The Prelate’s Sermon (Sunday, June 19)
Today, on the third Sunday of the Feast of Pentecost the Gospel reading is assigned from John 10:22-30. The Evangelist narrates that on the Festival of Dedication while Jesus was walking in the Temple courts, the Pharisees questioned Him whether He was the Messiah. Jesus answered them, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” The bewildered crowd tried to stone Him, accusing that He was claiming to be God.
This passage is important as information, as well as teaching. I would like to share a few thoughts derived from this passage.
- Saint John, by mentioning the accurate occasion and the location of this event, provides us with a solid fact to grasp the historic reality of the above-mentioned dialogue. The references to the feast of Dedication, and the place where this conversation took place, in the Temple courts, are remarkable.
The Temple, which was built upon the order of the Lord of Lords by King Solomon (I Kings 8:19), being rededicated by the 2nd century BC, had been the Holy of holies of the first monotheist religion, and the Pharisees were proud to be the preservers and transmitters of the Mosaic Law, delivered by God, and to be the sole interpreters of Divine will.
- Jesus, an unconventional Rabbi, comes to question the validity of the entire authority of the Pharisees by showing Himself to be the Son of God. Moreover, Jesus discredits and expels them all from the inner circle of Jehovah whom they have been serving for ages zealously and diligently. The Pharisees viewed this as a shameful boast and an unforgivable blasphemy when Jesus described the relationship with the heavenly Father.
- The occasion and the place as well as our Lord’s instruction were indeed remarkable. The feast of the rededication of the Temple was the celebration of the renewal of the Lord’s Sanctuary. Likewise, the teaching of the God-granted Laws, which had been alienated from their original spirit due to extremism and other factors, direly needed to be renewed and rededicated to carry the authentic message of the Law-Giver, and to be as a light (Ps 119:105) to lead and bring the worshipers closer to God.
- Our Lord, by using the analogy of the sheep and the shepherd, was conveying the greatest message that they had missed the essence of their mission to be the leaders of the believers. Jesus cautioned that the Pharisees should not burden the people with the letter of the law, but instead should fill them with the spirit of the Law, which is Caring, like a shepherd, as David had humbly confessed and practiced (Ps 23:1).
- The attempt to stone the Lamb of God was the saddest testimony that the audience was possessed by the Evil, who has zero tolerance toward the Truth. It is common that a person or a collective group cannot tolerate any challenge against their rule; nevertheless, being blind toward Truth leads to self-destruction (Jn 9:41). The works—miracles and teaching—upon which Jesus invited their attention and always attributed to the Father, were already proclaimed by the prophets (Is 61:1-3) who used to teach them boldly. Yet by trying to stone Him, unconsciously they were separating themselves from the source of their authority.
This failure of stoning Jesus, for He escaped their grasp (Jn 10:39), was a monumental sign that no matter how the Evil one tries to deviate the Providential plan of the Redemption, the ultimate word belongs to God. He is the sole and supreme Power who has laid the foundation of the Creation (Job 38:4) and leads it to its ultimate goal.
With this message let us all be tentative of all kinds of temptation by which unknowingly we may be led astray from our Original Image. Let us all carefully rededicate our hearts to be the most valuable temple to our heavenly Father who cleanses us through the Holy Spirit and with His Son dwells (Jn 14:23) in His most favorite sanctuary; to whom is befitting glory and honor. Amen