At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 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.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)
At first, we might not recognize that John’s reference to the Jewish Feast of Dedication was actually a mention of the celebration of Hanukkah. Hanukkah, which means “to dedicate” in the Hebrew, celebrates the Israelite victory over the Syrian leader Antiochus Epiphanes IV around 165 B.C. The festival, even today, celebrates and remembers the rededication of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Festival of Lights.
As one historian explains, “In c. 170 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes IV conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the Jewish temple by setting up a pagan altar to displace the altar of God. Under the leadership of an old priest named Mattathias (his family name was called the Hasmoneans), the Jews fought guerrilla warfare (known as the Maccabean Revolt—166–142 B.C.) against Syria and freed the temple and the land from Syrian dominance until 63 B.C. when Rome (Pompey) took control of Palestine. It was in 164 B.C. on 25 Chislev (December approximately), that the Jews liberated the temple and rededicated it. The celebration is also known as the “Feast of Lights” because of the lighting of lamps and candles in Jewish homes to commemorate the event.”
John not only tells us about the setting but also the season: “it was winter.” Two months had elapsed since Jesus’ last confrontation with the Jews (7:1–10:21) at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2), which was in October. Jesus again returned to the temple area. John wants us to understand that the cold weather most likely prompted Jesus to walk on the eastern side of the temple in the sheltered area of Solomon’s porch. This location, following Jesus’ resurrection, became the regular gathering place of Christians where they would proclaim the gospel (see Acts 3:11; 5:12).
It was during this holiday celebration that the Jews, specifically the Jewish religious leaders, once again began harassing Jesus. The phrase “gathered around Him” means to surround and to press in on every side. You get the sense of a mob atmosphere filled with growing antagonism and animosity.
The Jews continually said to Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” They command Jesus to identify Himself to them as to whether or not He is the Messiah. Imagine the arrogance of created beings demanding and commanding the Creator to do something.
Jesus responded by saying, ““I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”
There are three cause and effect statements found in John 10:25-26. They communicate volumes on the clarity of God’s revelation to fallen man and fallen man’s inability to comprehend God’s revelation.
The first statement is “I told you and you do not believe.” Jesus stated many times in many meaningful ways to the Jewish religious leaders that He was the Messiah. He used, for example, statements such as being the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the Light of the World (John 8:12), and the Gate and the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). He even declared to them that He was Yahweh (John 8:58), to which they took up stones to stone Him for blaspheme (John 8:59). Their response was continual unbelief. They refused to trust, depend, commit and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The second statement is “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” Jesus not only stated on many occasions that He was the Messiah but He also demonstrated miraculous power which belongs to God and God alone. He stated He was the Bread of Life in the immediate aftermath of feeding a multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread (John 6:1-21). He stated that He was the Light of the World immediately prior to healing a man born blind (John 9). Jesus’ works gave testimony and support of the truth of His words and claims to be God.
The third statement is “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” This final statement explains the condition of the religious leader’s hearts and why they refuse to receive Jesus as the Christ (John 1:12-13). They do not believe because they are not elect. God has not chosen them unto salvation (John 3:1-8; 6:37-65). It is not that they will not believe, it is that they cannot.
However, as one pastor explains, “Christ’s sheep—the elect—on the other hand see in Jesus’ words and works that He is the Messiah and Savior.” They are able to do so because they are born again by the Holy Spirit (John: 1-8; I Corinthians 2:10-14).
How do you know whether you are elect unto salvation? Do you believe Jesus’ recorded words and accept His recorded works as testimony of His identity as God and Savior? If you do, it is because God chose to regenerate you by the power of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Gospel. Therefore, give God all the glory for what He has done solely by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
Soli deo Gloria!