John 10:30-42

John 10:30-40     Jesus as Son of God

30 My Father and I are a unity.”

Jesus had made the same point in his discussion with the Jews after his healing of the crippled man [5:17]. The unity between Jesus and the Father is not to be considered as a dogmatic statement regarding the Trinity, but in the way it has been consistently affirmed throughout the narrative. Their unity is one of action: 

  • Jesus does the works of the Father [verse 25]; 
  • Jesus reveals what he has learnt from the Father [verse 18]; 
  • Jesus, in his humanity, reveals the face of the Father. 
  • The Father was the second witness Jesus summoned to testify to his identity [verse 25].
31 The Jews picked up stones once more to stone him.  

This was the second occasion that Jesus faced an imminent stoning [8:59]. The dynamics at work behind such extreme violence need to be recognised. Why the exclusion? Why the violence? Jesus challenged their sense of God, re-defining God in light of his own behaviour and attitudes. He did not ask them to deny their God, but to probe further the truth of that God. But why the violence? Their sense of God constituted their sense of group identity. Any challenge to their sense of God, particularly given their presence within the pagan world that surrounded them, was felt as challenge to their sense of group identity and unity. To accept Jesus as revealing the face of God, they would have to discover a whole other basis for group cohesion, the way of mutual love. Though they did not see this clearly (caught, as they were, in their chosen blindness [9:41]), the dynamic was there; and it was powerful. Rather than meet the challenge that Jesus raised, they would eliminate him; and be left in peace.

32 Jesus answered them,
“I have shown you a lot of good deeds from my Father.  
For which of these deeds are you stoning me?”

Jesus stood his ground, and challenged them on the basis of the evidence of his deeds. Earlier in the narrative, during the discussion with his critics after his healing the crippled man, Jesus had similarly nominated the Father as the source of his works: The works that the Father has gave me to carry out, these works that I do, they witness about me that the Father has sent me [5:36]. The works to which Jesus referred involved more than his healings; they included, also, his general cooperation with the Father, and included his teaching, among other things. 

33 The Jews replied,
“We are not stoning you because of any good work,
but because of your blasphemies –
because you, who are just a man, make yourself God.”

On the previous attempt at stoning, the Jews had accused him of a similar offence: He was calling God his own Father, and making himself equal to God. [5:18]. This was the first formal occasion that his claim was called blasphemy. (It would be blasphemy, of course, if it were not true.) Perhaps, given the re-dedication of the Temple that they were remembering, the accusation carried echoes of Antiochus, the blasphemer, who had declared himself Epiphanes (which means the revelation of God), and had desecrated the Temple of God with his altar to Zeus.

34 Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 
35 If it called gods those who spoke the word of God –
and the Scriptures cannot be annulled –
36 why do you say that the one whom the Father sanctified
and sent into the world
is blaspheming,
because he says, ‘I am the son of God’?

Jesus used a form of argumentation common in rabbinic schools of the time, though it would hardly convince modern logically-oriented minds. He called a third witness to attest to his identity – the Scriptures. The scriptural line he quoted occurred in one of the Psalms:

I say, “You are gods,
children of the Most High, all of you” [Psalm 82:6].

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word god carried numerous applications, especially when its use was more as an adjective than as a noun. According to this text, any “children of the Most High” (son of God) could be called a gods without being accused of blasphemy. Ironically, the title was used, most often, of the High Priests. Jesus, of course, saw the title applying to himself in a totally transcendent way.

In referring to himself as the one sanctified by the Father, Jesus used the word that described the festival they were celebrating – the sanctification (consecration) of the temple. Jesus was not only the good shepherd; he was also the new Temple where God would be especially present and accessible to all. Though the leadership would soon desecrate the personal “temple” by their killing of Jesus, the Father would re-consecrate (sanctify) him by raising him to new life.

37 If I do not do my Father’s works, do not believe me.
38 But if I do them, and you still do not believe me,
believe the works,
so that you may know and recognise
that the Father is in me
and that I am in the Father.”

Jesus’ clear claim to his unique relationship with the Father would stand or fall on the basis of his works. No work could, of course, empirically prove his claim; but to those who were prepared to be challenged, and who were free enough to trust his obvious integrity and truth, his works (including his teaching) pointed sufficiently clearly to his identity. This was the constant refrain of the Beloved Disciple, and his unswerving response to the challenge of the Jews to tell us openly [verse 24].

39 So they tried once more to arrest him.   He walked away out of their reach.

Unsettled by his arguments, they stepped back from the decision to stone Jesus [8:59]. Nevertheless, they wished to silence him, so they still attempted to arrest him.

The author made the point of the futility of their attempt to arrest Jesus, in order to emphasise his control of the situation. His time had not yet come [7:6] – but it was ominously drawing closer. When the time would come, Jesus would return to Jerusalem to face his destiny.

40 So he went away again across the Jordan
to the place where John was when he was first baptising,
and stayed there.  
41 Many people came to him there.  
They were saying that John did not do any sign,
and that everything John said about him was true.
42 And many there believed in him.

The reminder of the former activity and testimony of John provided the fourth witness to the identity of Jesus, cited in Jesus’ earlier controversy with the Jews (after his healing of the cripple [5:33]). The remark that many there believed in him provided a positive conclusion to Jesus’ long and tortuous debate with the Jewish leadership and crowds.

Next >> John 11:1-45