Lent Reflection: 3/21/2013

3/21/2013 Ellen Doster (C’14)
Jeremiah 26:1-16
Romans 11:1-12
John 10:19-42

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’

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.’ Jesus answered, ‘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.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I 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. –John 10:19-42

While reading this Gospel passage, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own feelings of faith and belief. Every Sunday I stand in church and, with the rest of the congregation (and with many, many others across the world), say the Creed, our profession of faith. I believe it as surely as I say it aloud, else I would remain silent. And yet, I do not know these things. I have no proof that is quantifiable; I’ve had no direct revelation. Then again, it wouldn’t be faith. But it isn’t so much that I merely hope these things are true. As much as people like to speak of faith as a blind leap, I don’t feel blind in my faith. Conviction also feels inaccurate to describe what happens when I say the words “I believe”. “This is truth, and that isn’t.” That’s not what I feel. It’s more subtle that that.

The Jews in this passage demand that Jesus prove to them that he is who he says. But they’ve seen him perform miraculous works, and Jesus knows that if they can’t believe their own eyes, then they will never believe his words. Instead, he asks him to examine the situation and believe with their eyes what they cannot with their ears. Unlike Jews ready to stone Jesus, we don’t have the benefit of our sight. We haven’t seen water become wine, a boy’s meager lunch feed thousands, or a days-dead friend and brother walk out of his tomb.

Yet there are other believers there who are like me, like the rest of us living centuries later. The followers at Jordan have only what they have heard, what John has told them, about Jesus. Yet when he arrives, they believe, because they, as I do, feel inexplicably compelled by something in what they have heard.