Two groups of Jews emerge in today’s Gospel account. There are those who are about to stone Jesus for blasphemy and those who begin to believe. The first group does not recognize the good works that Jesus has done as coming from the Father, nor his reasoning that “even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn 10:38). They listen to the claim that Jesus is making but they refuse to accept the fulfillment of the assertion: Jesus is the Son of God.
The more that Jesus seeks to help them to understand that he is who he says he is, the more they dig in their heels. They leave the stones on the ground but then move to have him arrested. Jesus evades their grasp and moves to the region across the Jordan where John first baptized. John did not preach in the Temple precincts either, even though he was the son of a priest. John followed the lead of God to prepare the way for Jesus and his eternal priesthood. The Temple would no longer be the seat of God, for Jesus would be the new living Temple.
Jesus returned to the place of his baptism, where he joined in solidarity with sinful humanity. This visible image of consecration revealed what happened silently in his conception and birth: the Son of God took on flesh and became man to open up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed. As people came to John in the Jordanian wilderness, so too, people came to Jesus. Not all would reject his message. Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” And many there began to believe in him (Jn 10:41-42).
The question that arises for us as our steps take us closer to Palm Sunday and Holy Week is to which group of Jews recorded in today’s Gospel account do we align ourselves with? Do we label Jesus as a blasphemer or accept that Jesus is the Son of God? The scriptural record does not reveal indifference as an option, does not leave any room for Jesus being only human; a good teacher, a wise man, or a revolutionary radical.
We either accept Jesus is fully human and fully divine or we don’t. If he isn’t who he claimed to be, God, then Christianity is a sham. If we accept that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then our thoughts, words, actions, and even our faces need to reflect that truth.
A good way to begin each day is affirming this fact and stating, “Jesus I believe in you, I need you,” and asking him what works of the Father he would have us offer in his name this day? May we have the openness of mind and heart to hear his words and the courage to act upon his guidance, so to be living stones, radiating the light of the living Temple of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God to those we encounter today.
Painting credit: Sacred Heart of Jesus by CB Chambers