Through the Bible in One Year

Day 147

John 10:22-42

Yesterday we saw the third and the fourth of Jesus’ “I am” statements that are found in John’s Gospel.  And just an interesting side note, we have now reached the half-way point in John’s Gospel, but we have not yet reached the pivotal point of John’s Gospel.  In today’s passage we see the culmination of the Festival cycle that began all the way back in chapter 5.  Today’s passage also builds on the discussion that happened in yesterday’s passage.  What we see here could be a continuation of the events that have taken place both in chapter 9 and the first half of chapter 10, but because there is no seasonal reference given for the events in chapter 9 and the first half of chapter 10, there is no way to know for sure whether this was one long continuous event or separate events that took place over the course of weeks and months.

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”—10:22-24

This passage culminates the Festival Cycle that begin in chapter 5.  The setting for this passage is Solomon’s colonnade.  Here Jesus identified himself as the Son of God against the backdrop of the Festival of Dedication.  This festival was celebrated in December and there is no Old Testament reference to this festival.  Its origin is found in Israel’s battle for religious freedom against the Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  The Jewish people fought courageously against enormous odds to defeat his forces.  Just as the Jewish people commemorated their deliverance from a tyrannical rule, Jesus declared that God sent him as the ultimate deliverer.  When the Jews could no longer stand it, they asked Jesus to tell them if he was the Messiah.

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”—10:25-30

Jesus had already answered their identity question by his signs.  Their failure to believe was because they were not his sheep.  His sheep recognize his voice, follow him, and are eternally secure in their relationship with him.  The eternal destiny of the sheep depends not on their feeble efforts but on Christ’s firm grip on them.  In verse 24 the Jews asked Jesus for a plain assertion of his Messiahship; in verse 30 he gave them the answer.  He is the Messiah, but he is more than the Messiah they anticipated.  Jesus said he and the Father are one in nature and purpose.

Now let’s circle back around to verses 27 and 28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

True followers of Christ recognize and obey his voice and follow his direction.  They learn to recognize his voice because they spend time communicating with and listening to him.  They do this through time in prayer and God’s Word.  They also learn to discern, which is to spiritually know something by the wisdom of God, his guidance by practicing what he tells them through prayer and the Word.  “Listen to” and “follow” are in the present tense, indicating ongoing and consistent activity.  To those who continue to follow him, Christ gives eternal life.  Those who stray from him, refusing to listen and follow him, prove that they are not his sheep.

Now that we know about verse 27 let’s turn our attention to verse 28, which says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  This is a precious promise to all of Christ’s followers.  Jesus is talking about spiritual life, which is knowing God and living with him forever, and spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God.  DEATH WILL NOT DEFEAT FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST NOR SEPARATE THEM FROM GOD’S LOVE OR PRESENCE.  They are destined for eternity with him.  No power or circumstance on earth can take the sheep from the shepherd.  It is Christ’s power and authority that provide safety and security for even the weakest sheep that follow and listen to him as the good shepherd.

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside — what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 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 in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.—10:31-39

The Jews understood Jesus’ claim as blasphemy because he equated himself with God, and they picked up stones to stone him.  Jesus appealed again to his good works in response to their threat of stoning.  They claimed they were stoning him not because of his good works but for blasphemy.  Jesus replied by quoting Psalm 82:6, “I said, ‘You are “god”; you are all sons of the Most High’.”  While the passage is difficult, the most likely interpretation is that it speaks of Israel’s leaders (judges) in terms of gods.  They fulfilled their God-given role by their judicial function.  Jesus’ argument was from the lesser to the greater.  If God called Israel’s leaders gods, how much more appropriate is it for the Son of God to speak of himself this way?  Jesus concluded by challenging the crowd to believe in him.  His signs were a clear indication of his mutual indwelling with the Father.  And they failed once again to arrest him, because his time had not yet come.

Now let’s circle back around to that phrase from verse 34 “you are gods.”  Jesus is not teaching that his followers are to consider themselves gods.  On the contrary, those who declare themselves to be gods—or who live like they are their own gods—will fall under God’s severe judgement.  There are three important things that we need to take away from this often misunderstood phrase in John’s Gospel.

  1. Jesus was quoting from Psalm 82:6 in reference to the judges who were appointed by God for specific tasks.  With the emphasis being on how much more Jesus should be recognized as God, since he was sent by the Father to fulfill his highest mission of spiritual justice and salvation.
  2. In this passage, Jesus uses the phrase “you are ‘gods’” in speaking to corrupt rulers who were biased toward ungodly people and were even cruel to children.  These rulers, who acted as if they were gods, would eventually suffer judgement and die.
  3. To declare oneself a god is the ultimate sin of the antichrist.

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus.—10:40-42

Jesus left Jerusalem for Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River.  It was there that John the Baptist once ministered.  Even though John the Baptist was dead, his words and influence lived on.  Jesus did not return to Jerusalem again until his Triumphal entry on what has become known as Palm Sunday.  And we will pick from here tomorrow, when we see the incredible events that place in Bethany.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Samuel 14:1-15:22, John 18:1-24, Psalm 119:97-112 and Proverbs 16:8-9

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