8 August 2014

John 10:22-42

“The Father and I are one.” (v. 30)


This is the last of the debates Jesus has with the religious authorities ("the Jews") in John's Gospel. It takes place in the highly significant location of the temple and at the festival commemorating the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 164 BC (see 1 Maccabees 4:36-59). In the place where God is worshipped and where God dwells, Jesus' identity comes into sharp focus. Is Jesus the Messiah (meaning the anointed one)? In the temple context, this imagery of this title Messiah is powerfully symbolic of the temple priesthood (who were anointed when they were made priests) and therefore of God's presence.

The argument revolves around Jesus' deeds. Jesus' argument is that they speak for themselves: if you have seen and accepted the deeds he has done, then you must accept who he claims to be (verse 35). Jesus asserts his full identity - he is not simply an anointed one, but he is one with the Father. This is essentially blasphemy to his hearers who believed that no human can claim to be equal with or one with God. Jesus responds in verse 34 by quoting the law (actually Psalm 82:6), "I said, you are gods." Jesus sees his ministry and identity as being grounded in the Hebrew scriptures: just as God was faithful to those who received those writings so God is faithful to him. Perhaps we might see this as analogous to Jesus' commission to the disciples: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21).

Jesus sums up his argument by returning to his deeds: believe in the deeds even if you cannot believe in Jesus. For 21st-century readers this may be more problematic in that we are not witnesses to those deeds and this is one of John's reasons for writing (John 20:30-31). The text calls us to recognise that Jesus is the Messiah and is one with God, an identity rooted in the Hebrew scriptures.

To Ponder

  • What things tell you today about Jesus' identity?
  • Do John's Gospel's accounts of Jesus' deeds help you? How?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mark Rowland

Mark Rowland is originally from Aberystwyth and was ordained in 2011. In September 2014 he will begin a new appointment in the Coventry and Nuneaton Circuit, serving Coventry Central Hall and Woodside Avenue Methodist Church.