At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10:22-30 NRSV
“If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
When I was reading the gospels for the first few times, I have to say I agreed with Jesus’ questioners. Why doesn’t Jesus just tell us- plainly?
Biblical scholars have a few reasons they give as answer to this question. Often the explanation is that Jesus was waiting until the “proper time”. Some point out that Jesus’ followers would move to declare Jesus king and begin to advocate for the overthrowing of the Roman Empire’s rule. Some say that Jesus was redefining what a messiah is and does and thus the declaration of messiah-ship needed to wait.
These are all quite reasonable explanations. I think there is (at least) one more.
We, just like our first century ancestors, think that the only way to “tell” something is to say it with words. Their “tell us” means use your words. Say the words.
Jesus, as he points out, has been “telling” them, by his actions. For Jesus there is no discrepancy between what he says and what he does. He is the Messiah because he does the things the Messiah is to do. What Jesus did matters. What we do matters. Belief is more than simply saying the correct words, it does involve actions.
Sometimes we say to ourselves and to each other, “Practice what you preach.” We may say “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words.” Because our actions do matter. As do our words.
It is a lesson we would do well to learn and practice. Go right ahead and [insert here] your favorite example of someone saying one thing and doing another. You can choose a political figure, a religious figure, a celebrity, someone you know in real life. You may have several persons you can name. We’ll wait…..
Okay, now dear one. Did you name yourself? I mention this, not because I want to point fingers at you. Or for you to beat yourself up over this. I mention it to point out how very difficult it is to live consistently. How very difficult it is to have our words and our intentions and our actions be congruent. To be in harmony.
What Jesus did is quite remarkable. And very difficult. Not to be flippant but that’s part of the reason he is the Messiah and you and I are not. As others have noted, the life we are called to is simple, but not easy.
So I wonder, what is the next step of faithful living that God is calling me to?