that year the Temple was cleansed and purified.  The altar was rebuilt and the robes and the utensils were replaced, after three years of pollution.

It was to commemorate that purification of the Temple that the Feast of the Dedication was instituted.  Judas Maccabaeus enacted that “the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year, by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Chislew, with gladness and joy” (1 Maccabees 4:59).

For that reason the festival was sometimes called the Festival of the Dedication of the Altar, and sometimes the Memorial of the Purification of the Temple.

But as we have already seen, it had still another name.  It was often called the Festival of Lights.  There were great illuminations in the Temple; and there were also illuminations in every Jewish home.  In the window of every Jewish house there were set lights.

According to Rabbi Shammai, eight lights were set in the window, and they were reduced each day by one until on the last day only one was left burning.  According to Rabbi Hillel, one light was kindled on the first day, and one was added each day until on the last day eight were burning.  We can see these lights in the windows of every devout Jewish home to this day.

These lights had two significances.  First, they were a reminder that at the first celebrating of the festival the light of freedom had come back to Israel.  Second, they were traced back to a very old legend.  It was told that when the Temple had been purified and the great seven branched candlestick relit, only one little cruse of unpolluted oil could be found.  This cruse was still intact, and still sealed with the impress of the ring of the High Priest.

By all normal measures, there was only oil enough in that cruse to light the lamps for one single day.  But by a miracle it lasted for eight days, until new oil had been prepared according to the correct formula and had been consecrated for its sacred use.  So for eight days the lights burned in the Temple and in the homes of the people in memory of the cruse which God had made to last for eight days instead of one.

It is not without significance that it must have been very close to this time of illumination that Jesus said:  “I am the Light of the world.”  When all the lights were being kindled in memory of the freedom won to worship God in the true way, Jesus said:  “I am the Light of the world; I alone can light men into the knowledge and the presence of God.”

“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. {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. {30} I and the Father are one.””

Jesus’s answer was that he had already told them who he was.  Jesus’s two great claims had been made in private.  To the Samaritan woman he had revealed himself as the Messiah (John 4:26) and to the man born blind he had claimed to be the Son of God (John 9:37).  But there are some claims which do not need to be made in words, especially to an audience well-qualified to perceive them.

This passage shows at one and the same time the tremendous trust and the tremendous claim of Jesus.

In Jesus’ day, people had different understandings of what “the Christ” would be. If Jesus said, “Yes, I am the Christ,” He would be terribly misunderstood by the people who expected “the Christ” to be a powerful, earthly king like David or Solomon.

If He said, “No,” then He would be denying the truth about Himself.

Jesus promised three things.

(i)  He promised eternal life.  He promised that if they accepted him as Master and Lord, if they became members of his flock, all the littleness of earthly life would be gone and they would know the splendor and the magnificence of the life of God.

(ii)  He promised a life that would know no end.  Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of indestructible life.

(iii)  He promised a life that was secure.  Nothing could snatch them from his hand.  This would not mean that they would be saved from sorrow, from suffering and from death; but that in the sorest moment and the darkest hour they would still be conscious of the everlasting arms underneath and about them.  Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

He also described the nature of the true believers:

Sensitivity. They hear my voice (vs. 27)

Fellowship. I know them (vs. 27)

Obedience. They follow me (vs. 27)

Life. I gave them eternal life (vs. 28)

Assurance. They shall never perish (vs. 28)

Security. No one shall snatch them out of my hand (vs. 28)

Do these verses teach eternal security, with no possibility of “falling from grace?” The verses clearly indicate that this promise is to those who hear the voice and follow the voice.  Those who fall do so on their own volition; it is not because of any failure of the Lord nor because temptation is irresistible. Before all men is the choice of good and evil; some choose good and some choose evil.

The Jewish leaders understood clearly what He was saying: “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.””

To the Jews Jesus’s statement that he and the Father were one was blasphemy.  It was the invasion by a man of the place which belonged to God alone.  The Jewish law laid down the penalty of stoning for blasphemy.  “He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him” (Leviticus 24:16).

He told them that he had spent all his days doing lovely things, healing the sick feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowing, deeds so full of help and power and beauty that they obviously came from God.  For which of these deeds did they wish to stone him?  Their answer was that it was not for anything he had done that they wished to stone him, but for the claim he was making.

Our Lord used Psalm 82:6 to refute their accusation and halt their actions: “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 broken– {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’? {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.””

The picture in Psalm 82 is that of a court, where God has assembled the judges of the earth, to warn them that they too will one day be judged. These Jewish leaders certainly knew their own language and they knew that Jesus was speaking the truth. If God called human judges ‘gods,’ then why should they stone Him for applying the same title to Himself?

Verse 36 is critical because it gives a double affirmation of the deity of Christ:

– the Father sanctified (set apart) the Son and sent Him into the world

– Jesus states boldly that He was the Son of God (5:25)

What was their response? “Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. {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.”

This was apparently a place which would provide a safe retreat; the Jewish leaders were not likely to follow Him there. Also it was a good place to prepare for His final week of public ministry when He would lay down His life for the sheep.

The place to which Jesus went is most significant.  He went to the place where John had been accustomed to baptize, the place where he himself had been baptized.  It was there that the voice of God had come to him and assured him that he had taken the right decision and was on the right way.  There is everything to be said for a man returning every now and then to the place where he had the supreme experience of his life.

Even on the far side of Jordan the Jews came to Jesus, and they too thought of John.  They remembered that he had spoken with the words of a prophet; but had done no mighty deeds.  They saw that there was a difference between Jesus and John.  To John’s proclamation Jesus added God’s power.  John could diagnose the situation; Jesus brought the power to deal with the situation.  These Jews had looked on John as a prophet; now they saw that what John had foretold of Jesus was true, and many of them believed.

At the Jordan many people came to Him. This was an act of faith on their part. They said, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true” (10:41).

Their words implied that John had not performed any signs, in contrast to Jesus, who had performed many signs. Significantly, the special word John used for “sign” appears in verse 41 for the first time in chapter 10.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus’ miracles were called only “works,” because they had not produced faith in the hearts of those who had seen them. However, where faith in Jesus is described in verse 41, the word “sign” reappears.

The conclusion of all the events in chapter 10 is that “many believed in Him there” (10:42).  

By this point in the Gospel of John, those who believed in Jesus had come to understand that the content of true belief is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

They had also come to understand that the cost of this belief could be conflict, division, and even the threat of death. After all, we see them at the end of the chapter with a band of outcasts in the wilderness, following the One in whom they had come to believe.

Even though John presented a tough message about how costly faith can be, his message is, at the same time, one of encouragement. He wanted us to understand that we will be opposed as believers in Christ.

However, it should not surprise us or crush our spirits. Furthermore, the example of Jesus is to stand firm on the truth we believe—even when we are persecuted. His consistent response to violent opposition was to speak truth, and we should do the same.

Jesus is the Door: Have I ‘entered’ in by faith so I can be saved?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd: Have I heard His voice and trusted Him?

Jesus is the Son of God: Do I believe this and is He first in my life?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Gospel of John

 

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