May 5 reflection by Deacon Jerry
The 4th Tuesday of Easter May 5th John 10:22-30 Acts 11:19-25
In John 10:22-30 John mentions that it was winter and the Feast of Dedication had come. Earlier in the Festival Cycle, John visibly uses the various feasts to give a better understanding of Jesus to his readers. Passover clearly gives background to the Exodus themes running through the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. Similarly, it’s fairly easy to see how John uses the Feast of Booths as background for the speeches and drama in chapters 7, 8, and 9. These chapters contain symbols of booths (shelter) rain (water from Siloam) and lights (illumination). These chapters and what we read in today’s scripture continue the theme of the replacement of feasts of the Old Testament with Jesus as the Living Water and the Light of the world.
However, what is the relationship between the Good Shepherd discourse and the Feast of Dedication?
While John 10:22-42 in some ways continues the discourse running before it, the reference to the Feast of Dedication shows that some time has lapsed since the previous discussion, which creates some discontinuity as well. So while there might be a connection to Ezekiel 34, “Parable of the Shepherds”, in understanding John’s use of the festival, it’s better to look ahead to the next exchange between Jesus and the Jews rather than necessarily back to the Good Shepherd discourse. In doing so, the reference to the feast is seen to create a fitting setting for the discussion that follows as well as allow John to continue emphasizing Jesus’ fulfillment of the feasts, and in particular the temple.
The Feast of Dedication commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple following the Maccabean Revolt. The revolt, while successful in some of its aims, left the nation anticipating a Messiah who would overthrow at last the Roman rule and establish Israel again as an independent kingdom.
The Feast is therefore an appropriate setting for the question of the people: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” The political overtones of the feast, however, also ensure that Jesus does not answer directly, lest his purpose be misunderstood.
While the Feast of Dedication is not one of the festivals required in the Torah, John also shows that Jesus fulfills this feast as well. Andreas Kostenberger who writes in the field of Johannine theology argues in “A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters” that John writes a little while after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD as (at least in part) an appeal to Jews struggling in the new environment to make sense of their religious practice.
While many at the time turned from a Temple-based worship to a Torah-based one, others still anticipated the Messiah’s coming to overthrow the occupation and rebuild the temple. John’s gospel is then (in part) an appeal to those looking for a new temple, to look to Jesus as a new temple, whereas in the festival, it is the temple that is set apart (dedicated) for God’s purposes. Continuing this theme, Jesus fulfills the role of the temple in the Feast of Dedication. Thus John highlights Jesus’ prediction: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John highlights Jesus as the one “set apart” by the Father
As we continue to be “set apart” from participating in person in the one action that we know sustains us participation in the Eucharist, we have to remember to listen to the familiar voice of our Lord, our Shepherd. We may feel as if something dear to us has been destroyed, however, it merely has been altered, for now. Like the people in the picture of the temple, we still hear His voice, assuring us of his love and compassion. We still follow him by fully participating in the mass, by looking out for and assisting our brothers and sisters in this time of seclusion.
If we focus in on and truly listen to the voice that is the truth, the way and the life, we will always have the answer to the question, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense.” Jesus IS the messiah; we recognize and follow his voice. When we wander and stray he will find us and bring us back to the flock. One day soon, we will all be gathered together physically to offer prayers of thanksgiving and continue to follow our shepherd into the Kingdom of God.
Let us continue to receive and accept God’s mercy and blessings. May we continue to cherish this time of distancing with the faith to embrace that we are not alone, that we are with all the saints, martyrs and the souls of our loved ones who have entered into eternal happiness.
Peace and Blessings