Twitter puts a small blue tick next to those with verified accounts, proving that a celebrity or brand stands behind the messages being fed to the wider public. The blue badge is a seal of approval – a proof that their identity claims are true.
The need to establish the category of “verified accounts” is born out of those falsely claiming to be a particular individual. The claims can be so persuasive – and yet the cost of false identification quite damaging. The more important an individual, the greater the need for such validation.
Which is why it has been so important to verify the identity of Jesus in John 5-10. His claims are immense, and the surprises in store in John 11-20 are too great to accept from an imposter. When Jesus claims in John 5 that He is God, we need to be sure. More specifically, we have needed to see why we should believe Him when the specially selected expert panel (the Jewish leaders) held Him in contempt.
You’re not among my sheep
In John 10:22-42, we get a kind of summary of all that has gone before, and a wonderfully clear explanation of why this expert panel spurned Jesus. We pick up the account when Jesus had been asked to state plainly if He was the Christ.
I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. (vv25-26)
As throughout this section, the behaviour of Jesus proves His identity. He is the Christ, the Son of God – with all the royal and divine implications of those titles. But their response to His words has demonstrated that they are not part of His people.
Indeed, Jesus goes on to reiterate the claims of John 6. The Jews walking away from Him is not evidence of the ineffectiveness of His call. His sheep will follow Him, His words really work – and they are safe.
No one will snatch them out of my hand. (v28)
Unwilling to miss this opportunity to draw out the association between Himself and the Father, Jesus went on:
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (vv29-30)
A denial that He is God?
It’s at this point that Jesus is faced with the clearest question about His divinity anywhere in the Bible. Accusing Him of blasphemy and threatening to stone Him, the Jews challenged Jesus: “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus’ answer is initially confusing.
Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came – and Scripture cannot be broken – do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (vv34-36)
Was He just saying that it’s ok to call people gods? Doesn’t that implicitly deny that there is anything different between Him and everyone else? Is Jesus denying that He is God?
It would be a strange conclusion to draw at the end of this section, but that isn’t what makes it untrue. Spend a few minutes looking at what Jesus was saying, and you can see His claim is much bolder than that.
An argument from the lesser to the greater
For a start, Jesus’ claim is from the lesser to the greater.
Jesus draws out two categories:
- Those to whom the word of God came
- The one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world
The argument works because it implies that if the first category is good enough, the second category must be good enough. If it’s ok for those to whom the word of God came, then of course it’s ok for the one whom the Father consecrated.
If you’ll allow me a paraphase: If it’s ok to refer to them people as gods who were given their position by grace, isn’t it all the more appropriate to call Him God who is God by nature?
To prove that this is what Jesus was talking about, see His continuation in the following verses.
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in my and I am in the Father. (vv37-38)
Jesus draws attention to the works that show His nature. If it’s ok to call the leaders of Israel “gods” when they are blessed with a divinely appointed role, how much more appropriate must it be for the One who does the works of God.
But that’s not all.
A psalm about the leaders; a psalm about God
Notice the words that Jesus used. His words were explicitly a quote from Scripture – Psalm 82 – where it is self-evident that the leaders of Israel are being referred to as gods. They are those who have responsibility for judging, and for looking after ‘the weak and the needy’, who have failed to give them justice or maintain their rights. Clearly this must be the leaders of the nation.
But read on and you can see the psalm is a psalm of judgement against them. They are told they will ‘die, and fall like any prince’ (v7) in spite of their position (v6). The call of the psalm is for God to come and judge – indeed, for God to take the place of these wicked leaders and replace them1.
In the context of John 10, where Jesus had placed Himself as the Good Shepherd who replaces the bad leaders who have come before, it is clear which role He was assuming from this psalm. In a chapter all about the replacement of leadership, it’s no accident that He chose a psalm about the leaders of Israel being replaced. What we fail to realise is that it’s a psalm about God replacing the leaders; for Jesus to replace the leaders is for Him to take on the very role that God had promised to take on in Psalm 82.2
The fact that this answer fails to appease the crowd (v39) shows He hasn’t reversed His claim. Jesus is simultaneously rebuking the Jewish leaders, demonstrating His replacement of them as the Good Shepherd, and thereby drawing attention to His divine identity.
“Everything that John said about this man was true.”
The closing verses of the chapter draw attention to the beginning of the book, returning to the Jordan where John the Baptist was baptising (see John 1:28).
Our author is stepping back to remind us of how he started his account. This figure of John the Baptist, who has appeared only briefly since chapter 1, had made huge claims of Jesus at the beginning of this account. And in a book designed to prove His identity to us3, our author wants to flag that we have enough evidence to believe.
“John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there. (vv41-42)
The question on John’s lips is left unuttered: How have you responded?
More on John’s gospel will be published each Wednesday evening, with a bonus blog article thrown in on most weeks at some point before the next Wednesday. Feel free to share posts using the buttons below, and you can subscribe to the blog by using the sign-up form on the right.
- See the contrast between the judging by the leaders in v2 and the judging by God in v8 ↩
- Significantly a similar promise was made in Ezekiel 34 – a chapter all about the shepherds of Israel whose bad leadership warranted their replacement. Using much of the same language as earlier verses in John 10, God promised to come and be their shepherd. Jesus’ claim in John 10 to fulfil that promise provides yet more proof of His recognition of His own divinity. ↩
- Remember that John’s purpose is to show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, cf. John 20:31 ↩