22It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. 23He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. 26But you don’t believe me because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, 29for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. 30The Father and I are one.”
31Once again the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. 32Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many things to help the people. For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?”
33They replied, “Not for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, have made yourself God.” (John 10:22-33, NLT)
8While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. 9He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. 10So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
11When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human bodies!” 12They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes. 13The temple of Zeus was located on the outskirts of the city. The priest of the temple and the crowd brought oxen and wreaths of flowers, and they prepared to sacrifice to the apostles at the city gates.
14But when Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings like yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16In earlier days he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17but he never left himself without a witness. There were always his reminders, such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and joyful hearts.” 18But even so, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
A number of years ago, I had some conversations with two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door seeking to proselytize me. I wrote about that encounter in a previous post here.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religious group that has its roots in Christianity but is not Christian in their theology. That’s because they deny both the traditional Christian doctrine of the trinity, which they believe is rooted in paganism, and the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, which they assert was not the belief of the early church but was introduced as a false doctrine by Constantine at the Council of Nicea.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is a created being and they argue that Jesus never claimed deity for himself and nowhere in Scripture does it even hint at this “false” teaching.
In my conversation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door, I referenced this passage in John 10 and asked, “what do you make of John 10:30, where Jesus says, ‘I and the Father are one?’ Isn’t this an evidence of Jesus’ divinity?”
Their response was interesting. They said, “Jesus was only claiming to be one in purpose with God the Father. He was not claiming divinity.”
My response was, “the context doesn’t support your view. Look at verse 31. It says that the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. Why would they want to kill him if he was simply stating that he was one in purpose with God the Father? Aren’t you one in purpose with God the Father?”
They responded by saying that the Jewish leaders had misunderstood what Jesus was saying. Yes, they picked up stones to kill him but it was because they THOUGHT that Jesus was asserting equality with God but he really wasn’t.
If this was really the case, that the leaders simply misunderstood what Jesus was saying, then why didn’t Jesus correct their false understanding?
Think about it.
Jesus makes a statement about being unified with God in purpose and suddenly a mob is trying to kill him. Jesus asks, “why are you trying to kill me?” and they tell him it’s for blasphemy…that he, being a mere man has made himself God!
If Jesus WASN’T God, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses assert, why did Jesus not correct their misunderstanding?
Interestingly, in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas heal a crippled man and the crowd is so amazed at the miracle they had performed that they determined Paul and Barnabas must be gods in human form. They are prepared to make sacrifices to them at the city gates when Paul and Barnabas realize what’s happening. What do they do?
They don’t allow their misunderstanding about who they are to go uncorrected. They plainly and directly explain that they are NOT gods and that they should not be worshiped. Instead, they tell their audience that they are simply messengers sent to explain to them about the God they SHOULD worship – Jesus.
So the Jehovah’s Witness argument doesn’t make sense. They say that Jesus was only claiming to be one in purpose with God but the religious leaders misunderstood what Jesus meant and so they decided to stone him for blasphemy. If Jesus were not God he would have corrected their misunderstanding just as Paul and Barnabas did with those who mistook them for Greek gods. Yet Jesus didn’t correct their supposed misunderstanding. The simple explanation for why He didn’t is because they DIDN’T misunderstand what He was saying. He really was claiming equality with God the Father.
The context of this passage clearly communicates that Jesus believed He was equal with God and He communicated that belief to others. That is why the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. They clearly didn’t believe Jesus was God but they clearly understood Jesus was making the claim. That is why they picked up stones to kill Him. They believed He was guilty of blasphemy.
To reach the Jehovah’s Witnesses understanding of this passage requires one to add details to the narrative that simply are not there. The text doesn’t say anywhere that the leaders had misunderstood Jesus. The Jehovah’s Witnesses though are forced to embrace this false narrative because it is the only way to hold to their preconceived view of Jesus – namely, their belief that Jesus is not God and never claimed to be.
The Jehovah’s Witness’s understanding and explanation of this passage fails. It fails because they deny what the passage clearly and plainly teaches and they add details that aren’t there in order to change the meaning of the passage so that it fits their preconceived theological bias..
What do you think Jesus meant when He said “I and the Father are one”?
How likely do you think it is that the religious leaders simply misunderstood what Jesus was saying?
If Jesus was simply misunderstood. what reasons can you think of to explain why He didn’t correct this misunderstanding?
What is your view of Jesus? Do you believe He is God, as traditional Christianity teaches or do you think He is simply a created being as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach?
Do you think it even matters what we believe about Jesus? Why do you think our understanding of the nature of Jesus is important? What difference do you think it makes?
Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash