One of the encounters of Jesus with the religious authorities is found in John 10:22-39. This one took place at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem toward the end of Jesus’ ministry. As I have mentioned, my purpose in the Jesus blogs is to learn how he acted in various situations, not what he said. In this short encounter he demonstrates several ways that we should respond if we find ourselves in a similar situation. First the story, then the lessons.
Walking one day in Solomon’s Porch, the authorities “cornered” Jesus to ask how much longer he intended to “provoke them” as he was doing (vs. 24). He responded very directly, saying that his works proved that he was who he said he was – “I and the Father are one.” At that the priests picked up stones in order to kill him (vs. 31), but instead of cowering he boldly asked for which of his good works were they about to stone him (vs. 32). They countered saying that it wasn’t because of what he was doing but because he claimed to be God and that was blasphemy. His defense was that Scripture spoke of people as “gods” so apparently his assertion couldn’t be considered blasphemy? (vss. 34-36). Nonplussed by this argument, they tried once again to arrest him but he “escaped out of their grasp.”(vs. 39).
One thing we learn from Jesus in this confrontation is that we are to live without fear. Everything he did provoked the religious leadership. While he didn’t go out of his way to offend them his message showed them up for the hypocrites they were. Although it was forbidden for them to kill anyone – only Rome could do that – they were so disturbed that they actually picked up stones to kill him.
A second thing to notice is how wise Jesus was in the exchange. Every good debater knows how critical it is to put the other person on the defense. So Jesus asked for which of the helpful deeds he had recently done did they intend to kill him. It is clear that you don’t kill a person for the good they do, and they realized that they were caught in their own trap. Then he undermined their argument that he had committed blasphemy by claiming to be one with God because the scripture, which they held to be without error, spoke of some people as “gods.” Just good solid reasoning and they were supposed to be the experts in that field.
Finally, when they tried to at arrest him he “escaped from their grasp.” Most commentators see this as divine intervention. Jesus knew that God the Father was involved in every step along his way and would not allow anything to happen that was outside his will.
So the three guiding principles that are seen in this encounter are, for us 1) to live without fear, 2) to meet opposition intelligently, and 3) to rest secure in our confidence that God is in control. Put more succinctly: Be unafraid, be informed, trust him.