John 10:22-39. “I am God”

John 10:22    Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,  23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 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.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

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

34  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods” ’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 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’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 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.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

The Festival of Dedication commemorates Judas Maccabeus’ ritual purification of the Temple in 164BC after the Greeks had desecrated the Holy of Holies. There seems no explicit link between this particular Feast and the narrative, except perhaps for the potentially blasphemous nature of Jesus’ claim. Indeed, Jesus’ claim to be God is unambiguous.

Jesus is asked if the he is the Messiah. His answer– in the affirmative– is made plain by his works done in the Father’s name (v25-26). And yet, Jesus does not force people to believe. Instead he invites faith. This sets him apart from the Pharisees who compel conformity of belief by ‘excommunicating’ anyone who does not believe what they believe (which is his point in Jn 9:22, 10:1-6). Jesus does not expect universal acceptance; only his sheep will respond in faith.

Jesus’ response to the question posed in v24 now goes further than simply a claim to be the Messiah. Jesus explicitly claims that he is divine: I and the Father are one (Jn 10:30). The Jewish people who hear this immediately understand Jesus’ claim, which is why they  prepare to stone him for blasphemy (Jn 10:33).

Jesus’ defence against the charge of blasphemy is cleverly argued from the Old Testament scriptures and has the effect of buying him time. The foundation of Jesus’ argument is Psalm 82:6-7, where God presides in the great assembly to give judgment among the ‘gods’.  These ‘gods’ are not other deities in a polytheistic pantheon. Rather, they are human beings who are made in the image of God. According to the Psalm, even though they bear such an exalted status, they will still be judged and given over to death as mortals. So Jesus does claim to be God’s Son, but he also includes himself in the category shared by all of humanity made in God’s image.

For now, however, Jesus directs his interlocutors to his unique works of power. His works and signs are invitations to faith, with the ultimate goal that even his opponents would know and grasp that he is in unique relationship with the Father. The nature of this unique relationship is one of mutual indwelling: the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.