Thursday

03 August 2017

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.” (v. 37)

Psalm: Psalm 48


Background

The writer of John's Gospel here returns to the ongoing interrogation of Jesus by the Jews, repeating some of the accusations, questions and answers that featured in previous chapters. Arguably, this passage sums up the basic conflict between Jesus and those who oppose him, and well as his response to their charges. The Jews want a direct answer to the pressing question of who Jesus is, but Jesus' reply indicates that he has been telling them all along. The only ones who can hear the answer to the question, Jesus repeats, are the sheep who recognise his voice. It is up to those asking the question to make up their minds about him.

The setting for this conversation is significant. Jesus is walking in the temple during the festival of the Dedication, a feast that commemorated the cleansing and rededication of the temple. These celebrations were associated with hopes of deliverance from those who oppressed Israel and with hopes of the blessings of the long-promised messianic age. Jesus is portrayed as appropriating this symbolism with reference to himself. There are many associations in the Gospel between Jesus and the temple and we are aware that, like the temple, Jesus now faces destruction and desecration. The passage explores the idea that Jesus and the salvation he brings are the fulfilment of these hopes and that he is the new place of God's presence. The point is underlined and expanded by Jesus' central claim that "the Father and I are one" (v. 30).

Readers are left with the sense that Jesus has said all he can in response to the questions consistently fired at him by the Jews. He refers them to his actions to testify to his words, and indicates that it is now for them to decide. Is this God's work? Are these actions only possible because they are carried out in the name (with the power and authority) of the Father? Is the glory of God revealed? Readers, too, are invited to make up their minds.


To Ponder

  • Who is Jesus? It is a question that occurs again and again during our lives, not just in the Bible? How do you respond to the question at the moment?
  • Are there particular points in your life where you have had to 'make up your mind' about Jesus? What has helped you decide?


Bible notes author: The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you