Monday, March 18 John 10:22-24
“If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly”
The Festival of Dedication or Hanukkah, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, came three months after the Festival of Tabernacles (during which Jesus had invited all who were thirsty to come to him – John 7 – and declared himself to be the “light of the world” – John 8). It was a time of great hope, for it marked the last time Israel had been an independent nation. It celebrated the restoration and purification of the temple, particularly the altar, by Judas Maccabeus three years after its desecration by the Greek general Antiochus Epiphanes in 178BC. At this feast people hoped for new beginnings. Expectations filled the air. The people wondered, “Would God’s divine deliverer come at this time to set his people free?”
The earlier conversations and questions about Jesus are repeated here, for the people pondered and discussed continually the manner and time of the Messiah’s coming. And in this celebration of restoration and hope, facing this strange man, whom they could neither disregard nor explain, they wanted to settle the question of his identity once and for all.
You are the Messiah, Jesus, having delivered us from our sin. Amen.
Tuesday, March 19 John 10:25-30
“I told you, and you do not believe”
Jesus can only be known as the Messiah by spiritual insight, by hearing and seeing as the blind man had (in John 9), not by verbal or human proofs. He cannot answer their question in a way these religious leaders want it answered. Over and over again he has urged these people to let his works, which have been done in his Father’s name, bear witness to who he is. But they will not submit to that kind of evidence and so it is impossible for them to hear his voice and follow him. They are not his sheep.
Jesus’ sheep hear his voice and follow him. He shares his abundant and eternal life with them so they will never perish. And no enemy, however strong he may seem, can snatch any of the sheep from Jesus’ hand, because his Father, who has given the sheep to the Good Shepherd, is greater than all enemies. The mighty sign of that holding power will be Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. To be kept in Jesus’ hand is to be held by the Father’s hand, for they are One.
I belong to you, Jesus, and nothing can separate us. Amen.
Wednesday, March 20 Luke 15:1-7
“The lost sheep”
God is committed to finding the lost. Jesus deals with the contrast between this divine attitude and the temptation among religious people to ignore the lost. Here Jesus chooses the scribes and Pharisees as the foil for his comparison. They cannot believe that he is spending so much time receiving sinners and eating with them. Such table fellowship represents an absence of the separation they think “righteous” people should maintain. Jesus argues, however, that the call of God demands time be spent seeking the lost.
The shepherd goes to look for the lost animal, leaving the rest of his flock behind. The hunt is successful when he finds the sheep, not shred to bits by some wild animal, but alive and well. The shepherd rejoices at finding this valuable sheep, and he shares the joy. The shepherd calls his friends and neighbors to celebrate the recovery of the animal. Here is a picture of God’s heart and joy at the turning of one sinner back to him. Jesus searches for sinners, and heaven rejoices at their recovery.
I once was lost, Jesus, but you found me and brought me home. Amen.
Thursday, March 21 John 10:31-33
“You, a mere man, claim to be God”
Jesus’ statement in verse 30 that “The Father and I are one” describes a unity between Jesus and the Father that is neither merely a moral unity or agreement of character. Such a unity the Jews would not have treated as blasphemy, for the idea that a man could regulate his words and actions according to the will of God was the very definition of living a righteous life within Judaism. Rather, Jesus is saying that he is the means of divine revelation and salvation. He is God’s divine agent in the world, not merely a righteous man or divine spokesman.
Such statements by Jesus demand a response. In chapter 8 Jesus’ disclosure that he existed before Abraham ended in an attempt to stone him. The same thing happens here. The perceived problem is not Jesus’ miracles but his words. His opponents believe he is claiming to be God, and the Jewish law stipulated stoning for the crime of blasphemy. Here we again see irony at work in John’s gospel. In their attempt to reject Jesus and rid themselves of him, they have spoken truth about him.
I will speak truth about you, Jesus, proclaiming that you are the Son of God. Amen.
Friday, March 22 John 10:34-38
“The Father is in me, and I am in the Father”
Jesus answers those who want to stone him for claiming to be God by quoting from Psalm 82:6 in which unrighteous leaders who had given the people the Word of God were called “gods.” If unholy men who held high office were referred to as “gods” because they were vehicles for God’s message, then was it blasphemy for Jesus whom God had set apart and sent into the world to speak of himself as the Son of God?
If these Jews cannot believe in Jesus, then they should at least test the credibility of his works, accept them for what they are, and through that insight come to know that the Father has sent him, for the Father stands behind his works. Then they might come to know that the Father and the Son dwell in each other. Jesus is essentially acting as God’s “deputy,” as his saliah, which in Jewish thought meant that he had the authority of his sender. He is carefully making an open plea to these unbelieving listeners, asking for an honest investigation into his ministry.
The Father sent you, Jesus, and I have received you as my Lord and Savior. Amen.
Saturday, March 23 John 10:39-42
“He got away and left them”
The crowd again tries to arrest him, but they are not the ones who will control his fate. He escapes, and what we learned in John 7:30 and 8:20 we may apply here: Jesus’ hour had not yet come.
Jesus’ departure from Judea is a moving away from the area of conflict in Jerusalem and returning across the eastern desert near the Jordan River, where John the Baptist had worked. As such it forms a literary “bookend” that matches the John the Baptist stories at the start of the gospel. Jesus has come full circle. He has concluded his public ministry among his people, and now it is time for him to stay in the desert until his hour does come. It is winter, and in a few months he will appear in Jerusalem at Passover to be glorified as God had planned.
Meanwhile, here in the wilderness, many believed in Jesus. Jesus finds faith not among the ranks of the “religious” in the holy city of Jerusalem, but among those who must travel at some hardship to find him.
I have come to you, Jesus, and you have accepted me as your own. Amen.