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Bible Commentaries
John 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 10-42

H. Jesus’ third visit to Jerusalem 7:10-10:42

This section of the text describes Jesus’ teaching in Jerusalem during the feast of Tabernacles and the feast of Dedication. John evidently included it in His narrative because it contains important revelations of Jesus’ identity and explains the mounting opposition to Jesus that culminated in His crucifixion.

Verse 1

Jesus again stressed the importance of this teaching with a strong introductory preface to it. He then proceeded to point out several things about first-century shepherding that illustrated His ministry. John’s original readers would have understood these similarities easily since shepherding was widespread.

Jesus described a flock of sheep in a fold or pen that had solid walls and only one door (gate). Evidently the fold in view was a large enclosure some distance from any human dwelling place. Customarily several families who owned sheep that fed close together hired a watchman to guard the gate to such an exposed enclosure. He would admit authorized individuals but would exclude the unauthorized who might want to steal or kill some of the sheep. The words "thief" (Gr. kleptes, stressing trickery) and "robber" (Gr. lestes, stressing violence) are quite close in meaning.

God frequently compared His relationship to Israel to that of a shepherd and his sheep in the Old Testament (e.g., Psalms 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:10-16; cf. Psalms 23:1). He also called Israel’s unfaithful leaders wicked shepherds of His people (e.g., Isaiah 56:9-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 25:32-38; Ezekiel 34:4; Zechariah 11). Moreover He predicted that one day a descendant of David would shepherd the nation properly (Ezekiel 34:23-25; Ezekiel 37:24-28). Thus these figures all had meaning to the Jews to whom Jesus first addressed this teaching.

In John 10:1 the thieves and robbers clearly refer to the religious leaders who were unfaithful to God and were seeking to harm His sheep for personal gain (cf. John 9:41). Their rejection of Jesus as the Shepherd whom God had sent marked them as what they were.

Verses 1-6

Jesus’ presentation of the figure 10:1-6

This teaching is quite similar to what the Synoptic evangelists recorded Jesus giving in His parables, but there is a significant difference. John called this teaching a figure of speech (Gr. paroimian) rather than a parable (Gr. parabole). Parables generally stress only one or a few points of comparison, but the sustained metaphors that follow develop many similarities. John did not include any Synoptic-style parables in his narrative.

Jesus evidently chose the figure of a good shepherd to contrast Himself with the bad shepherds who were misleading God’s sheep. Many Old Testament passages castigated Israel’s shepherds who failed in their duty (cf. Isaiah 56:9-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 25:32-38; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11). God was Israel’s Shepherd (cf. Psalms 23:1; Psalms 80:1; Isaiah 40:10-11). The shepherd metaphor also was a good one to picture Jesus’ voluntary self-sacrifice for His people.

"The shepherd was an autocrat over his flock, and passages are not lacking where the shepherd imagery is used to emphasize the thought of sovereignty. Jesus is thus set forth in this allegory as the true Ruler of his people in contrast to all false shepherds." [Note: Morris, pp. 443-44. Cf. Revelation 2:27.]

Verses 1-21

7. The Good Shepherd discourse 10:1-21

Evidently this teaching followed what John recorded in chapter 9 (John 10:21), but exactly when between the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2; John 7:14; John 7:37) and the feast of Dedication (John 10:22) it happened is unclear. The place where Jesus gave it appears to have been Jerusalem (John 10:21). Probably this teaching followed the preceding one immediately. The thematic as well as the linguistic connections are strong. The blind beggar had just been put out of the fold of his synagogue (John 9:34), so Jesus spoke of His fold, which the beggar had now entered (cf. John 9:35-38).

Verse 2

In contrast to these plunderers, an approved shepherd would enter the pen through its gate rather than over its wall. Jesus was implying that He came to Israel as God’s authorized representative, the Messiah. The religious leaders on the other hand did not have divine sanction for their dealings with Israel that were essentially destructive as well as selfish.

Verse 3

The doorkeeper was the person hired to protect the sheep from their enemies. In the case of Jesus’ ministry this person corresponded to John the Baptist. Normally there were sheep from several different flocks belonging to several different owners that stayed together in these large pens. The pen then symbolized Israel or Judaism. Upon entering the pen a shepherd would call his own sheep to come out from the others, and he would lead them out to pasture. Normally shepherds did this with a distinctive call or whistle. This shepherd, however, called each sheep by its own name, which evidently was not uncommon in Jesus’ day. [Note: Blum, p. 309; Tenney, "John," p. 108.] The scene pictures Jesus’ calling every individual whom the Father had given Him to follow Him out from the other non-elect Jews (cf. Numbers 27:15-18; John 14:9; John 20:16; John 20:29; John 21:16). Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice and follow Him (cf. John 5:24).

"The Pharisees threw the beggar out of the synagogue, but Jesus led him out of Judaism and into the flock of God!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:329.]

Verses 4-5

Many shepherds drove their sheep before them, and some of them used sheep dogs to help them. However this shepherd, as many others did, went before his sheep and led them where he wanted to take them. This description reflects the style of Jesus’ leadership. He led His disciples who followed Him (cf. Galatians 5:18).

His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. They recognize Him for who He is, namely, their Shepherd. Conversely they will not follow false shepherds because their voice or teaching is strange to them. Jesus was describing what is typical behavior in such relationships, not that every individual sheep always behaves this way in every instance, as experience testifies.

Some people appeal to these verses to prove that true Christians will inevitably follow Christ and will never apostatize. This seems wrong for at least three reasons. First, Jesus said that His sheep follow Him, not a stranger, because they know the Good Shepherd’s voice (what he says, his teaching). Sheep normally do follow their shepherd because they know his voice, but there are exceptions among sheep and among Christians. Second, if following false teachers were impossible for Christians, why are there so many warnings against doing precisely that in the New Testament? Third, John identified this saying of Jesus as a figure of speech (or compressed thought, John 10:6). Illustrations typically make a main point, so we should not expect this illustration to correspond to reality in every detail, much less to teach doctrine in all its parts.

The point of these verses is how God forms His flock. People come to Jesus because He calls them, and they follow Him because they belong to Him. Many of the Jews who heard Jesus’ voice disregarded Him because they considered Abraham or Moses or some famous rabbi as their shepherd.

Verse 6

Many of the Jews who heard these words did not understand what Jesus was talking about. They did not respond to the Shepherd’s voice. They could hardly have failed to understand the relationship between shepherds and sheep that was so common in their culture. Nevertheless they did not grasp Jesus’ analogy of Himself as Israel’s true Shepherd.

The Greek word paroimia ("figure of speech") occurs elsewhere in John’s Gospel (John 16:25; John 16:29) but never in the Synoptics.

"It suggests the notion of a mysterious saying full of compressed thought, rather than that of a simple comparison." [Note: B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorised Version with Introduction and Notes, p. 152.]

A similar word, parabole ("parable"), appears often in the Synoptics but never in the fourth Gospel. Both words, however, have quite a wide range of meanings encompassing many kinds of figurative language.

Verses 7-8

Jesus introduced another of His "I am" claims. He professed to be the door or gate of the sheepfold (cf. John 1:51; John 14:6). Some commentators have pointed out that some ancient Near Eastern shepherds slept in the gateways of their sheepfolds and so served as human gates. [Note: E.g., Beasley-Murray, p. 169.] This may seem to alleviate the incongruity of Jesus being both the Shepherd and the gate. However the other differences in the two pictures of the fold presented in John 10:1-5; John 10:7-18 argue for separate though similar illustrations rather than one harmonious illustration. This pericope does not simply explain the previous illustration, but it develops certain metaphors in that illustration.

Jesus contrasted Himself as the gate with the thieves and robbers who preceded Him. He provided protection and security for His sheep whereas the others sought to exploit them. The thieves and robbers in this context refer to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (cf. John 10:1). They are obviously not a reference to Israel’s faithful former leaders such as Abraham, Moses, and other true prophets.

Verses 7-18

Jesus’ expansion of the figure 10:7-18

The difference between this teaching and Jesus’ parables in the Synoptics now becomes clearer. Jesus proceeded to compare Himself to the pen gate as well as to the Shepherd. He also described Himself leading His sheep into the fold as well as out of it. Jesus was using the illustration to teach more than one lesson.

Verse 9

Jesus described Himself as a passageway (cf. John 14:6). His sheep could enter and leave the sheepfold through Him. Obviously the sheepfold here does not refer to Israel as it did previously (John 10:1-5). People could not go in and out of Judaism at will through Jesus. It probably represents the security that God provides, and the pasture outside stands for what sustains their spiritual health and growth. Jesus provides for His people’s security needs and for all of their daily needs 24 hours a day.

Verse 10

Impostors’ aims are ultimately selfish and destructive, but Jesus came to give life, not take it.

"The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviours-its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots-and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ’only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ’only . . . to kill’), and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ’only . . . to destroy’)." [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., p. 385.]

Jesus on the other hand not only came to bring spiritual life to people, but He came to bring the best quality of life to them. The eternal life that Jesus imparts is not just long, but it is also rich. He did not just come to gain sheep but to enable His sheep to flourish and to enjoy contentment and every other legitimately good thing possible.

Verse 11

John 10:7-10 expand the idea of the gate from John 10:1-5, and John 10:11-18 develop the idea of the Shepherd from those verses.

Here is another "I am" claim. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in contrast to the bad shepherds just described (John 10:8; John 10:10 a). Rather than killing the sheep so He might live, as the bad shepherds did, Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life (Gr. psyche, the total self) so the sheep might live. It is this extreme commitment to the welfare of the sheep that qualified Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The titles "Great Shepherd" (Hebrews 13:20-21) and "Chief Shepherd" (1 Peter 5:4) stress different aspects of Jesus’ character as a shepherd. Good shepherding involves protecting, providing, and sacrificing.

"Good" (Gr. kalos) connotes nobility and worth, not merely gentleness. It contrasts Jesus with the unworthy and ignoble shepherds that He proceeded to describe (John 10:12-13). Laying down His life is a uniquely Johannine expression that describes a voluntary sacrificial death (cf. John 10:17-18; John 13:37-38; John 15:13; 1 John 3:16). Likewise the preposition hyper ("for") usually connotes sacrifice (cf. John 13:37; John 15:13; Luke 22:19; Romans 5:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:3). Most shepherds do not intend to die for their sheep but to live for them; they only die for their sheep accidentally. Yet Jesus came to die for His sheep. Of course, Jesus also came to die for the whole world (John 6:51; John 11:50-52).

Verses 12-13

Thieves and robbers are wicked, but hired hands are typically just selfish. They take care of sheep for what they can get out of it, not for the sake of the job itself. While a good shepherd may be willing to sacrifice himself for the safety and welfare of his sheep, a hireling will save himself when danger arises (cf. Jeremiah 10:21-22; Jeremiah 12:10; Zechariah 11:4-17). This is understandable since the shepherd who owns his sheep has a vested interest in them whereas a hired hand does not. Israel’s leaders acted like hirelings when they tried to preserve their own positions and willingly sacrificed Jesus. Christian leaders behave as hired hands when we put our own needs ahead of those we serve (cf. 1 Peter 5:2-3). Attitude is the crucial difference between a true shepherd and a hireling.

Verses 14-15

The mutual knowledge of the shepherd and the sheep is very important. Therefore Jesus stressed His identity as the Good Shepherd again. The sheep must know their Shepherd, and they can know Him as the Son knows the Father. The Son must know the Father to follow His will, and the sheep must know the Shepherd to follow Him faithfully. Jesus implied that the relationship the sheep enjoy with Himself is unique, as His relationship with His Father is unique. Yet each person maintains his own identity. Man does not become God, as the New Age movement, for example, teaches. The repetition of the Shepherd’s sacrificial death in this verse also stresses that knowing the Shepherd involves appreciating the extent of His love.

"’Know’ (ginosko) in this Gospel connotes more than the cognizance of mere facts; it implies a relationship of trust and intimacy." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 109. See also Wiersbe, 1:330.]

John also used the word this way in 1 John (John 4:7-8; John 4:16; John 5:20) where he expounded the importance of not just believing in but abiding in Jesus Christ.

Verse 16

The other sheep in view refer to Gentiles outside the fold of Israel who would believe in Jesus (cf. John 10:3-4). This is one of a few intimations in the Gospels that a new body would replace Israel as the people of God in the present age (cf. John 17:20; Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 3:6). These sheep, with those from Israel, would compose one fold, namely, the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:32). This rules out the possibility of a Jewish church and a Gentile church. That fold would have one shepherd, namely, Jesus, who would become, to change the figure, the Head of the church. Jesus knew these sheep (John 10:14-15) as well as those who would believe on Him in Israel, "this fold" (cf. Psalms 100:3).

Verse 17

Having declared the intimate knowledge that the Father and the Son share, Jesus now explained why the Father loved Him as He did. Jesus did not mean that the Father’s love resulted from the Son’s performance. It would still have existed if Jesus had failed to obey Him completely. The Father loved the Son unconditionally from the beginning. However the Son’s full obedience to the Father’s will resulted in the Father having a special love for the Son that obedience under testing produced. Similarly God loves all believers unconditionally, but when we obey Him we enjoy an intimacy with Him that only obedience produces (cf. John 15:14).

Jesus died sacrificially with His resurrection and glorification in view. He did not die thinking that He would remain dead. His death was an event in a larger chain of events that was always in view as Jesus anticipated the Cross.

Verse 18

Superficially observers could have concluded that Jesus died because the Jews conspired against Him. However, Jesus revealed that behind that instrumental cause was the efficient cause of God’s purpose (cf. Acts 4:27-28). God had given Jesus the authority to offer Himself as a sacrifice for humankind’s sins and to rise from the dead. Nevertheless the Son remained submissive to the Father in the triune hierarchy. Jesus willingly offered Himself; no human took His life from Him. However, He offered Himself in obedience to the Father’s will. Anyone can lay his or her life down in death sacrificially, but only Jesus could lay it down and then take it again in resurrection.

Verses 19-21

The division among Jesus’ hearers 10:19-21

Again Jesus’ claims resulted in some of His hearers believing in Him and others disbelieving (cf. John 7:12; John 7:43; John 9:16). Here the expression "the Jews" refers to the Jewish people generally, not specifically to the religious leaders, as it usually does in this Gospel. Evidently it was the apparent contradiction between Jesus’ claim to be the coming Shepherd of Israel and His claim to die for the sheep that caused the cleavage. Some even concluded that He was demon possessed and therefore mad (cf. John 7:20; John 8:48). Others concluded that He was sane and sober because of His gracious revelations and His ability to cure the man born blind (John 9:1-12). John continued to stress the two opposite conclusions that people continued to draw even though Jesus’ witness to His deity was consistent and clear. This should be an encouragement to all of us who testify for Him. Not even Jesus Himself convinced everyone that He was God’s Son.

Verses 22-23

"At that time" (NASB) is a general reference to the proximity of the feast of Dedication and the events narrated in the previous pericope. It does not mean that the events in the preceding section occurred exactly before that feast. The NIV "Then came" gives the sense better.

". . . His Peraean Ministry, which extended from after the Feast of Tabernacles to the week preceding the last Passover, was, so to speak, cut in half by the brief visit of Jesus to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication. Thus, each part of the Peraean Ministry would last about three months; the first, from about the end of September to the month of December; the second, from that period to the beginning of April. Of these six months we have (with the solitary exception of St. Matthew xii. 22-45), no other account than that furnished by St. Luke, although, as usually, the Jerusalem and Judaean incidents of it are described by St. John. After that we have the account of His journey to the last Passover, recorded, with more or less detail, in the three Synoptic Gospels." [Note: Edersheim, 2:195.]

The eight-day feast of Dedication, now called Chanukah (or Hanukkah), the feast of Lights, was not one of the feasts prescribed in the Mosaic Law. The Jews instituted it during the inter-testamental period (cf. 1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 1:9; 2 Maccabees 1:18; 2 Maccabees 10:1-8).

"Christ’s testimony at Hanukkah, and its place in the Gospel of John, which stresses the theme of light, is a testimony to Christians that Hanukkah emphasizes His great work of providing salvation to a spiritually blind world." [Note: Jerry R. Lancaster and R. Larry Overstreet, "Jesus’ Celebration of Hanukkah in John 10," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:607 (July-September 1995):332-33.]

It commemorated the purification and rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus ("Judas the Hammer") on the twenty-fifth of Chislev (modern late December and early January), 164 B.C. The Syrian invader Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) had profaned the temple three years earlier by replacing the brazen altar with a pagan one on which he offered a pig as a sacrifice to Jupiter. Antiochus attempted to Hellenize Judea, but the Jewish patriot Judas Maccabeus was able to lead a guerilla revolt that has borne his name ever since. After three years he defeated the Syrians and liberated the Jews.

"It was the last great deliverance that the Jews had known, and therefore it must have been in people’s minds a symbol of their hope that God would again deliver his people." [Note: Morris, p. 459.]

In warmer weather Jesus would have taught in one of the open-air courtyards of the temple. Because it was winter He taught what follows in Solomon’s colonnade on the temple courtyard’s eastern side. Perhaps John mentioned this detail because it was in Solomon’s colonnade that the first Christians gathered regularly (Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12). One writer opined that John may have included reference to winter because of the spiritual climate, namely, the generally frigid spirits of the Jews. [Note: Beasley-Murray, p. 173.] John may have made other references to times and seasons with such allusions in mind (e.g., John 13:30).

Verses 22-30

Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah 10:22-30

Verses 22-42

8. The confrontation at the feast of Dedication 10:22-42

The present section of the fourth Gospel is strongly Christological and focuses on Jesus’ identity. In this subdivision of the text Jesus presented Himself as the Messiah (John 10:22-30) and as the Son of God (John 10:31-39). This resulted in the climax of hostility against Him.

"It becomes clear that people must either recognize that Jesus stands in such a relation to the Father as no one else ever did, or else reject him entirely." [Note: Morris, p. 458.]

The final few verses are transitional and describe Jesus’ withdrawal from Jerusalem and the fact that many people believed on Him (John 10:40-42).

Verse 24

Jesus had often hinted at being the Messiah when He spoke publicly to the Jews. Still He had not plainly claimed to be the Messiah as He had when conversing with the Samaritan woman (John 4:26). The reason the Jews wanted Jesus to make His claim clear here appears to have been so they could accuse and eventually kill Him. This motivation is more apparent when we notice how Jesus responded to their request than it is when we examine what they said. Jesus did not give them the unambiguous answer that they requested. He had made clear claims about His identity, and many of the Jews had believed on Him. It was His critics’ determined unbelief that made His claims obscure to them, not His inability or unwillingness to reveal Himself. Furthermore for Jesus to have claimed to be the Jews’ Messiah publicly would have encouraged a political movement that He did not want to fuel.

Verses 25-26

Jesus did not mean that He had claimed publicly to be the Messiah. He had not. He meant that He had told the Jews that He was the Messiah by His works (cf. John 5:16-47; John 6:32-59; John 7:14-30). His miracles proved who He was, namely, God’s Son sent to fulfill the Father’s prophesied will, but the Jews generally rejected that testimony because they wanted a different type of Messiah. The ultimate reason they did not understand Jesus was that they were not of the sheep the Father had given to the Son (cf. John 10:1-18; John 6:37). This condition did not excuse their unbelief, but it explained it.

"From the human standpoint, we become His sheep by believing; but from the divine standpoint, we believe because we are His sheep. . . .

"In the Bible, divine election and human responsibility are perfectly balanced; and what God has joined together, we must not put asunder." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:332. See also C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 52-53.]

Verses 27-28

John 10:27 repeats revelation Jesus had previously given (John 10:3-5; John 10:14). The eternal life that Jesus gives is His own life. Consequently it is impossible for His sheep ever to perish. Their ultimate security rests with the Good Shepherd who promised here that no one would be able to snatch them out of His hand-no thief (John 10:10), no robber (John 10:8), no wolf (John 10:12), no one (cf. Romans 8:35-39). The construction of the Greek clause "they shall never perish," with a double negative, (ou me apolontai eis ton aiona) stresses the impossibility strongly (cf. John 3:16). Jesus had previously said that part of the task that the Father had given Him to do was to preserve all those whom the Father gave Him (John 6:37-40). Thus we can see that it is impossible even for one of the sheep to wriggle out of the Good Shepherd’s grasp.

"We should notice that the teaching of this verse is not that believers will be saved from all earthly disaster, but that they will be saved, no matter what earthly disaster may befall them." [Note: Morris, p. 463.]

This is one of the clearest promises of the eternal security of the believer that God has given us in His Word. It is also a clear statement of the fact that eternal life comes to us as a gift, not as wages we earn (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9).

Verse 29

Jesus heightened this promise of security. He reminded His hearers that because what He did was simply execute the Father’s will it was the Father as well as Himself that would keep His sheep secure (cf. John 17:12). No one can steal from God. No one has superior strength or wisdom to overpower or outwit Him (cf. Colossians 3:3). No one will snatch them from God (John 10:28), and no one can do so either.

Verse 30

Jesus did not mean that He and the Father were the same person of the Godhead. If He had meant that, He would have used the masculine form of the word translated "one" (Gr. heis). Instead He used the neuter form of the word (Gr. hen). He meant that He and the Father were one in their action. This explanation also harmonized with the context since Jesus had said that He would keep His sheep safe (John 10:28) and His Father would keep them safe (John 10:29).

This verse has been at the center of serious discussions about Jesus’ nature that have taken place over the centuries. Those who believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man (the orthodox) and those who believe that Jesus was not fully God (Arians) have appealed to it to support their positions. Therefore we need to look at it carefully.

First, Jesus’ claim to oneness does not in itself prove the Son’s unity in essence with the Father. In John 17:22, Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one as He and the Father were one, namely, in their purpose and beliefs. Second, other passages in the Gospel declare that the Father and the Son are one in more than just their purpose and beliefs (cf. 1, 18; John 8:58; John 12:41; John 20:28). Third, the context of this verse also implies that Jesus did everything His Father did (cf. John 5:19) and that Jesus and the Father united in fulfilling a divine will and a divine task. Fourth, this Gospel has consistently presented Jesus as a unique Son of God, not one of many sons. Fifth, 17:55 uses the Father Son unity as the basis for the disciple disciple unity in the analogy, not the other way around, implying that the former is the more fundamental unity. [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., pp. 394-95.]

In short, this verse does not say that Jesus was claiming to be of the same essence as God. Here He claimed to function in union with the Father. However the context and other statements in this Gospel show that His unity with the Father extended beyond a functional unity and did involve essential metaphysical unity.

The Jews had asked Jesus for a plain statement about His messiahship. Jesus gave them far more, a claim that He fully and completely carried out the Father’s will, which strongly hinted at Jesus’ deity. This statement is the climax of the preceding discussion (John 10:22-29; cf. John 5:18; John 8:59).

Verses 31-33

Clearly the Jews understood Jesus to be claiming more than simple agreement with God in thought and purpose but equality with the Father as deity. They prepared to stone Him for blasphemy. This is the first explicit charge of blasphemy (though cf. John 8:59). They believed Jesus was blaspheming because He was claiming to be God (cf. John 5:18; John 8:59; Mark 14:61-64). Before they could act Jesus asked them for which of His many noble, beautiful works (Gr. erga kala) they were stoning Him. This question confronted them with the incongruity of executing a man for restoring people who had suffered from handicaps. Jesus’ miracles testified that He was doing divine work. However the Jews did not think this through but responded that it was not for His works but for His words that they were going to kill Him. The reader should realize by now that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be, one with the Father and more than a mere mortal. A man was not making Himself out to be God, but God had made Himself a man (John 1:1; John 1:14; John 1:18).

If Jesus did not really claim to be God, He could easily have corrected the Jews’ misunderstanding here. The fact that He did not is further proof that the Jews correctly understood that He was claiming to be God.

Verses 31-39

Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son 10:31-39

Verse 34

Jesus proceeded to point out that the Jews’ authoritative revelation, the Old Testament, proved His claim. He cited Psalms 82:6 to show that the Old Testament used the word "god" (Heb. elohim) to refer to persons other than God Himself. If God spoke of people as "gods," why should the Jews object if Jesus implied that He was a god?

The identity of the people whom God addressed as gods in Psalms 82:6 is debatable. The most popular and probable view is that they were Israel’s judges who were functioning as God’s representatives and so were in that sense little gods (Psalms 82:1-4; cf. Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8). [Note: Blum, p. 312.] Another view is that these gods were angels. [Note: J. A. Emerton, "Some New Testament Notes," Journal of Theological Studies 11NS (1960):329-36.] This seems unlikely since the contrast in view in the psalm is between God and mere man, not angels. A third view is that God was addressing the whole nation of Israel when He gave them the Law. He spoke to the people as His sons and in this sense meant that they were gods. [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., pp. 398-99.] However the contrast between God as the true Judge (Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:8) and the people whom He rebuked for judging falsely (Psalms 82:2-7) seems to favor the first view.

Verses 35-36

The clause "the Scripture cannot be broken" means that man cannot annul it, set it aside, or prove it false.

"It means that Scripture cannot be emptied of its force by being shown to be erroneous." [Note: Morris, p. 468.]

Jesus’ statement affirms the unity, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture. Jesus held a very high view of Scripture. His point was that it was inconsistent for the Jews to claim the Old Testament as their authority (John 10:34) and then to disregard something that it said because they did not agree with it. It was inconsistent for them, specifically, to stone Jesus for claiming to be God and the Son of God when the Old Testament spoke of humans as gods and as God’s sons.

"In the singular he graphe usually means a single passage of Scripture, and the verb translated broken (luo) is used in John 10:18 of disregarding the letter of the law. The meaning here is ’this passage of Scripture cannot be set aside as irrelevant to the matter under discussion’." [Note: Tasker, p. 136.]

Jesus did not use this argument to claim that He was God. He used it to stall His critics. He wanted them to see that the divine terms that He was using to describe Himself were terms that the Old Testament itself also used of human beings. They could not logically accuse Him of blasphemy because the Father had set Him aside and sent Him into the world with a special mission. He was a legitimate Son of God for this reason.

As the Jews had sanctified their temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanies, so God had sanctified His Son. The Jews celebrated the sanctification of their physical temple with the feast of Dedication, but they were unwilling to accept the spiritual temple that replaced it, namely, Jesus.

Verses 37-38

Jesus next identified the evidence that His critics should consider, namely, His works, including His miracles (cf. John 10:25). He acknowledged that verbal claims were not sufficient in themselves. The Jews should learn from them and continue to learn from them that He was doing the same kinds of good works that God did. Jesus manifested divine compassion and divine power in His works. These traits also marked God’s works.

Verse 39

Jesus’ critics correctly understood His latest words (John 10:38) as a claim to equality with the Father. Therefore they again tried to seize Him. Jesus eluded them again because it was not yet time for His passion (cf. John 7:30; John 8:20). This act was the climax of official antagonism during this period of Jesus’ ministry so far.

Verse 40

John presented Jesus’ departure from Jerusalem as the result of official rejection of Him. The event had symbolic significance that the evangelist probably intended. Jesus withdrew the opportunity for salvation from the people there because they refused to accept His gracious offer of salvation. Evidently Jesus went from Jerusalem back to Bethany in Perea on the east side of the Jordan River where the Jewish rulers had no authority to pursue Him (cf. John 1:28).

Verses 40-42

Jesus’ withdrawal from Jerusalem 10:40-42

Verses 41-42

John the Baptist was by this time dead. However many people from Perea recognized that Jesus fulfilled what John the Baptist had predicted of Messiah. Their attitude contrasts with the hatred and unbelief of many in Jerusalem. They accepted John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus because it proved to be true so far, not because the forerunner had performed signs. He had not. The witness of John the Baptist continued to bear fruit even after his death because he pointed people to Jesus, and Jesus did not disappoint them.

John probably identified Jesus’ destination as he did to imply the ending of Jesus’ public ministry that John the Baptist introduced. References to John the Baptist form an inclusio that brackets the record of Jesus’ public ministry to the multitudes in this Gospel (John 1:19 to John 10:42).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/john-10.html. 2012.
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