William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Inviting The Acid Test (John 10:31-39)

10:31-39 The Jews again lifted up stones to stone him. Jesus said to them: "I have showed you many lovely deeds, which came from my Father. For which of these deeds are you trying to stone me?" The Jews answered him: "It is not for any lovely deed that we propose to stone you; it is for insulting God, and because you, being a man, make yourself God." "Does it not stand written in your law," Jesus answered them, "'I said you are gods'? If he called those to whom the word came gods--and the scripture cannot be destroyed--are you going to say about me, whom the Father consecrated and despatched into the world: 'You insult God,' because I said: 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and recognize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father." They again tried to lay violent hands on him, but he evaded their grasp.

To the Jews Jesus' statement that he and the Father were one was blasphemy. It was the invasion by a man of the place which belonged to God alone. The Jewish law laid down the penalty of stoning for blasphemy. "He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him" ( Leviticus 24:16 ). So they made their preparations to stone Jesus. The Greek really means that they went and fetched stones to fling at him. Jesus met their hostility with three arguments.

(i) He told them that he had spent all his days doing lovely things, healing the sick feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowing, deeds so full of help and power and beauty that they obviously came from God. For which of these deeds did they wish to stone him? Their answer was that it was not for anything he had done that they wished to stone him, but for the claim he was making.

(ii) This claim was that he was the Son of God. To meet their attack Jesus used two arguments. The first is a purely Jewish argument which is difficult for us to understand. He quoted Psalms 82:6 . That psalm is a warning to unjust judges to cease from unjust ways and defend the poor and the innocent. The appeal concludes: "I say, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.'" The judge is commissioned by God to be god to men. This idea comes out very clearly in certain of the regulations in Exodus. Exodus 21:1-6 tells how the Hebrew servant may go free in the seventh year. As the King James Version has it, Exodus 21:6 says "Then his master shall bring him unto the judges." But in the Hebrew, the word which is translated judges is actually 'Elohiym ( Hebrew #430 ), which means gods. The same form of expression is used in Exodus 22:9 ; Exodus 22:28 . Even scripture said of men who were specially commissioned to some task by God that they were gods. So Jesus said: "If scripture can speak like that about men, why should I not speak so about myself?"

Jesus claimed two things for himself. (a) He was consecrated by God to a special task. The word for to consecrate is hagiazein ( Greek #37 ), the verb from which comes the adjective hagios ( Greek #40 ), holy. This word always has the idea of rendering a person or a place or a thing different from other persons and places and things, because it is set aside for a special purpose or task. So, for instance, the Sabbath is holy ( Exodus 20:11 ). The altar is holy ( Leviticus 16:19 ). The priests are holy ( 2 Chronicles 26:18 ). The prophet is holy ( Jeremiah 1:5 ). When Jesus said that God had consecrated him, made him holy, he meant that he had set him apart from other men, because he had given him a special task to do. The very fact that Jesus used this word shows how conscious he was of his special task. (b) He said that God had despatched him into the world. The word used is the one which would be used for sending a messenger or an ambassador or an army. Jesus did not so much think of himself as coming into the world, as being sent into the world His coming was an act of God; and he came to do the task which God had given him to do.

So Jesus said: "In the old days it was possible for scripture to speak of judges as gods, because they were commissioned by God to bring his truth and justice into the world. Now I have been set apart for a special task; I have been despatched into the world by God; how can you then object if I call myself the Son of God? I am only doing what scripture does." This is one of those biblical arguments the force of which it is difficult for us to feel; but which to a Jewish Rabbi would have been entirely convincing.

(iii) Jesus went on to invite the acid test. "I do not ask you, he said in effect," to accept my words. But I do ask you to accept my deeds." A word is something about which a man can argue; but a deed is something beyond argument. Jesus is the perfect teacher in that he does not base his claims on what he says, but on what he is and does. His invitation to the Jews was to base their verdict on him, not on what he said, but on what he did; and that is a test which all his followers ought to be able and willing to meet. The tragedy is that so few can meet it, still less invite it.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible