Many of us like Jesus—who he was, what he did, how he loved others—but we struggle with his claims of deity. These are edgy claims that catch everyone off guard. What are we to do with Jesus’ unexpected, extraordinary claims?
In this passage from John 10, we find four dimensions of the unexpected that reveal the heart of Jesus:
- Unexpected Feast: The setting of the story begins at the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, and themes of this feast are themes of confrontation: blasphemy, consecration, light, and worship. These are the very points of contention in the conversation that Jesus has in the story with the Pharisees. The irony is that it is the Pharisees who are in fact blaspheming, because by refusing to acknowledge God’s own son revealed before their eyes, they are blaspheming Jesus.
- Unexpected Clarity: The unexpected feast leads to unexpected clarity. Responding to requests for clarity about his words, Jesus identifies two pillars of his witness—his words and his works. Jesus then makes an unmistakable claim to deity. The people asked for a plain claim to be the Messiah, the chosen one of Israel, but instead Jesus claims to be divine.
- Unexpected Nuance: The unexpected claims of Jesus lead to unexpected nuance. Jesus challenges the religious leaders to think critically about who he really is and what his words really mean. It would be one thing if Jesus had nothing to back up his claims, but his works show that he is from God. Moreover, he claims that the Father is in him, and he in the Father. Jesus is claiming not equivalence (meaning the same person), but equality with God. If Jesus were to claim that he was the Father, that would be heresy. The one true God eternally exists as three co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And these three are one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity. These are three persons in one essence: equal, but not equivalent. So deep is the loving union of this eternal community of persons that they mutually indwell one another while maintaining their distinctions.
- Unexpected Mercy: The unexpected nuance leads to an unexpected mercy. Jesus knows that what he is saying is hard to believe, so he asks them to believe his works. Jesus looks his assassins in the eyes and gives them this merciful invitation to start with a small amount of faith to know him. This is such a clear example of how Jesus patiently pursues hostile hearts. None of us believes as we ought; yet Jesus is so patient with us.
- Jesus didn’t stutter—either he is, as he claims, the Lord or heaven, or he is a liar and lunatic.
- Jesus deserves our worship as the Son of God.
- Jesus welcomes you where you are, even the parts of you that are skeptical and hesitant.
When our faith feels weak, all we must say is, “Lord, I believe…help my unbelief.”