Thursday, April 15, 2021

The People Still Debating About Jesus (John 10:19-21)

 Jesus definitely stirred people up in this conversation. Again, it is hard to come away with the idea that Jesus is just a good moral teacher. People giving self-help advice don't claim to be God, if they want to be taken seriously.

On the other hand, in order to take the claims of Jesus and St. John the most seriously, in a way, we have to take Jesus's sharpest critics seriously as well. What would it mean, if Jesus were wrong about himself? What would it mean, if St. John and all the other Gospel writers and disciples of Jesus were mistaken?

And yet, it seems pretty hard to account for the good that Jesus is doing. No one in this audience would seriously consider atheism as an option, so the choices were: 1. Believe in Jesus, and accept everything that he has said about himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit; or 2. Believe what had been revealed to the Israelites until Jesus came.

Given this background, we can see why people find it hard to believe that a demon could open the eyes of a blind man. Satan can only impersonate goodness, and the consolations of God. A bona fide miracle like this one invites us to seek out whether God has done it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Jesus Speaks Again (John 10:7-18)

 Jesus intends to speak authoritatively again, and then he says, "I am the door of the sheep." A door is something that you go through to get to somewhere else. Through Jesus, we find peace and well-being. What does Jesus mean, when he says that all who came before him were thieves and robbers? He is obviously not talking about the patriarchs or the prophets. Jesus is aware that many so-called "anointed ones" had come, promising to lead the people out of bondage to the foreign rulers. Even a couple of his own apostles had been armed militants in that cause. But military victory and political freedom is not what Jesus came to bring. When it comes to the deepest desires, and the deepest needs, none of those others, with their bold promises, will ever come through.

The special relationship that Jesus has with the Father is now one that we can have with Jesus, and with the Father! The Father and the Son are family, and we can be in the family of God as well. Then Jesus says that he will lay down his life for the sheep, which means he will die for you and me. He seems to say that he has more sheep than just those in Israel, and that he must bring them, also. In the end, this makes a lot of sense, because we are hearing this message. We are hearing this message and have a chance to receive it, because the apostles obeyed Jesus, and have gone to the ends of the earth. (See Matthew 28:19-20) The willingness of Jesus to lay down his life for us, the sheep, is most pleasing to the Father. Even though what was done to Jesus was a great injustice, it was not a surprise to the Father, or somehow outside of His plan. Jesus submits willingly to this plan, even knowing what it means for him. And he knows it better--in terms of how much suffering there will be--than we can ever imagine. The words of Joseph to his brothers (see Genesis 50:20) are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.

We should all pray for the courage to draw close to Jesus, and to each other, because he is the one shepherd of the one flock.

The Door and the Shepherd (John 10:1-6)

 Jesus starts this section with, "Truly, truly, I say to you," which is a way to introduce new, authoritative teaching. We have to use our imaginations, to think about a thief or a robber, and the way he or she might come in to try to steal the sheep, or even to kill them.

Who is the gatekeeper? I would suggest it's most likely the Father. Then the shepherd goes ahead of the sheep, and leads them where he wants them to go. It's a key part of this analogy, or this "figure," as St. John calls it, that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. We could possibly imagine someone who looks like the shepherd of a particular herd of sheep, and who has the mannerisms of that shepherd, could possibly trick the sheep. But Jesus is saying that his sheep will know his voice, and they will follow only him. When we believe in Jesus, when we trust in Him, we become the sheep of his pasture.

Jesus and St. John both know that their audience knows Psalm 23, and I'll just put it here, in full, for your consideration as you read along.

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for ever.