John 10 22-41  ‘Everything he said was true’

Blog 17 Sunday 3 February 2013 7.00pm

The Feast of Dedication was a great favourite because it recalls one of the few victories we Jews have had over our conquerors in the last 700 years. Back in 167BC Antiochus Epiphanes[1] had ordered that all local religion must cease and had erected a statue of Zeus in the temple – his arrogance was such that he had the statue of Zeus made to look like him!! On 25 December that year at the winter festival he sacrificed to Zeus right in front of the Holy of Holies. Judas Maccabeus[2] led a revolt and won and on the 25 December 164BC the temple freed, cleansed and refurbished was rededicated with a Festival of Lights.

Ever after the midwinter festival was replaced with the Festival of Dedication – but as it was winter we were in Solomon’s Porch out of the chilly wind.

Once again the Jewish authorities tried to catch our Master out. But he was shrewd and yet clear. He points them to the things he has done and the words he has spoken – if you want proof of who I am it has been staring you in the face but you won’t see it.

My sheep see it and hear me and follow me – you on the other hand? The answer he left hanging in the air – but this he did say and it drove them hopping mad – ‘I and the Father are one’.  But you should have seen him face them down – he left them standing there like fools with stones in their hands that they could not throw because the people were on his side.

And then we went away, we thought perhaps he was ducking the contest – but how wrong we were – back where he was baptized the people believed and his absence – the Father’s doing – was to bring about the most spectacular sign of who he was – but for that you will have to wait for next week.

[1] After the Persian empire came the conquests of the Macedonian Alexander the Great who conquered as far as the edge of Afghanistan. When he dies a young man, the empire quickly fell into four sections., the Holy Land was part of the Seleucid empire whose Emperors were frequently called Antiochus. Hence the proliferation of towns called Antioch in Turkey and the Middle East.

[2] The whole story of this period is found in the Apocryphal Books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees – and made famous by Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus.