WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
"'I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life -- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.' "The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, 'He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to Him?' But others said, 'These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?'" John 10:16-21 NIV.
The words of a demon-possessed man? Or the words of the Son of God? It was up to each individual to weigh up what He was saying and decide for themselves.
What was He saying? Other sheep? Was He insinuating that the Jews were not the only people who were the objects of His concern? That would not have sat well with them. The entire story of the early church and the work of the apostles bears testimony to the division Jesus caused because He sent His disciples to the whole world.
The Jews across Asia Minor and Europe, apart from a small minority who believed, were against them. Paul was hounded from city to city because he dared to preach to the Gentiles. It was his association with the Gentiles that almost got him lynched in Jerusalem and eventually had him sent to face Nero in Rome.
What did He mean -- lay down His life for the sheep? In veiled language He was informing them that He knew exactly what they were scheming to do to Him. However, just in case they thought that they had Him in their power, He jumped the gun by letting them know that it was His choice to die, not their choice to kill Him. More than that, He would lay down His life to please the Father, and take it up again, which was something they weren't bargaining for.
How badly the Jews had misinterpreted God's dealing with them as a nation! At Mount Sinai He had espoused them to Him as His bride. He had chosen them to be His own, a nation of people who, by their lives set apart for God and lived in obedience to His Word, would teach the surrounding nations about the God to whom they were also accountable and to whom they were to bow.
Instead of living in obedience to God's way, they persisted in worshipping the idol gods of their neighbours, becoming wicked like they were instead of drawing people to the one true God. God's displeasure eventually resulted in 70 years of captivity in Babylon where they finally got the message. Instead of taking up their role as obedient children of God, they swung in the opposite direction, becoming so isolationist that they thought they were better than the Gentiles. They refused all association with non-Jews and especially with their Samaritan neighbours, despising them because they were a mixed race and practised a corrupted religion.
Now Jesus was daring to hint that His message was for them as well! This was intolerable, especially to the Pharisee faction who were so "holy" that they refused to have anything to do with "sinners" in their own race, leave alone Gentiles who were utterly abhorrent to them.
After the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit equipped the church with the anointing to take the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth, the apostles still hung around in Jerusalem until they were forced to leave because of persecution. It took a bizarre vision to convince Peter to step inside the home of the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and to preach the good news of the kingdom of God to him. He was flabbergasted and finally convinced when the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles as He had done in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
But this was all in the future. Jesus encouraged His hearers to believe what He said before it happened so that, when it happened, they would know that He was speaking the truth and that He was who He claimed to be.
We now have all the evidence and must reach a conclusion for ourselves. Will we reject Him because He does to live up to our expectations or will we recognise in His words and actions, and especially in His death and resurrection that He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God?
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