22.  Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.

One would search in vain in the Old Testament to find any reference to this feast.  Indeed, this was not a feast of the Lord, but rather a feast that the children of Israel had invented.  It had come about as a celebration of the time when Ezra’s temple was cleansed after it was defiled by the wicked king Antiochus Epiphanes.  We can read about this feast in the book of I Maccabees, which, although we do not believe it to be an inspired book, is often very helpful in learning about the history of the inter-testamental time period.  In I Maccabees we read:

52.  Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year, they rose up betimes in the morning,
53.  And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made.
54.  Look, at what time and what day the heathen had profaned it, even in that was it dedicated with songs, and citherns, and harps, and cymbals.
55.  Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and praising the God of heaven, who had given them good success.
56.  And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise.
57.  They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold, and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them.
58.  Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.
59.  Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.
(I Maccabees 4:52-59, King James Version)

Thus we see that this feast was one created by Judas Maccabeus to celebrate this momentous event.  This took place in about 164 B.C.  The Jews were still keeping this feast at the time of John 10.  This does not mean that they thought that the holiday was inspired, as the feasts commanded by the Scriptures were.  We keep holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day, and yet we never claim that these are inspired.  The Israelites of that time need not have thought either that the Feast of Dedication was inspired.  Rather, it was a national holiday, with patriotic feelings attached to it, much like our Fourth of July in the United States.

We read that the Lord was in Jerusalem at the time of this holiday.  This does not necessarily mean that He was celebrating this holiday, or that God gives His approval to man-made holidays.  Really, I don’t think we can determine anything either way from this passage, for all it says is that He was in Jerusalem at this time.  As to whether He recognized the feast or not, we can only speculate.

The passage says that the Feast of Dedication was in the winter.  Indeed, we know from I Maccabees that it was in the month Casleu (or Chisleu,) which on our calendar is December.  Yet we should not think of winter as we might have it in the Midwestern United States.  Israel in the winter at night would typically only get down to about forty degrees Fahrenheit even in the dead of winter.  It would be an almost unheard of thing for them to see any snow there.  I heard (but didn’t confirm) this last winter that it snowed in Jerusalem, and it was an utter disaster.  No one in that city had the least idea how to deal with driving in snow or anything else, and probably many of them had never seen snow in their lives.  Whether or not that was true, the fact is that, although in this passage it was winter, it probably was not very cold at all, especially during the day.

23.  And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.

Remember, the temple was a campus, not one building.  The Lord was walking here in a place called Solomon’s porch.  Traditionally this was supposed to have been leftover from Solomon’s temple (according to Josephus.)  It would have actually been what we would call a covered walk.  He was probably walking in it because it was winter, and to escape the winter wind.

24.  Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt?  If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

The Jews here are again the religious leaders, as we have seen all throughout the book of John.  They waylay Him here in Solomon’s walk and surround Him.  The idea is that they actually encircled Him so that He was trapped and couldn’t go anywhere.  Then, they demand of Him an answer.  They are in doubt, and they want to force Him to speak plainly.  They obviously thought that by surrounding Him they could make Him answer their question and keep Him from avoiding the issue.

The words here for “keep us in doubt” are in Greek “raise our souls.”  The idea is to keep one’s emotions at a high level…to keep in suspense, as we would say in English.  They are in suspense about this whole issue and they want the Lord to answer plainly.  Then they asked Him this burning question they had: is He the Messiah or not?  That was the question that was so great on their souls, and that they so wanted an answer to.

25.  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.  The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.

The Lord points out to these men that He had already told them.  They just hadn’t believed it.  He was probably referring to His words to them in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd.”  This was a positive identification of Himself, for the Shepherd of the sheep was to be the Messiah and the Messiah was to be the Shepherd of the sheep.  He had told them this, and they should have heard what He said and believed it.  However, they did not believe it.  Therefore, He points them to His works that He did in His Father’s name.  Since they would not believe the testimony of His words, they should at least believe the testimony of His works.  Indeed, no one could have done these works if God was not with him.  That the Lord could and did do these works, even works like the healing of the man who was born blind, which had never been done before in history, should have been enough to prove to them that He must be the Christ, as they were asking.
 
26.  “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.

The reason these Jews failed to believe even after seeing His great miracles was because they were not truly His sheep.  Although everyone born an Israelite was born into a covenant relationship with God, many did not respond to that relationship as they should have.  There were always those who did, however, and these were the true sheep of the Lord.  These men did not respond to their Shepherd, however, and so they proved that, though they were Israelites, they were not truly God’s sheep.  He said in John 10:14 that He knows His sheep and is known by them.  These Jews proved then that they were not His sheep by the fact that they did not recognize Him for Who He was.

27.  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Indeed, His sheep did hear His voice.  We can identify these sheep in men like the twelve disciples, in men like John the Baptist, and in men like Nicodemus, the ruler who came to Him by night in John 3.  These men knew their Shepherd when they met Him, and so they followed Him, as these men did.

We do not have this kind of a relationship today.  We are not sheep belonging to the sheepfold of Israel.  We are not born into a covenant relationship with our God.  Rather, we are sinners who have found a Savior, and our Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is our relationship with Him, not that of sheep to a shepherd.  We can learn about our relationship with God here, but we cannot directly apply these things to ourselves, for they speak specifically of the sheep of Israel and their Shepherd.

28.  “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

Those who are His sheep He will give eternal life.  This again is that great eonian life, a life that flows from God to His redeemed and that makes life forever worth living.  But I do not believe that the flowing stops with His redeemed.  Those who receive eonian life will respond by flowing out to others as well, spreading the life that God has given them and continuing the flow that He began.

Those who receive this eonian life will never perish.  Yet this word “never” is an inadequate translation, as it covers several words in the Greek.  Our Lord used the Greek double negative, ou me, a coupling of the two Greek words for “no.”  When used together like this, they formed the greatest possible negative.  We might say “by no means.”  One who had eonian life would by no means perish.  Yet this did not refer to this life, where even those who are the Lord’s sheep are still perishing.  Rather, this statement was made “unto” (respecting) “the eon.”  They would receive eternal life in the great, future flow of God, when God will flow out to all the world to bring His government to earth at last.  Those who are Christ’s sheep at that time will receive eternal life, and they will by no means perish throughout that entire eon or flow of God.  That is what Christ was saying here with the word we simply have translated “never.”

Then, He insists that no one will be able to snatch any of His sheep out of His hand.  This is eternal security indeed.  And like the sheep, we too are guaranteed eternal life.  No one can steal from us our eonian life.  No one can pluck us out of our Savior’s hand.  Praise God for the assurance we have in Him!

29.  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

Now He speaks of His Father.  He had given these sheep to the Lord.  Then He reveals a great truth: His Father is greater than all.  God is not just one of a race of many beings Who decided to create the human race and play God to them.  Rather, he is the Greatest One of all.  No other being is above Him.  No other being is even equal to Him.  He is greater than all.

Then for the Father He repeats what He had said about Himself.  No one is able to snatch the sheep out of His Father’s hand.  Indeed, since He is greater than all, we can see why no one could ever overpower Him to take away from Him what is His.  He holds the sheep in His hand, and they need never fear, for He is stronger than all, and none can take them from Him.  We are the same today, safe in the hands of our Father!

30.  “I and My Father are one.”

He stated in verse 28 that no one could snatch the sheep out of His hand.  Then, in verse 29, He stated that no one could snatch the sheep out of His Father’s hand.  This set up an obvious equality between Himself and God.  Thus, in this verse, He explains that equality and sets it forth.  This is the ultimate answer to these Jews who sought to know whether or not He was the Messiah.  He and His Father are one.  Now this does not necessarily mean that they are one and the same person.  What is meant is that they are one in essence.  “They are as alike as two peas in a pod,” as some people like to say of brothers or sisters.  And they do not act independently.  They are always one in purpose and one in action.  The Father does not act apart from the Son.  The Son does not act apart from the Father.  Always in their actions they are one.  If this is not divinity, what is?

31.  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

The Jews, having received the answer they sought, react just as the Lord pointed out they had before.  Now they had His plain teaching as to Who He was, and they responded by rejecting it.  Instead of responding to what He said in faith, they utterly rejected it and took up stones to stone Him.  This is the second time they have attempted this, which is why it says they took up stones “again” to stone Him.  The first time was back in John 8:59.

32.  Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father.  For which of those works do you stone Me?”

The Lord had already pointed out to these men that if they would not receive His Own testimony about Himself, then they should believe the works that He had done because they testified of Him that He was Who He said He was.  Now, in the face of their attempt to stone Him, He uses this argument again.  He had done many good works from His Father.  Which of them, He sarcastically asks, are they stoning Him for?  This is sarcasm of the most biting kind, and it seems to have stopped the Jews dead in their tracks in their attempt to stone Him.  Remember, they had Him surrounded, and should have been able to successfully stone Him if they wished.  However, once again His words are all He needs to save Himself, and this rebuke is enough to stop these unbelieving men from the sinful action they intended.

33.  The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

The Jews are stopped in the act, we might say, and find themselves having to answer our Lord’s rebuking question.  They are not stoning Him for a good work, they defend themselves by saying.  Instead, they are stoning Him because He, being a Man, makes Himself God.  They had heard what He said about Himself and His Father, and recognized in this the most positive statement of His Own divinity.  It was because of this that they sought to stone Him, for they could not tolerate the thought of a Man being God.

If the Jews had misunderstood Christ and He had not meant that He was God, He should have immediately spoken up and told them that here.  There are those who try to claim that they were mistaken.  Yet our Lord never said one word to discourage them from their interpretation of what He had said.  Instead, He went on to justify the idea of a man being God.  Those who claim that this passage does not set forth Christ’s Godhood are proven wrong by the passage.  If He had not meant that He was God, He would have said so.  But He did mean that He was God.  The Jews were exactly right in the way they interpreted what He said, even though they did not believe Him.  His defending what He said to them only proves that this was indeed what He was claiming, and that He did indeed view Himself as equal with God.

Remember, this is the whole point of the book of John: to help us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Will we believe the words of the Lord Jesus here and believe that He is indeed equal with God Himself?  Or will we with the Jews scoff at the idea that a Man could be God?  The choice is up to us!

34.  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?

Notice that the Lord calls it “your law.”  That is because it was the law that they claimed to so look up to and exalt.  They should have had high regard for the law, but instead, as we know, they nullified it with their traditions.  But now He takes them back to that law that they claimed for their own to justify to them His claim.

The law, although it was really only the first of three divisions of the Old Testament (the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms,) could, because it was the first of the divisions, sometimes be used as a name for the whole of the Old Testament.  This is how the Lord uses it here, for He is referring to a passage, not from the Law, but from the Psalms.  Specifically, this passage is from Psalm 82:6.  Thus the Lord starts His argument that a man could indeed be God. 

35.  “If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),

The author of the Psalms had called these men gods, even though they were just people to whom the word of God came.  Notice then that He says that the Scripture cannot be broken.  Few statements do we have in the Word of God that so positively state the fact that every word of the Bible is divine and perfect.  Those who claim that the men and the ideas of the Bible were inspired, but not the words, and they were just left up to the human authors…those who claim such a thing are showed to be dead wrong here.  The Lord’s entire argument was based upon the Psalmist’s use of a specific word here, the word “gods.”  If this single word was not from God and unbreakable, then His argument held no weight.  Yet He Himself states that even down to a single word chosen over another the Scripture cannot be broken.  Let us ever keep this in mind when reading the Bible.  There are no errors in Scripture, no contradictions, no imperfections.  Rather, the very words used are perfectly inspired by God, and cannot be broken.  Praise God that we can rely on His Word!

36.  “Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

This argument seems very strange to us, and I think many have struggled to grasp what the Lord was saying here.  I think the man who put it best that I have heard was Otis Q. Sellers.  He said of this passage, that we might compare this to a drunk on skid row.  Here is a man who is sleeping in the gutter.  He has not been sober for a day in years, and his entire life seems to be a disgrace.  Yet we could rightly call this one a man.  And if we could call him a man, how much more could we call a responsible person a man; one who fears God, one who provides for his family, one who works for a living, one who is an upstanding member of his community?  If we could call this drunk a man, how much more could we call this other one a man?  And that is the gist of Christ’s argument.  If the Scriptures could call “gods” those to whom the word of God came, who we might say are the very least of gods, how much more could the One Whom the Father sanctified (or set apart in a very special way) and sent (“apostello” or apostled, sent with authority) into the world…how much more could this One be called “God”?  Yes, One such as He could certainly be called God if these others could be.  Thus, their saying He was blaspheming by calling Himself the Son of God held no weight.  The works that He did proved Him to be sanctified and sent by the Father.  No man who was blaspheming God could have done works like this.  Thus, He indeed deserved to be called “God.”

Although this is not a study of the Psalms, it might be helpful to set forth here an explanation of what was being said in Psalm 82, when men were called “gods.”  We need to understand that the word “god” has two basic meanings, and sets forth two basic aspects of our Lord.  One is that He is the Creator, and the other is that He is the Judge.  Indeed, these two are intimately tied together, for the One Who created man is the One Who has all authority to judge him.  This authority comes from His Creatorship.

Although only God can create things “ex nihilo” (out of nothing,) a man can be a judge.  Thus, those who judge, especially those who judge based on the rules and regulations that God set forth, could be called small “g” gods.  That is what the Psalmist Asaph is doing in Psalm 82.  However, these judge “gods” were misusing their positions, as we learn from reading this psalm through.  Thus, Christ’s argument bears the weight that it does.  If even such as these could be called “gods,” how much more could He, Who had clearly demonstrated the healing and miraculous power of God?

37.  “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;

There have been many who have claimed to be God, and yet were not, for they did not do God’s works.  Thus the Lord tells these men that they shouldn’t believe Him if He does not do God’s works.  This was a very true statement.

38.  “But if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

The Lord continues His statement.  They should not believe Him if He doesn’t do the works of His Father.  But what if He does?  Then, He says, they should believe Him.  Even if they cannot believe His words, they should believe His works, and see from what He was doing that only God could do the things that He was doing.  Yes, He was giving other men the power to do these things as well, but that only further proved that He was God, as He had the power to distribute to others.  No one else who did miracles from God ever claimed to be God.  Yet now He had.  And since His miracles were without a doubt from God, it was clear that they should believe Him.

Now, He reiterates again His total equality with God.  The first part of this statement is not so difficult.  He says the Father is in Him.  Indeed, we believe in the same way that God dwells in us by faith.  Yet the second part of the statement is what could only apply to the Lord.  He says that He dwells in the Father.  This without a doubt means He is equal with God.  To claim that He indwells the Father as the Father indwells Him…to claim that He is as crucial a part of the Father as the Father is a crucial part of Him…this is a claim that no one but the Lord Jesus Christ could legitimately make.  And make it He did, proving once again that He Himself was God.

Now once again we need to remember the purpose of God in writing the book of John: to prove to us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  Now, once again we have this crucial choice before us.  Will we believe what the Lord said?  Do we really believe that He is as crucial a part of God as God is a part of Him?  Or will we side with the Jews, who angrily rejected what He said and sought to kill Him?  Will we too balk at the idea that a Man could be God?  The choice is up to us!

39.  Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.

The argument was over, and the Jews had clearly rejected Him.  Now, His words again fill them with anger and a desire to arrest and execute Him.  They were surrounding Him, and there should have been no escape for Him.  And yet escape He did.  How, we cannot say, except that what would be impossible for a man is very possible with God.  He escaped miraculously, and there was nothing they could do to stop Him.  Praise the Lord for His power that is so much greater than that of wicked men!

40.  And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing at first, and there He stayed.

He has faced the Jews and earned their wholehearted opposition.  Now at last His mission in Jerusalem has come to an end.  Remaining there will only bring Him into further conflict with the Jewish leaders.  Thus, He leaves, and returns beyond Jordan to the place where John had first been baptizing before he too moved into Judea where he was arrested.  There He will remain from December until April, when the time will come for Him to again face the religious leaders, this time to accomplish the great purpose for which He came: to die on the cross.

41.  Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.”

Many came to our Lord over Jordan, and this is how they reasoned out their following Him.  Everyone held John to be a prophet, even though he had done no miraculous sign.  But the Lord Jesus was doing miraculous signs!  Thus, with both the evidence of John’s witness and the evidence of Christ’s signs, how could they believe anything else?  They had to conclude that John the Baptizer’s testimony was true: that the Lord Jesus was the One Who should be followed and the One Who was sent from God.

42.  And many believed in Him there.

Unlike the Jews, many of the common people believed in Him.  Indeed, they believed even when it was not convenient, since they had to cross over the Jordan to come to Him!  Yet believe in Him they did, and they are an example to us today.  Will we believe in Him, even as they did?  Or will we reject Him, as the Jewish leaders did?  That is again the great choice we must make that is set forth all through this book of John.

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