Wednesday

04 January 2012

"But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." (v. 38)

Background

This passage takes place during the Festival of the Dedication, or Hanukkah, which our Jewish friends have just been celebrating, 20-28 December. It commemorates the dedication of the second temple, after liberation from a king who instigated the worship of other gods and the sacrificing of unclean animals. Judas Maccabaeus was the conquering Jewish hero who became king, and the festival marks the return to pure and holy worship. With that story in mind, how provocative is it that, just a few verses earlier, Jesus speaks about being the Good Shepherd - an allusion to Israel's king? And if that was provocative ...

Yesterday's passage focused on the intensity of devotion demanded of the Israelite people by Moses, to the one God, Yahweh, in a world of multiple 'gods'. Today we see the result of that fierce conviction, as Jesus is almost stoned for blasphemy, as he says "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30). It is not difficult to understand why this would cause controversy, or why the early Church (themselves devoted Jews, in the main) struggled for decades to find the words to describe the intimate relationship between Yahweh and Jesus.

The temple authorities were about to stone Jesus in line with the Jewish Law - particularly Leviticus 24:16. Jesus' words were never actually blasphemous (that is, to curse God); instead 'blasphemy' was the charge that seemed to hang around him when his opponents were near. It's as though Jesus' words and actions invoked the same kind of shock-to-the-core response: as if he was indeed challenging or putting himself on a level with Yahweh. Here, Jesus surprises them with a ball from left-field! In verse 34 he quotes Psalm 82:6: overall it is a plea for justice, but the verses in question have always been the subject of debate. Jesus claims that God is calling his people "gods, children of the Most High". And therefore how much more can that be said of the anointed one, the one sent by God, the one whom God is clearly working through?

Jesus points them to the work of God which he is doing, and which they can see with their own eyes. It's as if the Jewish authorities knew the scriptures, but were blinded as to how the living God might move among them. Although Christianity has always had preachers and theologians expressing the faith by word and reason, Jesus was determined that his followers, like him, be known by their fruit (see John 15:1-17). Gardeners will tell us that the fruit not only helps us identify the type of tree, but also the quality or health of the tree. The proof of Christianity has always been in the results of faith, seen in loving action, healing, prayer, self-sacrifice and generosity. It is these works that Jesus showed in abundance, and this fruit that revealed the source of everything he did and said: "the Father is in me and I am in the Father" - an intimate and fruitful relationship, at one with each other, life flowing from one to the other and bursting out in love.

To Ponder

How do you understand the relationship between God the Father and Jesus?

How can that relationship be extended to us, through Jesus?

What might happen to a church that did not put its faith or words into action?

Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Murphy

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