22 ¶ And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.
24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
The Feast of the Dedication commemorates the episode in Jewish history, as recorded in Maccabees, when, in the year 165 BC, after he had liberated Jerusalem from the control of the Seleucid kings of Syria, Judas Maccabeus cleansed the Temple of the profanations of Antiochus Epiphanes. Falling toward the end of the year, it is also known as the Festival of Lights, because it was the custom to place lamps, signifying the Law, in the windows of houses.
The Jews ask Christ if he is the Messiah, but it is not an honest question seeking to find the truth. Jesus has already spoken truthfully to the people, and he has given them signs of his divinity, performed in his Father’s name.
We remember that in John’s Gospel the word ‘Jews’ is often synonymous with the authorities in the Temple, the scribes, the chief priests, the Pharisees, those with vested interests.
It is the Temple authorities who have distorted the Law, such as to make God’s house a place of trade, in effect a market place, and who themselves cannot see the truth of Jesus as he offers himself openly before them, while they have also led others, whom they should shepherd, to such blindness.
There are people who seek to fit Jesus into their own preconceptions of how the Messiah should be, who refuse the gift of grace, who refuse belief, and so who cannot be with Jesus, really through their own choice, who give themselves over to death instead of life everlasting.
Jesus returns to the parable of the good shepherd. Through grace, his sheep hear and recognize Jesus the good shepherd’s voice.
Through grace and through prayer, we have belief, and we have mutual knowledge and understanding of Jesus. Often this is not an easy journey, but we see and we listen, and so we find our true shepherd.
Jesus now speaks of his union with his Father. In these Bible verses, Jesus explains that we have been given to him by the Father. Through Jesus’ complete obedience to his Father’s will, in fulfilling the great plan of our salvation, Jesus shows himself to be the Son of the Father, and the Father and the Son to be two persons, distinct, yet of one substance: I and the Father are one.
This great truth develops through the course of John’s Gospel. Earlier Jesus proclaimed that God was his Father, thereby angering the Jewish authorities by making himself equal with God, which to them was a blasphemy worthy of death. There will be further revelations of this mystery at the Last Supper – see John 13-17. And right from the start of John’s Gospel, we contemplate the mystery of Christ’s divinity and his relationship with God the Father: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Christ is the perfect revelation of God. He is truth incarnate.
‘Listen to what the Lord says: “You see in me your body, your limbs, your organs, your bones, your blood. If you are afraid of what belongs to God, why do you not love that which is your own? If you run away from your Lord, why do you not run back to your kinsman?
‘“Perhaps you are afraid because of the greatness of the passion which you inflicted on me. Do not be afraid. This cross is not mine; it is the sting of death. These nails do not pierce me with pain; they pierce me more greatly with love of you. These wounds do not draw groans from me; rather they draw you into my heart. The stretching out of my body makes room for you in my heart; it does not increase my pain. My blood is not lost to me; it is paid in advance for your ransom.”’ St Peter Chrysologus