At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 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.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
Reflection – Dixie Ford
When I read stories in the Bible, especially stories in the Gospels, I like to imagine myself in the story. I wonder what I might have thought or how I might have reacted if I had been present when the story took place. I try to identify with the characters, especially, I’ll admit, the “good guy”—the one who understands Jesus, the one with impressive faith, the hero.
For example, in today’s Scripture, I would love to identify with the sheep! However, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself standing with the Jewish leaders asking, How long will you keep us in suspense, Jesus? What is going on? Are your words actually true? Are you who you claim to be or not? Tell me! And if I am willing to listen closely, I hear Jesus answering me, as he answered the Jewish leaders, I have told you everything you need to know – you just don’t believe it.
Jesus told the Jewish leaders that his works testify to who he is, but Jesus’ works were too radical and too grace-filled for the Jewish leaders to believe. Jesus did not embody their understanding of the Messiah, and their understanding was blinding them to what was right in front of them. There actually was no suspense about who Jesus was, only blindness to the work of God.
On the days when we feel less like a biblical hero and more like an ornery Pharisee, on the days when we hear ourselves asking if Jesus is really who he claims to be, on the days when Jesus isn’t behaving the way we would like for him to behave, may God give us grace to become like the sheep. May God open our eyes to God’s work within and around us. May God open our ears to recognize the voice of our Lord and strengthen our hearts to believe and follow.