Today’s passage is another famous one that is used by our Muslim friends. It comes from the New Testament, the Gospel of John 10:34 and it reads: Jesus answered them “Is it not written in your law ‘I said you are gods.’ The Jews were upset with Jesus. They wanted to stone him. That was his answer. Muslims use this to rebuke the idea that Jesus is God using this statement. The context is they’re picking up stones to stone him to death for blasphemy because he claims that he and the father are one (John 10:30). He says “I and the father are one.” So verse 31, the Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Multiple times they’re picking up stones to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy. Very odd if Jesus is just a Muslim prophet proclaiming belief in one God. What sincere Jew or sincere Jewish leader or sincere Jewish rabbi or Pharisee is going to be upset by someone who’s just telling you to believe in one God all the time. But Jesus is saying things that upset them a lot so the Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Verse 32 Jesus answered them “I have shown you many good works from the father. For which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you being a man make yourself God.” Over and over again they keep saying “you’re blaspheming, you’re claiming to be God.” He’s saying something that keeps insisting to them that he’s claiming to be God and he answers in verse 34. Jesus answered them “Is it not written in your law ‘I said you are gods’? If he called them gods, to whom the Word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, do you say of him whom the father consecrated and sent into the world ‘you are blaspheming’ because I said ‘I am the son of God?’ Notice already in this passage we have Jesus claiming to be the Son of God very clearly but the reasoning is” if Jesus is telling people “even in the Psalms, someone other than God was called God were called gods, then obviously I mean something along those lines when I say that I’m the son of God. I’m not claiming to be the Son of God in any significant sense; I’m claiming to be the Son of God in some more limited sense and you can’t go ahead and kill me for that.” In other words, Jesus is downgrading what he said earlier. Earlier “I and the Father are one.” (Jews said) “you have to die, you’re claiming to be God, you’re claiming to be the Son of God, you have to die” and he’s saying “No, I’m not really blaspheming. You’re misinterpreting what I said. I mean something far less significant than that. I meant something more along the lines of what was said in the Old Testament and so don’t kill me. I don’t really mean what you think I mean.”
Number one. If we want to see what Jesus did not mean by citing the psalm, it’s important we go to the psalm itself to see who are the so-called “gods”. Psalm 82, it’s only eight verses long but in order to do justice to this topic we have to just see the context because in Psalm 82, is Jesus claiming to be one of these gods or is he making a different point altogether? Let’s see Psalm 82 the verse he cited and John 10:34. Let’s read Psalm 82. “God stands among the counsel of God.” Actually here it’s Elohim stands among the counsel of ale. It’s very important sometimes to know the original languages so you can distinguish between the different words used for God. In verse 1, the word God is “Elohim”. It says “Elohim” stands among the Council of “ale”, which is a singular form for “god”. He renders judgment among the gods (Elohim). So you have an Elohim who’s in the counsel of ale, judging the Elohim. Notice what the true Elohim God says to these other Elohim. “How long will you all judge unjustly and accept partiality of the wicked” and then he’s telling them “defend the poor and fatherless, vindicate the afflicted and needy, grant escape to the abused and the destitute, pluck them out of the hand of the false.” In other words, these so-called gods, they’re corrupt and evil rulers, they’re wicked, they’re corrupting justice, they’re aiding the wicked, the oppressors, the tyrants, they’re ignoring the plight of the widow, the orphan, the poor. God is upset, he’s irate to the point now that he’s going to rise in judgment against them. This is the context. These are not righteous beings. These are evil beings, evil rulers. Notice verse 5, they have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken. Verse 6: I have said “you are gods, sons of the Most High all of you. But you all shall die like men and fall like old princes. Verse 8 says “Arise O God, judge the earth, for you shall inherit all the nations.” What is Jesus’ point? Obviously Jesus can’t be one of these so-called gods because these gods are evil, they’re wicked, they’re corrupt and God is going to destroy them, strike them dead. The last thing Jesus is doing is claiming to be one of them. Psalm 82 is inspired scripture. All the Jews would would agree with Jesus this is the Word of God. As such, would the Jews dare call the psalmist, who wrote this by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a blasphemer for calling these evil rulers, these wicked corrupt oppressors “god”? Of course not. Because he’s inspired to do that. So Jesus’ point is: if evil wicked rulers can be called gods because they stand in the place of God and have been invested with authority from God to judge, although they’ve now misused that authority, then how dare you accuse me of blasphemy when I as the son of God can do everything the father does to show my unity with the father? In fact that’s what he goes on to say. John 10:34 Jesus answered them “Is it not written in your law “I say you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the Word of God came and the scripture cannot be broken (you cannot falsify the scripture, this scripture is inerrant, infallible), if this is what the scripture says, then it’s got to be true, do you say of him whom the father sanctified and sent to the world ‘you blaspheme’ because I am the Son of God? If I am NOT doing the works of my father, do not believe me. Unlike those corrupt evil so-called gods, I do the works of my father, show my solidarity, my unity with him. If I am NOT doing the works of my father, do not believe me but if I do them, though you do not believe me, believe the works that you may know and believe that the father is in me, in perfect union, communion, fellowship with me and I in him. Notice the response again. They tried to seize him but he escaped from their hands. Does this sound like the Jews misunderstood Jesus is claiming essential unity with the father? Why is it now that after he quotes the psalm and then makes that point they want to now kill him all the more? Because he wasn’t denying that he’s essentially one with the father. What he was simply denying was their charge, that in claiming to be one with the father in essence, he was blaspheming. Look, I’m doing the works that the father does. I’m doing miracles. I’m showing you that I and the father are essentially one. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to do what only God can do to prove who I am. And yet you accuse me of blasphemy falsely. To further prove that Jesus is not putting himself on their level but on a higher level equal to the Father, read 10:27-30. My sheep hear my voice and I know them. Notice what our Lord says. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them. I give them eternal life.” Does that sound like a creature who is like these other rulers who simply stand in the place of God, speaking with the authority invested in them by God or does he claim a prerogative that only God can claim because notice he says “I give them eternal life, they shall never perish nor shall anyone snatch them from my hand”? Notice that believers are his sheep, in his hand, who hear his voice and he gives them never-ending incorruptible life. Then he says “My father who has given them to me is greater than all, no one is able to snatch them from my father’s hand. No one snatches them from my hand, no one snatches them from the Father’s hand. Why? My father and I are one. And as I said in previous shows, that verb “are” (esmen) is “we are” so he’s not the father, he’s distinct from the father but one with him in ability. This does not sound like Jesus is claiming to be a creature who simply speaks for God and is invested with the authority of God. Sure sounds like he thinks he’s the God-man, God in the flesh who’s one with the Father because he can do what the father does and the things the father does, only God can do. And he’s doing it on everything on earth. And they’re seeing the miracles to testify.
Basically he is calling them hypocrites. That’s exactly what he’s saying. He’s saying “You hypocrites. If you will not accuse the psalmist of calling these evil wicked corrupt rulers gods, whom God is going to destroy in judgment, how dare you accuse me of blasphemy when I’m doing miracles to prove my claim that I’m the divine Son on a higher level than them.” How much higher? This always comes up not just by Muslims but also Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Unitarians. Remember what our Lord said “My sheep hear my voice, in my hand.”
Psalm 95:16 Oh come let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand.
(Jesus said) “My sheep, in my hand.” Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. Did you catch it according to the Old Testament? The people of God are Yahweh’s sheep, in his hand and there to hear his voice. Jesus shows up and says they are my sheep, hear my voice, in my hand and I give them never-ending incorruptible life. And as the cross-reference to that, Deuteronomy 32:39 Yahweh says “See now that I, even I myself, am he. There is no God besides me. I kill and make alive. I wound and I heal and there’s none who can deliver out of my hand.” Jesus said there’s none who can snatch or deliver out of his hand. That’s why the Jews correctly realized Jesus is speaking as if he’s God but they were seeing a flesh-and-blood man and to them they took it as blasphemy. So no, Jesus is not saying “I’m like these gods”. Far from it. I’m much higher than them. His point is: If even evil, wicked rulers can be called “gods” because they were given God’s authority to rule and yet they will be condemned because of their misuse of that authority, then how dare you accuse me of blasphemy when I am the Son of God who does the very works that God alone can do to prove my essential unity with the Father.
The final point. Did you notice what he said in John 10:35? “If he called them gods to whom the Word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken”. What he means is the Word of God came in judgment against them. That means the Word of God is higher than these so-called gods because the Word of God came from God announcing judgment against them. What’s ironic is that this is the gospel that has already identified Jesus as that very word of God who has come into the world to save it but also to pronounce judgment against these rulers who by their rejection of Jesus show they stand condemned. In other words, that word of God that judged the Old Testament gods is now incarnate. That word has become flesh and just like the word pronounced judgment against these corrupt rulers in the Old Testament, that same word is now standing in the flesh pronouncing judgment against those corrupt rulers who are questioning his authority.