Daily Readings in John – Day Thirty-Four
November 14, 2017
John 10:22-42 (NRSV)
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41 Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
This is some way to celebrate Hanukkah! It’s Winter Solstice, and so it’s time for the Feast of Dedication, which commemorated the re-dedication of the Jerusalem temple after it was ruined by the Selucid Empire, who had placed a statue of Zeus in the temple and sacrificed pigs there. This holiday was also called the Feast of the Maccabees, after the Jews who led the revolt that recaptured the temple. Today, post-temple life, we call this holiday Hanukkah. Apparently, for Jesus and his contemporaries, it’s a perfect day for a religious dispute to turn violent!
On the surface this is a dispute about who Jesus is – Messiah (chosen ruler of God) or not, uniquely in union with God or not. Jesus says it is so: he is inside of God (whom he calls Father) and Father God is inside him – total oneness, mystical union. This is too much for some to imagine – how could that be?
For Jesus in John, it’s just the start. Later in John, Jesus will pray that his followers will go where he is and have this same experience of union with God. He drops a hint here that he’s not alone in his spirituality. Quoting Psalm 82, he says that God is in communion with lesser beings called “gods.” This short psalm utilizes an image, or rhetorical device, or theological concept – hard to say if it’s one or all of these things – called the divine council, in which God is shown in conversation with other great spiritual beings. Often these are considered to be something like angels.
Jesus is at least one of these beings, he says, so everybody should chill out when he talks about being one with God. Theologically, most followers of Jesus have elevated his god-ness even higher, to believe (as John did) that Jesus fully shares the very being and essence of God.
Perhaps even the more radical hope is that to be fully human is to participate in this life and being, without ever ceasing to be human and without ever becoming gods. Our human destiny and inheritance from Jesus is to be in perfect union and connection with God, to experience the presence and love of God fully and to do the works of God as well.
What aspect of this experience would you hope to taste and see today?