Friday, March 18, 2016

Reflection: John 10:31-42

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent  - John 10:31-42
Today’s Gospel opens as several of the Jews were picking up stones to cast at Jesus.   Jesus did not run or hide. Rather, he turned and confronted them.  He asked them for which of his good works they were going to stone him.   After all, he simply was doing these good works for his Father.  The Jews told Jesus that it was not because of his works they were going to stone him; it was for his blasphemy.   Although Jesus clearly was human, Jesus was making himself God!  They were shocked and angry at such a ridiculous claim!
Jesus again tried to explain what he was saying but they refused to listen to him. The Jews had closed their minds and hearts to Jesus.  Clearly, they were not open to changing their minds. Jesus already had been tried and convicted by them.
Was this confrontation truly about who Jesus was?  Or did the Jews realize that they were losing their power and influence with the people?  It was evident that Jesus was loved by the people.  People traveled great distances to see Jesus and hear him preach.  Some hoped that they or a loved one would be healed by Jesus.  These people wanted to see and experience Jesus for themselves.
Each day the Jews’ fear of Jesus escalated.  They recognized that Jesus’ popularity and power with the people continued to grow.  They were becoming frightened of Jesus and his influence with the people. No matter how the Jewish officials tried to discount Jesus with the people, the people would not listen to them.  Rather, the number of people who gathered to listen to Jesus increased every day.  After hearing Jesus preach and experiencing who he was, many of these individuals decided that they also wanted to follow Jesus!  Due to this, some of the Jews were so outraged by Jesus and his teaching that they picked up stones to throw at him! When Jesus realized how intense their anger and fear were, he immediately left the temple.
At times, do we become jealous or angry when someone appears to have more power or influence than we have?  Does our fear ever drive us to do something that we typically would not do?  If we are unaware of our emotions, these negative and destructive emotions may begin to rule our lives and cause us to act in a way we normally would not.  Is this what happened to the Pharisees?  Many of the Pharisees were good people; however Jesus posed a significant threat to them.
Take a moment and imagine yourself in Jesus’ place.  If we realized that within a short time, we would be arrested, tortured, and probably put to death, how would we react?  I assume, all of us would be frightened and panicked.  Most likely, our time, energy, and thoughts would be dedicated to trying to figure out a way to avoid this terrible ordeal.  Surprisingly, Jesus appears to be somewhat at peace with what his future likely holds.  He recognizes and accepts what lies ahead of him.
Above all, Jesus trusted that he was not alone.  His Father sent him and his Father was with him.  Jesus placed complete trust in his Father. Ultimately, Jesus also believed that good would come from his suffering.  Despite this, Jesus was human as well as God.  As a human being, Jesus must have experienced a flood of emotions: fear, anger, and turmoil.  True, Jesus completely trusted God. However, since he was fully human, he also must have experienced great anxiety and fear.
I assume that each of us can identify with Jesus in some way. We also have had our own trials, tribulations and our own “passion.”  I assume that we, like Jesus, struggled to understand and accept the realities of our situation. Did you turn to God for help? Did you ask God to work a miracle for you and make everything right again? Or were you angry with God? Did you distance yourself from God? Or was it a combination of “all of the above?”
At these times, we may know that God is not doing this to us.  It simply is how life is.  However, I also realize that during these difficult and painful times, my tendency is to distance myself from God, precisely when I need God the most.  Take a moment and ask yourself how your major struggles or challenges affect your relationship with God.  Do these times strengthen your bond with God? Or do these difficulties threaten to weaken your relationship with God?
We know that Jesus was fully human and fully God.  We know from the Gospels that Jesus did experience the full range of emotions:  joy, sorrow, sadness, fear, and pain.  Jesus also knew, however,  that there was a purpose in what God was asking of him.  He also trusted that God was there with him at all times.
Perhaps the question for us is: do we trust God?  Do we trust that God loves us and desires only good things for us? When difficult times come to us, do we believe that God is making this happen? Or do we believe that our struggles are simply part of our human condition?
God is the only one who can carry us through!  Today may we pray for ourselves and one another that we will strive to always place our trust in the God who loves us more than we can ask or imagine!

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