01 December 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ one of those times Jesus said a confusing thing

I'd originally planned on looking at a much larger section of John 10 today. But I got stuck with just these words because I found them very hard to understand. 
Jesus answered them, 
“Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”?’ ”(John 10.34)
photo credit: toridawnrector via photopin cc
 First - since it has been a few weeks - let's take a quick look at the context and refresh our minds as to what was taking place. Jesus had quite clearly stated that He was the Son of God (vs 25-30). The unbelieving Jews, in turn, respond by accusing Jesus of blasphemy; in their minds, He blasphemed the moment He said said He and the Father were one... the instant He attributed to Himself the power to grant eternal life and the ability to preserve those He'd saved (vs 33).

What's all that mean? Well, the Jews would have been very familiar with those powers that only God had. They would have studied them in the Old Testament and would have recognized that anyone who claimed to do what God alone could do was, at best, trying to set himself up as God's equal. At worst, he'd be identifying himself as God.

Look at just a few verses where God gives His people information to use so that they would know Him:
  • "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand." (Deuteronomy 32:39)
  • "For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal." (Job 5:18)
  • "There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God ... The LORD kills and brings to life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up." (1 Samuel 2:2, 6)
  • "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted." (Isaiah 30:26)
  • "‘All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?’" (Isaiah 43:9-13)
In these verses, God proclaims that He gives life and that He stops anyone who would impede Him from accomplishing His sovereign will.

In light of this, any response other than the Pharisaical reaction of angry astonishment when Jesus makes similar claims about Himself would have been surprising:
"‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’" (John 10:27-33)
 We have the context of the immediate passage, but to discern what Jesus was saying, we also need to understand the context of the psalm that Jesus quotes. Psalm 82, a psalm of Asaph, pleads with God to judge the "gods" for failing to execute their position with justice and righteousness. It is quite obvious within the psalm that "gods" are simply men in positions of authority, those whom God appointed to rule and judge His people. Calling human magistrates “gods” highlights 1) their authority, 2) that civil power was a formidable force, and 3) both power and authority came derived from God as those men were His choices and ruled by His appointment. Key to understanding Psalm 82 is understanding that men appointed to judge while on earth must be impartial and rigorously pursue justice because God will hold them accountable. Look at verses 6 and 7 of Psalm 82, as they warn these flesh and blood judges: “I said, `You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.' But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” Those God chooses to represent Him are mortal, they will die and after death, will face judgment as they give account for how they used the power and authority with which He vested them.

So, when Jesus quotes this verse from Psalm 82, he focuses Jewish attention on the fact that the Law refers to mere men—men of authority, power and prestige—as “gods.” Essentially, He asks, "Why accuse me of blasphemy because I called myself 'Son of God' when the Law uses the exact same word to mean magistrate?" 

Looking closely at Jesus' words, though, I find that the other parts of His statement just as fascinating and equally convicting. First, He asks, "Is it not written...?" He appeals to respect for the written Word, word which the Jews considered holy and the key to knowing and understanding God. As W. Gary Phillips writes, "The Word-Incarnate relied on inferences drawn from the Word-written." For those who take the time to look deeply and seek, those written words will confirm Who Jesus is. He also refers to the Law - the one that God gave His people and that these Jews have worked so hard to try and keep, even down to every jot and tittle - as YOUR law. Sometimes, I can take the Word God gave and modify or mutilate... metamorphisize or mutate... and make it mine. If that is because God is writing it on my heart and I'm internalizing it so that it becomes a part of me and is present and reflected in all that I say and do. If I grab ahold of that Word to make it mine by adding my own mark to it... well, then it is no longer God's Word and is merely my own. And then I begin trying to hold people accountable to "my" law - a behavior that is unrighteous, unjust and abusive.

I started last week, examining this passage, and very confused. Now, as I type these words, I find myself deeply challenged by asking three questions God's Spirit is asking me I've plunged even deeper into this very intense Jesus encounter:

  1. In my God-appointed roles, where He's vested me with power and authority, am I acting rightly and justly so that some day, when I give account, He will be pleased?
  2. As I seek to know God, do I rely on others, personal experience, mystical feelings and sensations... or do I depend upon the same authority on which Jesus staked His claims - the written-Word?
  3. Am I allowing God to write His Word deep within on my heart and thus making it a part of me? Or am I trying to scribble it all down and in the process adding and dropping and mutating it into something different so that I can say I possess it? The first pleases the Father. The second angers while deeply saddening Him...
How would you answer each one of those questions?

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4955 - 4979)
little guy wandering about the house practicing his music for Christmas Eve

good heart to heart with my Tori-girl

finding the perfect-as-says-Mary perfect tree

the delight on her face when we said she could pick the tree

the absolute very biggest Christmas tree we've ever had

clothespin dolls turned into Christmas ornaments

choir practice with the orchestra

Christmas carols

little girl cold seemingly making its exit

minion t-shirts

Christmas tree lights

Thanksgiving with the WHOLE Wright side of the family this year

playing Euchre with my nephew

watching said nephew teach his mom to play Euchre at the same time

Live Nativity plans

folk and praise music jam sessions

giblet gravy that turned out perfectly... which only happens about 1 out of 5 times, so truly a cause to celebrate

beautiful Christmas dresses in a bag of hand-me-downs

an extension I was praying I'd get

looking forward to sharing one of my favorite studies, from Colossians 3

the cutest little white feathery owl ornaments you've ever seen

lounging around in a comfy, old pair of my Pop-pop's pjs - and remembering special times with him

a new season of The Mentalist - been waiting a long time!

so much fun watching Sadie Roberston represent Christians well and winsomely as she competed on Dancing with the Stars

enjoying this season's Amazing Race and watching "the surfers" (i.e. Bethany [Hamilton] and her hubby Adam) do the same

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

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