Believing

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” (John 10:22-33)

Miracles don’t convince people of anything. The winter “festival of Dedication” is better known as Hanukah. It commemorated the rededication of the temple following the successful outcome of the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Empire. Nearly two centuries before Jesus, Antiochus had killed many Jews and defiled the temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig to Zeus on its altar.

After his defeat, the Jews cleansed the temple. They had only enough oil to light the temple lamps for a single day, though the cleansing and rededication ceremony took eight days. But they began with what they had and God kept the lamps burning the full eight days.

Every year after that, the Jewish people celebrated the miracle.

So during the celebration of Hanukah in Jerusalem, religious leaders approached Jesus and demanded that he announce plainly that he was the Messiah, if indeed he were. Jesus’ response was that he’d already done that, but they didn’t believe him.

Belief is a choice. Sometimes people imagine that “if only they could see a miracle” that they would believe. But it simply doesn’t work that way. Those who rejected Jesus had seen his miracles and they’d heard him speak with their own ears. And yet they still refused to believe. Belief is a choice, not an inevitability.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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