The Son and His Father | John 10:14-42
Brian Hedges | December 2, 2018
Turn in your Bibles this morning to John chapter 10. This is the final message in this segment of our series through the gospel of John. We’ve been in it now for about the last ten weeks; I think this is the eleventh week this fall where we’ve been looking through the gospel of John together. This morning is a wonderful passage for a transition into our Advent and our Christmas season. Next Sunday we’ll begin a short series of messages from the Psalms, looking at some of the Messianic psalms and how they teach us about Christ and his work for us.
But this morning, the passage focuses on Christ’s incarnation, the relationship between the Son and his Father, and it’s a profound passage that’s full of insight into who Christ is and what he came to do. It’s a very beautiful passage, I think, that has much to teach us about the true meaning of Christmas and of what Christ has done for us.
So we’re going to be looking this morning at John chapter 10. I want to go back a little bit to where we were last week and begin in verse 14 (verses 14 and 15 is the first mention of the Father in this passage) and then read from verse 14 down through the end of the chapter. As we read, just notice the controversy that is developing here between Jesus and many of his hearers, but also notice the focus that Jesus gives to his relationship with the Father, and then we will develop some of these thoughts as we work through the passage together. So, John 10, beginning in verse 14.
Jesus says, “‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.’ There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ 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. So 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.’ 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 among my sheep. 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. 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.’ 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. 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.”
This is God’s word.
So let me give you three words to hang this message around, and those words are controversy, mystery, and beauty. Controversy, mystery, and beauty. I want us to look at:
I. The Controversy of Christ’s Claim
II. The Mystery of His Incarnation
III. The Beauty of What He Came To Do
Certainly as we read this text you probably noticed that there are some kind of confusing things in this passage. It’s somewhat hard to understand some of what Jesus says in response to these antagonistic Jews, so I want to explain that, and I want us to understand what Jesus is saying and why in the context here in this first point. But as we move through the passage, I think you’ll see that this passage discloses to us the very heart of the mystery of Jesus’s relationship to the Father as the Son of the Father, as the word who became flesh; and it hints of the beauty of all that Jesus came to do for us, which is really at the true meaning of this season, the season of Advent and of Christmas.
I. The Controversy of Christ’s Claim
So, first of all, let’s look at the controversy of his claims. Let’s just begin by making clear what the claims are. Keep your Bibles open; I’ve done a streamlined, minimalistic PowerPoint this morning. You get less on the slides but hopefully a better sermon for it. I want you to just follow in the text as I point out passages. So, the controversy of his claims, and let’s look at what these claims are.
Several places in John 10 show us what Jesus claims. In verse 15 he claims to have a personal and intimate knowledge of the Father. It says, “...just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” In verse 18 he claims to have a special charge or commission from the Father. He talks of “this charge that I have received from the Father.” You have that again in verse 36, when he speaks of himself as “him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world.”
Jesus speaks of how his works testify that the Father has sent him, in verse 25. They’re asking him a question: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus says, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.”
Then Jesus, in verse 30, claims unity with the Father. He says, “I and the Father are one,” and then again in verse 38 he claims a kind of union with the Father when he says that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Even the claim to be good shepherd is itself a claim to deity, it is a claim to a divine prerogative, because it’s echoing the Old Testament passage, Ezekiel chapter 34, where Yahweh condemns the false shepherds of Israel, the ones who are fleecing the flock, leading the people astray, rather than caring for them. God says, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them to lie down, declares the Lord God,” Ezekiel 34:15. So when Jesus comes, in essence, rebuking the religious leaders of his day and claiming that he himself is the good shepherd, that itself is a claim to divine prerogative.
On top of all this, we can add all the other claims that Jesus has made in the gospel of John, as he has assumed the names, the titles, the works, and the prerogatives of God to judge and to save and to speak with authority and to call himself the light of the world and the true bread from heaven and the door of the sheep, and so on.
So the claims are really clear. Jesus is claiming equality with God, and they understand this. I want you to see how they understand and respond to it. Look at verse 33. It says, “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.’” So, this is what they understand Jesus to be doing. They understand him to be making himself God, making himself equal with God, and they accuse him of blasphemy, so they are ready to stone him to death (verse 31), and then they try to arrest him in verse 39.
So, here’s the controversy, and the controversy is centered around these claims that Jesus is making about himself to be the Son of God.
Now, we need to understand Jesus’s response, verses 34 through 38. I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t easy to understand. You read this, and it’s a little mysterious. Why does Jesus say what he says? Let’s read it again, verses 34 through 38. He’s answering this charge of blasphemy. Jesus answers them and says, “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.”
What is Jesus saying here? What does this mean? Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament, quoting from Psalm 82:6, which says, “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’” Psalm 82 is really something like a trial scene, where God is calling into account the "sons of the Most High." The sons of the Most High are variously understood as either the leaders of Israel, some understand it as the angelic host. Probably the best interpretation is that it’s a description of Israel itself, the nation of Israel, who is called in the Old Testament God’s son.
The passage here says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” So God is pronouncing judgment, probably on his people Israel, for their failure to exercise justice in his name. So Jesus quotes this, and he says, even the Old Testament, even the law - "it’s written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods.’” He’s saying this in answer to their charge that he is blaspheming by claiming to be the Son of God.
What does Jesus mean when he says this? I think we have to understand that Jesus is speaking here in a rabbinic style. We don’t understand the rabbinic style very well today, but that’s what Jesus is using. His hearers certainly would have understood. He is packing very heavy theological freight in a single word or clause; that’s what the rabbis would do, and they would debate endlessly over verses of Scripture and interpretations of Scripture.
You have to understand the scene. The scene here is fraught with tension. There is a mob mentality among those in the crowd: they’re ready to seize him, they’re ready to stone him! Jesus in response is not trying to prove to them that he is the Son of God; his works do that. What he’s doing, rather, is he is showing an inconsistency that they have with their own Scriptures. He’s saying, “If the Scriptures themselves can speak of other persons than the Father as "god," then why are you criticizing me? Why are you claiming that I commit blasphemy when I, the Son of God, the Son of the Father, when I say that I am God’s Son?”
So Jesus’s point here is not so much to prove that he is the Son of God or one with God, but to refute their charge. It’s an argument from the lesser to the greater. If Scripture can describe the sons of the Most High as gods, then certainly it is appropriate for Jesus to call himself the Son of God.
F.F. Bruce, in his commentary, puts it this way. He says, “The logic of their argument seemed incapable of refutation. This was blasphemy. But readers of this gospel know better. They know its record of the sayings and actions of Jesus in light of the prologue from which they have already learned that Jesus is the incarnate word, that word which was in the beginning with God and was God. They have learned, too, that Jesus is uniquely the Son, who has his being in the Father’s bosom and has come forth from God to make him known in the world. High as his claims are, then, they are grounded in the truth of his being and mission. His works are the works of God, his words are the words of God. He is not making himself God, he is not making himself anything, but in word and work he is showing himself to be what he truly is, the Son sent by the Father to bring light and life to mankind.”
That’s the claim he’s making, and for that claim they’re ready to kill him. That’s the controversy.
II. The Mystery of His Incarnation
But in all these words that Jesus speaks, there is mystery, the mystery of his incarnation. I think we’re justified in using that word “mystery,” because the Bible uses the word “mystery” in just this way. In 1 Timothy 3:16 the apostle Paul says, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness. He was manifest in the flesh.” God manifest in the flesh. That’s the incarnation, and it’s a mystery, it’s a profound mystery.
You see this mystery in the exalted, intimate, mysterious language that’s used in this passage. Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father in such intimate terms. He says, “The Father knows me, and I know the Father.” He says, “I and the Father are one.” He says, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” You just get the sense here that you’re almost listening in on something that is really profound, this intimate, profound, eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.
Jesus’s words here hint at the divine mystery of the incarnation, the word who was with God and who was God, who was in the beginning with God, who created all things, so that nothing was created apart from him; and this word, who has now become flesh and dwelt among us (all of this spoken of, of course, in the prologue to John’s gospel). They hint at the divine mystery which lies at the heart of all reality, the mystery of the triune God, the God who is one in being and substance and yet exists in three distinct, eternal, and equal persons, “God in Trinity, Trinity in unity,” as the Athanasian creed says. Jesus here is speaking of this mystery of his relationship with the Father, which is disclosed for us in the incarnation.
Now, this seems like pretty high doctrine to us, alright? These are lofty theological concepts. But I want you to see that there are very practical applications to be made in our lives in understanding this. I just want to give you three basic thoughts here as application.
(1) Here’s the first one. As Jesus speaks about his relationship with the Father in these high, exalted, lofty terms, the first thing it reminds us is that the universe is not about us. The universe is not about you. There is a relationship that predates the creation of all things. There is a relationship that has existed forever and ever. There is a God who exists in plurality, one God, one Being, one substance, and yet a plurality of Persons, a Trinity of Persons, three Persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) in eternal union and communion with one another.
I mentioned last week that I’ve been re-reading this novel The Lord of the Rings. It’s a beautiful story, it’s beautifully written. I love reading this, and so it’s been a delight to me to return to it. One of the amazing things about the story of The Lord of the Rings is all of the background behind it and beneath it and surrounding it, because the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, not only wrote a novel, he wrote four languages for this new world that he created. He wrote a creation story. He wrote an entire mythology that lies behind this story. He wrote a history that lies behind this story.
So you read the story, and you’re getting all these clues and hints about this huge world that has been created in the imagination of Tolkien, and so you get the sense that this story is more than just a story about two little hobbits that are marching off to Mordor; you get the sense that this story has epic proportions.
Now, this is just someone’s imagination. How much more do we get the sense, when we read the gospels, that there is an epic narrative, there is an epic story going on, that there is a plan that was conceived in the mind of God from all eternity, so that he sends his Son on a mission into the world? The mission, yes, it brings salvation to us, but the mission ultimately is not about us. The mission is to bring glory to the name of the everlasting God who saves people for himself.
The universe is not about you. Christmas is not about you. Advent is not about you. Sunday morning is not about you; it’s about Jesus. It’s about Christ, it’s about the word made flesh, and we are called to worship this word.
(2) The universe is not about you, [and] point number two, but this gives us a secret clue to the meaning of all things. That secret clue is found, once again, in the Trinity. Theologian Herman Bavinck once said, “In the confession of the Trinity we hear the heartbeat of the Christian religion.”
It really is the heartbeat that’s right at the center of ultimate reality. At the very center of reality, there is not a single, solitary individual; there is a community of Persons existing in absolute unity and communion. Let me read to you the words from theologian Cornelius Plantinga. He says, “The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit glorify each other. At the center of the universe, self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the trinitarian life of God.”
Some of the early Christians, the Greek Christians, described this as perichoresis, and they use a word which carries the idea of mutual indwelling, what theologians call "coinherence." It’s what Jesus is describing here when he says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” There’s this mutual indwelling.
But that word perichoresis has, right at the heart of it, the word from which we get our word “choreography.” So you might think here of a dance. In fact, C.S. Lewis described this as a dance. It is this divine dance, this divine dance at the center of all reality, the divine dance of the triune God, living in absolute harmony and communion and love with one another. So what it means is that at the very heart of reality is not law, not power, although those things are present and true; but at the very heart of reality is love. For God is love, and God’s love is seen not only in his love for us, but it’s seen in the Father’s love for the Son, the Son’s love for the Father, the bond of the Holy Spirit between Father and Son. We are just given a glimpse into that mystery.
(3) The universe is not about you; this is the secret clue to the meaning of all things, and here’s the third application point about the mystery of the incarnation: this mystery lays at the foundation of our deepest comfort in life and in death.
It’s interesting that Jesus uses this language, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” here in John chapter 10, but four chapters later, in John chapter 14 in the upper room with his disciples, Jesus returns to these themes, and he expounds them in greater and greater detail, and he speaks of them as the very basis of the comfort of his disciples. He’s talking to them about their peace and about their comfort, and he’s encouraging them, he’s giving them the promise of the Holy Spirit. Listen to just a couple of passages from John 14:10.
He says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak of my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” You see the same language there.
And then in verse 20 he says, “In that day you will know that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you,” and he goes on to say that those who love the Son and the Father, those who keep their words, will have a special relationship with the Father and with the Son. He says, “The Father and the Son will come and will make our home, we will make our dwelling with him.” Right at the foundation of the comfort of every Christian is this relationship that God the Father has with his son, and the invitation of God for us to be drawn into the life and the fellowship of God.
F.F. Bruce in his commentary says, “Such teaching was the meat and drink to those who listened to it in the upper room, but it was anathema to those who heard it on the present occasion.”
I just want to ask you, Christian, is this your meat and drink? I think some of us have been on milk for too long, and we need the strong meat of Christian theology, of Christian doctrine. We need the doctrine of the incarnation, we need the doctrine of the Trinity, we need the doctrine of the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son. We need the upper room discourse, we need what the gospel of John has to say to us. Don’t grow impatient with discussions of theological truth, because that theological truth should be your meat and your drink.
I hope that you will be encouraged, as we enter into a new year, to redouble your disciplines and your efforts, to dive deeply into Scripture and into truth, the truth of Christian theology, because your comfort in life and in death depends upon it.
III. The Beauty of the Work He Came To Do
So we’ve seen the controversy of his claims, we’ve seen the mystery of the incarnation, and then finally, number three, the beauty of the work he came to do. I want to show you this in a couple places.
(1) First of all, verse 32, I want you to see the beauty of his works. “Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father…” Underline the word “good.” That word good is a Greek word that really means - it can have a wide range of meanings, but it carries the idea of being beautiful, of being noble, of being attractive. It’s a word that can mean “useful.”
Let me give you some of the uses of this word in the New Testament. Do you remember when Jesus was anointed in Bethany the week leading up to his death? There’s a woman that comes and she breaks the alabaster box and anoints Jesus. People are critical of her. Remember what Jesus says? He says, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” It’s this word. “She’s done a beautiful thing to me.”
In Luke chapter 21 people are speaking to Jesus about the temple, and they’re speaking of the temple and how it is adorned with noble stones. The word “noble” is the word that’s used here, beautiful. Or the parable in Matthew 13:45-46, when Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. The word “fine” is this word here.
It’s a word that carries the idea of that which is good, that which is beautiful, that which is attractive. Jesus says, “My works are beautiful works, they are good works.” He’s speaking, of course, about the signs which he came to do, and we’ve noticed these signs as we’ve studied through the gospel of John. You think about these signs. What did Jesus do? He turned water into wine, the wedding of Cana in John chapter 2, bringing the new wine of the kingdom, bringing celebration.
In John chapter 4 he healed an official’s son, who was on the point of death. In John chapter 5 he made a lame man to walk again. In John chapter 6 he walked on water and he fed the people with bread in the wilderness. In John chapter 9 he gave sight to a man who’d been blind from his birth, and the people are ready to crucify him, right? Or they’re ready to stone him; crucifixion is coming right down the road. They’re ready to execute him, and Jesus says, “For which of my good works are you ready to do this? Aren’t you looking at what I’m doing here?” What Jesus did in his life and in his ministry is beautiful. These good, beautiful works testify to who he is.
(2) The second thing we see (I’m going to show you three things, not two) is not just the beauty of his works, but the beauty of the Father. Look at verse 25. He says, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” Then, verses 37-38, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me, but if I do them, even if 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.”
So Jesus keeps speaking about his good works, his beautiful works, and he says that they are of the Father, they are from the Father, they are done in his Father’s name. I think what that is telling us is that in Jesus we see the face of the Father. In Jesus we see the heart of the Father. If the works of Jesus are good, beautiful works, then they show us the good and the beautiful heart of God the Father.
Remember how Jesus says to Philip in John chapter 14 - Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father,” and Jesus says, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.”
This is an important thing for us, because it means that (and I’ll quote Thomas Torrence here) there is in fact no God “behind the back of Jesus, no act of God other than the act of Jesus, no God but the God we see and meet in him, Jesus. Jesus Christ is the open heart of God, the very love and life of God poured out to redeem humankind.”
There’s not some sinister Father behind Jesus! Jesus shows us the heart of the Father, and the heart of the Father is a heart of beauty, it is a heart of goodness, and it is a heart of love. Everything that Jesus does, he does in perfect union, communion, fellowship with the Father. John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus makes known to us the heart, the beautiful heart, of the Father.
(3) The beauty of his works, the beauty of the Father, and then, number three and finally, the beauty of his death. Verse 11, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Verse 14, “I am the good shepherd.”
It’s the same word. “I am the beautiful shepherd. I am the attractive shepherd. I am the noble shepherd.” Why is he so noble? Why is he so good and beautiful and attractive? Because he lays down his life for the sheep. In fact, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life.” The beauty of Jesus in his death for us.
Have you ever thought about the irony of the cross? Here is the most wicked, sinful, evil act that has ever been done in human history, and it is the most noble, beautiful, attractive, loving act that God ever did for human beings. Here is the cruelest of deaths; it is the most noble of sacrifices. Here is man shaking his fist in the face of God, spitting in the face of his maker; and here is God, with arms wide open, dying for his enemies.
If that’s not beautiful to you, ask God right now to give you eyes to see. May he give you eyes to see the beauty of this God! This God is so beautiful in his love. He didn’t have to love us. God was eternally joyful and satisfied and happy in the communion of the Trinity, but out of love he overflows like a fountain to welcome us into his joy.
The Puritan Richard Sibbes said, “Christ was never more lovely to his church than when he was most deformed for his church.” Christ, in the beauty of his death, hanging on the cross.
How do we respond to this? You see to responses in this passage. There are some who do not believe, and they respond with antagonism towards Jesus, they want to kill him, they want to arrest him, they want to do away with him. They want to get Jesus out of the picture.
There are a lot of people in the world today who just want to get Jesus out of the picture. They want to get Jesus out of Christmas, the Christ out of Christmas; they want to get Jesus out of the picture. Jesus is nothing more to them than a swear word. “Let’s do away with Jesus!” Antagonism towards Jesus. There are some today who have what looks like an indifference to Jesus, and if that indifference does not turn into believe it eventually will be antagonism. That’s one way to respond.
Well, here’s the other way. In verse 42, people believe. In fact, that is the call of the entire gospel of John. It’s been the application of almost every sermon in this series, hasn’t it? Believe in Christ! Believe in the Son, the Son whom God sent into the world so that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life. Believe in the Christ, the Messiah, the one who is the anointed of God. Believe in the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep.
I ask you this morning, have you believed? Have you trusted him? Have you accepted him? Have you received him into your heart and into your life? Do you love and trust and follow the good shepherd, the beautiful shepherd? He’s worthy of your trust, and I commend it to you this morning. Look to Christ and be saved. Let’s pray.
Our Lord and our God, words fail us to describe the mystery and the beauty of who you are and what you have done in sending your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for us. Lord, we get a taste in this passage, we get the sense of the grandeur and the majesty and the epic nature of the story of redemption, that Christ, the Son of the Father, would come to die for us. We are humbled by this, we are likely, all of us, far too indifferent to it, not nearly as captured by it as we should be. So we pray that you would send your Spirit to make the word live in our hearts, that we would grasp and be grasped by the wonder of what Christ has done for us in his incarnation, in his death, and in his resurrection; that we would be drawn to the feet of this beautiful Savior, that we would love him, that we would worship him, that we would adore him with all of our hearts.
Father, as we come to the Lord’s table this morning, may we come with humble hearts, with worshipping hearts. May we come taking bread and juice physically, but taking Jesus himself mentally and emotionally in our hearts. May we come with the heart of faith, receiving all that Christ has done for us, trusting in it, trusting in it alone.
Lord, I pray that you would do that for us this morning, and I pray that you would work in the hearts of each person here. Lord, there are some who do not believe. There are some who have not been captured by the beauty of Christ and his cross. I pray that they would be, I pray that you would give the gifts of faith and repentance, I pray that you would draw sinners to yourself today, that today would be a day of salvation. Lord, we ask you to be glorified in us, be glorified in our worship as we continue this morning, as we come to the table. We pray it in Jesus’s name and for his sake, Amen.