“31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 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.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 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’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 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 am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands” (John 10:31-39).
I was reading the above gospel passage and the following questions came to mind. Why did Jesus bother to reason with the people who tried to stone him? Aren’t the good works performed by Jesus sufficient to prove his identity? Is it possible to believe the works of Jesus and yet not believe in him? Does God ever reason with man?
I think it is because of his great love and mercy that Christ emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7). In this way he could reason with men and try to gather them to himself. In the Old Testament, God also reasoned with the people of Judah when they rebelled against Him. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isa 1:18-20).”
As Jesus says several times in John, “Look at my work and you will know whether I am telling the truth or not.” The issue isn’t Jesus’ identity, but our honesty and desire to honor God. The truth about Jesus resonates in the hearts of those seeking to find God and know him. His actions and his words call us to believe him. If we don’t believe him, we must reject or belittle him. There is no middle ground. We must look at the way he treated people, the things he taught, the way he lived his life, and the great works he did and then decide: Is this the work of a blasphemer or is he God’s Messiah? Is he the Son of God come in human flesh?
Daring sinners will throw stones at heaven, though they return upon their own heads; and will strengthen themselves against the Almighty, though none ever hardened themselves against Him and prospered. When he could have answered them with fire from heaven, Christ mildly replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” (v. 32) Words so very tender that one would think they should have melted a heart of stone. In dealing with his enemies he still argued from his works (men evidence what they are by what they do), his good works. The divine power of his works convicted them of the most obstinate infidelity. They were works from his Father, so far above the reach and course of nature as to prove him who did them sent of God, and acting by commission from him. These works he showed them; he did them openly before the people, and not in a corner. His works would bear the test, and refer themselves to the testimony of the most inquisitive and impartial spectators. He did not show his works by candle-light, as those that are concerned only for show, but he showed them at noon-day before the world (cf. John 18:20; Psalm 111:6). His works so undeniably demonstrated that they were an incontestable demonstration of the validity of his commission. The divine grace of his works convicted them of the basest ingratitude. The works he did among them were not only miracles, but mercies; not only works of wonder to amaze them, but works of love and kindness to do them good, and so make them good, and endear himself to them. He healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, cast out devils, which were favours, not only to the persons concerned, but to the public; these he had repeated, and multiplied: “Now for which of these do you stone me?’’ We must not think it strange if we meet with those who not only hate us without cause, but are our adversaries for our love (cf. Ps. 35:12; 41:9). When he asks, “For which of these do you stone me?” he puts his persecutors upon considering what was the true reason of their enmity as Job advises his friends to do (cf. Job. 19:28).
They refused to recognize any of Jesus’ good works. His curing the impotent man (ch. 5) and the blind man (ch. 9) were so far from being acknowledged good services to the town, and meritorious, that they were put upon the score of his crimes, because done on the Sabbath day. But, if he had done any good works, they would not own that they stoned him for them, though these were really the things that did most exasperate them (cf. John 11:47). Thus, though most absurd, they could not be brought to own their absurdities. They would be thought such friends to God and his glory as to prosecute him for blasphemy: “Because you, being a man, make yourself God”. Here is a pretended zeal for the law. They seem mightily concerned for the honour of the divine majesty, and to be seized with a religious horror at that which they imagined to be a reproach to it. A blasphemer was to be stoned (cf. Lev. 24:16). This law, they thought, did not only justify, but sanctify, what they attempted (cf. Acts. 26:9). The vilest practices are often varnished with plausible pretences. As nothing is more courageous than a well-informed conscience, so nothing is more outrageous than a mistaken one (cf. Isa 66:5; John 16:2). A real enmity to the gospel, on which they could not put a greater affront than by representing Christ as a blasphemer. God himself is out of the sinner’s reach, and not capable of receiving any real injury; and therefore enmity to God spits its venom at his name, and so shows its ill-will. The proof of the crime: “You, being a man, make yourself God”. As it is God’s glory that he is God, which we rob him of when we make him altogether such a one as ourselves, so it is his glory that besides him there is no other, which we rob him of when we make ourselves, or any creature, altogether like him. Thus far they were in the right, that what Christ said of himself amounted to this—that he was God, for he had said that he was one with the Father and that he would give eternal life; and Christ does not deny it, which he would have done if it had been a mistaken inference from his words. But they were much mistaken when they looked upon him as a mere man, and that the Godhead he claimed was a usurpation, and of his own making. They thought it absurd and impious that such a one as he, who appeared in the fashion of a poor, mean, despicable man, should profess himself the Messiah, and entitle himself to the honours confessedly due to the Son of God.
Christ’s reply to their accusation of him by two arguments:—1. By an argument taken from God’s word (v. 34-36). He appeals to what was written in their law, that is, in the Old Testament. It is written (Ps. 82:6), “I have said, You are gods”. It is an argument a minore ad majus—from the less to the greater. If they were gods, much more am I. Magistracy is a divine institution; and magistrates are God’s delegates, and therefore the scripture calls them gods (cf. Ex. 22:28); and we are sure that the scripture cannot be broken (cf. Mt. 5:18). Thus much in general is easily inferred, that those were very rash and unreasonable who condemned Christ as a blasphemer, only for calling himself the Son of God, when they themselves called their rulers so, and therein the scripture warranted them. But the argument goes further (v.36): If magistrates were called Gods, because they were commissioned to administer justice in the nation, you say of him whom the Father has sanctified, “You are blaspheming”? We have here two things concerning the Lord Jesus:—[1.] The honour done him by the Father, which he justly glories in: He sanctified him, and sent him into the world. Magistrates were called the sons of God, though the word of God only came to them, and the spirit of government came upon them by measure, as upon Saul; but our Lord Jesus was himself the Word, and had the Spirit without measure. They were constituted for a particular country, city, or nation; but he was sent into the world, vested with a universal authority, as Lord of all. They were sent to, as persons at a distance; he was sent forth, as having been from eternity with God. The Father sanctified him, that is, designed him and set him apart to the office of Mediator, and qualified and fitted him for that office. Sanctifying him is the same with sealing him (cf. John 6:27). Whom the Father sends he sanctifies; whom he designs for holy purposes he prepares with holy principles and dispositions. The holy God will reward, and therefore will employ, none but such as he finds or makes holy. The Father’s sanctifying and sending him is here vouched as a sufficient warrant for his calling himself the Son of God; for because he was a holy thing he was called the Son of God (cf. Lu. 1:35; Rom. 1:4). [2.] The dishonour done him by the Jews, which he justly complains of—that they impiously said of him, whom the Father had thus dignified, that he was a blasphemer, because he called himself the Son of God. If devils, whom he came to condemn, had said so of him, it had not been so strange; but that men, whom he came to teach and save, should say so of him. The wickedness of man, and the patience of God, as it were, contend which shall be most wonderful.
2. By an argument taken from his works (cf. v. 37-38). In the former he only answered the charge of blasphemy by an argument ad hominem—turning a man’s own argument against himself; but he here makes out his own claims, and proves that he and the Father are one: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me”. Though he might justly have abandoned such blasphemous wretches as incurable, yet he tries to reason with them. Observe, (1.) As he proved himself sent of God by the divinity of his works, so we must prove ourselves allied to Christ by the Christianity of ours. [1.] The argument is very cogent; for the works he did were the works of his Father, which the Father only could do, and which could not be done in the ordinary course of nature, but only by the sovereign over-ruling power of the God of nature. Opera Deo propria—works peculiar to God, and Opera Deo Digna—works worthy of God —the works of a divine power. He that can dispense with the laws of nature, repeal, alter, and overrule them at his pleasure, by his own power, is certainly the sovereign prince who first instituted and enacted those laws. The miracles which the apostles wrought in his name, by his power, and for the confirmation of his doctrine, corroborated this argument, and continued the evidence of it when he was gone. [2.] It is proposed as fairly as can be desired, and put to a short issue. First, If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. He does not demand a blind and implicit faith, nor an assent to his divine mission further than he gave proof of it. He did not wind himself into the affections of the people, nor wheedle them by sly insinuations, nor impose upon their credulity by bold assertions, but with the greatest fairness imaginable quitted all demands of their faith, further than he produced warrants for these demands. Christ is no hard master, who expects to reap in assents where he has not sown in arguments. None shall perish for the disbelief of that which was not proposed to them with sufficient motives of credibility, Infinite Wisdom itself being judge. Secondly, “But if I do the works of my Father, if I work undeniable miracles for the confirmation of a holy doctrine, though you believe not me, though you are so scrupulous as not to take my word, yet believe the works: believe your own eyes, your own reason; the thing speaks itself plainly enough.’’ As the invisible things of the Creator are clearly seen by his works of creation and common providence (Rom. 1:20), so the invisible things of the Redeemer were seen by his miracles, and by all his works both of power and mercy; so that those who were not convinced by these works were without excuse. (2.) For what he argues—that you may know and believe, may believe it intelligently, and with an entire satisfaction, that the Father is in me and I in him; which is the same with what he had said (v. 30): I and my Father are one. The Father was so in the Son as that in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead, and it was by a divine power that he wrought his miracles; the Son was so in the Father as that he was perfectly acquainted with the whole of his mind, not by communication, but by consciousness, having lain in his bosom. This we must know; not know and explain (for we cannot by searching find it out to perfection), but know and believe it; acknowledging and adoring the depth, when we cannot find the bottom (i.e. faith).
Let us praise God with the song “Though The Mountains May Fall”: