Reasons to Believe: John 10:22-42

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When reading the gospels, it is easy to see that looking back on the events in Jesus’ life, He fulfilled all of prophecy’s requirements for the Messiah God would send. However, during Jesus’ life, only those who were truly paying attention to what was happening saw the parallels. In many cases, the Pharisees and other religious leaders saw many of the things Jesus did as trying to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, but they had already written Jesus off because He didn’t fit every characteristic of the Messiah that they had pieced together.

In our passage for this episode, which happens part way through Jesus’ ministry, enough time has passed for the people living in that part of the first century to know Jesus was special, and that He was sent from God. What they didn’t understand was whether He was truly the Messiah God had promised.

So in our passage, the crowd asks Jesus directly. Let’s read what happens and how Jesus responds. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 10, and we will be reading out of the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 22, John tells us that:

22 It was winter, and the Festival of the Dedication of the Temple was being celebrated in Jerusalem. 23 Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Porch in the Temple, 24 when the people gathered around him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us the plain truth: are you the Messiah?”

25 Jesus answered, “I have already told you, but you would not believe me. The deeds I do by my Father’s authority speak on my behalf; 26 but you will not believe, for 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 die. No one can snatch them away from me. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than everything, and no one can snatch them away from the Father’s care.

If Jesus had stopped talking at this point, the crowd would have simply been offended that Jesus had just told them they were not part of God’s “family-gift” to Jesus. Jesus’ words up to this point are challenging, because they basically tell those present that their unbelief has already excluded them, and if they had been paying attention, they would already know the answer to their question. In some ways, this echoes the religious leaders demand for a sign – even though no sign could be powerful enough to convince their stubborn hearts.

But Jesus continues, because He wants to push this crowd deeper, and He wants to challenge their thinking. Picking back up in verse 30, Jesus continues by saying,

30 The Father and I are one.”

31 Then the people again picked up stones to throw at him. 32 Jesus said to them, “I have done many good deeds in your presence which the Father gave me to do; for which one of these do you want to stone me?”

33 They answered, “We do not want to stone you because of any good deeds, but because of your blasphemy! You are only a man, but you are trying to make yourself God!”

34 Jesus answered, “It is written in your own Law that God said, ‘You are gods.’ 35 We know that what the scripture says is true forever; and God called those people gods, the people to whom his message was given. 36 As for me, the Father chose me and sent me into the world. How, then, can you say that I blaspheme because I said that I am the Son of God? 37 Do not believe me, then, if I am not doing the things my Father wants me to do. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, you should at least believe my deeds, in order that you may know once and for all that the Father is in me and that I am in the Father.”

39 Once more they tried to seize Jesus, but he slipped out of their hands.

40 Jesus then went back again across the Jordan River to the place where John had been baptizing, and he stayed there. 41 Many people came to him. “John performed no miracles,” they said, “but everything he said about this man was true.” 42 And many people there believed in him.

The way John the apostle concludes this passage is powerful. In some ways, it echoes the conclusion of several previous events in his gospel. This conclusion draws our attention to the comparison between John the Baptist, who the people believed God had sent to point them to the Messiah, and Jesus Himself. When comparing Jesus and John the Baptist, the crowd observed that John the Baptist performed no miracles, but everything he had described to them about the coming Messiah directly described Jesus. It is for this reason John the gospel writer tells us that many more people believed in Jesus.

However, it is interesting to note Jesus’ closing argument as well, because it is powerful and it reveals some important pieces of human nature. Up to this point, the people wanted to grab Jesus and stone Him to death for claiming to be God, and blasphemy of this sort was punishable by death. But Jesus first diffuses their argument by pointing out that the writings of the Old Testament describes a certain group of individuals as gods (and this is gods with a lower case “g”).

Jesus then quickly backs up this statement with something they all can agree on, and that is what the scripture says is true forever. Jesus then qualifies this argument by describing how the people who received God with a capital “G”, are called gods with a lower case “g”.

Next, Jesus then draws the focus back onto His claim, and specifically the portion of it that simply said that God (capital “G”) had chosen Him and sent Him into the world. Jesus then finishes the counter-argument by stating that it is not blasphemy to claim something that has already been defined in the Old Testament scriptures.

But Jesus then goes on to give these people an escape clause, or an out. If those present believe that Jesus has drifted or gone against what God, with a capital “G”, would have Him do, then they should discount these claims and simply believe in Him based on the miracles and good things He has done.

Earlier in this passage, the people had already validated their idea that Jesus’ deeds were good. It was not for any “thing” Jesus had done that they wanted to stone Him for, but simply for the words that He spoke. Here at the end of Jesus’ challenge to them, Jesus tells them that if they still don’t believe in His claims, that they should at least believe in the truth that He was sent by God the Father because of the miracles they had witnessed. Only then would they begin to realize the truth about Him, specifically that there was an undeniable connection between Jesus and God the Father.

But the people were not ready to make that leap of faith towards Jesus, and they tried to grab Jesus to stone Him, but they were unable to. After making His statement and challenge, Jesus left there and went to another place. Jesus wanted to give these people time to think about what He had said.

What Jesus describes in this passage is powerful for all of us. In essence, Jesus says that a person’s reason for believing in Him doesn’t matter. What matters is simply that someone believes in Him. People could believe in Jesus based on His teaching; or based on what John described Jesus to be; or because Jesus was a miracle worker; or because they believed the symbol of the lamb that had been sacrificed pointed forward to Someone taking their place.

For all those living prior to Jesus’ ministry, they only had the symbol of the Lamb, but after Jesus, we now have numerous other reasons to believe. According to what Jesus tells this crowd, it doesn’t matter which reason (or reasons) we choose to believe. What matters is that we put our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him.

As we come to the close of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Continue to seek God first and pick a reason, really any reason, to put your faith in Jesus. Instead of taking the skeptic’s route and looking for ways we should not believe, take the friend’s route and look for ways and things that we can believe in about Jesus. When we look for belief-worthy aspects of Jesus and His character, we are able to find plenty of validation.

Also, continue studying the Bible for yourself to learn just who Jesus was, and who He is. Jesus is living forever in Heaven, and aside from His body undergoing a restoration at His resurrection, Jesus’ love, character, mission, and heart have not changed from when He was walking around with the disciples in the first century. The description of Jesus in the gospels, and what the early church modeled are the two best examples we have to learn who Jesus is and what He is like.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short, back down, give up on, or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Season 3 – Episode 29: Cam discusses an event where those in the crowd want to stone Jesus because of what He was preaching, and what we can learn about Him from His message to this group of people.

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