With so many voices vying for our allegiance, it is difficult to discern which voice to direct our attention.
While people in Jesus’ day did not have the constant distractions of social media, a twenty-four hour news cycle, steaming devices and over-booked schedules in the way many North Americans do in the 21st century – there were still the competing voices of worth, inclusion, religious identity, might-making-right, racism, gender discrimination, economic disparity, blame, shame, guilt, grief, issues of health and wellness alongside other aspects of the human condition that were just as much a part of life two thousand years ago as they are today.
In the wider passage of John 9-10 (in which this smaller pericope [John 10:22-30] is found), Jesus gave sight to man who was born blind. The religious people wanted to know who had sinned to cause his blindness – his parents or the man himself (John 9:2). Jesus declares “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him…As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3, 5). By the end of this story, these religious leaders have chased the man who received sight away as they now turn to question Jesus. He identifies that even though they can see, it is they who are blind by their own sinfulness (John 9:29-41). Jesus then explains that they are like thieves who come to steal the sheep, but he is the Gate for the sheep (John 10:7), and the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Conflicted over what to do with Jesus, some of these religious leaders believe Jesus is possessed by a demon (John 10:19-21). In this passage they ask Jesus who he is directly: “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus tells them (and reminds the reader/hearer) that he just did (John 10:24-25)!
What competing voices are they listening to that they cannot see the works he does or hear the words he says? What about us?
While those who refuse to take notice of who Jesus is, for the sheep Jesus promises both eternal life and protection as they hear and follow his voice (John 10:27-29). Often we get drawn into the side question of who gets to be part of his flock (Jesus answers: “I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” [John 10:16]).
Better questions to dwell-in are:
–How might we become better listeners and followers when Jesus calls us to belong?
-What are the things that distract us from seeing, hearing and believing?
-Who is it we are listening to – if not our Good Shepherd?
Developing our own discipleship and our outreach to include others rests in honestly wrestling with these questions.
(Thanks to the Eastern CT Conference Pastors: Dick Burgess, Brett Hertzog-Betkowski, Danny Hammons and Mary Robinson for the discussion leading to this reflection.)