elusive God | John 10.22-24
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John 10.22-24 | ESV
It’s now three months later. In Jerusalem. Mid-December. The winter “Light Up the House!” celebration. Jesus is walking in the temple through Solomon’s long colonnaded porch (a hot-spot for teaching rabbis to gather a crowd). Suddenly he found his way blocked in each direction as the local religious crowd closed in and began prodding him, “Enough is enough! Stop playing games and holding us in suspense. If you’re the Messiah, just say so plainly already!” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Several months have passed, though what we read in the second half of John 10 picks up the same “shepherd thread” from the first half.
The occasion is the Jewish winter celebration we know as Hanukkah, also known as the “Feast of Dedication.”
This celebration didn’t have its origin in ancient Levitical law and tradition but in more recent events during what we call the “Maccabean Revolt” nearly two centuries before Jesus was born. The Jewish people successfully threw off the yoke of foreign oppression, liberated their holy city and rededicated their holy temple (circa 165 BC).
The story goes that when the Temple services were restored, the oil for the lamps in the temple was found to be unfit for use – except for one container that was sealed with the High Priest’s ring. There was just enough oil there to feed the holy lamp stand for one day – but to their surprise and delight, much like Elijah’s cruse of oil, this container was found filled with just enough oil for the next day, and the next, and the next – for eight days – until a fresh supply of oil was brought from Tekoa.
In memory of this miraculous supply, it was ordered in the following year that that temple be illuminated for eight days on the anniversary of its “Dedication.”
And so it continued for generations.
And so Jesus during that winter celebration of light and life and liberty found himself strolling through those illuminated courts. And then he found himself surrounded, pressed, prodded.
“Stop the games. Stop being so elusive. Just spit it out. Tell us plainly who you are!”
I so hear my own voice echoing in their question!
How I long at times for God to come out of hiding, to stop being coy or downright silent. Just one moment of clarity, please!
It was said by ancient rabbis that God had to have his people take a three day journey into the wilderness to meet with him, just to get away from the noise of Egypt so they could hear the voice that is always speaking. They said the only remarkable thing about the Sinai experience was that for that one moment the world without and especially within was quieted enough (at least for Moses!) that the voice of God that is always speaking could actually be heard.
What an excruciating irony.
Turns out we’re the ones who are elusive and in need of learning to listen plainly.
When has God seemed elusive and difficult to pin down? How have you handled that? What would you say is the key to hearing God’s voice in our world today?
Abba, thank for your grace that pardons me when I surround you with my insistent demands for clarity, demonstration, and proof. Still my heart long enough to hear what you have been singing over me since the day I was ushered into this world. Ears to hear. Yes. Give me those. Through Christ.