The Gospel according to John (10:22-30)
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem.
It was winter.
And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,
“How long are you going to keep us in suspense?
If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.
But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to listen for Your voice, and to know, even if I don’t see it as “plainly” spoken, that You have words that are especially for me. Let me ponder those words in my heart today. Amen.
“Tell us plainly.” How many times do we make this exact same cry out to God, due to the circumstances of our lives, particularly when we feel like a choice has been placed before us, and we don’t know where God really wants to lead us. Why can’t He just tell us what we should do? Doesn’t He love us? Of course, He does. He loves us so much that He wants us to grow and learn to trust Him more. It’s a very noble purpose, but not one that is very easy for us to comprehend or especially to accept when we are doing the growing and learning!
One job that I had that I really enjoyed was managing computer labs for the Academic Computing department at UC Riverside. One of the tasks I had was that of hiring and training students to be “lab consultants” – part time staff who were there to assist the students with their computer issues, put paper in the printers, etc. I sometimes lucked out and was able to find students who had some computer savvy already, so I didn’t need to train them much. But, there were some who had the right personality, but didn’t have as much tech know-how.
When they were just starting, I would explain how to help with this question or that problem. But, I couldn’t teach them how to handle any problem – there are just too many variables! So, I give them some guidelines and let them learn. I could stand behind them and give them the answer to the problem, but then they would never learn and grow. I couldn’t be there to speak “plainly” in every instance. I’m sure it was initially frustrating for my student lab consultants, but they did eventually learn and were able to help without my guidance or help at all.
So, what does that have to do with our Gospel today? The Jews in today’s Gospel were asking Jesus to tell them “plainly” if He was the Messiah. They wanted God to do all the heavy lifting, and just give them the answer at the back of the book. Jesus had already done a number of signs for them (walking across the water, feeding the five thousand, and so on), but they still wanted him to make it even more plain. He also spent a pretty long time (the whole sixth chapter of John’s Gospel) telling them how He was the “bread of life”. He repeated that multiple times. But, they still did not get it. It would be the same if I explained how to solve such-and-such a computer problem, but the student with the problem didn’t like the answer. It didn’t change the fact that it was the solution, it was just a solution that they did not want to accept.
Jesus was trying to show the Jews (and us) that He wasn’t an ordinary teacher or Rabbi. He was the “bread of life”, and is the one who laid down His life for the sake of all of us. We don’t necessarily like that, because it means that we have to accept that God has a plan for each of us, and that we should cooperate with that plan. We want the solution to be one that we like or that isn’t too difficult, or one that does not stand out too much. God’s solutions are not like that. God’s solutions often take us out of our comfort zones, to extend love, kindness and mercy to those we would really rather not love, be kind to, or forgive. That’s the challenge of being His follower. It may seem like He asks for too much, but He is not asking for any more than He Himself gave us.
Jesus speaks “plainly” to each of us, telling us that we are loved and forgiven and that we should go out and share that news with everyone, for that is how the world can be renewed, by each of us recognizing that we are beloved children of our loving God, brothers and sisters of Jesus the King.
Closing Prayer: Lord, help me to be Your servant today. Help me to love more like You love, to forgive like You forgive, and to be joyful, because of Your presence within me. Let me not be discouraged, but know that You will accomplish things through me, if I but cooperate with You today. Amen.
Action for the Day: Has there ever been a time that you felt that God spoke “plainly” to you? Think about that experience, and what happened after. Did you act on that experience? If you do not feel like God has spoken “plainly”, take time today to ask Him to do that, and then ask for Him to show you how to act on it!