Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

126. "I and my Father are One John 10:22-42

The Feast of Chanukah (mid-December) celebrated the re-dedication of the temple in the time of the Maccabees after its defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. It was a quite unnecessary feast, for there was no new feast inaugurated to celebrate the cleansing of the temple after its defilement during the reign of Ahaz (2 Kgs.16 :12-15; 2 Chr.29 :15-18), and again in the time of Manasseh (2 Chr.33 :3-5). Attendance at this celebration was not obligatory, but Jesus was there for a more important purpose—to save a "lost sheep," the once-blind man who had been cast out by the men of the temple (see Study 123), and also to use the opportunity to drive home an appeal in the minds of some of the rulers who were in a state of indecision regarding himself (v.24). Mention of Jerusalem (v.22) might be a hint of the Lord’s return there after spending two months with his team of preachers (Lk.10 :1) who were busy covering the country.

"It was winter; and Jesus walked in Solomon's Porch." Josephus says it was the only part of Solomon's temple which had survived. (Ant. 20.9.7). The facts are interesting in themselves, but they are of even greater value when seen through the symbolic spectacles which John expects his readers to wear. Here not only is there indication that because of cold weather Jesus continued his teaching in a sheltered part of the temple, but also an important hint of the frosty reception his word received. And the Hebrew word for "winter" also means "blasphemy"-a significant fact John must have been aware of. Similarly, Jesus in Solomon's porch immediately conjures up a picture of one able to discourse with all the wisdom of Solomon (2 Chr. 1:9,10).


There a number of the rulers came round him in a group, eager and aggressive. John's word: "encircled him" echoes Psalm 118 with its powerful Messianic message. "They compassed me about like bees; yea, they compassed me about: in the name of the Lord (seeJn. 10:24) I will destroy them" (v.10-12). The superb relevance of this psalm to the experiences of Christ cannot be followed in detail here, but these are some of its outstanding prognostications:

"Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar (cp. 116 :3RV) ... The Lord hath chastened me sore, but he hath not given me over to death . . . The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner" (v.27,18,22; see also 88 :17; 22 :16).

The group of hostile rulers gathered round him demanded: "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." Here the Greek can be read in more than one way. This AV reading is a paraphrase of one of them. Literally, it is: "Until when art thou taking away our life (or, soul)?" This is read by some as meaning: "keeping us in a state of agitation (or uncertainty)"; by others, "how long dost thou crucify us?" (s.w. 12 :32-34); but Hoskyns insists that the reference is to the Law of Moses. He sums up thus: "To the Evangelist (John) Judaism is fulfilled and superseded, to the Jewish opponents of Jesus it is destroyed, its life taken away-unless indeed Jesus be veritably the Christ of God." This view has the merit of being thoroughly in line with the theme of the rest of the gospel, as it comes out in every chapter.

"Tell us plainly" implies a recognition that Jesus had irritated them with his parable (v.6). And, like their similar demand at his trial (Lk.22 :67), it was hopelessly inconsistent with their earlier criticism: "Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true" (8 :13). Any method, if only they might have a stick to beat him with.

Although they persisted (Gk.impf.tense), in reply Jesus was not disposed to be helpful. To such men why should he be? So he bluntly answered:

"I told you, and ye do not believe: the works that I do in my Father's name they bear witness of me."

In his earlier appeals in the temple court he had made it clear enough that he was the promised Prophet like unto Moses, he was the embodiment of the Shekinah Glory of God, he was the Messianic Shepherd who would save the neglected flock from their evil leaders (Jn. 5:46; 8:12; 10:11). He had told them even more plainly in a profusion of amazing signs miraculously done in Jerusalem and Galilee. How was it possible for anyone to miss the meaning of them?

What a contrast in the readiness with which the apostles (1:41,45) and the people of Samaria (4:26-29,39) and the blind man (9:35-37) acknowledged the Lord's divine character.

Nevertheless there was failure to grasp this truth: "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep."

One would have expected the argument to be presented conversely from this: "Ye are not of my sheep, because ye believe not." But in nearly all the discourses in Jerusalem (e.g. 8:47) the predestinarian emphasis is well to the fore, for the Purpose and Action of God through His Son is, of course, the main theme of this Gospel.

The structure of v.27,28 is worth noting - Sheep and Shepherd:

A. My sheep hear my voice;

B. and I know them,

A. And they follow me; '

B. and I am giving unto them eternal life;

A. And they shall never perish,

B. neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

The echoes here of the Good Shepherd discourse, and also the use of the word "snatch" (v.28,29,12), make it clear that this encounter followed on without any lapse of time.

"Ye are not of my sheep." Indeed, they were not. Instead, Holy Scripture described them as "dogs" (Ps. 22:16) which "compassed him about" (v.24 s.w.).

The true sheep "in no wise perish." Attempts have been made to dilute the force of this remarkable language by reading it: "shall not perish for ever." But this will not do, for "perish" means "for ever." In any case attempts to handle the same idiom in the same way produce a ludicrous result: "shall not thirst for ever" (4:14); "thou shalt not wash my feet for ever" (13:8).

Instead, a correct understanding will take proper account of the characteristic phraseology of this gospel (e.g. past tense in 17:12RV; Study 206).

"Eternal Life!"

Here once again is the Lord's concept of eternal life as something different from immortality in a future age. There is an undeniably close link between the two, or it would be impossible to make sense of the terminology. This is "eternal life" when "my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (v.27). The figure of speech is different, but the idiom is the same in the familiar words: "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (6 :54). The strong declarations that "no one shall snatch them out of my hand ... no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand" (cp. ls.43 :13) are not to be read as meaning that immortality is inevitable for those who are in the Lord's flock. This word "snatch" makes an undeniable link with the Shepherd parable: "the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth the sheep" (v.12; the Gk. word is the same). This wolf represents the false teacher, capable of doing untold damage. But in other respects a man can remove himself, through an act of personal decision, from the orbit of the grace of God which is the eternal life Jesus was talking about.

On this vital theme consideration should be given to such explicit passages as these:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom.8 :35-39; the entire passage should be pondered). "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Heb.10:38). "He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.. ."(Ps.95:7,)."... holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1 :22,23).

In this sublime work—Operation Redemption-Father and Son have different roles but their aim, purpose, spirit, action is one: "I and my Father are one." The context of the words should have told the critics who heard them that this was their scope. So also should the Lord's use of a neuter for "one" (Jn. 17:11,21; cp. 1 Cor. 6:17). At the smiting of the rock (Num.20 :10) Moses made the same claim, though in what a different spirit! Failing to recognize (or lacking the will to recognize) that Jesus spoke of the relationship between monarch and ambassador, but instead eager to find fault and with no will to understand, these men reacted strongly: "They took up stones again (Jn.8 :59; Ex.17 :4), to stone him."

Jesus faced them with a fearless irony: "Many good works have I shewed you from my Father (he used the word characteristic of Genesis 2; "and God saw that it was good"); for which of those works do ye stone me?" They answered with a rough accusation of blasphemy (Lev. 24:14); "because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." God's true charge against Moses (Num. 20:10; Dt. 4:21,22) they now falsely brought against the Son of God. There was no blasphemy here. Did not Scripture foretell this very situation: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Zech. 13:7).

A Psalm of Messiah

For answer Jesus used an unexpected Biblical argument from Psalm 82. He called it "your law" (using "law" as a synecdoche for "Bible", i.e. Law, Psalms, Prophets; cp. Jn. 15 :25:12:34; 1 Cor. 14 :21) so as to emphasize that there was a moral obligation to do what this scripture said, "And the scripture cannot be unloosed"—it is binding.

The historical setting of this psalm is probably the expostulation of God's righteous king or prophet in the days of Hezekiah, as he arraigned the princes of Israel for a selfish unprincipled abuse of their responsibilities as the nation's guides and judges. But the higher reference of the psalm is to the Lord's exposure of iniquity in the priests and Pharisees of his day. Here was no slick juggling with words, but a cogent argument based on a prophecy which, besides its earlier reference, was divinely intended to bear on this very situation-the contention between Jesus and his adversaries.

Psalm 82 presents a picture of one who stands to reproach and censure the elohim who rule God's people. This use of elohim with a reference to angels or men or the Messiah, in their capacity as agents of Almighty God, is by no means uncommon in the Old Testament. In at least eight places besides the one under examination, the rulers of Israel are referred to in this way (see Notes).

In the psalm the one who acts in God's stead lo reprove these men in authority declares: "Ye welohim, and all of you sons of the Most High; but ye shall die like men"-or, perhaps, "like Adam."

The citing of these words became for Jesus an argument of multiple force. In the first place, it exemplified how the name of God could rightly be used of those who were God's representatives in the administration of His Law. Then how much more fitting was it that Jesus, with all the marks of divinity about his works and teaching, should claim to be a Son of God.

More than this, the opening words of the psalm declared his right to a divine title: "Elohim standeth in the congregation of God (El); he judgeth among the elohim." Accordingly he was there to judge them, not to be judged by them. "Ye shall die like Adam" foretold the rejection of Israel and the outpouring of wrath upon them. "Arise, O God (the LXX here has the usual word for resurrection!), judge thou the Land; but thou shall inherit all the Gentiles" (this is v.16). These other elohim have no right to such inheritance, but here is one to whom it is said: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the Gentiles for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Ps.2:8).

Against such a background how trenchant was the Lord's vindiction of his own claims to a divine mission: "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came . . . say ye of him, whom the Father sanctified (to fulfil Psalm 82), and sent into the (Jewish) world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am Son of God?"

That phrase: "sent into the world" was surely used deliberately by Jesus, with reference to Zechariah 6 :15, which came in the Haftarah for the Feast of the Dedication: "And ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you." The entire passage is for and about Messiah. "Take silver and gold, and make crowns (i.e. a crown of splendour), and set it upon the head of Jesus the high-priest (the Son, the Lord of righteousness) . . . Behold the man whose name is The Branch ... he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the Glory . . . and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (the Father and the Son) . . . and they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord . . . And this shall come to pass if hearing ye shall hear the voice of the Lord your God" (v. 11-15).

With yet another allusion to Psalm 82 Jesus reinforced his claims: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." The ground of the denunciation in the psalm was that the works of God-doing justice to the afflicted and destitute rescuing the poor and needy (v.3,4)—were not being done by these unworthy elohim. "But" (Jesus went on) / do them, (therefore) though ye believe not me, believe the works."

How was it that they, unworthy "sons of the Most High" (Ps. 82:6), were unable to recognize the worthy Son of the Most High in their midst? The blind man, with the simple logic of unprejudice, had said to them: "Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence he is, and he opened my eyes!" The stubborn refusal to face unbudgeable facts within their own experience merited that blind beggar's withering censure and the Lord's infallible condemnation.

"Believe the works" said Jesus, "so that ye may recognize and go on learning that trie Father is in me, and I in him." But they were prepared neither to recognize nor to learn any such thing. Instead, once again (v.38,39), they tried to lay hands on him, in order to drag him "outside the camp" and stone him to death there (note the details of Lev. 24:14).; but they failed —as they were bound to do until his hour was come. "No man taketh my life from me ... no man is able to pluck out of the Father's hand." Once again, as on earlier occasions, there is no kind of hint as to how Jesus escaped, but assuredly the angel of the Lord was acting invisibly lest the Son of God dash his foot against a stone (Ps. 91:12; 34:7). Possibly the protection of the more sympathetic Pharisees was the human means by which the animosity of the Lord's most rancorous enemies was thwarted. Psalm 82 suggests yet another possiblity—that there was an earthquake shock which scared these hostile men from their evil intention: "All the foundations of earth are out of course" (the Hebrew word for earthquake, an expression of the wrath of God; Ps.18 :7).

Across Jordan

So again Jesus forsook the holy city. He got away from the plotting of the Jewish leaders to the place across Jordan where the Baptist had borne witness to him and where he himself now had a fruitful ministry, gathering in many who had formerly been John's disciples. The early witness of John to his greater kinsman was at last doing its work: "After me cometh a man which is become before me ... this is the Son of God ... Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1 :30,34,29). The remembered witness of John combined with the general knowledge of bitter hostility in Jerusalem to prepare men's minds for what lay ahead. At least, that is what the writer of this gospel would fain do for his readers.

"John did no miracle! (people said), but all things that John spake of this man were true." These words carry several important implications.

The lack of tendency to glorify John by attributing miracles to him shows the truth of the gospels. Thus they become a marvellously powerful witness to the fact that Jesus did work miracles. Another conclusion is that John must have said much more concerning Jesus than the gospels record. Also, in his preaching John had made great play with Isaiah 40 as a prophecy of his own work and Messiah's. Now the people could themselves match the Lord's discourse on the Good Shepherd with the lovely words: "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (ls.40 :11). And now it was easier to equate the prophecy of Isaiah 53 with the Baptist's witness to "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world"-"as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (53:7).

It must have been very evident now to all who made sober assessment of the trend of affairs in Judaea that the rulers were determined to be rid of Jesus of Nazareth, and would stick at nothing to accomplish their purpose.

Notes: Jn. l0:22-42

Jerusalem. Mention of the city here might be a hint of Jesus' return after two months'absence.
28, 29
The care of the Good Shepherd and of the Father who "is greater than all" are beautifully brought together in Isaiah 40 :11,26. Note how v.28b, 29b prepare the way for v.30.
Ye are gods Ex. 21:6; 22:8,28; ISam. 2:25; Ps. 97:7; 38:1. And note 2 Chr. 19:6. But the argument is not only from the use of elohim with reference to men; it builds also on the fact that theoi (LXX) does not have the definite article, thus diluting the force of the word (as in Rom. 13 :1).
Unto whom. Here in the sense of "against", as in Mk. 12 :12.
Sanctified and sent. A reference surely to the sanctifying of Jesus the high priest, in Zech. 6:15.
If I do not the works of my Father. The Gk. neatly implies: 'and you know that I do.'
Where John at first baptized; i.e. 1:28, ,not 3:23.
John did no miracle. This must have been an abiding difficulty in the way of belief in Jesus. For Elijah's ministry had been studded with marvels, but not so John's. And Elijah had ascended to heaven, but John didn't. Then was he the expected Elijah prophet announcing the Messiah? Then, was Jesus the Messiah?

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