John 10:31-39 – Words & Works – Part II

Review using Last Week’s Intro:
• For two and a half years, Jesus had sought to convey to the Jews His identity and the reason for His incarnation.
• He had done so through at least two ways.
    o His works – signs and wonders
    o His words – teaching
• Both His works and His words pointed to His ministry as being sanctioned and authorized by God the Father and to His identity as the Son of God.

As with last week, we are confronted with some powerful implications for the believer and unbeliever with respect to Jesus’ works and His words.
• Last week we dealt with Jesus’ WORDS, so today we will deal with the implication of His WORKS to the believer/unbeliever.

John 10:31–33 and 37-39 (ESV) — 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.” – AND – 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.

1) JESUS’ WORKS – ROUND 1

John 10:31–33 (ESV) — 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.”

We saw last week that the Jews asked Jesus to speak plainly about His identity.
• His response was “I told you” and it didn’t matter because still “you do not believe” (John 10:25).
• He then went on to explain why they didn’t believe in spite of both His words and His works.

In today’s text, we witness the action that results from the Jews’ unbelief.
• (1) They write Jesus off as a blasphemer.
• (2) They try to stone Him after He spoke plainly again and declared that He “and the Father are one” (vs. 30).
    o We will deal with the significance of this verse 30 next week.

Jesus’ response to the Jews’ attempt to stone Him is interesting.
• And it is here where we dig into the relationship of Jesus’ works to the unbeliever.
• His response turns the Jew’s question about His words into one about His works.
• Jesus says in verse 32, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?

Works and the Unbeliever:
The Jews make a remarkable statement – “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you” (vs. 32).
• Jesus’ plain words weren’t enough to convince and today we see His works weren’t enough for them either.
• This is another beautiful example of the irony that is so prevalent in John’s Gospel.
• Clearly, because of His works they should have fallen at His feet in worship.
• But here they not only blow them off, but they seek to divorce them entirely from Jesus’ words.
    o “Your good works are fine, but Your words are blasphemous”

What are the Jews missing concerning Jesus’ works that they would so easily dismiss them from the equation?
• They are missing the purpose of His works!
• Luke 7:20–23 (ESV) — 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
• Jesus quotes Isaiah to John’s disciples that they may know the purpose of His works.
• Jesus’ works declare that He is “the one who is to come”.

John’s Gospel also made abundantly clear the purpose of Jesus’ works.
• John 20:30–31 (ESV) — 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John’s Gospel also makes clear that this purpose finds fulfillment.
• John 1:48–49 (ESV) — 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
• John 2:11 (ESV) — 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
• John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
• John 7:31 (ESV) — 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

But the unbeliever, those not part of the flock, not drawn, taught and given by the Father responds differently.
• They do not see the purpose in Jesus’ works.
• John 12:37 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
• John 6:30 (ESV) — 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?
    o Here they even belittle Jesus’ works as insufficient.

So, in spite of the fact that Jesus’ works so powerfully attest to His identity and His relationship with the Father as prophesied:
• The unbelieving Jews are completely unable to see and acknowledge this fact.
• In our text today, they dismiss the significance of His works.
• In fact, they appear to only be concerned with the content of His words.
• And it’s no wonder, because Jesus’ words divorced from His works make little sense.
    o By one’s fruit you will know him.
• His works are an essential part of the divine, supernatural context of His ministry.
• So without that context, to claim He is one with the Father is a little crazy.
• No wonder they accuse Him of blaspheme.

So really there are at least three ironies in our text today.
• (1) The Jews are so oblivious to His works and what they point to.
• (2) That they refuse to see His words in context of His works.
• (3) Which leads to an accusation based on His words that Jesus reveals to be hermeneutically groundless.
    o We will see how He did this next week in verse 34-36.

Now let’s look at Jesus’ response to the Jews ironic errors.

2) JESUS’ WORKS – ROUND 2

John 10:37–39 (ESV) — 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.

Jesus follows up his hermeneutics lesson (next week) by restoring what the Jews had sought to divide.
• He reunites His words with His works.
• He argues that His words should be heard and understood in the context of His works.
• The Father’s Jesus is a Jesus whose ministry and authenticity is united in His words AND His works.
• From Jesus’ perspective, both His Words given to Him by the Father and His Works authorized to be performed by the Father are a clear and unambiguous witness to His identity.
• And His words and works are as inseparable from each other as He is from the Father.
    o They demonstrate why He is one with the Father.

Jesus demonstrates the necessity of uniting His words and works in two ways.
• (1) He argues that His words are believable because His works are from the Father.
• (2) So united are they that He then stakes their belief in Him on this claim and gives them permission to not believe His words if His works aren’t from the Father.
    o He is not asking them to believe blindly.
    o The reasons to believe in Him are plentiful.
    o And, remember, the works are a fulfillment of prophecy.

Jesus does this very same thing in a passage from Matthew.
• He links His words to His works and unites them in His authority as the Son of Man, the Father’s Jesus.
• Matthew 9:2–8 (ESV) — 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

And finally, in response to the Jews error, Jesus demonstrates a deep love for the unbelievers with one last plea.
• He knows these Jews were not hearing and following Him.
    o John 10:27 (ESV) — 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
• So He makes one final plea for them to believe – a plea of love, grace and mercy.
• Even though His words and works validate each other and therefore Him.
• He implores them to, in spite their reaction to His words; believe in His relationship with the Father because of His works.
    o This is the spurious faith we talked about some time ago.
• This gesture, I believe, fits beautifully with Jesus’ words from another passage in Matthew and expresses Jesus’ desire that all would be saved.
• Matthew 23:37 (ESV) — 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

But His finally plea fell on rocky ground.
• Their response was merely to have Him arrested.
And the reason for their rejection?
    o See last week’s lesson.

Lessons for Us:
I can’t help but wonder how often people today do what the unbelieving Jews did and what Jesus is trying to correct here.
• That is to say, divorce Jesus works from His words.

Before I give two specific examples of this divorce, I need to point out a generalized occurrence of it within our conservative evangelical circles.
• We have a habit of esteeming highly the word of God, as we should, but at the expense of the subjective work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
• Scripture clearly teaches that the believer is energized by the Spirit to do works that glorify God and benefit the church and its flock.
• We CE’s, however, wrongly shy away from pursuing and teaching about these gifts.

Example 1 of this Divorce in Action by the Atheist:
Speaking of the Sermon on the Mount atheist Geoff Crocker argues (Unbelievable 17 Sep 2011, 32:39) that what Jesus speaks to it is not “based upon on anything absolute” but “based upon a statement of the intrinsic attraction of the virtues of justice, of the virtues of mercy, of the virtues of love themselves”.
• In other words, the Sermon on the Mount does not find its real meaning in the fact that it was spoken by someone who performed supernatural works, claimed to be fulfillment of OT prophecy, and operated His ministry at the direction and authority of God the Father.
• Its real meaning is simply in Jesus’ eloquent delivery of virtues that are celebrated by all reasonable people on the planet.

This is absolute nonsense and can only be said if Jesus’ words are dismissed and divorced from the supernatural (works).
• “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – What is heaven? a work of God
• “they shall see God” – How do we see God? A work of God
• “they shall be called sons of God” – How are we made sons of God? A work of God
• “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” – What is the fulfillment of the law? A work of God
• “be liable to the hell of fire” – What is hell? A rejection of the work of God
• And these examples are only from the first 17 verses.

Example 2 of this Divorce in Action by the Christian (Unbelievable 4/16/11 & 8/27/11):
Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona have encountered each other a number of times to debate the resurrection.
• With respect to the resurrection, Bart Ehrman argues that miracles are “outside of the realm of what history can show”.
• In other words, an appeal to the supernatural is outside of the discipline of history; it is not in the “historian’s toolbox”.
    o This is classic David Hume enlightenment stuff
    o But Hume, by the way, was honest about the grounding problems for reason that arise from this, Ehrman is not.
• So whatever Jesus said or did, history cannot confirm any of it was supernatural.
• So you can believe Jesus was raised by God from the dead, but this is not historical.
• This means, of course, that it is myth.

Mike Licona, for sake of argument, concedes this point to Ehrman and as a result is left with the following statement:
• “Let’s put it this way. If the historical evidence is good enough to show that Jesus rose from the dead, we’ll just not call it a miracle. We’ll just say, ‘well we don’t know how He was raised. We don’t know the nature of the body He was in’”… “You want to leave the cause of the resurrection a question mark? I’m fine with that.”

The result is that the resurrection becomes the “inference to the best explanation” that accounts for the events surrounding the resurrection, not a supernatural act of God.
• It is divorced from its entire prophetic and eschatological context.
• Now, we know Mike Licona is a conservative evangelical Christian who writes and debates powerfully for the historicity of a supernatural resurrection.
• But one has to ask, what is gained by doing what the unbelieving Jews did?
• What is gained by divorcing Jesus from His works?
• If the resurrection was not a supernaturally caused work of God, what good is it?
    o   Resurrection as just an “inference to the best explanation” can’t help Bart Ehrman.
    o   In fact, Ehrman could call Licona’s bluff, concede the resurrection and then say “now what?”
    o   This is because Ehrman doesn’t even have to jettison his naturalist worldview to do this.
    o   This is why, for me, the resurrection is powerless divorced from its supernatural context.

Jesus doesn’t seem to appeal to the unbeliever in this way in our text.
• His appeal to them IS the supernatural – His works.
• He urges them to believe because His works clearly indicate that He is one with the Father and operates under the authority of the Father.

From Jesus’ perspective, as we have seen the past two weeks, it is the Father that draws and gives the unbeliever and it is the Father who authorizes and ordains Jesus’ works.
• The common denominator is a WORK of the Father.
• The Father saves (a supernatural act) and the Father authorizes Jesus works (a supernatural act).
• So in appealing to His works, Jesus is appealing to the Father!
• It is an appeal to the Father to
    o (1) Draw the unbeliever via Jesus works (a supernatural act)
    o (2) Perform a supernatural act in the life of the unbeliever.
• There really is nothing more right to appeal to.
• Jesus truly is seeking to “tell us plainly” this fact.

So though the unbeliever has no choice but to reject the works of God…the believer has no excuse to do so.
• We should preach, teach, and argue for BOTH just as Jesus did.
• Do not shy away from the supernatural, the very thing that saved you.