Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"For which of these do you stone me?"

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep up in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father's name testify about me ... I and the Father are one."

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

"We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are "gods"'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came- and Scripture cannot be set aside- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 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 in the Father." Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

- John 10:24-39

Jesus' line "I have said you are gods" is a reference to Psalm 82. And, when the bible quotes a line from the Old Testament, don't just read that one line, you have to read the whole context where it comes from.

So, to briefly summarize Psalm 82, God is above the other "gods"- which I interpret to mean kings and governments and powerful systems that exist in the world- and God tells them to quit defending the wicked and start helping and rescuing the poor and weak. And sure, they're like gods, but they're going to die too someday, and God will judge them.

Huh. A psalm about justice- defined as helping the poor and bringing down the oppressors. It's almost like the whole bible is about this.

Anyway, for some reason Jesus feels this psalm is applicable to his situation in John 10. Jesus was making a lot of confusing statements about "I am in the Father" and "the Father is in me", whatever, and some people wanted to stone him. Because how can he talk like that? Calling himself equal with God! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

And Jesus is like, "Hey doesn't it say somewhere 'I have said you are gods'? So apparently it's cool to just throw around terms like that. Plus I actually am the Son of God."

Is that it? Or perhaps there are other parallels to Psalm 82?

I wonder if, when Jesus went on to talk about "doing the works of the Father", he meant the justice that was discussed in Psalm 82. He tells them to believe in him if they see him "defend the weak and the fatherless", "uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed", "rescue the weak and the needy", and "deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

And I wonder if, by referencing that psalm, Jesus was making a comparison between the religious leaders who gave him a hard time and the "gods" who will soon fall and be judged for how they ignored the suffering of the poor.

(Doesn't seem like a good move if you're trying to convince people NOT to stone you.)

Also, this raises some questions about whether following God is about what you do or what you believe. So what if someone comes along and helps a lot of people? You gotta check if they've got their theology straight. Because it's better to be right than good, yes?

I was always taught to be careful of being "led astray" by something that seems good but doesn't line up with "what the bible says." That's why Christians aren't supposed to date non-Christians, ya know- because everything will seem good, and then farther down the road you'll get married and then have problems because actually non-Christians are secretly bad.

(Full disclosure: My boyfriend is not a Christian. Please leave your panicked, over-the-top warnings in the comments section.)

Or giving to charities that aren't religious. Sure they're doing good and helping people, but it's all worthless because they're not sharing the gospel, right?

But here's Jesus, saying to believe in him because of what he does. Even though his beliefs seem blasphemous.


Apparently so. This line sums it up well:
Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
Not for what he did, but for his beliefs. And maybe Jesus thinks that's absolutely ridiculous.


This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 82. To read other people's posts, click here: Calling leaders to account.


  1. Great post! I love the connection you made to the words and actions of Jesus. And you are right- defending the poor and powerless is a much greater theme of Scripture than people often realize.

  2. Yeah, reading through the Psalms it like keeps hitting me over the head with the whole "justice for the powerless" thing.