Today's Gospel reading continues with Jesus' teaching about being our Shepherd.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), presumably to celebrate and remember the great victory God gave to the Maccabees. Although not prescribed in the Torah, the Feast of Dedication was part and parcel of the life of devout Jews, among whom Jesus was chief. The Scriptures tell us Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, et. al.). This is important because His antagonists were constantly trying to catch Jesus in direct violation of the Torah or for speaking against the Law. The opponents of Jesus continually tried to make Him in their own image.
That Jesus is asked by the Jews if He is the Messiah (Christ, the Anointed One) during the Feast of Dedication is instructive. The Maccabean revolt had successfully driven the pagan occupiers from at least the Temple area and re-claimed it (cleansing) for God's people to worship. The Maccabees used brute force and the tactics of warfare to accomplish their objectives. Given the circumstances and possibly historical precedent (i.e the conquest of Joshua), the Maccabees were blessed by God to achieve victory. Judas Maccabeus, his family, and his followers were thought to be the quintessential 'types' of the Messiah; a military conquerer boldly cleansing the Holy Land of Israel's enemies and ushering in an age of peace and prosperity for God's people to worship and live in theocratic harmony. As the Romans came to take over the land after the Seleucids, many Jews once again looked forward to another Maccabean moment. I think this is one of the reasons Jesus is asked about His identity as the Christ during the Feast of Dedication. They wanted to know whether He was building up to something 'bigger' with the signs He had done and the profound teaching He was expositing. But Jesus had a bigger mission in view: the will of the Father.
I believe Jesus' opponents are quite frustrated by His claims because their expectations were so contrary to what was happening in front of them. It was not merely the expectation of a military conquerer. It was the latent disregard for their own inward, myopic disposition. Their ostensibly 'low' view of God and His overall purposes in the election and preservation of Israel. It was their blatant forgetting of who the true Shepherd was and becoming deaf to His voice.
Yet the same holds true for us today. We can easily start to ignore the voice of the Good Shepherd as we get caught up in the fancies of far-flung hillsides. We can turn inward, only thinking of our next meal, and completely ignore the direction of the Shepherd. He is constantly calling us. His rod and staff guide and correct us. We get stuck and He pulls us out. Despite our best efforts to stay in one place, He beacons us forward toward Himself and the goodness of eternal life.
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