Introduction: Political Presuppositions.
This past week our senate investigated some very serious allegations against the current Supreme Court nominee. I have watch countless people stand up and defend both sides. The problem I face, along with many of you, is since our political system is broken, sinful, corrupted who can we trust? It is hard to not to see the republicans as merely siding with the republicans. It is hard to not see the democrats as merely siding with the democrats. In times like this it seems everyone is just circling the wagon on both sides. What I am describing here is our presuppositions really shape the way we see and evaluate information. Everyone has beliefs that affect the way they examine information, and if we are unwilling to confess them then they will never come close to seeing the truth. There are two men who I follow on Twitter who made wonderful comments around this issue. The first one said:
“The human race needs a third party intervention.”—John Starke
We need someone who can look at all this information and examine it objectively. As Christians we should adopt the similar life habits. So, listen to what the other guy said:
“Christians [don’t] belong to this world. We are sojourners in the City of Man and this government is only ours on a secondary level. Therefore, we must avoid succumbing to the world’s frenzies on either side. We must weigh issues according to Imago Dei [Image of God] not political expediency.”—Kyle J. Howard
With all that said, I think our text today has this to tell us about these issues…
Theme: Exposing our false presuppositions help us adopt lifelong learning.
1. Divisive Demonizing—John 10.19-21.
In John 9 we saw Jesus heal a blind man and this stirred up a division among the Jews. Those who did not trust the testimony of the blind man contacted their religious political leaders in their community and they began to interrogate various people. The religious leaders decided to excommunicate the blind man because he would not affirm that Jesus is a false prophet. After this injustice Jesus sought out this man and revealed something even more profound to him, “Son of Man”. What John reveals to us in the beginning of John 10 is a monologue from Jesus where He metaphorically describes Himself as “The Good Shepherd.”
As we continue to make our way through John 10 we see people are still divided after Jesus’ monologue—READ John 10.19-20. It is not hard to see as we are moving toward the climax in John’s Gospel, because the slander of Jesus Christ is increasing. He is no longer merely a false prophet, but someone who is demonic and insane. This increased slander demonstrates to us their hearts are hardening. It is as if they are clinching their eyes tighter and tighter refusing to see the truth, which will lead to a descent further into darkness.
Friends, sadly we all know this still happens today. For instance, recently there have been several prominent male leaders who have been accused of violating behavior with not one, but several women. There are so many of these male leaders I cannot even list them all. But what we also see is one group of people who want to demonize the women coming forward, and the other who want to demonize the abusers. The similarity is everyone wants to demonize their enemies. Demonizing going back and forth will not resolve anything. I do not this is a Christ-like response. Let’s look at how one group responded to these allegations—READ John 10.21. They encourage their enemies to look at the proof. They point out these are not the actions of a demon or clinically insane person. The historical evidence tells us demonic activity attempts to keep the marginalized oppressed, not set them free. Insane people do not present persuasive masterful metaphorical monologues communicating who they truly are. As Christians we are supposed to be seekers and speakers of truth. That is not to say one of these two groups isn’t right. One author I read this week put it this way:
“’It would take a Jesus to invent a Jesus.’ We cannot stand back in serene judgment on these Jews. What are we to make of him? The choice is inescapable. Is he, as he claims, from God, or the deluded victim of some ‘obsession’? We too must choose.”—Milne, p. 151
2. Powerful Presuppositions—John 10.22-26.
In this section our scene shifts. The context for a few chapters has been “The Feast of Booths”, but now it is “The Feast of Dedication.” This feast was a celebration of Israel’s liberation from an oppressive Syrian Dictator. Emperor Antiochus made attempts to subvert any religion he thought would prevent sole allegiance to him. He erected an altar to Zeus in Israel’s Temple, sold prostitutes out of the Temple, tried to control the diet of the Jews, and much more.
It is during this feast that His enemies approach Jesus once again—READ John 10.22-24. On the surface it seems like they are asking for clarity on Jesus. But the more we look into the details of the language we quickly notice there are few words that show us that is not the truth. First, the phrase “gathered around him” is more like they “surrounded him.” That image makes them look more like a pack of wolves trying to attack a shepherd instead a group of intrigued college students. Second, the question “How long will you keep us in suspense?” is more like, “How long will you keep annoying us?” They want Jesus to plainly say He is the Messiah, Son of God, so they can discredit and murder Him. They can discredit Him because at this celebration everyone is looking for political liberation from their Messiah King not a humble carpenter. We already know from previous chapters they are trying to murder because He has made claims to be equal with God. But they want it clearly stated, so they prosecute Him and have the masses on their side.
In Jesus’ response we learn something extremely foundational when it comes to evaluating any truth—READ John 10.25-26. Our beliefs, presuppositions, or what we place our faith in, will shape the way we perceive knowledge. Friends, the truth is we bring experiences, ways we see the world, and so much more to the way we look at information. These things shape the way we think and evaluate what we are looking at. Jesus is essentially saying, “If you could really look at the evidence for what it is then you would understand who I am. But because you falsely believe something so strongly about me before you really consider the facts you remain blind.” Presuppositions are POWERFUL friends. Good presuppositions can help us learn, grow, flourish, and experience the warm light of illumination. But bad presuppositions have the power to send us deeper into darkness. Are we a community of people willing to truly evaluate our powerful presuppositions? Much like the people in our text, if we are not, then we literally might not see Jesus clearly.
3. Lifelong Learning—John 10.27-30.
In this final section Jesus attempts to show them the value of giving up their dangerous presuppositions—READ John 10.27-30. Essentially Jesus is telling them, “If you are willing to let these false perceptions go, then you will see more clearly who I am.” They will no longer see Jesus as a danger to their community. And if there is anyone hear today who can see his or her perceptions of Jesus changing, then dear friend please talk to me after our service today. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until then you can some see me any time I step off this stage.
For those of you who already know Jesus let me speak with you for a moment what this texts means for you. All of us must never forget the process of tearing down the wall of false perceptions continues until we meet Jesus Christ in glory. Revelation 22 describes a time when we will meet Jesus face to face, and will finally see Him and the world clearly. And why that is important to remember right now is because we are NOT there yet. We are still learning what it means to hear Jesus’ voice, to know Him, and follow Him. Many times when we think about the great commission we forget the later half, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matt 28.20) Jesus is still teaching us to observe all He has commanded. When we embrace this truth Jesus continues to expose the places we will still have “UNBELIEF.” Jesus gives us His other disciples as a means to do this. As we continue to learn we teach to others, then as others learn they teach us. Jesus’ disciples are supposed to be a contentious community of learners.
Each of us will hear His voice in ways others won’t. I can remember in Seminary taking an OT Theology class, and asking my prof why Jesus said something based on an OT text. He graciously and quickly responded with, “I don’t know, go ask one of your NT theology professors.” Even though this guy was one of the brightest up and coming minds in the OT field he recognized his limitations. As much as he knew he also knew how much he did not know. This type of posture helps us to continue to learn under the tutelage of Christ through His disciples. Are we still making attempts to hear His voice, know Him more, and follow Him?