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John 10:22-30

Video Games have come a long way in my lifetime. I grew up playing Duckhunt and Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES); these 2 dimensional games that scrolled from left to right with prescripted events. Today our cell phones hold games with more diversity and graphic fidelity than anything comprehensible 25 years ago; nevermind the beauty and depth of gaming on a PC or Virtual Reality. As the technology and level of play has improved and increased so has the industry of Gaming. Today the video game industry generates more revenue than the NFL or all of Hollywood.

As the industry has developed, so have the cheats and exploits. Cheating is a major problem in gaming that has resulted in significant lawsuits. Various types of cheats are developed every year and become harder and harder to combat. Today players use “aimbots” which make it so they can’t miss their target or “wallhacks” which allow players to shoot around or through walls.

Cheating in gaming wasn’t such a big deal when we were playing on the Nintendo Entertainment System or the Super Nintendo (SNES) because the code was all embedded and inaccessible. As much as cheating is an aberration of gaming today, back in the Good Old Days, cheating was actually encouraged by the developers.

There used to be cheats built into the code of old cartridge games. I remember one of the first “cheats” I found out was in a game called “Adventure Island” on the NES. In “Adventure Island” there was a secret way to unlock a Bumble Bee which allowed you to save your progress in game. If you didn’t find this secret bee you would have to start the game over from the beginning after you lost all your lives.

The “cheats” progressed. In The Lion King (on the SNES) you could access a secret menu by hitting the buttons B-A-R-R-Y, in that order. This brought you to a menu that allowed you to choose any level in game and allowed you to decide if your character would be invulnerable. If you played with invulnerability on it meant that you wouldn’t be damaged by anything. If you’ve ever played a video game you know that everything is always a threat. To play invernably meant that all threats were neutralized.

Something interesting happens when you play video games with cheat codes on. Once hesitant and reserved players become courageous and adventurous. Players who would have avoided particularly challenging circumstances are emboldened to pursue an otherwise dangerous route. It may be a “cheat” but these players have a freedom they wouldn’t otherwise have. Interestingly, often players find that they don’t even need the cheat to accomplish the task; the cheat just permits them to drop their hesitancy. They find that simply playing without inhibition allows them to achieve the goal.

This Sunday the Gospel lection takes a potentially strange turn back to John 10. We’ve been living in the passages of the resurrection, but this week we jump back. It makes sense as there are only so many verses following the Resurrection, but this passage may initially feel out of place. First of all, it’s only half of a pericope! The story continues for another 12 verses. But even more than that, the connection with Resurrection isn’t immediately clear. In this passage we have folks from Judea demanding to know who this Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee really is. The identity of Jesus is in question.

This is the only time in John that Jesus is directly asked if he is the Messiah.

Maybe this is why the lectionary composers chose this passage for this day. This Jesus fellow who was Resurrected, who was he? Perhaps we read this passage after the Resurrection to get some perspective on the i