|Series Theme: Jesus Christ, the Son of God|
|Meditation No. 9|
|Meditation Title: Subtle Claims|
Jn 10:25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for 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 can 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." Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
In the first in this series I referred to a Muslim who had written in to my blog and his comment had been: The truth is that Jesus was not God; he never proclaimed as such, there are no direct quotes from him in this regards. It seems that such people will never be satisfied with anything less than Jesus saying the specific words, I am the Son of God. What they don't realise is that he was saying that again and again but in a cultural way that fitted his style of teaching, so it was not so obvious to those of another culture but, as we will soon see, it was in fact very obvious to those within his own culture. Let's carefully look at what we find in this passage.
Earlier verses tell us that Jesus was in Jerusalem, in the Temple precincts where he encountered hostile religious Jews (not all were hostile, and not all were religious!) who challenged him to tell them who he really was. We see his answer: I did tell you, but you do not believe. That's fairly obvious but then he gives a reason for believing: The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me. In other words look at the miracles he has been performing and realise that only God could do such things. Yesterday we considered Jesus walking on water. Ordinary human beings can't do that! But, he goes on using the picture language of sheep and a shepherd that he had used earlier in the chapter, you aren't my sheep, you don't belong to the flock of believers. And then at the end of it he says, I and the Father are one. Now our clueless sceptic may not see what he is seeing, but those hostile Jews before him certainly did! Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him . Stoning was reserved for those who committed major sins and in their society the greatest sin deserving stoning was blasphemy claiming to be God!
Just in case we are not seeing it, see what follows: "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God. There you have it, from their own mouths: you, a mere man, claim to be God. No, there is no question of any other interpretation; it is quite clear. Jesus meant it and the Jews understood it he is claiming to be God! They didn't dispute his miracles they accepted they were wonderful but it was what he said about himself that upset them! Now his actual words may be too subtle for us, but the interpretation of the Jews is not subtle at all. They know what they have heard and in their understanding this blasphemy deserves stoning!
Now this wasn't the first time this had happened. We find a similar thing happening in John chapter 8 that starts (as part of a longer conversation) with Jesus saying: Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (n 8:56-59) The angry Jews have just spoken of Abraham and Jesus uses this link to convey the same truth when he says, before Abraham was born, I am !
Now, again, to those with no understanding this is too subtle, but to the Jews it was a blatant claim that deserved stoning for blasphemy. When God revealed Himself to Moses and Moses asked what His name was, the Lord replied, I am, (see Ex 3:13 -15) meaning I am the ever present one, the eternal one. I am became the sacred name for God and so when Jesus inserts I am into his answer, the Jews clearly understand that he is referring to Himself as God and for that they want to stone him! We may not see it, but they certainly did!
The message of these verses that we have considered is very plain. Jesus DID claim to be the Son of God but often he did it in such a cultural way that it is not directly obvious to us in our culture today. However, by the responses it evoked, it is clear that that is what he was communicating to his own culture. To the scholar of Jewish beliefs and language uses at that time, the case is open and shut. Nothing more needs to be said. Jesus is declaring his Sonship and the Jews hear it, understand it, and react with immense hostility against this thought that he could be God in human form.
That, remember, is what these studies or meditations are all about. Our goal is simply to reveal what the Bible clearly says, and then seek to understand what it means. Like the Jews of Jesus' day you may struggle with the outcome of what Jesus said about himself, but be quite clear that this was what he was saying. He was equating himself with God. It is a unique claim. It has never been made by anyone else except madmen, but the record denies that this was the possibility in Jesus. This man was utterly rational in his teaching, compassionate in dealing with people, accepting of the underdogs, and with a power to overcome their physical ailments. All of this denies the possibility that he was mad. That leaves us with only one remaining conclusion: he was who he said he was, the unique Son of God.