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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 10:31–42

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. (NRSV)

First of all, let’s go ahead and just say it out loud: many passages in John have been used in anti-Semitic ways, as reasons to paint our Jewish siblings as our opponents, as adversaries. It is difficult for us in our day and time to fully understand why the gospel writer John used “the Jews” in what seems like such a divisive way. So for us, in this devotional, let us substitute the noun “the opponents” instead.

Why were Jesus’ opponents trying to stone him? Jesus himself seems a bit mystified. He points out that he has only been doing good work, holy work, amongst all the people. Why do they want to harm him, to stop him? His opponents counter that it is because of blasphemy. Jesus’ response is basically “Am I practicing what I am preaching?” In other words, is he not doing the good work, the healing work, the justice-making work of God? If they agree that he is, then should they not at least be open to Jesus being who he says he is?

Apparently Jesus’ argument did not sway everyone. But enough folks were open that they were able to trust in what they saw and experienced through him. Their response reminds me of something the religious sociologist Diana Butler Bass wrote in her book Christianity after Religion. In that book, Butler Bass claims that people no longer find their way into the church or into faith by believing first, then deciding to belong to the community. Rather, these days, folks find their way into the community first and then stumble and bumble their way into belief, into trust. Perhaps that is closer to how our ancestors in the faith found their way into the body of Christ, too.

Gracious One, please give me enough trust today to be your disciple. When I find myself wavering, breathe into me your hope once more. Remind me of all the good work you have done not just in my own life, but in the life of the world. May that reminder be enough. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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