John 10

John 10 finds Jesus and his disciples back in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, which is for Chanukah, celebrated in the winter around Christmas time. Understanding this feast is important to appreciate everything the Good Shepherd means. Chanukah is a celebration of the miracle of lights that happened with the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in December 165 B.C.
The story of Chanukah begins with the reign of Alexander the Great, the beginning of Greek rule over Israel. While the Israelites were allowed to maintain their Temple worship (which is a fascinating miracle provided by God through the prophecies of Daniel) the Greeks were intent on all their subjects becoming Greek in thought and deed. Hellenization meant adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks; the customs included much of their religious practices in violation of God’s Laws.
Over 100 years after Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV was the ruler of the Greek Empire. He began to oppress the Jews severely, he installed Temple priests who were not in the lineage of Aaron, false shepherds that were Hellenized and leading Israel away from God. Finally, Antiochus required a sacrifice of pigs on God’s holy altar desecrating the Temple, which was the final abomination. The leaders of Israel put aside their internal quarreling to successfully revolt against the Greek government and the Hellenization movement.
First they threw out the corrupt priests and rulers, and then set about cleansing and rededicating the Temple. There was very little oil left that was pure, not defied by the false priests to keep the Lampstand burning in the Temple. The oil in the Temple was to burn continuously, every day and night; there was only enough oil to burn for one night. Miraculously, the little oil continued to burn for eight days, long enough to make and purify new oil for the Temple.
It was the ancestors of the Pharisees, who join in this revolution to rid Israel of the Greeks and to purify and rededicate the Temple; this was very much on their minds as they encounter Jesus. The Bible reading for Chanukah is Ezekiel 34, where God condemns the false shepherds of Israel that were leading their flock astray. “You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep!” After God denounces the false shepherds, He promises to provide the true Shepherd, the Messiah, who will care for His sheep.
Jesus says, “I AM the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (11). He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. (4) I AM the Gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture (9). I AM the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep (14). No one takes my life (it) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from the Father (18).”
The Jews were very familiar with the concept that God was the Shepherd of Israel from the prophet Isaiah. “Like a shepherd he tends his flock; he gathers up the lambs with his arm; he carries them close to his heart; he leads the ewes along.” But still they refuse to believe Jesus; they demand that He “tell us plainly if you are the Christ (Messiah)”. Jesus responds with more explanations about his sheep; Jesus’ sheep listen to him, he knows them and they follow him. Jesus gives them eternal life, they will never perish and no one will snatch them from his hand. Finally ending with another clear statement; “I and the Father are one”.
Once again the Jews pick up rocks to stone Jesus to death, but this time Jesus confronts them directly. “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?” Jesus counters their charge of blasphemy by quoting Psalm 82 a clear indictment of them. They are the “gods” that “will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler” Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Jewish leaders are the “thieves and robbers”, the false and wicked shepherds of Ezekiel 34.
Jesus leaves Jerusalem again, this time he goes into the desert where his ministry began and where John the Baptist ministered. He stayed away from Jerusalem, but many people traveled out into the desert to see and hear Jesus and many believed in Jesus.

 

Memory Verse:
Jesus said to her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;” John 11:25

John 9

Lesson 9 picks up at the very end of John 8; Jesus is still in Jerusalem, still teaching in the Temple courts and the Feast of the Tabernacles is coming to an end. The Temple courts have been dramatically lit with torches reminding the Israelites sleeping outside in their booths that the God of Israel still lights the way for them. But soon the Temple lights will be extinguished and the long dark winter nights will be upon them. At this point, Jesus declares, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus continues sparring with the religious leaders in Jerusalem, who were actively challenging his testimony, attempting to trap him with religious minutia so they could discredit him and kill him. Jesus meets each challenge directly; they debate who Abraham’s true children are, Jesus says it’s not them because they are working against God’s plan and Jesus. Jesus closes out this encounter by saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” As you could imagine they didn’t react in a friendly manner, so Jesus continues, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born I AM!” Now they understood, there was no confusion now, Jesus is saying that he is deity, when he uses the “I AM” statement, “I Am that I AM” is God’s name for identifying himself to the Israelites. At this point they pick up stones to kill Jesus, but once again God protects him because the time in not right.

Chapter 9 is a continuation of the confrontations, now Jesus puts action to his declaration that “He is the light of the world”. One of the specific prophecies of the Messiah was to give sight to the blind; Jesus will now demonstrate his victory over darkness by healing a man born blind.

The Pharisees believed that if a person was suffering a disability it was because of some sin in their life, in their parents’ life or even a sin committed in the womb. So, quite naturally, when the disciples see a man who was born blind they ask Jesus, who sinned this man or his parents?

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”                                                                                   John 9:3-5, The Message

Jesus spits on the ground to make some mud, puts it on the man’s eyes, and sends him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man does just what Jesus said and arrives home seeing; soon news of the healing spreads all over Jerusalem. Is this the same man who has been blind since birth? The man testifies that it is he; the man born blind that is healed and the man they call Jesus, made mud, put it on his eye and told him to wash in Siloam. “So I went and washed and then I could see.”

The Pharisees react quickly to this news; they call the healed man in to answer their questions. Here is their reasoning, Jesus made the mud and healed the man on the Sabbath. Jesus broke their Sabbath laws thus he is a sinner and a sinner cannot perform a miraculous sign. So this man must not really have been blind since birth, then they call in his parents to answer for this miracle. They are afraid to answer, because the Pharisees have already made it known that if anyone supports Jesus they will be excommunicated. A second time the Pharisees call the man before them, demanding that he renounce Jesus and the healing. The man says, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind and now I see.” “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” At hearing this, the Pharisees heap insults on him, continuing with the logic that his previous blindness was the result of sin, “you were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”

When Jesus hears of the man’s troubles with the Pharisees, he goes looking for him. Jesus asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man doesn’t know who he is speaking to; he says tell me so I may believe in him. Jesus answers, “Now you have seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” the man believes and worshiped Jesus; John wants us to understand all the nuances of these encounters. The man born blind was judged to be “steeped in sin” and spiritually blind, while the Pharisees considered themselves sinless and spiritually enlightened. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into the world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” The Pharisees claimed spiritual sight, but their actions were evidence of spiritual blindness.

Matthew Henry makes it most clear, “None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.”

Open my eyes that I may see. Glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key. That shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for Thee, Ready, my God, Thy will to see; Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit Divine!                                                                          Clara Scott 1895

Memory Verse:

“I AM the Gate, Whoever enters through me will be saved…..I AM the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:9a,11

I and the Father are One. John 10:30