"How long are you going to 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 I do in my Father's name testify to me.
But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
When I began to study the Gospel of Saint John, I heard a well-known Johannine scholar insist that Jesus could not speak more plainly of his authority. I wondered about that because it seemed that Jesus only claimed authority. He would not reason with his opponents. At least from my high school days, I was used to hearing teachers reason with me, and persuade me of their point of view. A child of the Enlightenment, I expected rationality, as opposed to authority.
The Enlightenment cultivates suspicion of authority. Just because a person is older, wealthier, better educated, higher ranked, or higher caste doesn't mean his opinions are right! He still has to persuade me. I'll believe it if it makes sense to me, if I agree with it.
Reason is supposed to govern human life. According to the Enlightenment, reason should prevail except when war, politics, money or dumb luck intervenes. Which is to say, not very often. The greatest philosophers of the Enlightenment did not hesitate to use whatever power they had, including the guillotine, to persuade others of their point of view.
Jesus, his opponents, his disciples and the Evangelist John lived many centuries before the Enlightenment. They would have laughed at the thought of worshiping Rationality; they lived in the real world and looked at it without that particularly skewed vision.
We, the faithful, accepting the Word of God, clearly see and understand that Jesus has enormous authority; we welcome his saving, healing, reconciling power. His opponents do not. They see the same evidence -- his "signs" -- and hear the same arguments but will not accept it.
Especially they overlook his love. He demonstrates his love first by his teaching and his healing, and finally by his death and resurrection. The faithful know it in his Presence; we apprehend it in the Real Presence of the Eucharist.
This is the choice we make. If the Gospel of John fails in any way, it may be in clarifying who makes the choice. As Jesus challenges his opponents he seems to write them off as children of Satan, "...you do not believe because you are not among my sheep!"
They might reply, "Whose fault is that? We weren't chosen!" But, in the context of the Pharisees in historical Jerusalem and the literary Gospel, they could not say it because they were the Chosen People, the Israelites. Within this text they insist, "Abraham is our father!" They choose not to accept Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.
As I encounter Veterans struggling with alcoholism I have to remind them, "You choose to drink. No one makes you drink; no one can stop you from drinking. We can pray for you, we can argue with you; we can hide your booze; we cannot choose sobriety, sanity and serenity for you. When you decide to live soberly, you will."
There are a million lesser choices we must make as we choose to live under the Lord's authority. We can accept it but he will never force it upon us. That too -- our freedom -- is a sure and certain sign of his love.; he cannot love us any less.