Can you hear his voice? Tuesday, 4th Week in Easter – Acts 11:19-26/ John 10:22-30
Scripture tells us that winter has set in and Jesus is in the temple at the time of the festival of dedication (or Hanukkah), three months after the feast of tabernacles. John’ Gospel is a play on words so when he says “it was winter,” it hints that there is a spiritual chill in the air.
Jesus is in the portico of Solomon, also called the “Porch of Judgment. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide and the columns were about 40 feet tall. Josephus claimed they were white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling.
It is here that the Jews (read Jewish religious authority) gather around Jesus. The preceding verses tell us that the Jews were divided after Jesus’ teaching on the good shepherd discourse. Clearly Our Lord was finger pointing at the Jewish religious establishment as the bad shepherds who abandon the flock when they were attacked by wolves. This time the division against Jesus ran so deep that some thought that he was out of his mind and had a demon. (John 10:19). “Why,” they ask “should one even listen to him.” Yet for those who had seem him heal the man born blind, they could not turn their eyes to the reality of what they saw and who he was. (John10:21)
Now that Jesus is in the temple for the festival, the Jews demand clarity from Jesus; “tell us plainly, if you are the Messiah.” This is not the first time that public opinion is divided over Jesus. In John 7:40-44 we hear that some think he is a prophet, others the Messiah. Such was divided public opinion that we are told that some wanted to arrest him.
At no point has Jesus been ambiguous; clarity has been his hallmark. Yet from the ones who cannot or rather do not want to acknowledge the reality of Jesus as the Christ, these questions keep coming up. Jesus is emphatic, “you do not believe.”
John’s gospel uses the word “to believe,” over 98 times. This accounts for a little less than half of the occurrences in the entire New Testament (241 times). In the Gospel of John, believing is not a matter of the head but in the person of Jesus Christ as Messiah. It is Jesus as Messiah that the Jews reject.
So clearly after having admitted in John 10:16 that Jesus has ‘other sheep that do not belong to THIS (Jewish) fold that he must gather.’ Jesus now declares that those who refuse to believe in him as Messiah are not his sheep (John 1026), they do not belong to him; they belong to another shepherd or another sheep fold. Note that Jesus has made every effort to win over these sheep, to convince them but it is they who ‘refuse to hear his voice’
But those who are his sheep listen to his voice and he gives them eternal life because he is the source of life. This gift of eternal life is a promise that is repeated several times in the Gospel of John. There are about 37 uses of the word life in the Gospel of John, of which about half refer to eternal life. It is this precious gift that the sheep who hear his voice receive.
Finally, in a clear and unequivocal answer to their original challenge, he tells his questioners: “The Father and I are one.” The power that the Son has is the same as the Father’s. This is not an unequivocal statement of divinity but points in that direction. And Jesus’ listeners hear it in that way.