10 November 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ "Tell us plainly... Have you come to take away our souls?"

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.
Can you identify with "the Jews" in this passage?

Have you ever prayed to the Lord and asked Him to show you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that He is the Messiah?

I have... I still do... some times, some days...

My husband and I have often discussed this. He rarely doubts God, rarely questions if He is true, if He is good, if Jesus is Who He says He is and really did come and do what He said He would. I, on the other hand, struggle with doubt more often than I care to admit. I easily identify with the Jews in this passage. I start thinking about God, trying to figure Him out, trying to make Him make sense-according-to-me. My mind gets overwhelmed by the enormity and awesomeness and power of the God I want to believe in, I seek to understand in a way that makes sense to me and then I start coming up with my own ideas to try and make all the puzzle pieces fit and to answer questions like this:
  • What if man really has made all of this up... after all, there are many men and women who are so much smarter than I am?
  • What if there really isn't a God? I think I've seen evidence of Him, but what if I'm just putting the puzzle pieces together all wrong and only seeing what I want to see?
  • What if Jesus wasn't anything more than a good man, albeit deluded teacher?
  • What if the Bible isn't inspired and is nothing more than a creative, enticing fabrication created by those who wanted for themselves and others a real purpose in life?
  • What if this life is all there is and then there is nothing?
Big problem!

Because I can't answer those questions. 

There really aren't any answers other than to confess, once again, my sin of unbelief - to cry out in desperation, "Lord, I believe! Help Thou my unbelief!"

That's what faith is all about. It is a believing that is some sort of synergism between God's empowering grace to believe and man's choice to believe, regardless of how things look or how well it all makes sense... 

At some moment, I have to leap and trust that God will be there to catch me, even on the days I can't see Him. And? To be okay with, on those doubting days, knowing that the moment I'll know for sure will be that moment when I take my final breath on this earth.

But back to the Jews in this passage.

As I said, I really do identify with them and I don't "fault" them for asking this question, especially not if it is a sincere one and I have to think that in a group (i.e. Jews is plural), there must have been at least one sincere, searching, wondering and wandering heart.

This Jesus encounter takes place at a specific time in a specific locale. It happens during the Feast of Dedication. We call it Hanukkah today. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated as

A few hundred years before Christ, Alexander the Great conquered Israel, but left the Jews to practice their theocracy uninhibited, with Syrian overseers and rulers. However, after a period of time, the pressure to assimilate increased and eventually the Jewish people were prohibited from practicing their faith. Additionally, the temple was profaned and dishonored. During the 160s BC, Judah of Maccabee and his father instigated a revolt, retaking Jerusalem, purifying the temple and establishing a dynasty from their family that then prospered and ruled for nearly a century. Hanukkah is a celebration commemorating that rededication of the temple and is celebrated each year in close proximity to Christmas. At the time of the rededication, only an insufficient amount of undefiled oil remained to burn during the rites of purification. Oil fueled the Temple candles that needed to burn all night every night. While the amount appeared insufficient, miraculously the candle burned for the entire prescribed time. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle of provision (not the Maccabean military victory).

Thus, the Jews were in Jerusalem, celebrating the remembrance of miraculous provision.

Solomon's Colonnade, according to Matthew Henry, "...was associated with the grandest events in [Jewish] national history; for it was reared on the substructions of Solomon's temple, which even to the present day are intact.... The Lord walked there because it was winter, and wintry weather." Also, "He walked in Solomon's portico - that part of the temple of Herod which the apostles afterwards adopted as the scene of some of their most explicit assertions of the gospel (Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12)."

Thus, the Jews were not only celebrating miraculous provision, but also in a place where God had traditionally accomplished great things. 

Most commentators indicate that the Jews gathered about with the goal of waylaying Jesus. In general, at least the leaders had not come with a sincere question. The question they asked, Gill explains in the following manner: "'and said unto him, how long dost thou make us doubt?' or as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions literally render it, 'how long dost thou take away our soul?' that is, deprive us of the knowledge of thee; Nonnus renders it, 'wherefore dost thou steal away our minds with words?' so Jacob when he went away privately, without the knowledge of Laban, is said to steal away the heart of Laban, as it is in the Hebrew text, in Genesis 31:20. In like manner the Jews charge Christ with taking away their soul, or stealing away their heart, or hiding himself from them; not telling them plainly, who he was: therefore say they, 'if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly; freely, boldly, openly, in express words;' this they said, not as desirous of knowing who he was, or for the sake of information, but in order to ensnare him; that should he say he was not the Christ, as they might hope he would, for fear of them, now they had got him by himself, hemmed him in, it would then lessen his credit among the people; and should he say he was the Messiah, they would have whereof to accuse him to the Roman governor, as an enemy to Caesar, as one that set up for king of the Jews."

"Tell us plainly... Have you come to take away our souls?"

The answer to that question is that Jesus came to deliver life back to our souls...

Just as those today who fear making that leap of faith and trusting Jesus... just as those who fear that a life spent following Jesus is only a life wasted because this life is all they have... these Jews accused Jesus of stealing from them the very gift He offered and longed for them to take.

Jesus' response to this question was that He'd already plainly told them. 

He was not the thief, coming to seek and destroy - go back and read the first part of this chapter, in case you've forgotten what He'd just taught.

Were there some in that crowd of Jews that day who then believed?

How about you, today? What do you believe about Jesus?

photo credit: exoimperator via photopin cc

this week's gratitude list
(#'s 4907 - 4930)

pumpkin cake for a Gampy birthday party

lots of leaves raked

a great choir/drama tour for my big girlies

fun Euchre party with friends

decisions made for Jesus

safety after a scary driving moment

Rebekah finally earning some of those needed driving hours to get to stage 2

a brand new 19 year old

the encouragement of singing with our church choir

the end of the first marking period

hearing that m&m is right where she belongs, school wise

mostly decent grades, even for our brand new secondary student who's finding the adjustment a bit challenging

volleyball champions

cheerleading and basketball about to begin

Christmas shopping with Gammie on a Sunday afternoon

finding those gifts that you know will make the kiddos smile

college decisions happening

big girls finally caught up in their French class

back to a normal week's schedule

praying with a friend

finishing the 31 days posting project and all the insights God gave as I worked my way through Proverbs

a few days of a blogging break afterwards

diving back into this study of John

the challenge God gave me as I've looked at this passage over the past few weeks... only a few words, but I'm pretty sure I've heard God speak

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