John 10:22-42 – I and the Father are One

(These notes were prepared for a series of teachings on John’s gospel given in Pretoria in 2008 and 2009)

JN 10:22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for 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 can 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 the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “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 the Scripture cannot be broken – 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 what my Father does. 38 But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, 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.
40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

The Feast of Dedication celebrates the rebuilding of the altar after Antiochus had defiled it with pig’s blood. Two months had passed since Jesus appeared at Tabernacles, but the controversy over him had not ended.

In our previous study we considered how Jesus revealed himself as the good shepherd – countering accusations that he was leading the people astray. We also considered some of the prophecies that spoke of this shepherd and anticipated his coming.

In Ezekiel 34 we saw how YHVH promised:

`I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep …23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.’

In these verses, we see that YHVH and Messiah would both become the Shepherd of Israel. God the Father and David his Servant thus have a common identity in the person of the Shepherd. We see this again in Isaiah:

You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
(Isaiah 40:9-11).

Messiah is announced with the words, ‘here is your God!’ The sovereign YHVH comes and ‘his arm rules for him’. Isaiah 53 identifies ‘the arm of the Lord’ as the one who bears our iniquities,’ by whose stripes we are healed. Thus YHVH and Messiah are presented as a single organism, of which Messiah is ‘the arm’.

A further ‘shepherd prophecy’ is found in Micah 2:

I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob;
I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,
like a flock in its pasture;
the place will throng with people.

One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
they will break through the gate and go out.
Their king will pass through before them,
YHVH at their head.

(verses 12-13)

Jesus by his atoning death breaks open the way to eternal life and goes before us as the first-fruits from the dead. As king Messiah he is once again integrally associated with YHVH.

Jesus had also affirmed (John 10:16) that the nations would be gathered to Israel at this time: “I have other sheep not of this fold. I must bring them in also.” This was predicted in a number of other prophecies, including Zechariah 2:10:

‘Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares YHVH. ‘Many nations will be joined with YHVH in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that YHVH Almighty has sent me to you.’

Thus on the day that YHVH comes to dwell among his people they will know that YHVH Almighty has sent YHVH to them. A complexity over which the Scribes and Pharisees must surely have deliberated!

Yet a further example from Zechariah:

‘… they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born’ (verse 12:10).

YHVH speaks first of ‘me whom they have pierced’ and then of ‘him’ for whom they shall mourn as an only son. Here also we see that God the Father, and his Suffering Messiah are fully identified with each other.

These prophesies with their astounding implications were part of Israel’s heritage, and was in the context of this heritage that Jesus proclaimed, ‘I and the Father are one.’

This declaration is immediately understood by the Pharisees as a claim to being God, i.e. that Jesus was including himself in the ‘One’ spoken of in Deuteronomy 6:4: ‘Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the Lord is one.’ (This is the central creed of Judaism, referred to as the “Shema”.)

The wording of the ‘Shema’ raises difficulties of its own. Firstly the Hebrew word translated as ‘our God’ is ‘eloheinu‘ which is plural and thus more correctly rendered ‘our Gods’. It follows, if a plural concept is to be ‘one’ that the ‘one’ is not a simple unit, but rather a complex unit. This is also the case in other verses in the Books of Moses that use the same Hebrew word for ‘one’. E.g.

  • In Genesis 1:5, ‘God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night: and the evening and the morning were one day’. In this example the one day (Hebrew ‘yom echad‘) is made up of two components, being day and night.
  • Genesis 2:24 contains another example: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh’. Again we see two components coming together as one.

Thus Jesus’ claim could not be simply rejected! If indeed he were the Messiah, his claim to oneness with YHVH had a Scriptural basis and required further consideration.

31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “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 referring again to his miracles Jesus made it clear to the Pharisees that he will be judged by one criterion only, namely whether his works are the works of God, and whether his claims are in accordance with the Law and the Prophets, i.e. are consistent with God’s Word. In verse 37 he tells them plainly: ‘Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does’.

They were required to own him on this basis before they would recognize that he is in the Father and the Father is in him.

Just like Moses was empowered to do miracles in the face of Pharaoh in order to free the Israelites from bondage, so Jesus, the Prophet like Moses, did many miracles in the sight of these religious leaders, in order to free a remnant of Israel from their bonds. The signs and miracles that Jesus worked were thus proof at face value that he was the Prophet, which proof they could not simply reject. Jesus invites them: ‘ … even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father’ (verse 38).

Jesus then refers to Psalm 82 and, by inference, to Exodus 21:6 to which this Psalm refers. Exodus 21:6 speaks of the process when an emancipated slave wishes to be bound to his former master by free will:

‘Then his master shall bring him to the gods [most translations read ‘judges’ even though the Hebrew is ‘elohim’]; he shall also bring him to the door, or to the door-post: and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.’

The judges of Israel are described as ‘gods’ because they had their commission and authority from the Most High, and executed His judgments. Psalm 82 then speaks of these judges as follows:

‘God stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: deliver them from the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for you will inherit all nations’ (Psalm 82:1-8).

If those who would eventually depart from God’s will and provoke His judgment and wrath were referred to as ‘gods’ and ‘children of the Most High’, how much more applicable are these names to him who never departed for a moment from the Divine Will and Favour?

Exodus 21 and Psalm 82 show that the ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’ of God incorporates everything done by His authority and in accordance with His will. What Jesus hopes to bring to the Pharisees’ understanding is this: that ‘God is One’ is in itself a meaningless proclamation. God is One of what and One for what? His unity can only be explained in the integrity of His being and in the undividedness of His purpose. God is not at odds with Himself, but what is that “Self”? James contends that even the demons confess that ‘God is One’, and shudder (James 2:19).

The Heavenly Father and Jesus his Son share both an absolute congruity in nature (Hebrews 1:3) and also a common purpose (John 6:38-40) – and it is on this ground that Jesus and the Father are completely One.

They would stone Jesus for blasphemy for violating their crude and simplistic sense of ‘One’ while showing by their rejection of him, that they did not know the nature of the ‘One’ nor what He had purposed to do for them.

How tragic that the Jews of history should be willing to die to uphold ‘that God is One’ without knowing that One!