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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 8, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 10:31–42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there. (NRSV)

One of the fascinating aspects of religious art is the various and diverse ways Jesus is portrayed in paintings and drawings. Artistic renderings can be found depicting Jesus as African, European, or Asian. Accordingly, Jesus appears in many different colors and hues. There is no one artistic version of Jesus.

Neither is there one understanding of who Jesus is. Especially within his own time, there were many different views of Jesus as he interacted in a world of intercultural and interreligious society with varied Jewish religious understandings, along with the influence of Greek philosophy and Roman politics.

In this passage, we encounter Jesus responding to a rather negative understanding of him. John’s Gospel is full of stories in which Jesus is found to be disagreeable or mystifying to those who approach him. Several of those passages have unfortunately been the fount of anti-Semitism, because those depictions of Jesus come from a community enduring the painful separation of Christianity from its Jewish roots. But there is no one Jewish view on Jesus, just as there is no one Christian view on him.

In this passage, given his response to the charges made against him, Jesus appears to tell us that the most important aspect of our identity is what we do. Our actions present a fuller picture of who we are. For Jesus, his actions were the works of the Father; signs of God’s coming reign of just relationships, healing, and hope. If we are to be people who follow Jesus, who, like him, reflect the heart of God, then it is in our acts of healing, encouragement, and faithfulness that we will discover and reveal to the world our sacred identity.

Lord, it is can be difficult to know who we truly are. Our identity is not always reflected in our actions. Illumine our hearts and minds, so that we may better apprehend who you call us to be. Let our treatment of others reflect our being made in your image and likeness. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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