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.”
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me!" We learned this phrase early in our youth on the playground. We tried to believe it but we know that words can hurt, can inflame pain and can make others so angry they will strike out. Those children who were taunted and teased as a child for being different know how much words hurt, and how that hurt linger can for a life time. We can be in so much pain by what others say that we can strike out in anger and pick up stones.
The people who were angry at Jesus were not being tormented by his words. Jesus was offering them love and healing, offering God's love to hurting people. But they were afraid and angry for he was talking about his intimate relationship with God. They saw their world changing and fear rose up and became anger, and anger became violence. They felt under attack for their assumptions might just be wrong, so they moved to kill rather than understand. We humans often rise to blame and violence without understanding. We get afraid and lash out. Jesus reminded them of God's love for them, and reminds us still. In our moments of deep fear and torment, no matter how angry we get, God is still working on our behalf, healing and bringing light to a world darkened by violence.
Today I ask God to help me look beyond my confusion and fear. Help us to see God's love moving in our lives. Help us to embrace the change we fear, trusting that God has more for us than we can imagine. Help us, when the desire to strike out overwhelms us, to always move to prayer and compassion.