Son of God
Bible Text: John 10:22 – 42 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: John – A Better Life | John 10:22 – 42
Son of God
It’s a good time for a Messiah …
In 167 BC a Syrian king named Antiochus Epiphanes marched against the city of Jerusalem, and captured it.
Massacring men, women, and children, he destroyed buildings across the city, and desecrated the temple of God.
The historian Josephus, who was working for the Romans, recorded that Antiochus built an idol on the altar in the temple used to offer incense to God, and then sacrificed one or more pigs on the altar.
Since pigs were ceremonially unclean in Judaism, this was almost the greatest possible offence you could cause the Jewish people.
For 3 years Antiochus brutally oppressed the Jews, and outlawed the Jewish religion.
He forced the people to make idols, to sacrifice pigs, and all the practices and traditions associated with their faith were banned, on penalty of torture and death.
If you lived in Jerusalem, and you were caught with, even a fragment of the Scriptures in your possession, you would be executed.
Of course, it’s the situation that many Christians today find themselves in, in countries like Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, North Korea, where possession of a Bible or part of a Bible can get you killed.
In China even it can get you thrown into prison.
But 3 years after this invasion, a group of Jewish freedom fighters called the Maccabees managed to overthrow Antiochus and his army, and they cleansed the temple,
They re-dedicated it,
And they celebrated with a big festival of dedication.
And you may know that this festival celebrating victory over the Syrian oppressors is what Jews today celebrate as Hanukkah, this year starting on December 10.
And so you can imagine, that in the time of Jesus, this week in the calendar is a hotbed of political activism and nationalist excitement.
I don’t think we have an equivalent anniversary in our national history,
But if you kind of lumped together,
The Battle of Waterloo,
And VE Day, 75 years, this May. If everything we celebrated as being accomplished by those, was tied up in one single event, and then if, today, we were suffering under a different oppressive foreign occupier, we’d have some sense of the atmosphere in Jerusalem during the Festival of Dedication.
Little wonder that John sets the scene as he does;
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
If ever there was a time for the Messiah, God’s king, to make himself known, this was it.
Now is the time for kicking out foreign rulers, like the Romans.
If you were waiting for a good time to raise an army to purify Israel and her religious practices, this is the week to do it.
Jesus’ words & ministry show he is the promised king from God (v 22 – 36)
And so the crowds in Jerusalem in this huge week of celebration and anticipation, want to know, verse 24, How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
It’s a question of identity, which is at the heart of John’s whole gospel account, “who is Jesus?”, but especially so in these middle chapters of the book.
And Jesus has said lots about who he is;,
See verse 25, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me,
Both his words and his ministry show that he is the promised king, the Son of God.
He’s used theologically loaded language from their Scriptures to identify himself, saying “I am”, the way that God had identified himself in the Old Testament,
He’d called himself the good shepherd, another term loaded with expectation from the Old Testament,
He’s called God his own Father, much to the religious leaders’ horror,
He’d claimed to be equal with God, to the extent that the crowds had attempted to stone him for blasphemy!
He’s avoided using the term Messiah publicly, because people had such mixed-up ideas about what the Messiah would be like.
The Jewish leaders wanted a Messiah who would do the same sorts of things as the Maccabees did.
They wanted a political leader,
Someone who would defeat the Romans.
So now they’re saying, “Yes, we’ve heard you claim to be God to the point that we’re trying to kill you for blasphemy, but we want to know, are you the one who’s going to get rid of these stinking Romans!”
It’s extraordinary, isn’t it?!
Jesus, unambiguously claims to be the eternal God,
The religious leaders understand the claim, as evidenced by the fact that they start reaching around for handy boulders to throw at him, and yet all they’re worried about is “Can you make Israel great again?!
Can you build a wall to keep the Romans out?”
Isn’t that just so terribly sad?
To encounter the living God,
To hear his words that give life,
And offer hope, forgiveness,
Reconciliation with the God we’ve ignored,
Only to say, “Well, that’s all very well, but unless you can deal with this problem that I’m facing right now to my satisfaction, with the solution I’ve already mapped out in my mind, then I’m not interested in who you are and what you offer.”
What a terrible tragedy.
“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me,
Think of what we’ve seen of Jesus’ ministry in John’s gospel since the summer, it wasn’t just his words that revealed his identity;,
He’s healed the sick,
Blind people have received their sight,
He’s demonstrated his ability to usher in the Kingdom of God,
He’s offered forgiveness, a right relationship with God, and eternal life.
All the things that God had said in the Old Testament would happen when the Messiah turned up, have been happening around Jesus!
There’s plenty of evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, and yet people blame Jesus for their lack of belief.
“You haven’t told us plainly.
You’re keeping us in suspense. It’s your fault that we don’t believe that you’re God’s chosen king.”
It really is extraordinary!
But, perhaps not surprising.
I was talking to someone recently, who complained that “God hasn’t made himself clear enough.”
Maybe among the friends and family you’re praying for on your 5 Friends 5 Ways card, or the people you’ve invited to our Better Life events this month, there are some who say “It’s God’s fault that I don’t believe.
God hasn’t given me enough reason to obey him.
God hasn’t shown me who he is, so how can I believe him?”
Maybe even you’re here this morning, and you think a little like that. Perhaps you feel like the atheist Bertrand Russell who when asked what he’d say to God about why he didn’t believe, he famously replied, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!”
But if that is you, it’s great that you’re here, because you’re obviously saying, “It think there might still be more for me to find out.”
So have a listen to how Jesus responds to that allegation that God hasn’t made himself clear enough.
Those who persist in unbelief don’t belong
Verse 25 again, 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
Here is the evidence that people, even wise, religious, educated people, are completely unable to choose God,
Cannot find God on their own.
God himself stands in front of them, surrounded by all the promises of his coming fulfilled,
Accompanied by the evidence of who he is,
And yet, without the gracious hand of God at work in their lives, they cannot recognise, and choose, and follow Christ.
Those who persist in unbelief, demonstrate that they don’t belong.
But of course, that’s not an excuse for their unbelief, is it?
In fact, it’s an indictment on them.
Christianity isn’t about amassing facts, cognitive knowledge.
“If I know enough, I’m a Christian,
If I can learn the right stuff, I’ll be OK with God.”
No, the message of Christianity is about knowing a person, it’s about a personal relationship with Jesus.
And if we don’t believe Jesus’ words,
If we’re not interested in what Jesus thinks we need, then our then our failure to recognise Jesus, is the evidence that we don’t belong to him.
Let me point out, Jesus is not saying, you can’t come to him with your questions. You know, “Jesus, please show yourself to me in the Bible.
Please convince me that what you say is true.”
This is a warning to the person standing with their arms folded Bertrand Russell style, refusing to hear, “not enough evidence, God. Not enough evidence.”
If we come to Jesus like that, no amount of evidence will ever be enough.
Three privileges of being Jesus’ flock (27 – 29)
And so, Jesus explains what it means to belong to him, carrying on some of that shepherding metaphor from the previous section. And here are 3 privileges of being Christ’s people.
Jesus calls us and we follow
The first one, in verse 27 is that a relationship Jesus begins and continues, by us hearing and following Jesus’ words.
My sheep listen to my voice; Jesus says, I know them, and they follow me.
We come to faith by hearing and obeying the word of God in Christ,
We go on in faith through hearing and obeying the word of God in Christ,
These opponents of Jesus won’t listen to him,
They don’t believe him, because they’ve refused to accept the possibility that God could calling to them through Jesus.
The God they claim to worship speaks, but they don’t listen to his voice.
But those who do listen to the voice of Jesus, who are known by him, this relationship they’ve entered into leads to a lifestyle of obedience. Did you see how verse 27 continues?, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Preachers love to talk about how Middle Eastern shepherds back in Jesus’ day, and still today, aren’t guys in helicopters on enormous farms, like where I come, or farmers with quadbikes and dogs like here, but a Middle Eastern shepherd walks along, and their sheep follow them.
It’s why this is such a good illustration of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus.
And in our age, when we’re rightly increasingly troubled by Christian leaders who bully and abuse those in their flock, it’s important we see Jesus’ model for shepherding, and I was reminded of a friend of mine who is a preacher, who was in the countryside around Jerusalem a few years ago, and saw this image that he’d preached about so many times; sheep, and a guy walking along.
But when he got closer, what he saw was a man walking down the road, not with the sheep following him, listening to his voice, but the man was behind the sheep, driving them along, and actually yelling at them, swearing at them, and hitting them with a stick.
And he thought, “My entire image of biblical shepherding has just fallen apart.”
And so he stopped the car and said to this man with the sheep, “I thought a shepherd was supposed to walk in front, and the sheep would follow him, because they know his voice.”
And the man said, “Yes, that is exactly what happens.
It’s just that I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher!
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
What an indictment on those today who don’t follow Jesus’ example of shepherding.
Of course it highlights, the response required of us, doesn’t it? The ongoing response required of us is to hear his voice, and to follow.
You see, in Jesus’ eyes, obedience is the proof of faith.
If you really are one of his sheep, you’ll follow him.
And if we don’t follow Jesus,
If we don’t hear his words as the Holy Spirit brings the Scriptures alive in our life, can we really claim to be one of his sheep?
This is a real question for us, who can easily claim to have been called by Jesus, and to hear his words, but do we continue to respond by following, obeying?
Again, back in the first Century AD, when different flocks of sheep would graze on the same land, or be kept in the same sheep pen overnight, sheep were sometimes marked with a small cut on their ear, just an early version of British Cattle Tracing System ear tags that farmers use today.
But the Puritan preachers in the 16th and 17th Centuries, used to say of this mark, “well, each one of Christ’s sheep have a double mark. They have the mark on their ear, but they also have a mark on their foot.”
And what they meant was, you could tell from their feet, that someone was a follower of Jesus.
Metaphorically, of course,
You can tell whose sheep they are by where they walk.
By how they live.
So I wonder, what would your feet say about whose you are?
What does the way you walk, where you walk, how you live, say about who you belong to?
Maybe we should copy those Puritans, and say, a follower of Jesus has a mark on their credit card,
On their diary,
On their tongue,
On their TV remote,
On their alarm clock which wakes them up each morning,
The fact that we follow Jesus should be evident in all of those ways.
And I’m sure you could add to that list.
See in this section that is all about “who is Jesus”, we’re confronted with the question, “Whose, are we?”
And is there evidence, that we are in relationship with him, following him.
Jesus gives us eternal life
The second privilege of being in Christ’s flock, is that Jesus gives us eternal life, and notice both the positive and negative ways Jesus emphasises this. Verse 28, 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
We’ve heard this before on Jesus’ lips, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, the one you’ll see held up on signs at the cricket, and handed out on leaflets in front of Wimbledon station;, John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Jesus wants his hearers, to be absolutely certain what he’s promising.
Eternal life isn’t just a new quality of life now,
It’s not a metaphor for opening up a new part of your consciousness or something, as some church leaders would have us believe.
No, Jesus is very clear. Eternal life means not perishing.
It doesn’t mean, skipping over death, but not ever facing spiritual death,
Never having to pay the due penalty for a life lived in rebellion against God.
God had said that the penalty for sin, for living in his world in disobedience and rejection of him, that costs death.
Having to face God’s right and just anger at sin, and being separated from him and his blessing forever.
Here Jesus says, “if you’re one of my people,
That is, if you’re one of those who hears my voice and follows me, you will never face that spiritual death and separation. Instead you will have eternal life.”
And the means by which this eternal life becomes ours is hinted at in John 3:16, God gave his Son, and it’s made explicit in the earlier part of this chapter we read in our call to worship;, The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep
The only reason that Christ’s people can be spared spiritual death, is because Jesus stood in our place,
Jesus died the death that we deserved,
Jesus faced God’s anger at sin and evil so that we wouldn’t have to.
In Australia there’s a Christian ministry to students in trade schools. You know, where you go to learn a trade;, to be a builder, or a plumber, or whatever.
It’s a bit like UCCF but in these technical colleges.
And this movement’s slogan plays on the theme of being a tradesman, tradeswoman. It says, “Jesus did a trade, ”
Which is true! Jesus was a carpenter.
But it goes on, “Jesus did a trade;, his life, for yours”
Jesus did a trade, his life for yours.
Those who are God’s people, Christ’s flock, are given eternal life, because Jesus gave up his life.
There’s no fear of death,
There’s no fear of coronavirus,
There’s no fear of judgment.
There is hope in the darkest days of life, when we’re confronted with the enemy that is death.
Jesus offers us assurance
And thirdly, we have assurance that these promises are dependable.
And as we look at these words, feel the comfort and encouragement that John wants you to know in Jesus’ words.
Verse 28 again, 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will 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.
If you’re someone who looks at the world around you, and thinks it’s becoming harder and harder to live as a Christian,
Or you think, “I’m constantly tempted by sin, and one day it’s just going to destroy my Christian life,
Or you keep saying to yourself “I need to work harder at my faith,
I need to believe more strongly,
Me standing firm to that last day means I have to dig deeper into myself, and do more Christian stuff.
If that’s you, then please listen to these great words of assurance and security.
Do you hear what Jesus says?
None of his sheep will ever be snatched out of his hand.
Now, we know about people who make big promises and then fail to deliver, we’ve just been through a General Election, after all!
So how do we know that Jesus is not just talk?
How can we be sure that the promises he makes to us, are trustworthy?
Well, it’s all to do with the issue that’s been driving through this whole section;,
Jesus’ identity, and in particular his claim to be equal with his Father.
Jesus is equal with the Father
That is a huge claim about Jesus’ identity. See his words there in verse 30;, I and the Father are one.
And the religious leaders just, erupt in rage, at this claim.
If your Bible had pictures, you’d be able to see these guys, they’d be bright purple and they’d have veins bulging out of their heads!
They picked up stones to stone him, verse 31,
Again, verse 39, they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
Where did we begin?
They wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah.
He told them he’s so much more than just God’s chosen king, as if that weren’t enough, but they refuse to accept it.
My friend who’s a Jehovah’s Witness, is exactly the same. He doesn’t believe that Jesus is God.
The same for my friends who are Muslims.
With the news that Franklin Graham had been de-platformed in 7 cities across the UK, there was an article in which the author was complaining about Graham saying he prays that Muslims will come to know Jesus who can set them free.
The journalist objected, saying that Muslims already do know Jesus. In fact the headline across the top of the page screamed in huge letters, “Hey, Franklin Graham: Muslims Already Do Love Jesus”, and it went on to say that “Jesus is, a ‘mighty prophet’ in Islam.”
But do you see the difference.
Franklin Graham is right to say, thinking Jesus is a mighty prophet is not the same as knowing him. In fact, what Jesus claims here and elsewhere in John’s gospel;, that he is God, is considered blasphemy in Islam.
And even my friends who will happily quote Jesus alongside Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Junior, and Buddha,
Who think that Jesus was just a wise man, a good, moral teacher,
They have no time, for this claim.
If Jesus is the Son, equal with his Father in heaven, then Jesus has rights over my life,
Jesus has ultimate authority,
I’m obligated to consider, “how would Jesus have me act, speak,
Choose a house,
Choose a spouse.”
If Jesus is God, then all of those things fall into the category of things that Jesus cares about, and has some say over.
And it’s to say God is knowable,
God can be related to,
God can be heard,
And that God has been very clear about many things!
Judgement and discernment.
If Jesus is the Son, equal to the Father, then what he says matters, more than any other message you’ll hear.
Jesus seems to be deliberately echoing, the single most fundamental confession of faith in the whole Jewish religion, the words found in Deuteronomy 6 verse 4. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”
My Muslim friends, dispute Jesus’ claim to be God, and they quote this passage, thinking that Jesus ignores this statement about God being one.
But Jesus isn’t ignoring the fact that God is one.
He’s restating the fact!
He’s saying that one God is now standing here among you.
And the religious leaders understand exactly what Jesus is saying.
I and the Father are one is a claim to absolute equality with God, that has massive implications for every area of life;,
They’ve misunderstood so much of what Jesus has said, but they’ve got this one right.
Jesus and his Father are one in their protection of the sheep
But remember Jesus was talking about assurance,
About those who are his never being snatched away.
That’s the context in which Jesus speaks of his unity with his Father.
Verse 28, no one will 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.”
Jesus is not making abstract statements about the nature and essence of the Trinity.
He’s talking about the confidence that you can have if you’re a follower of Jesus, that your eternal salvation isn’t in jeopardy.
It is a true statement about Jesus’ identity, his divinity, but he’s making the point so we know that God the Father and God the Son are one in their protection of the sheep.
This is a teaching about the Trinity, yes, and it’s a statement about how God acts for his people.
It’s a statement about just how confident you can be, that if you are one of Christ’s people you will never be snatched out of his hand.
Which is a good reminder, that even the most weighty and complex doctrines of the Christian faith, like that of the Trinity, are not just abstract theology best left to the experts.
No, here is where the rubber of Christian doctrine, hits the road of the Christian life.
Jesus is teaching an essential truth about the nature of God, that’s the background to this picture, it’s out of focus, but it’s there.
But what’s in focus, is the unity of purpose and will of the Father and the Son, when it comes to protecting and preserving the people of God, us.
If you’ve ever walked alongside a busy road, or a river, or along a narrow path with a child, if you’re anything like me you spend all your time saying to them, “hold my hand. Hold my hand.”
But when the kid is balancing as close to the edge as they can possibly get, or leaning out as far as they can reach,
, what is it that’s keeping them safe?
It’s not just that their little hand is holding onto you, even though you want them to do that,
It’s your grip on them that’s really keeping them safe, isn’t it?
Their tiny little grip isn’t enough to keep them from tumbling into danger, but your grip on them is sufficient.
Do you see how Jesus makes that point?
In verse 28, the assurance for salvation isn’t in the fact that we hold onto Jesus, though we’ve just heard, we absolutely have to listen, hear, and follow.
We hold on, but our assurance comes from the fact that Jesus holds onto us.
And do you notice we’re held secure in my hand, Jesus’ hand, verse 28,
And my Father’s hand, verse 29.
Behind this wonderful picture of Jesus as the shepherd stands the Father, offering his weight, and authority, and credibility to Jesus,
The Father and Son work together for our salvation and preservation.
Will I get snatched away?
Will I get to the end only to discover I fall at the last hurdle?
Will Satan make a mockery of my trust in Jesus?
Jesus and his Father together preserve those who are followers of Christ;, who listen and obey.
The danger is though, that we might presume upon our relationship with God. That’s what Jesus’ opponents here were doing.
Remember from a couple of weeks ago? “Abraham is our Father” they said, which was code for, “we don’t need worry about hearing and obeying.”
There’s no room for that in the Christian life.
That’s not perseverance,
That’s perhaps demonstrating that you’ve never actually heard Christ’s voice.
But John wants us to feel the breadth, and the depth, and the weight, of this assurance, this promise. no one will 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.”
And even as Jesus’ opponents are picking up stones to murder him for his claims to be God, he doesn’t back off.
See verse 32, I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
And then in verse 34, Jesus points out that their Scriptures, Psalm 82 in particular, uses the language of “gods” and “sons of the Most high” for the people of Israel when they were given the Old Testament law.
Now, to call humans “gods” is unusual language, and we don’t have time to unpack it all now, but Jesus’ point is simply that if the Scriptures which the religious leaders claimed to honour and uphold, could in some sense, call the people of Israel “gods”,
Then when it comes to, verse 36, the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world, they could hardly object to him being called God.
Jesus is just showing them their own inconsistencies.
Now, it’s not just about winning the argument, though he does show them that based on their own Scriptures they have no reason to kill him for calling himself God,
But Jesus genuinely wants people to understand who he is.
It’s not too late to believe in the Son of God (v37 – 39)
Because it’s not too late to believe in Jesus the Son of God.
See, all this discussion about whether people are Jesus’ sheep or not, might make us think, “well what hope is there?”
Is Jesus just saying that some people don’t belong to him and so that’s their bad luck?
What about the people I’ve been praying for, maybe for years and years, is there hope for them?
And if I’m not yet a Christian, does that mean I can’t ever come to Jesus?
But did you notice what happens in the last few verses of this section?
Jesus, again, invites people to believe in him!
Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 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 me, and I in the Father
An invitation to believe.
Extended to his opponents!
It’s not too late, even now, to recognise that Jesus is God, and therefore offers us the life of God, here and now, and for eternity.
Even for these ones, who right now are holding rocks in their hands to kill Jesus!
“If you haven’t worked out who I am”, Jesus says, ” look at the works,
Look at what I do.
Look at the signs,
Ask yourselves, “What would God do, if he turned up on earth?””
That’s a great question isn’t it?
What would God do if God turned up on earth?
Well he’s told us!
Remember we said at the beginning what God had promised in the Old Testament;,
The sick would be healed,
Blind people would see,
Forgiveness would be offered,
God’s righteous servant would suffer and die in the place of others.
If you want to know if you can believe in Jesus, compare the promise to the reality.
You might think of yourself as the person furthest from God,
You might wish you could invite someone to a Better Life event, but you don’t think they could ever trust in Jesus, They’ve got nothing on these religious leaders.
They tried to kill Jesus twice in this one section!
And yet Jesus offers this gentle and earnest appeal.
It’s not too late to believe.
If you’re not a follower of Jesus today, here’s your invitation.
And here is our motivation for evangelism, as we look to our Better Life events this month.
It’s not too late to believe.
Here’s your motivation to pray for your friends and family.
Here’s your motivation to live a life that commends the gospel of Jesus to the people around you.
It’s not too late to believe.