“God created humans in His image and we returned the favor.”
This rather infamous line summarizes how many secular philosophers explain religion. We conceptualize the world through our eyes and it’s one reason we give animals human qualities (anthropomorphism). Likewise, these philosophers theorize we have created a religion around what we desire to do or feel.
It’s possible there is actually some truth to that. Stay with me.
Some time passes between John 9 – 10:22 and our passage today, John 10:22-26. John 9 – 10:22 occurs around the Festival of Tabernacles in the Fall. Our passage today starts with “Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter…” (John 10:22).
Try as you may, you won’t find this festival listed in the Old Testament, but I bet nearly every one of you knows this festival. You just know it by another name. It’s Hanukkah. Hanukah is an eight-day celebration of lights commemorating the miracle when the Lord kept the lamp of the temple burning for eight days. The events are recorded in the Intertestamental book of 1 Maccabees.
So it’s Hanukah time (roughly December in our calendar) when we read John 10:22-26:
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.John 10:22-26
New International Version
Walking through Solomon’s Colonnade, the cold weather of winter drove Jesus indoors instead of in the open (and very cold) courts. There’s also some foreshadowing by our author (John the Apostle) regarding another conversation happening at this location and you can read about the event in Acts 3:11-16.
The crowd gathering around Jesus challenged Him. “Enough of the cryptic answers already,” they complained. “Tell us clearly if you’re the Messiah we’ve been waiting for!”
Jesus’ response is as short as their question in verses 25 and 26, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”
Never in public discourse in a Jewish setting did He explicitly declare Himself to be the Messiah. Remember: the term “Messiah” had A LOT of political and military baggage in 1st century Palestine and Jesus was careful to avoid these—He wasn’t that kind of King.
The Jewish people had created what their Messiah was to be. Proving modern philosophers correct, the first-century Jews had created distinct factions around what the Messiah was to do and be. They had created God in the image they wanted Him to be.
This isn’t how things were going to work. Never have. Never would.
Jesus reminds us: even with this self-imposed restraint, there was sufficient evidence to verify His true identity. All the road signs lead us to His identity as the Son of God, but they didn’t want to believe. To those who were not His sheep, they would only be frustrated by Him.
The message of Jesus is not just about head knowledge, but also heart knowledge. It’s intellectual but is also faith.
Please remember who is speaking: Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. He already knew who would accept Him and who would not. He knew their hearts before they ever spoke. He knew their hearts before they were ever born.
When He declares they are not His sheep, He’s not speaking hypothetically but realistically. He KNOWS they are not His sheep. They will not become His sheep.
What Jesus invites all His listeners to do is to see what He does in His Father’s Name. He’s inviting us to look at the evidence. He’s not inviting us to see Him as we want Him to be, but to see Him as He is.
The flock of Jesus knows we are created in His image. We have heard His voice. We have seen the evidence of His identity. We are the proof of His identity.
Do you see Jesus as He is or do you see Him as a lot like you?