The Jewish leaders have Jesus cornered on their home turf, the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus’ disciples had to be nervous. Look what happens in verse 24:
“The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly’.”
I find it interesting that the religious leaders claim that Jesus is keeping them in suspense. These religious leaders are those who believed they properly interpreted and obeyed the Scripture. They are questioning Jesus as if they are eager to learn that he is really the Christ, the Messiah, the promised savior of Israel. As if he hasn’t already given them ample evidence toward that fact. As if they hope he is the Messiah, think he probably is, and they just aren’t sure, so they want him to confirm it so they can believe in him and worship him.
As if…NO! None of that. They religious leaders feign interest, but they have an ulterior motive.
Jesus is no dummy. He knows the religious leaders really don’t believe in him. We have learned a lot from Jesus’ interaction with the religious leaders in the previous 9+ chapters of John, and he, so far, has not been one to give in to their demands. How will he answer them now? Their question is basically, “Tell us, Jesus, Yes or No…Are you the Messiah?” Look at verses 25-30.
“Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one’.”
When I was in India, one day I was on a run with my friend Paomin, and he mentioned to me a video he watched where a person from a different religion said that Jesus never claimed to be God. Paomin asked how I would respond to that person. I brought up this passage, John 10:25-30. There are other places in the Gospels where Jesus makes claims to be divine, but I think in this passage he is very, very clear. Let’s take a deeper look.
First, in verses 25-26, Jesus disagrees with the premise of the Jewish leaders’ question in verse 24. The premise of their question is that Jesus has not plainly told them that he is the Messiah. His response in verses 25-26 rebuts them in two ways. One way is when he says, “I did tell you.” The second way is when he says, “My miracles…speak for me.”
The issue of him revealing himself, Jesus says, has nothing to do with him. He has revealed himself. He both claimed to be the Messiah and acted like the Messiah was supposed to act. Instead, the issue of him revealing himself has everything to do with the religious leaders and the fact that they refuse to believe in him. They don’t believe his words, and they don’t believe his miracles. He is not what they expected or wanted. They assume their knowledge is correct, and they choose not to believe him.
Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. Lack of belief. The Jewish leaders had their hearts and minds set on a different way of understanding God and God’s work in the world. Their hearts were hard. So hard that when Jesus shows up right in front of them, they refuse to believe. That sounds like pride, doesn’t it? Like stubbornness.
The religious leaders’ coldness to Jesus freaks me out a bit. I suspect most of us believe that if Jesus showed up in our world, we would instantly recognize him and start worshiping him and following him. We imagine he would be an obviously overwhelming presence such that we simply could not ignore him or have any doubt that it is him. I mean, it’s Jesus! We would definitely know it is him. We would be overjoyed that he is with us.
Or would we? Is it possible that there is a human tendency to believe that we are absolutely correct in our understanding of God, that there is no chance that we could be wrong. Do we humans ever struggle with that kind of arrogance or pride or self-assuredness? Yes, we do. We can have a tough time living in humility. We can rebel at saying, “I might be wrong about this,” and rarely seriously wonder if we are wrong about something.
My point is that I think it is highly possible that you and I might stare Jesus in the face and say, with confidence, “You’re not Jesus, because you’re not acting like Jesus would act,” believing that we actually have the proper understanding of how Jesus would act if he were here. I think it is very possible that you and I might be the religious leaders in this story.
Hear me on this. I’m not saying that Jesus is walking around your community or mine, and we have missed him or disrespected him. I’m not saying that every single one of us is exactly like the religious leaders in this story. My guess is that most readers of this blog would self-identify as people who believe in and trust in Jesus.
What I’m saying is that I think we would do well to learn from the mistakes of the religious leaders. They weren’t evil incarnate. They were people just like you and me, people who have a predisposition to arrogance and pride. People who struggle with the kind of humility and teachability that faith in Jesus requires.
Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash