John 10:22 – At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem.  It was winter…

Welcome back, readers! 

The first thing we want to note is that an interval of about two months elapses between verses 21 and 22 of John chapter 10.  The Feast of Tabernacles ended around October 19th and the Feast of Dedication commenced around December 20th, which is obviously during the winter season. 

Jesus was not on vacation during this time.  He continued to heal, teach, spread the good news of the kingdom of heaven and train his apostles.  Many of his acts of mercy and grace which took place during this two-month period are recorded in the other three gospels (for example, Luke chapters 10-13).  As we mentioned in our introduction, John wrote his gospel much later than Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Since these events were already recorded, there was no need to report them again. 

So… what is the Feast of Dedication? What do you know about it?

The first thing we should note is that this feast was NOT appointed by God.  It was man-made, like the two-day Feast of Purim which was instituted by Esther and Mordecai (Esther chapter 9).

The Feast of Dedication was an eight day event that celebrated the purifying of the temple after it had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC. 

As you may recall from our study of the book of Matthew, the Jews have had two permanent temples.  The first was built by Solomon, but that structure was completely destroyed when Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians. 

The second temple (much inferior to the first in size and grandeur) was built under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah (by order of Cyrus) when the captives returned to the land.  This is the temple that was desecrated by Antiochus. 

(Incidentally, it is also the temple that was completely refurbished and expanded by Herod just before the incarnation of Christ; it is the temple Jesus preached and ministered in.  Eventually, it too was destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD.) 

Historical accounts tell us that a false rumor had been circulated regarding the death of Antiochus.  When the Jews of Jerusalem rejoiced at the news of his death, Antiochus hastened to Jerusalem, killed thousands of people and sold thousands more into slavery.  As a further insult he desecrated the temple by sacrificing a sow on the altar of burnt offering.  He then ordered a broth to be made of the sow, which he sprinkled all over the temple, so that the entire structure was desecrated. 

These actions resulted in a three year suspension of all temple sacrifices.  During this time of inactivity the building fell into disrepair.

Eventually, a group of people led by Judas Maccabaeus repaired and re-consecrated the temple and restored all of the temple services.  You can read the account of this yourself in the book of I Maccabees, which is an apocryphal book. 

The apocrypha (Greek for ‘to hide away’) are books that did not make the ‘final cut’ when the canon of scripture was established because their authenticity was questioned.  They are NOT considered to be divinely inspired like the rest of scripture.  However, they are still regarded as historical accounts that are worthy of study. 

Early on, these writings were included in many versions of the bible under a separate section.  Although they were eliminated from the King James Bible used by most Protestants, these books are still included in the Catholic Bible.  They are easily accessible today to anyone who wants to read them.

Getting back to our study, we find that Jesus’ presence in the temple during the Feast of Dedication has sparked a fierce debate among scholars.  The question is this:

Was Jesus in the temple because he supported/condoned a feast instituted by man?  Or, was he there simply because there was going to be a large population of Jews in the temple for the feast and he wanted to share his message with as many as possible?  What do you think?

 John 10:23 – …and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.

The colonnade of Solomon was a portico or covered walk located on the eastern side of the temple.  It is also referred to in Acts 3:11 and Acts 5:12.  It was used more often in winter because it provided more protection from inclement weather.  

John 10:24 – So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

When the Jews ask Jesus to stop keeping them in suspense, what they are seeking is a straightforward, clear cut statement:  I am the Messiah, or, I am not the Messiah. 

Although it is easy to understand what they want, it is much more difficult to understand their motives. 

It is possible that this was a group of common Jews who were really seeking the truth.  If this was the case, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt because they were getting mixed messages about Jesus being the Messiah.

On the one hand, the Messiah was predicted/prophesied to be a type of shepherd (Isaiah 40:11, Jeremiah 31:10-11) and Jesus had clearly applied that analogy to himself. 

He also performed numerous miracles, which they considered strong evidence that he was the Messiah (John 7:31). 

But on the other hand, their trusted religious leaders put doubts into their minds.  They insisted that Jesus could not be the Messiah because he was from Galilee (John 7:52), while the true Messiah was from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

They reminded the common people that the Messiah was to be a great conquering hero and king.  As such, they expected him to be a wealthy, well connected political powerhouse from a prominent family.  Since Jesus was none of those things, the religious rulers rejected his messianic claim, and they strongly encouraged the people to do so as well.

So this group of Jews could have been genuine seekers of the truth. 

However, there is another possibility.  Remember, at this point the religious leaders have determined to kill Jesus; they are constantly looking for a way to make that happen. 

With this in mind, it is entirely possible that this group of Jews was actually acting on behalf of the Pharisees.  If they can get Jesus to make a clear statement in front of a bunch of witnesses that he is unequivocally the Messiah, they can accuse Jesus before the Roman authorities.  The leaders of Rome would be more than happy to publicly humiliate and execute anyone who claimed a position of authority under their regime.

For their part, the Pharisees would love for Rome to step in and rid them of Jesus; it would solve all of their problems and return things to normal (or so they thought)!

John 10:25-26 – Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”

Although he has not made the exact statement the Jews are seeking, Jesus HAS made it very plain that he is the Messiah: 

  • They heard him testify that God was his Father (John 5:18).
  • He referred to himself as the Son of Man, which was a known title of the Messiah (Matthew 12:8, Mark 8:31).
  • He claimed the power to forgive sin (Matthew 9:6).
  • He has fulfilled Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah (Matthew 1:22-23).
  • He has identified himself as the good shepherd and the light of the world (John 8:12, John 10:11, 14).
  • He has uncovered the secrets that lie deep within their very own hearts (Matthew 12:24-25). 

As if that were not enough, the works or miracles that Jesus performed should have given them all the evidence they needed:

Matthew 11:3-5 – And (the disciples of John) said unto him, Are you he that should come, or do we look for another?  Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

After this statement by Jesus, the disciples of John turned and began to follow Christ instead, because they recognized him as Messiah.   

Thus, we find that the words of Jesus are true – those who have ‘ears to hear’ and ‘eyes to see’ spiritual things, have no difficulty at all in identifying him as the Messiah. 

But those who persist in unbelief, purposely blinding themselves to the truth and maliciously resisting the will of God, continue in unbelief in spite of all the overwhelming and clear evidence to the contrary.  Their unbelief is not due to insufficient evidence of the mission of Jesus, but rather to the hardness of their own hearts. 

John 10:27 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

By contrast, true believers have an amazing relationship with Jesus. 

Once they believe in him, they have the ability to hear his voice.  How astonishing is that?  God is still speaking in this generation and he is speaking to you!  He speaks through his word, through dreams or visions, with an audible voice or he impresses his will upon your mind/heart through Holy Spirit.

For our part, we have the assurance that Jesus knows each one of us personally (II Timothy 2:19).  You are not just a ‘number’ to Christ.  You are a special, individually created masterpiece.  God breathed the breath of life into you.  He knew the number of your days before you were ever born.  He knows the number of hairs on your head right at this moment.  He prepared good works in advance for you to do and he will reward you for doing them.  In fact, he has a victorious master plan for your entire life. 

He knows how far you have progressed spiritually; he will allow temptation into your life for your growth, but he will never allow you to be tempted above your ability to resist (I Corinthians 10:13). 

He stretches your faith with trials so you can trust him in more and greater ways, which in turn enriches your relationship with him.  All of these trials work together for your good and his glory (Romans 8:28). 

He walks right beside you through your suffering and your joys.  He never leaves nor forsakes you.  He is standing by, ready to give you the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness.  He invites you into his presence through worship and the communion elements.  He heals, protects and provides for each one of his sheep – including you!        

John 10:28-29 – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

The amazing relationship that we have with Christ makes it easy to follow him.  Once we hear him speaking to us, it is our natural inclination to obey his word.  Because we love him, we desire to please him. 

In addition to following his voice, we also follow his example.  Jesus came to earth and displayed meekness, patience, love, forgiveness and universal goodness.  As his sheep, we seek to do the same.  One of the greatest examples Jesus gave us was that of constant persevering prayer.  Do you belong to Christ?  One way to answer that question is to look at your prayer life!      

To those who follow him, Jesus grants the greatest gift of all – eternal life with the Father, Son and Spirit.  Interestingly, the verb ‘give’ in this verse is present tense, not future.  In other words, the life that Jesus gives us is already at work in us.  We are not waiting for a promised future existence; we are spiritually alive right now, because we are in communion with the Spirit, and this life will go on without end even after our physical body dies.      

Furthermore, Jesus gives us the utmost assurance and certainty that our salvation is guaranteed forever.  Jesus is the guardian of our salvation; it is in his hand.

II Timothy 1:12 – …for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

And if that were not enough, our salvation is also guarded by the power of the Father.  This means that our salvation is no less certain than the invincible power of God!  Hallelujah!

No matter what happens in this world, Jesus will one day come again and receive us unto himself that where he is, we may be also (John 14:1-3).

John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.”

The English language does not capture the full meaning of this statement by Jesus. 

A more literal translation would be “we (two persons) are one thing” or of the same substance and essence.  The exact ‘thing’ is determined by the context of the passage.   

Certainly, Jesus and the Father are the same in authority, will and love for the sheep.  But in this particular case, the context of the passage speaks about power – specifically the power to secure and preserve the salvation of the believer (sheep). 

Jesus just declared that no one (neither man nor demon) could snatch one of the sheep out of the hand of his Father, because the Father is greater in power than any other.  In the same breath, Jesus declares that he posses the exact same power; no one can take a sheep from his hand either. 

The implication of this statement was not lost on the Jews!  They immediately understood Jesus to mean that he was of the same substance and essence as God and possessed the same power and authority.  In other words, Jesus was declaring himself equal with Father God.

John 10:31 – The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

The Jews fully understood that Jesus was declaring himself to be divine and thus equal with God.  They considered this to be blasphemy.  The Law was very clear that the penalty for this crime was stoning (Leviticus 24:16).   So, in a fit of rage they left the portico to gather heavy stones in order to kill him. 

Their actions once again reveal the stubborn wickedness of their hearts.  It is true that the law mandated stoning for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).  However, this punishment required that the defendant be judicially tried and judged first.  But these Jews were so full of anger and hate towards Jesus, they ignored the trial and moved straight to the death penalty!   

The absurdity of the situation seems to have escaped them – they insolently demanded that Jesus tell them plainly if he was the Messiah.  But when he does, they condemn him on the spot!       

We can’t help but notice that John says they are doing this ‘again’.  That’s because they attempted to kill Jesus just a couple of months earlier, at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 8:59).  At that time, Jesus slipped away from them.  This time, as they went outside the temple area to find stones, Jesus begins to question them and (as we will examine next time) this diffuses the situation.

It has been noted that evil people are full of fury in opposing the truth, while Christians are reluctant to defend it.  May we never be like that!

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In today’s post we talked about the Feast of Dedication which was a celebration of the restoration of the temple.  Until the temple was restored, the people were unable to commune with God by offering sacrifices or participating in worship.  They went three full years without access to the temple.  How tragic that they were separated from God during that time!

But that is something that we don’t need to fear, because under the gospel dispensation (the age of grace), each one of us is the temple of God, because Holy Spirit lives inside us!

1 Corinthians 3:16 – Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Because of this relationship, the fellowship that we have with God is infinitely deeper and more intimate than anything the Jews of that day ever had.  So I encourage you to fully enjoy your relationship with him!  Spend time in his presence, and enter into praise and worship every day!

Let me offer you some relief:

Is it possible that you have neglected your relationship with God lately?  Sometimes the commitments or pleasures of this life eat up all our time and we have nothing left for Him.

If that is the case, why not have your own ‘Feast of Dedication’?  Take the initiative to clear some things off your calendar and rededicate yourself to spending time with God.  You might want to consider scheduling a specific time each day to meet and fellowship with him.  You’ll be glad you did!

Let me offer you some strength:

The world is happy to categorize humanity into one big lump.  But God never does that.  He created each one of us individually, and he knows each one of us by name.  He is well aware of every trial, temptation and difficulty that we face.  And he assures us that we don’t walk through them alone:  

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame scorch you.

If you are facing a trial today, remind yourself how much God loves you.  Remember, nothing can pluck you out of his hand!  So draw close to him and allow his strength to carry you to victory!

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