Jesus—His Life and Message: Are You the Christ?
September 22, 2020
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: Are You the Christ?
The Gospel of John tells of Jesus attending a religious festival during which His opponents demanded to know if He was the Messiah. His response almost cost Him His life.
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.1
The Feast of Dedication (also known as Hanukkah) commemorates an event in Jewish history which took place in 164 BC. At that time, Israel was under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple by offering to Zeus a sacrifice of a pig, an unclean animal according to Jewish law, on the Temple’s altar. This led to a Jewish rebellion, spearheaded by the Maccabees (the five sons of a Jewish priest named Mattathias), who eventually defeated the Seleucids. After this victory the Temple was cleansed, restored, and rededicated.
The Feast of Dedication is a yearly eight-day event commemorating this cleansing, and during this celebration Jesus was walking in the colonnade of Solomon. A colonnade denotes a roofed structure supported by pillars, and in this case seems to have stretched along the east side of the Temple. It was likely the place where Jewish teachers, such as the scribes, normally held their classes. Jesus was probably walking there in order to teach or to invite discussion.
As Jesus was walking, a group of people, likely either some scribes or Pharisees, or both, circled around Him, possibly with hostile intent.
The Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”2
Their question about who Jesus was echoes similar statements made and questions asked throughout this Gospel. For example:
Some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee?”3
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.4
Those encircling Jesus wanted a clear answer regarding who He was rather than metaphors such as Bread, Light, Shepherd, or Door, which He used throughout this Gospel.5
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”6
Technically, Jesus had not specifically stated that He was “the Messiah” (which means the Christ) to these particular questioners.7 At this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus had only made such a statement to the Samaritan woman.
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”8
However, Jesus immediately stated that the works (miracles) He did in His Father’s name testified about Him and who He is. These works were done in accordance with the Father’s will and were in agreement with all the Father stands for. As they were done in the Father’s name, they were the Father’s own works. He went on to state the reason for His questioners’ unbelief: because you are not part of my flock. Jesus referred back to what He had said in the earlier part of this chapter, when He was speaking of the sheep who enter the sheepfold, who hear and know the shepherd’s voice.9 Here Jesus defined hearing the shepherd’s voice as “believing.” Those who refused to believe were not His sheep, not part of my flock.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.10
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus stated that the sheep hear the shepherd’s voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out … and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.11 Christ’s sheep hear His voice and they follow, and along with that there is the wonderful assurance that I know them. Added to that is the promise of eternal life, eternal safety, under the care of the Shepherd.
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”12
Until this point Jesus had spoken of His disciples in relation to Himself: My flock … My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me. … I give them eternal life … and no one will snatch them out of my hand.13 Now He makes the point that the “sheep”—His disciples—are given to Him from His Father. Because of who the Father is, His gift is greater than all. Believers in Jesus are God’s gift.
In stating that no one will snatch them [the sheep] out of my hand, and then saying that no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand, Jesus showed that His hand and His Father’s hand were doing the same work in providing protection to the flock. He then emphasized this by stating, I and the Father are one.14 Jesus’ statement echoed what He had said earlier in this Gospel. “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”15
The Jewish listeners considered His statement to be blasphemy, and therefore picked up stones again to stone him,16 as they did earlier in this Gospel when Jesus said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.17
This time, instead of leaving, Jesus remained and responded.
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.”18
Jesus didn’t respond to them by focusing on His statement that I and the Father are one; rather He pointed to the many good works He’d done, emphasizing that these works were from the Father. However, His accusers were focused on what they considered to be blasphemy, as He had stated that I and the Father are one.
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’”?19
Jesus responded by directing them to the Law, specifically Psalm 82:6, which states, I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” This Old Testament passage referred to the Judges of Israel, and the expression “gods” was applied to them because of the importance of their position.
Because Scripture referred to these men as gods, Jesus asked whether they could rightly say that He was blaspheming when He called himself the Son of God. He made the point that if the Psalms applied the term “gods” to men, then how much more should it be applied to Him who the Father has sanctified. While Jesus was a human being, He was more than that—He was the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world.
“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.”20
Jesus pointed to the works He had done and stated that these works should be the criteria by which they should judge Him. If He did not do the works of my Father, they shouldn’t believe in or trust Him. However, if He did do the works of God, then the situation would be different. Even if they were not prepared to believe Him, they should at least believe in the miracles He had done.
In the original Greek, the phrase that you may know and understand uses the same Greek verb, though in different tenses, for both know and understand. The first verb, know, is in the Greek aorist tense and expresses the meaning “that you may come to know,” while the second, understand, is in the infinitive tense, expressing the concept “and to keep on knowing.” Jesus wanted them to gain new insight and then to have it remain permanently within their understanding. The insight He wanted them to comprehend was the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son. The works/miracles Jesus had done could not be done by a mere man acting on his own. He was able to do the miracles because the Father is in me and I am in the Father.
Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.21
Earlier in this Gospel, the Jews had attempted to arrest Jesus.22 In that case, the attempted arrest was an official act of “the Pharisees” which involved a delegation of officers.23 In this instance, it appeared to be more of a mob action, as prior to Jesus addressing them, they were ready to stone Him, and then they switched to wanting to arrest Him.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.24
Jesus wisely left Jerusalem and fled across the Jordan River where He would be safe from those seeking to arrest Him. However, this change of scene didn’t represent a slowing down or ending of Jesus’ ministry. Though Jesus was no longer in Jerusalem, people sought Him out on the other side of the Jordan River.
The people who came to Him remembered John the Baptist, his message, and his witness about Jesus.
John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ … I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”25
In contrast to those who lived in Judea who rejected Jesus, many of those in Perea on the east side of the Jordan River accepted Him and His message.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 John 10:22–23.
2 John 10:24.
3 John 7:40–41.
4 John 9:16.
5 John 16:25, 29.
6 John 10:25–26.
7 John 1:41.
8 John 4:25–26.
9 John 10:1–4.
10 John 10:27–28.
11 John 10:3–4.
12 John 10:29–30.
13 John 10:26–28.
14 John 10:30.
15 John 5:17.
16 John 10:31.
17 John 8:58–59.
18 John 10:32–33.
19 John 10:34–36.
20 John 10:37–38.
21 John 10:39.
22 John 7:30.
23 John 7:32–36, 45–47.
24 John 10:40–42.
25 John 1:15, 26–27.