Who is the messiah?

Fourth Sunday of Easter
25 April 2010
Easter 4C

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel (the Good Shepherd chapter) comes as a response to the restoration of sight to the man born blind. The crux of that episode is the decision of the rulers to cast out of the synagogue anyone who confesses Jesus to be the Christ (9:22). John’s community has been expelled from the synagogue and is feeling beleaguered, so John has Jesus speak about the gate to the sheepfold. John’s community, the sheep, are protected from thieves and robbers, by Jesus, the Gate. No one will snatch them out of God’s hand. And then, the Jews who are intrigued by what John’s community is saying about Jesus, ask if Jesus is in fact the Christ: how long will you keep us in suspense? Jesus does not answer the question directly, but says, “I have already told you and you didn’t believe. The works I do testify to me.” But, frustratingly, Jesus has not already said clearly. Nowhere in John’s Gospel does Jesus unambiguously accept the title “Messiah.”

Instead, we hear over and over again about the works. And we are told, we will do greater works than these. Jesus is not willing to set some doctrinal standard for membership in John’s community. Messiah is a limited term, meaningful only to certain Jews, and not at all to Gentiles. So, whether or not Jesus is the Messiah is not crucial to John’s community, but the works are. What works were they doing? Restoring sight to the blind. Helping people find a new way of seeing.

What works are we doing? The story of Tabitha has many resonance with stories of Jesus, and also Elijah. How are we raising our own people? And how are many hearing of these things? It raises the question of the works of the community. How do we know Jesus is among us? Interesting quetsion we need to be asking.