Psalm 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7
In response to their attempt to kill him, Jesus asks the crowd a legitimate question: “I have shown you many works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” They answer that his works are not the problem. However, his claim that he is the Son of God and therefore equal to God is a huge problem. For them it is blasphemy, which, according to the Law of Moses, is to be punished by stoning (Leviticus 24:16).
Putting Jesus to death is a constant theme in the Gospel of John. Sometimes these attempts follow his works or signs. Jesus cures the paralytic on the Sabbath and we read: “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” (5:18). Jesus multiplies the loaves, and once again: “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him. … Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him” (6:66; 7:1). The chief priests and pharisees send officers to arrest Jesus (7:32), but no one laid hands upon him (7:44).
Since the officers and the crowds are being swayed by Jesus’ words and doctrine, the scribes and Pharisees try to trap him by having him contradict either himself or Moses (8:6). Jesus avoids their trap and teaches openly that he is the Son of God (8:42). The response is to try to stone Jesus: “So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (8:59).
Today’s Gospel takes place at the feast of the Dedication, during winter and a couple months before Jesus last Passover. Jesus proclaims once again that he is the Son of God: “The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me” (10:25); “I and the Father are one” (10:30). The response is the same: “The Jews took up stones again to stone him” (10:31). Jesus will escape from them, for his hour had not yet come.
It is important to understand the relation between Jesus’ signs and the act of faith. The works that Jesus do manifest that he is mighty in power. First, he has command over physical things: he turns water into wine and multiplies the loaves of bread. Second, he has command over sickness: he cures the official’s son from a distance; he heals the paralytic; he restores sight to a man born blind. Third, he has power over death: he will raise Lazarus from the dead. These are divine actions and signs that point to something. The signs do not of themselves lead to faith. The act of faith is a free act of man. The sign testify to Jesus, but are not mathematical demonstrations.
Another stepping-stone on the way to faith in Jesus is the testimony of John. John did not perform signs like Jesus. He simply preached a baptism of repentance and prepared the way for the Messiah. John testified that Jesus is the Light, the Lamb, the Bridegroom, filled with the Holy Spirit, and mightier than John himself. Faith in Jesus means assenting to the truth that he is the Son of God, equal to the Father. We too are called to renew our faith in Jesus, who continues to work marvels in our lives and the life of the Church. Signs and testimony point us in the right direction and confirm the stirring in our hearts. This is the action of grace moving us to faith in Christ, to hope in his promise of eternal life and to love of both God and neighbor.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at email@example.com.