Wednesday, May 11
Reader: “You, a mere man,”
Response: “claim to be God.”
Scripture: John 10:31-42
Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”
They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”
Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” And many who were there believed in Jesus.
As we have mentioned many times, the average Jew in Jesus’ day knew the First Testament very well, far better than most people today. They were clearly familiar with chapter thirty-four of Ezekiel where God condemns the kings of Judah as being terrible shepherds and not caring for the flock. The second part of this chapter describes the Sovereign Lord as the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep and makes judgments about them. This Shepherd came from the lineage of King David with its obvious Messianic implications.
Just prior to the passage you read, Jesus had made the claim among the crowd to be the Good Shepherd. The people clearly made the connection between what he said and Ezekiel’s passage. For those who didn’t make the connection, Jesus had helped them by also stating that he and the Father were one. Now there was no doubt as to his identity. The people’s response was to pick up stones to kill him for blasphemy.
Notice the intent of Jesus’ question and how he focuses their thoughts on the central point he is making. His question is about the good works he has done―the healings, causing the blind to see, and the crippled to walk. He forces them to acknowledge his claim to be the Son of God. He then goes to the Scriptures where the word ‘god’ is applied to humans in Psalm 82:6. If the Scriptures themselves apply the word to human beings then why the consternation over Jesus’ saying he was the Son of God? I recognize we could have quite a discussion here over the use of the word “god” in relation to “God,” but that is for another time. In a way, I think maybe Jesus trapped them in their use of the word God. At any rate, we went back to citing his works given to him by the Father to underscore his identity. If they had trouble with his words, they could not deny his actions to authenticate his words. Nevertheless, their rejection of him continued in their attempts to arrest him. Even at this, many believed him based on his works and words.
A brief observation: in Jesus’ early ministry he did many miracles to demonstrate his identity, but later on he relied more on what he said in calling himself the Son of Man.
The people most responsive to him tended to be the common small town people while the social, political, and religious establishments, the upper crust, more commonly rejected him as a threat. It’s always fascinating to study Jesus’ thought process in observing his interaction with people. Why does the Good Shepherd say what he says when he says it? Asking those kinds of questions is a good practice when you are reading the gospels.
Music: “The Lord’s My Shepherd” Stuart Townend
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once for all received us under thy protection, and hast promised that our salvation would be so much under thy care, that whatever Satan and the whole world may contrive thou wilt yet keep us safe and secure,―O grant that being endued with perseverance, we may remain within our borders, and not be carried away here and there either by craft or by wicked counsels; and since thou hast already made open to us an access to thee in the person of thine only-begotten Son, O grant that we, the sheep, may rely on him as our Shepherd, and resignedly abide under his protection until at length we be removed from all dangers into that eternal rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of Christ thine only Son. Amen. ―John Calvin, from Devotions and Prayers of John Calvin, p.51