At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’
‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’
The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied,
‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’
The Jews answered,
‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’
Is it not written in your law, “ said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 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.’
Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying,
‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’
And many believed in him there.
Many years ago I knew a Christian minister who had been asked to pray for a sick person. Her brother lived in one of the villages he ministered in and she had been very sick for many years. The sister concerned lived in a nursing home due to her condition which was caused by a drug she had taken for many years damaging the sheath surrounding the nerves. This meant that she could not be still; her arms and legs were in constant motion and in turn this meant she hadn’t slept for seven years nor could she feed herself. I’m told she wanted to die but agreed to my minister friend, together with a sister of the ill woman, praying for her. My friend tells me they spent quite some time in pastoral conversation and then prayed with the laying on of hands. Of course nothing happened but on their way out the minister suddenly felt angry about the condition of this poor woman and asked to pray again. She accepted the offer. Of course still nothing happened but my friend now, mysteriously, felt peace in his heart. However two weeks or so later, he met the brother who had first begged him to pray for his ill sister. The brother told him with tears running down his cheeks that his sister was fully well. She was sleeping and feeding herself, she said she now was happy to be alive and they were taking her out into the park in a wheel chair whilst her muscles got their strength back. She hadn’t been outside in many a year. The brother also told my friend that people would begin flocking to the church he cared for as a result, but you know what? Not a single person came to the church even though the family were well known in the village.
Perhaps that’s something of what Jesus faced. Recorded here in John 10 we have our friends the Jewish religious leaders saying on the one hand “Go on then prove yourself!” And on the other hand “ It doesn’t matter what “works” you do we already know you’re not from God!” People believe what they want to believe and disbelieve what they want to disbelieve. C.S.Lewis once wrote “Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it” (God in the Dock pg 12). It was and is so often the case that the poor and the marginalised are the ones who seem to have the acutest hearing when it comes to the voice of Jesus . “My sheep hear my voice”. This was Jesus’s explanation for why the religious leaders, lay and ordained could not believe that he is “God’s Son” even though they were witnesses to the works Jesus did. Such a belief did not match their “preconceptions” even though their prophets were often called “gods” because they bore the word of God to the people. We are not immune, we too can be deafened by our preconceptions and we all have them. God longs us to hear the good news that we are God’s and “No one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand for the Father and I are one.” John here as so often, making explicit what is heavily implicit in the three other gospels.
Merciful and gracious God, may we always be attentive to your voice, whether it comes to us as a still small voice whispering in our inner being, or through a church service or a friend, or from whatever source. Thank you that in your Son, Jesus, we find our true security and our true home. We pray today for all who do not have the security of decent jobs, or homes to live in both in the UK and abroad.
We pray particularly for refugees who have risked life and limb to find a safer and better place to live only to be met with hostility in many European countries especially our own. We pray for a change of heart for the UK government , that the hearts of those in government may soften towards children and adults fleeing war, famine and persecution.
In the name of the Great Shepherd and Lover of humanity, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the East Midlands Synod.