April 6, 2014

The Father's Divine, Consecrated, Sent Son

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to John Passage: John 10:31–42, John 3:16

Sermon from John 10:31-42 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on Sunday, April 6, 2014

Father-Son Relationship Essential to Knowing the Christ

Here we are again; we’ve arrived at yet another place where the Jews show an increasing hostility against Jesus because of something he said. The Jewish people were already irritated that Jesus wouldn’t just come out and tell them who he was. In verse 24 they say, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Of course Jesus explains that he had been telling them all along who he was; he just wasn’t using the categories the Jews were willing to accept (10:25). One of those categories in particular is what Jesus kept saying about his relationship with God the Father. Again and again, Jesus’ assertions about his Father would just irk the Jews, and get everybody riled up against him (5:16-18; 6:66-78; 7:30, 44; 8:20, 59).

This is the case once again here in verse 31. The Jews wanted to know whether Jesus was the Christ; and so Jesus tells them, but he does so by giving them even more about his relationship with the Father. His Father has given him a people; his Father is just as committed to saving those people as the Son; and his Father is also greater than all (10:28-29). And then he ends his answer with the rather astonishing claim, “I and the Father are one”—that Father, the one he just said was greater than all; he’s one with him in divinity and, therefore, mission.

All the Jews want to know is whether Jesus is claiming to be the appointed Messiah; but Jesus gives them more than they bargain for. He claims to be one with God the Father—and that generates enough anger in the crowd to stone him. But we—especially as readers looking in from the outside—shouldn’t miss Jesus’ point. It’s not that Jesus dismissed their question altogether about his identity as the Christ; he simply told them how they must understand his identity as the Christ. If they are to see Jesus rightly as the Christ, then they must see him in light of his relationship with the Father. Attempting to know the Christ apart from his Father is like attempting to know a sun beam apart from the sun, or love apart from the one who loves.

The Jews could only know Jesus rightly insofar as they understood him as God the Son in relation to God the Father. That is actually the whole point of John’s Gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [the same Son he revealed as the eternal Word in 1:14], and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). The same is true for us this morning. If we are to know Jesus truly—as holy Scripture reveals him to us—and if we are to proclaim him rightly to each other and to the world for salvation, then we must see Jesus as the only Son from the Father. That’s Jesus’ point in his answer to the Jews—“I and the Father are one”—and that’s what Jesus will continue to reinforce throughout the remainder of our passage, though we see it unfold in at least three more ways.

1. Jesus Is the Divine Son Who Came Down

The first way goes something like this: when we see Jesus rightly in relation to his Father we see that Jesus is the divine Son who came down. Look with me at the exchange between Jesus and the Jews, who want to stone him. He says this in verse 32: “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews then answer like so: “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.” Pay attention to the irony of the Jews’ response to Jesus.

Jesus implies by his question that they have absolutely no grounds to stone him. The works that he has done have not only been good works—as opposed to bad ones—they are also many good works—as opposed to just a few. And even further, they are many good works from the Father. God the Father gave them to Jesus for him to perform. But the Jews are so opposed to Jesus, they could care less about giving any serious evaluation to Jesus’ works. They’re fed up with Jesus’ words, and they charge him with blasphemy. By saying, “I and the Father are one,” Jesus has ascribed to himself the rights and qualities that belong solely to God, when he is but a mere man in their eyes. As a man, he has put himself in the place of absolute rule and power belonging only to their covenant God. And in their minds and according to their law, it was only just to get rid of such a person (Lev 24:16).

But here’s where they go wrong. Had they evaluated Jesus’ works and interpreted them as Jesus told them to—as those being from the Father—they would see that he is more than simply a man. We’ve already been told why Jesus performed the works he did: the Father gave Jesus works as a way to bear witness to his Son (4:34; 5:20, 36; 9:3; 10:25). They were unique works that only God could perform; they were specific works that only made sense in the grand scheme of how God promised to save the world (2:11; 4:34; 9:33; 17:4).

These works that the Father entrusted to the Son were the Father’s way of declaring to the world, “This is who my Son is—he is God in the flesh—and this is why I sent him—to save the world: to bring the sweet wine of the kingdom (2:1-11), to cleanse my people from corruption (2:12-22), to cause the new birth (3:1-8), to make true worshipers from false ones (4:7-26), to heal the sick (4:46-54), to make the lame leap like the deer (5:1-16), to raise the dead to life (5:24-28), to feed my people with all-satisfying bread (6:1-14), to silence creation’s turmoil (6:16-21), and to open the eyes of the blind (9:1-7).”

So, here’s the irony in the Jews calling Jesus out for blasphemy. They say, “You being a man, make yourself God,” when the testimony of the Father in and through the works of Jesus shows just the opposite: “Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who became a man.” In other words, Jesus isn’t making himself anything; he is what he is as divine Son. The Jews only got Jesus’ words half right. He was claiming to be God, but not because he was a man exalting himself to the place of God—a place he once didn’t occupy, which would in fact be blasphemy—but because he was the eternal Son of God who humbled himself to the place of a man. John put it this way in chapter 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The Incarnation Is Still Offensive

Brothers and sisters, this truth that God’s eternal Son humbled himself and took to himself a human nature with no compromise of his deity is just as much a stumbling block for people today as it was for the people Jesus spoke to back then. It is a most staggering claim to say that Jesus the Jew is fully God and fully man. The incarnation of the Son of God is a great offense to our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, who reject any notion of a plurality of persons in the one God and who scoff at the idea that the eternal God would stoop so low as to become a man. To their minds, we are idolaters and blasphemers, since we ascribe to a man the honor that alone belongs to God.

But regardless of what Jews, Muslims, and other world religions make of Jesus, we must maintain that not ascribing deity to Jesus strikes at the very heart of the gospel, in which God has revealed himself to us still as one God but in three eternal persons—Father, Son, and Spirit—and the person of the eternal Son came down.

Despite the opposition and misunderstandings and slander and ridicule and even violent hatred for how the deity of Jesus undermines the world’s religions, God has revealed himself to us this way in Scripture and in the person of his divine Son, and therefore we must confess him and adore him this way. He has not left the identity of Jesus open to our speculation; he has borne witness to what we should see in him—God in the flesh. Moreover—in terms of our salvation—the holiness of God is so precious to uphold in saving anybody; the wrath of God against sinners is so terrible; the sacrifice necessary for our forgiveness must be so worthy; the love of God is so extravagant in making provision for sinners; the humility of God is so far-reaching to a fallen humanity; and the glory of God is so ultimate of a goal for the nations to be happy forever, that God the Son came down on behalf of sinners.

Religions that say he didn’t either reject God’s self-revelation in Scripture or make little of God’s glory and make much of man. But the Bible teaches that my sins have offended the most holy God, and they have separated me from his precious presence with a chasm too great for me to cross. The only way I come to him is if he first comes to me; and God did that when the divine Son came down. Jesus’ incarnation is not just an affront to Jews and Muslims; it’s an affront to all humanity, because it says we’re all that needy, we’re all that sinful, and we’re all that incapable of helping ourselves. At the same time, it says God is that loving, God is that humble, and God is that gracious, to give up his divine Son in glory and send him to our wretched world in order to save it.

The Incarnation Means Humility for the Church

But let me also add this: knowing this truth doesn’t give us permission to treat others with contempt when they reject it, or retaliate with arrogant tones when they criticize us for believing it, or ignore their desperate plight with some form of Christian snobbery and isolation. No, if we as a church are to look anything like our Master, and if the world is to see anything of our Master in us, then our lives will be given over to the spirit of our Lord’s incarnation: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9); “have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7).

Like our Master, we must make ourselves poor to enrich others in this world, giving our time, making service of others a priority, showing concern for the needs of the lost, going to the desperate and destitute as our Lord came down to us, and laying our lives down in love when they rage against the message we bring them. Is it not Jesus—God in the flesh, the one who sustains every breath in the mouth of these Jews—is it not him, who patiently teaches and makes many appeals to the very people holding rocks in their hands with his name on them? Let us imitate this humility of our God.

2. Jesus Is the Divine Son Consecrated for His Father’s Mission

Second, when we see Jesus rightly in relation to his Father we see that Jesus is the divine Son consecrated for his Father’s mission. It’s not that the divine Son came down on his own initiative. What we see next is that he came down according to the will of his Father. His Father consecrated him for the specific task of saving us. He says in verse 34: “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 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’?” The Law sometimes serves as a general reference to the Old Testament; and Jesus uses it this way here, and gives the Jews some food for thought from Psalm 82.

Psalm 82 is an Old Testament passage where God reveals himself as the supreme judge over his covenant people. The scene is one in which God takes his rightful place in the midst of his assembly, and in this assembly are a number of human judges—governing rulers of sorts who are supposed to represent God’s rule over his people (Ps 86:1). The problem is that these human rulers aren’t representing God’s justice at all, and so God calls them on it (Ps 86:2-7). And when he does, he refers to these human rulers as “gods.” The Lord says in Ps 82:6, “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’”

Now, calling them “gods” doesn’t mean these human rulers are divine (Ps 58:1; cf. Exod 21:6; 22:8-9 in Hebrew). It’s simply another way to describe how these men are God’s representatives, much like we might use “the Lord” in reference to God and “lords” in reference to lesser authorities. And even within Ps 82:6-7, the reference to “gods” is then further clarified by “sons of the Most High,” or another way we might put it, “sons of God” (cf. Exod 4:22-23; Deut 32:8; Luke 6:35). And that helps us better see why Jesus goes here in the debate.

If God had called even these unjust human rulers “gods;” if they were even referred to as “sons of the Most High”—these rulers who obviously weren’t all that relationally close to God, as their unjust actions made evident—was it so wrong for Jesus—whose actions have always been just, whose closeness to God is unmatchable, whose works are so in tune with the Father’s will—was it so outlandish for him to claim he was the Son of God? Now, his claim to be God’s Son obviously has much more packed into it—he is truly divine whereas the human rulers in Ps 82 are not. But his point is that these Jews are so attached to their own agenda against him, that they’re not even willing to grant room for the testimony of their own Bibles.

If anything, Jesus’ life and testimony has proven again and again that he was precisely the type of son Israel was supposed to be but wasn’t (Exod 4:22-23; Hos 11:1; Matt 2:15); and precisely the type of son Adam should have been but wasn’t (Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14-17; 1 Cor 15:45; Heb 2:5-9). More than that, he says the Father consecrated him (John 10:36). Simply put, that means the Father approves of him and set him apart for his specific mission. But I think we can get even more specific in light of how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament and in light of how John links Jesus’ fulfillment to the various Feasts in Israel. To this point we’ve already seen how Jesus fulfills the Feast of Passover—he himself is the Passover Lamb (1:29; 19:31-36)—and we’ve seen how Jesus fulfills the Feast of Tabernacles—he makes provision of living water (7:2, 38-39).

John’s brought us to another Feast in 10:22, the Feast of Dedication. This particular Feast isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament, because it didn’t begin until the re-dedication of the temple in 164 BC. But, what is present in the Old Testament is what the Feast of Dedication remembered—God’s act of consecrating the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple under Solomon. God consecrated both the tabernacle and the temple through a visual manifestation of his glory. God’s cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle so much so that Moses was unable to enter (Exod 40:34-35). The same was true with the dedication of the temple under Solomon: “a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs 8:10-11). And in both places, God speaks of this as his “consecration” of the temple (Exod 9:43-46; 1 Kgs 9:3). The same sort of consecration is even expected of God’s future dwelling place spoken of in Ezek 43:3-6.

By drawing our attention to the Feast of Dedication and linking it with the Father’s consecration of Jesus, John helps us see that the glory of God is now beheld in the Son of God himself (John 1:14-18; 8:50, 54; cf. also temple theme in 1:14; 2:19-20). The Father’s consecration of the Son reveals that Jesus is the one in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19). When God set apart Jesus, he set apart the one in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9). God set apart the eternal Son, because “he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). Jesus is the decisive visual manifestation of God’s glory par excellence; and therefore he has God’s approval.

There is no other person, no other created being, no other heavenly power, who reflects the Father’s glory like the Son reflects the Father’s glory—and has reflected his glory for eternity (John 17:4). No one else could bear God’s image rightly and fully like God’s Son could and would bear God’s image, when he took on human flesh. No one else follows God’s will like the Son has enjoyed doing for all eternity. No one else brings God more glory in the saving of sinners than Jesus brings him glory. Therefore God approves him and him alone to be sent for the world’s salvation. The Son gets the mission to save sinners because the Father delights in him the most and because he is the only Son who is infinitely worthy and infinitely competent to fulfill it.

No Other Christ than Jesus

If that’s the case, then there are no other saviors, no other messiahs, no other Christ-figures, no other deliverers besides Jesus. He alone deserves our trust and our confidence and our love. We must give ourselves over wholly to Jesus if we want to know and experience God’s glory, for God has consecrated Jesus alone to descend from heaven and die in our place on the cross.

We Preach Jesus and Not Ourselves

Moreover, that means the message we proclaim to the world is not ourselves—our church, our leadership, our accomplishments—but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake. As Paul put it, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” If others are to know the glory of God truly, we must help them see it revealed in the person of Jesus. So proclaim him to one another and to the world.

3. Jesus Is the Divine Son Who Reveals His Father

Lastly, when we see Jesus rightly in relation to his Father we see that Jesus is the divine Son who reveals his Father. Verse 37, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me [that is, even though you’re not willing to embrace my words], believe the works [why?], that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

You know, there are occasions where we’ve all used the expression “like father like son.” What we mean is that there are certain qualities, characteristics, behaviors, expressions of personality that come out simply because of genetics or upbringing or as the result of imitation and being around each other all the time. What Jesus says here, totally blows those human categories out of the water, because there’s no real sense in which a human son mutually indwells his human father and vice versa. There are limitations among finite persons.

Jesus and his Father have no such limitations when it comes to their relationship to one another. They are infinite. Because Jesus as Son is one in divinity with his Father, there is an intercommunion and sharing of the divine essence, so that each person, Father and Son, indwells the other willingly—meaning without external constraint; they love indwelling each other—eternally—meaning the mutual indwelling never had a beginning—unceasingly—meaning it never ends—and simultaneously—meaning that one indwelling isn’t ever preceding the other (John 1:1-2, 18; 3:34-35; 5:24-28; 8:58; 14:8-11; 17:1-4).

Now, that doesn’t mean the Father is the Son or the Son is the Father—that would be heresy. Neither the Father nor the Son ever share the other’s unique person or role within the Godhead. But it does mean that whatever the Father is doing, the Son himself does (John 5:17, 19); and whatever the Father is saying, the Son himself says (John 8:28); and whatever the Father is willing, the Son himself wills (John 6:38-39); and whatever the Father is loving, the Son himself loves (John 3:35; 10:11-18)—but always doing so in their respective persons and unity in the Godhead. It’s another way for Jesus to affirm the complete unity he shares with his Father (John 10:30).

But the unity between the Father and the Son is not something Jesus keeps in the abstract, but something he says is revealed in his works so that they know God. Jesus isn’t in a seminary classroom; he’s doing the work of an evangelist on the Jerusalem streets, and he’s about to get stoned for his message. He’s telling them these things so that they come to know the true God: “believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38). He wants them to know God, and if they see his works rightly, then they will know the Father and see him in the Christ.

Later on, one of the disciples named Philip, will say to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” And Jesus will then tell Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-11). That’s how completely we see the Father’s character and will and love and glory and divinity in Jesus. He tells the whole story about God the Father. John puts it this way in 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side [that’s the Son, Jesus] he has made him known.”

Father-Son Relationship Foundation for Everything Christian

Only God can make God known to us; and so it has happened in the person of Jesus Christ. He is our point of access to the Almighty. We are sometimes tempted to think that Jesus is a mere stepping stone to get to the Father. But Jesus’ words teach us that he’s the one we continue looking to in order to know the Father. In this sense, we could say that the Father-Son relationship becomes the basis for all we do as Christians in terms of worship, prayer, and service.

The Son’s relationship to the Father means that our worship can never happen apart from approaching God as he has revealed himself to us: we come to the Father through the Son. We are gathered into one assembly because of what the Father has achieved through his Son; we come to know the Father as he’s revealed himself in the Son; we then respond with praise and adoration of the Father who is one with his Son; and we confess and pray and repent and ask the Father through the Son—most commonly “in Jesus’ name.” And then we go out and serve and love in ways that reflect the Son’s love of the Father and obedience to his will. Everything we do as Christians stems from our knowledge of the Father’s relationship to the Son.

Our submission to one another is built on it (Phil 2:4-11). The roles of husband and wives is built on it (1 Cor 11:3). The moral foundations of the universe are built on it (Ps 2:1-8; John 5:27). The way fathers relate to their children is built on it (Heb 12:9). The way we relate to the world is based on it (Matt 5:9; Luke 6:35; John 20:21). The way we respond to affliction is modeled after it (1 Pet 2:23). So it is of utmost necessity that we avoid building our church around vague talk about “God.” God is triune: Father, Son, and Spirit, and we should do whatever we can to celebrate him as so.

Father-Son Relationship Should Be Our Meditation

Moreover, I think it would do many of us well in our Christian walk to be reminded to think regularly about the Father’s relationship to the Son—or just the Trinity, period. The way to turn your heart away from sin—away from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul—is to cultivate a heart for God and his glory; and what better way to do so than to meditate on the Father’s relationship to the Son. You will not exhaust your God and as you see him more and more clearly, the more your spiritual taste buds will only want him over sin.

Just take a passage like John 3:16 for example—“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have eternal life”—and then turn it over in your mind throughout your workday or your day with the kids. Think of it in terms of the Father’s relationship with the Son. That relationship never had a beginning and was actually characterized by nothing but love (John 17:24). For eternity the Father loved his Son, because the Son reflected his glory perfectly (John 3:35; 5:20; 17:4). Everything about him was lovely in the Father’s eyes (Matt 3:17). And the Son loved the Father in return (cf. Matt 11:27; 1 John 4:8). The relationship between Father and Son was full of eternal, intense, felicitous love.

Knowing that then helps you see how great his love for you really is, because God isn’t dependent on the world in order to be a loving God. He is the fount of love quite apart from the world he created (1 John 4:8, 16). He wasn’t obligated to love any of us in order to be loving. He simply was loving as that is seen in the Father and the Son (John 17:24).

Now, turn John 3:16 again in your mind. That very God—even though he was not obligated to love the world in order to be loving, and even though we didn’t deserve to be loved because of our rebellion—he chose to love us anyway and to the degree that he even gave up his Son, his only Son, the Son of his eternal love and total affection. And for what reason? That I might gain eternal life.

Now, turn John 3:16 once more in your mind. Part of what that eternal life is is then seen in John 17; and it includes being caught up into the love the Father has had for his Son for all eternity. John 17:26, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” There’s nothing in the universe that comes even within light years of satisfying your soul like the love of God can satisfy your soul. But the way you savor it is by seeing it through the Father’s relationship to the Son. And we haven’t even begun talking about the role the Holy Spirit plays in all this.

So, let me encourage you to cultivate a heart for God by meditating on the Father’s relationship to the Son in everything. You can’t understand John 3:16—or the creation of the world (John 1:1-4), or where the world is heading (John 17:24-25), or how everything will eventually get there (John 5:24-28)—without doing so.

Father-Son Relationship Means You Can Have Fellowship with God

One more exhortation: all of us have two ways to live this morning and we see them both in verses 39-42. Some of the people remained in their unbelief and sought to arrest Jesus. It didn’t matter what he said. Others, however, believed. Verse 42, “Many came to Jesus. And they said, ‘John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there.” So John has set before us two ways to live—unbelief and belief. Only one of them leads to eternal life, belief—belief that Jesus is the Christ, God’s divine, consecrated, sent Son (cf. John 20:31). So trust his words are true this morning. Stake your life on his teaching, all of you, and you will have fellowship with the Father and with his Son (1 John 1:3-4).

other sermons in this series