One of the most well known “events” if you will that happened during these silent years is one I would like to briefly share with you this morning to serve as a background to the message for today. I apologize in advance if it comes across as a high school lecture; but it is a part of Jewish history that remains alive today and is celebrated with eight joyous days of festivity.
The date that is of significance to this account is around 175 B.C. when a king named Antiochus IV Epiphanes came into power over the Seleucid Empire. He was a vile, ruthless, corrupt and violent ruler. During his reign (175 – 164 B.C) he did many horrible atrocities around the empire. Palestine was part of this empire and he accepted bribes from a man named Jason to become the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. This went against the Jewish custom of being a descendant of the Levite tribe. His goal was to “initiate his countrymen into the Greek way of life.’” He began banning lawful institutions and introducing new customs contrary to the law. Jason had no care for temple worship or services. Many of the offerings made were to Greek gods and the money given for offerings were used to build battleships. Over time and unbeknownst to him Jason was outbid for the High Priest seat by a man named Menalaus. He was even crueler and had “the rage of a wild beast”. Over time the affairs of the High Priest’s (Jason and Menalaus) became so outrageous that Antiochus (on his way back from being defeated in Egypt) visited Jerusalem. He pillaged the temple with Melanaus as his guide by taking vessels and desecrating the Holiest of Holies by entering it. He seized Jerusalem in 167 B.C. and 40,000 were lost to death (including women and children) and 40,000 were sold as slaves. He forbid sacrifices in the Temple and erected an altar to Zeus on top of the old altar. He sent out a senator to force the Jews to abandon their customs and live no longer by the laws of God. The Temple was profaned all the more as Temple prostitutes began working and soliciting in the sacred court. Anyone who wouldn’t adapt to the ways of the Greeks was put to death. During this time many Jews became Hellenist’s (adopting Greek culture theirs and forsaking their old culture).
During this time a man named Mattathias angrily killed a Jew and a Syrian officer who had come to sacrifice on the royal altar. He called upon the zealots who wanted to take back their land to follow him and his five sons. They began using Guerilla warfare tactics and terrorizing apostates, destroyed altars and enforced Jewish law. Upon his death his son Juda(h)s Maccabeus rose to become leader and under his lead won numerous victories over Syrian forces and gained momentum. Antiochus was engaged in a larger war and had no option but to pull his troops and withdraw his decrees over Israel. In 165 B.C. Judas marched to Jerusalem, restored the Temple and re-instituted Temple worship.
The Jews commemorate this victory to this day and call itthe Feast of Dedication, Festival of lights or more commonly known as Hanukkah which falls on the 25th of Kislev (November/December). This is the Feast spoken of at the beginning of our text and thus we can begin our journey into John 10:22 – 42.
Read John 10:22 - 42
Verse 22, 23: John informs us of the time this next encounter with the Jews Jesus has. It is during the Festival of Dedication (which is around November/December). This was not a scripturally instituted Festival. It was still a relatively new or recent celebration. Jesus is walking in Solomon’s Colonnade or Portico which is a covered walkway formed by rows of columns.
Verse 24: The Jewish authorities (these usually, but not always, refer to the opponents of Jesus) approach Jesus and ask them how long he is going to keep them in suspense regarding who he is. This could also be translated in the negative sense, “How long will you annoy us?” They wanted to clear issues up so they point blank tell him, “If you are the Messiah then just tell us publicly.” One could almost imagine the authorities were waiting for Jesus’ response expecting to either rebut his claims or make charges against him. I think it is safe to say they were not truly seeking the answer.
Verse 25: Jesus does not oblige them with an open confession. Instead he says, “I have pretty much made it clear who I am through the works I do; yet you refuse to believe.” He is not talking here about a specific time or event when he publicly proclaimed yet all he has done certainly points to the fact that he is the Messiah. These works he refers to should speak for themselves. What he has done bears witness to Father and not to himself and they give pretty obvious reference to who he is.
Verses 26: His works should make it crystal clear as to whom he is but the Jews refuse or can’t believe because they are not part of his flock that he spoke of earlier in the chapter. These leaders are not called sheep that are known by the shepherd or know the shepherd’s voice. In so many ways Jesus is saying there is no way you will or can believe my claims because you are blind and you are not sheep. No amount of reason, logic, signs, wonders, or apologetics will convince these men because they are blind and not sheep of his flock.
Verses 27: His point is/was if they were of his flock then they would see who He is without actually needing to hear him say who He is. They would recognize him for who he is and would follow him.
Verse 28: Here is the promise of the Great Shepherd; sheep has received eternal (everlasting, never ceasing, life with no end) life (which begins today). The sheep will be kept secure for they will never perish (they will never die, or never be lost without a shepherd) AND no person, power or authority can snatch (pluck, carry off or seize) the sheep from the hands of the Great Shepherd. As his sheep we are safe, secure, protected and granted eternal life.
Verse 29: The Father is superior to all. He is greatest of all and He has given the sheep to Jesus and nothing can pluck or snatch the sheep from his hands. Who can steal from God? He can overpower the Almighty God? The answer is no one.
Verse 30: “I and the Father are one” Some versions say the “Father and I are one” to reflect the English style. This is definitely a declaration of oneness or equality of Father and Son. According to the New English Translation (NET), “The assertion is not that Jesus and the Father are one person, but one ‘thing’. The identity of the two persons is not what is asserted, but essential unity (unity of essence)” is what is implied. This verse (as one can imagine) has caused great controversy over it’s meaning for some time. This keeps in line with Jesus’ continual reference to being unified with the Father. Everything Jesus does is because the Father allows him. He can do nothing without the Father.
Verse 31 - 33: Regardless of what people (namely Jehovah’s Witnesses) think about the Oneness of the Father and Son the response was not positive. Jesus’ claims of being one with the Father clearly implied more than being mutually linked (like husband and wife become one or a father and a son are one because they are of the same bloodline) because the response of the Jews clearly tells us what the Jews heard Jesus saying. The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Clearly if he was making a general reference to being casually linked to the Father then the Jews were overreacting.
Jesus asks, “For what purpose or good work do you intend to stone me?” The Jews clearly heard Jesus making claims to being equal with God because they said they are not stoning him for any good work, they are stoning him for blasphemy.
Blasphemy (Greek) – Slander, speech injurious to another’s good name (in this case God), impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty. According to the collegiate dictionary blasphemy is the act of insulting or contempt or lack of reverence for God. 2. Acts of claiming the attributes of a deity. 3. Irreverence toward something considered sacred.
The charge of blasphemy according to the Jews… “You a man are claiming to be God.” Not “a god” (as the NWT translates it) as the Jehovah Witnesses like to change scripture to fit their theology not vice versa.
Verse 34: Jesus quotes part of Psalm 82:6. If you read the Psalm God makes reference to something being “gods”. Many believe “gods” refers to Israel, leaders/rulers or fallen angels. There is some uncertainty as to who God is addressing in this Psalm but it seems very likely it is Israel because in the verses to follow we see Jesus referring to himself as the son of God and in Exodus 4:21 God refers to Israel as the “firstborn son of God”. Although it is uncertain who He speaks of we can be certain he is not referring to Himself.
Verse 35 - 36: Jesus basically says, “If God called Israel gods and you do not accuse him of blasphemy then why do you marvel or get all worked up because I call myself the Son of God”?
Verse 37, 38: If the works Jesus does do not point to God, then do not believe him. BUT if I do them and they are the works of God and they cannot bring themselves to believe in Jesus then at least believe the works are from God so that they may understand the two are equal (and this will develop more in the later chapters).
Verses 39: Obviously not convincing the Jews in his statements they sought to arrest him, but he escaped and went across the Jordan to the place where John baptized.
As we have looked at the passage today a lot of information has been passed along. The question for us is, “What will we do with this information?” Will we store it in a compartment in the back of our brain and ad it to the wealth of information that our feeble minds can contain? Will we let it fly in one ear and out the other and never think about it again? Or will we take what was given and think on it, pray about it, allow it to take root in our hearts as we check it against scripture? May we either begin or continue to gain a better understanding of who Jesus is and as our Great Shepherd follow him as completely dependant sheep who entrust our very lives and beings to Him? Can we trust the Shepherd is one with the Father and all He does or has done is to point the sheep to the Father who leads us to the fold where we will receive life everlasting and receive it in abundance so we may live our lives completely and securely under the watch of our Great Shepherd, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?