John 10:22-30 helps us understand Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.

At a glance:

· Religious leaders encircle Jesus and ask him to “plainly” explain his identity

· Jesus responds that his words (which they have heard) and his works (which they have seen) are already enough, yet they do not believe

· Jesus says he and the Father (God) are one

· They respond with threats of mortal violence for blasphemy

Though John chapter 10 seems like a whole passage unto itself, this portion is a continuation of a conversation that started two months prior. Two months have passed between the prior section, which places Jesus in Jerusalem for the Festival of booths (date around October 19), and our section, which places Jesus still in Jerusalem during Hanukah (date around December 20).

Hanukah, also known as the Feast of Dedication, is a celebration of the rededication of the Temple in 167 BC. The Roman Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a sow and then polluting the Temple with its blood and broth. Perhaps the religious leaders want another Judah Maccabees to run out the Romans?

Jesus is in the Temple walking through Solomon’s Colonnade, a section on the eastern side of the Temple which was a gathering place during inclement weather. Verse 24 tells us he is then “encircled” by Jewish religious leaders who are determined to get an answer from him.

Why do you leave us hanging in suspense? Tell us plainly who you are! Jesus’ response is plain, “I’ve already told you and you don’t believe me. If you wanted to know who I am then my works speak for themselves.”

Jesus has a point. Less than two months prior, Jesus had healed a man born blind (John 9). Instead of accepting this as sufficient proof, they take exception that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. They excommunicate the man and refuse to believe Jesus is the Christ, though they cannot explain how a “sinner” like Jesus could do such a thing. Jesus is guilty of not being a Messiah to their liking.

Then, Jesus teaches what is called the Good Shepherd Discourse in John 10: 1-21. He is the Good Shepherd. Micah 5:1-9 gives us the language and imagery of the Messiah, the Sent One of God, as a Shepherd. We read,

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Jesus, picking up imagery in Micah for the Messiah applies it to himself in John 10:11 and 14. “I am the Good Shepherd,” says Jesus.

Further, Ezekiel 34 is an astounding passage which uses the imagery of God being a Shepherd throughout. God is speaking judgment against those who harm the sheep, while God promises to gather and care for the sheep. Ezekiel 34:23-24 reads, “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.”

“David” refers to one in the lineage of David, the Christ, the Messiah.

The leaders want Jesus to tell them “plainly,” yet the plain evidence is there and they will not believe. Moreover, in some cases, they have been eyewitnesses to his words and his works, yet remain unbelieving. Jesus tells the truth, “I told you and you have seen the evidence, yet you do not believe. You do not believe because you are not hearing me.”

Perhaps pointing at the crowd of disciples who were in the Colonnade with him, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” You are not my sheep because you are not hearing me and you do not follow me.

Here is the crescendo, “No one can snatch them from me for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone. No one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

As Ellicott points out, the Greek word used for “one” here is neuter, and therefore is not about “unity of person, but is about unity of essence.” What can be said about God can be said about me.

One may protest, a bit vague. It’s not. It’s very direct because his zealous listeners got the point, which we see in their response: “Once again the people picked up stones to kill him . . .for blasphemy” (John 10:31 – 33)

They understood his connection. He equates himself with God. Yet again, he told them plainly and yet they did not believe.

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