The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “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 answered them, “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’? 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 me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. (Jn 10:31-39)
After Jesus tells them that he is one with the Father, the Jews pick up stones “again” to stone him. There piety leads them to kill God. There is irony in this. It isn’t the inborn desire and the will of the flesh to commit crass sin and join in orgies, drunkenness, rivalries and the rest of the laundry list of sins that Paul lays out in the fifth chapter of Gal. No, it is their desire to be pious and upright and good in God’s eyes by their own merits. Perhaps it is even jealousy, that Jesus is what their flesh wants to be, that is he is one with the Father. He has said it. This is the aim of our sinful flesh, to be gods, to be like God to be equal with God, so that God can’t judge us. Jesus comes forgiving sins, it is backhanded judgment. It releases us from the hell of fire, but it tells us there was something to be overlooked, something that was wrong with us, something of us that actually makes us deserving of the hell of fire. And we want to respond with, “who are you to judge me?”
So blinded are they by their own sense of piety they fail to see the good works that Jesus is doing. Jesus asks them for which of these are you stoning me? He doesn’t do this as if any good work could cancel out a sin. It just doesn’t work that way. Helping old ladies cross the street doesn’t make you any less guilty of adultery when you have coveted your neighbor’s wife. But he brings attention to his good works that they might see the truth of what he is saying. These works testify to who Jesus is, they are miracles. They are signs. God is at work in and through them. If they could just open their eyes they could see this.
But they fail to see it and say that Jesus is going to be stoned for blasphemy, because he has made himself to be God. This is where cheeky Jesus makes the appearance. Everyone likes to pray to baby Jesus. Me, I like in your face cheeky Jesus. He gets a bit sassy and plays with them. He pulls out scripture and schools them, makes them look like fools. So he quotes an obscure text. One the JWs like to misquote and twist. Jesus gives the proper interpretation.
“I said you are gods” He reminds them of Psalm 82, that he references as the law. (As an aside, it is from things like this that we can determine the scope and bounds of the Old Testament. We accept as Scripture what Jesus accepted as scripture. And we accept that because Jesus died and rose from the dead. I mean, that just makes a guy worth listening to.) This Jesus says, God says of those to whom the word of God came, the prophets and princes that have come before, who judged on behalf of God and his people. Now Jesus says, because I, who was consecrated and sent into the world, apostled into the world by God himself, say that I am what God has said of the prophets before me, for that you would stone me? Apostled, sent into the world, it has special meaning that is lost with the translation, to be apostled meant to be given authority to speak. (Which is why Lutheran’s only accept that as authoritative in the New Testament which can be verified to have been written by an apostle of Jesus and sent by him, or at least approved of by an apostle.) Jesus was apostled into the world. The works he does prove it, but the Jews wish to stone him anyway, because he says he is the Son of God. Jesus is only that which the Father has made him. It was the Father who consecrated him and sent him into the world. It was the Father that made him to be the Son of God. And once again, to prove it he says, look at my works, do I not do what the Father has sent me to do? He says, if you don’t believe me then look at my works. After all anyone can say they are god. Not everyone can heal the blind and raise the dead, turn water into wine, and walk on water, or feed five thousand with a couple loaves of bread. And once again they seek to arrest him, but fail.
Their murderous plot, our murderous plot to kill God for the sake of our own piety will finally work, but only when God is ready. He lays down his life of his own accord. No one takes it from us. To redeem us he merely allows us to do what it is we want to do. To kill him that we may take over his vineyard. Kill him, because as long as he exists our piety is not enough to make us gods in our own right and according to our own sinful will. So we kill him. Yes, you killed the author of life. It was your sin, it was your piety, it was your sense of right and wrong with which you judge your neighbor rather than love him. This is what killed our Lord when he was finally ready to lay down his life for your sins. This is what killed Jesus, because you were unwilling to accept his backhanded judgment saving you from the hell of fire. Who is he to judge? He is God, the one and only, the author of life, him in whom you move and breathe and have your being. He is the one consecrated and apostled into the world to judge, but who came not to condemn. So accept his judgment, it will save your life from the hell of fire. Because even from the cross, his judgment is forgiveness.