God’s Son – from the Father (John 10.32-42)

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What an appalling misunderstanding! When Jesus declared that he and the Father are one (10.30), the Jewish leaders wanted to stone him. Why? Pointing out that he had shown them many lovely works from the Father, Jesus asks them which work they wanted to stone him for (10.32). Failing to pick up Jesus’ consistent teaching that his works come from the Father, they accuse him of blasphemy. They assume wrongly that Jesus is just a mere human, but that he is seeking to make himself God – whereas in fact, he is God who became human. This upside-down misunderstanding and accusation remains common today, particularly from Muslims. In John’s Gospel Jesus constantly affirms that he was with the Father in heaven and was then sent by the Father from heaven into this world. God became a human being. It is a total misunderstanding to think that Jesus was a mere man trying to make himself divine. Jesus came from heaven and likewise his miraculous works come from the Father in heaven.
Jesus calls his Father’s works ‘lovely’ (10.32 NIV ‘great’, KJV ‘good’, Greek ‘kalos’ = lovely/beautiful). And so they are! What beautiful works of love and grace he did in raising the dead, healing the sick, delivering the demon-possessed, feeding the Jewish and Gentile crowds, stilling the storm and the waves! No wonder he is called ‘the lovely (Greek ‘kalos’ again) shepherd’!
Judaism, as also Islam, is strictly based on the doctrine of monotheism, one indivisible God. The Hebrew word commonly used today for ‘one’ in reference to God, as also the Arabic Tawhid in Islam, deny any possibility that the oneness of God can have several constituent parts. This outlaws the Christian concept of Trinity, one God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but still together one God. However, in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6.4) the word for ‘one’ allows for plurality within the unity. So in God’s angelic appearances in the Old Testament a plurality is hinted at.
Within the traditional Jewish belief in one God only, Jesus affirms that he is set apart as God’s very own and sent into the world (10.36). And he underlines that his works are also the Father’s (10.37). So he maintains that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (10.38). Then, as the history of the church developed, Christians had to struggle to understand such clear claims to eternal divinity together with the Father. Maintaining the fundamentally vital truth that God is one, the wonderful reality of the Trinity emerged and became central to the Christian faith.
In John 10 was Jesus claiming to be a second God alongside Yhwh/Elohim? Or was he aiming to replace Yhwh/Elohim and be himself the one God? What were the Jewish leaders meaning when they accused him of claiming to be God?
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Jesus denies any such terrible suggestions by quoting Psalm 82.6 where the Psalmist calls all the people of Israel ‘gods’ and ‘sons of the Most High’ – and Jesus (slightly with tongue in cheek?) reminds the Jewish leaders that the Scriptures cannot be broken! To Jews of that time the expression ‘son of God’ may not have always carried any divine significance. A son of God will have the character and nature of his Father. He will also bear the responsibility of bringing honour to his Father, obeying him and doing his works. This was the call of Israel. God’s covenant with them demanded that they should be like him in all his holiness, obey his revealed Word and bring him glory and honour. Sadly Israel has consistently failed to fulfill this calling, but Jesus is sent by the Father to be the perfect Israelite and thus the uniquely perfect Son of God. He does the Father’s works and they are lovely indeed.
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Psalm 82 climaxes with the declaration that “all the nations are your inheritance”. John and also his readers will have known that. In their response to Jesus’ words they will have immediately noticed the connection with Jesus’ assertion that he was “sent into the world” (10.36), not just to Israel and his own people. Of course this universality is a key theme throughout John’s Gospel.
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So the challenge came to the Jewish leaders to believe in Jesus. If they could not believe just in him himself, at least they should believe his works and so come to believe that “the Father is in me and I in the Father” (10.38). This is indeed the fundamental purpose of John’s Gospel: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20.31).

Sadly in Jerusalem they still rejected Jesus and tried again to seize him. But when he escaped them and withdrew across the Jordan to where John the Baptist had prepared the way, “many people came to him” (10.41) because they recognised that John the Baptist’s words about Jesus were true – truth finally bears fruit.


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