Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
John 10:22-30 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews
22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah,[a] tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.[b] 30 The Father and I are one.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
This is just one passage of many that has been tragically misused to justify anti-Semitism. The title given to the passage above is unfortunate. Titles given in the more modern translations are not part of the scriptural text, but are added for the reader as headings that point to the subject matter. This one, “Jesus is Rejected by the Jews” communicates something different from the Common English Bible translation’s heading: “Jesus at the Festival of Dedication.”
But, there’s more that needs to be understood here. The gospel of John was written long after Jesus’ earthly ministry—seventy or eighty years after his death and resurrection. Jesus was a Jew and so were all of his disciples. All the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews. During Jesus’ life and ministry it would have made no sense to refer to “the Jews” in this way.
So, what’s going on here? Why do we find this kind of language only in the gospel of John and not in the others? By the time of the writing of John, there had been a split between the church and the synagogue. By the end of the first century there was a clear demarcation in most places between followers of Jesus and Jews. The Roman authorities saw Christians as not being a part of Judaism, so they persecuted them. Christians were being thrown out of the synagogues by this time. So, what we see in John is more reflective of what was happening around the end of the first century rather than during the ministry of Jesus.
As a corrective to this, some modern translations translate “the Jews” as “the religious authorities” or “the Jewish opposition.”
It is also important to remember that only the Romans had the authority to put someone to death by crucifixion. That is why we say in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Pilate was a Gentile Roman Governor who had Jesus put to death.
We do well to remember that what led to Jesus’ death was the sinfulness and treachery of human beings whose own self-interest and agendas were in conflict with Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God: God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. We must see not just in others, but in ourselves, the tendency to care only about our own self-interest and our own agendas that can be contrary to what God desires.
Read these words of John as good news for all people and not just for some. The apostle Paul wrote (decades before the writing of John), “So I ask you, has God rejected his people? Absolutely not! I’m an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God hasn’t rejected his people, whom he knew in advance.” (Romans 11:1-2)
When it comes to inter-faith understanding and respect, we have work to do. It’s important work. It’s necessary work. It is godly work.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster