Read John 10:22-42
The second half of this chapter begins in the winter. It’s time for Hanukkah. By now we have learned that John’s style shows how Jesus used the setting as part of the teaching. It’s common for us to follow this example as we preach during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Independence Day, etc. The reason I bring this up is that we are probably fully aware of the significance of each of these holidays, but perhaps not so much with Jewish festivals.
I stopped at verse 22 when I realized I don’t know much about Hanukkah. Time for a brief aside!
What is Hanukkah?
In the Jewish religion, Hanukkah is one of the few holidays that is not instituted in the Torah. It commemorates a post-biblical event: the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek rulers of Jerusalem and the subsequent rededication of the Temple in 164 BCE. It also celebrates a miracle that accompanied this event: When the temple was rededicated, God miraculously made the one day’s worth of oil burn brightly for eight days.1
Jesus is the Good Shepherd
This is a time of celebration for the Jews. Jesus is in a familiar place, the temple courts, teaching those who surround Him and ask questions. In this case, they ask the question that many want to know.
The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” John 10:24
Jesus’ response probably surprised them.
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:25-27
Read the next verses slowly and carefully. In my imagination, Jesus articulated the words for them to ensure they understood clearly and plainly.
The shepherd imagery (as outlined above) spoke directly to the festival’s recital of the corruption of the temple priesthood, the desecration of the temple by the Greeks, and its rededication under Judas Maccabeus.2
Jesus explains that He is the answer.
I and the Father are one. John 10:30
Ok, to say they were surprised might be putting it mildly. For the Jewish opponents gathered around, these were words of blasphemy, a threat to their very existence. It’s always interesting to note that it’s not everyone around him. Some are listening.
Challenging the Scholars
Jesus then presses the challenge by citing Psalm 82, focusing on verse 6.
“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ Psalm 82:6
He goes on to try and explain in John 10:35-36:
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—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’? John 10:34-36
After reading a 9,000-word “brief” essay, complete with 53 references, on the subject by a retired professor of the New Testament, Notre Dame, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not qualified to provide much insight into the reference above.3 The primary theme is that the idea of ‘gods’ is discussed in Scripture and is therefore relevant to the discussion. Further, the prophets of old declared there is one who will come as God’s Son, the one who would be set apart by the Father. Jesus, as the Son of God, is greater than all of these ‘gods’!
Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. John 10:39
They tried to grab Jesus because they are not His sheep. They cannot understand His words. From the metaphor, they can’t even recognize His voice.
Crossing the Jordan
The subtle act of leaving the temple and crossing over the Jordan River is both symbolic and literal. Jesus leaves the temple and returns to the place where John the Baptist prepared the way for His arrival. His presence is removed from the temple courts. Think about that for a moment.
John wraps up the discussion with a report that Jesus made His way to a place where many heard the words of Jesus.
Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” John 10:40-41
After all the talk of angry crowds and threats of stoning Jesus, the chapter ends with an encouraging note:
And in that place many believed in Jesus. John 10:42
This chapter begs for a better understanding of the biblical narrative. In a lot of ways, I’m intimidated by the need to fully appreciate the Jewish perspective in order to grasp all of the meaning in the text. When I read lengthy discourses that exegete a handful over verses for multiple pages, I get the sense that I’m not worthy to write these words. But those thoughts are not from the Father and certainly not the prompting of the Spirit. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as the Helper. Holy Spirit, help me to hear Your voice and be strengthened by marvelous things You are doing in the world today.
May we all hear Your voice. May this be the place where many believe!
2Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland, David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 65365-65367). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
3Jerome H. Neyrey, SJ, ref: I said: you are gods: Psalm 82:6 and John 10