This passage marks the end of John’s presentation of Christ’s public ministry. For more than three years Jesus traveled throughout Israel preaching the Gospel, confronting the hypocritical religious leaders, instructing His disciples and performing miracles to confirm He was the Messiah. But tragically, the nation of Israel, led by her religious leaders, rejected the Messiah just as the Old Testament predicted. In spite of, at times, massive crowds, Jesus was left with a small group of sincere followers. Our passage today underscores that sad rejection by the Jews.
Looking at the passage, we first see the confrontation with the Jewish leadership (22-24) during the Feast of Dedication. There is a gap of two and a half months between the Feast of Tabernacles (21) and the Feast of Dedication (22) or Hanukkah. This feast took place in the winter on the 25th day of the month of Chislev (December). It was not an Old Testament feast because it originated in the intertestamental period. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC, after it had been desecrated by the Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanies. Antiochus captured Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar in 170 BC and setting up a statue of Zeus in the most holy place. Antiochus required Jews to offer sacrifices to pagan gods, outlawed the reading of scripture and did not allow mandatory religious practices such as circumcision. As a result, pious Jews revolted and under the brilliant military leadership of Judas Maccabeus retook Jerusalem. On the 25th of Chislev, they rededicated the Temple and established the Feast of Dedication.
It was winter, which is also the rainy season, so Jesus was teaching on the east side of the Temple under the portico of Solomon for protection from the elements. The Jews surrounded Christ, demanding He makes a statement “plainly” that He was the Messiah, not because they wanted to follow Him but to entrap and arrest Him.
Next, we see that Jesus claims oneness with the Father (25-31). Jesus had told them before who He was and His miraculous works testified to His divinity. This time Jesus went deeper into His explanation about their unbelief. He reveals to them why they did not understand His words or grasp the significance of His works: they were not His sheep. From the human standpoint, we become His sheep by believing. But from the divine standpoint, we believe because we are His sheep. There is a mystery here that we cannot fathom or adequately explain, but we can accept it and rejoice (Rom 11:33-36). Anyone who willingly seeks the truth will find it (John 7:17). A full understanding of how human responsibility and divine sovereignty work together lies beyond human comprehension. The Bible does not attempt to harmonize them, nor does it apologize for the logical tension between them.
For example, Judas’ betrayal of Christ was foretold in Luke 22:22, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed as it has been determined.” But Jesus added, “Woe to that man by whom He is betrayed.” God’s sovereignty never excuses human sin.
The lost sinner who hears God’s Word knows nothing about divine election. He hears only that Christ died for the sins of the world and that he can receive this undeserved gift of salvation. When he trusts Christ, he becomes a member of God’s family and flock. Then he learns that he was “chosen…in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). In the Bible divine election and human responsibility are perfectly balanced. Nowhere in Scripture is there a stronger affirmation that the security of the believer does not depend on human effort but is grounded in the gracious promise of a powerful God than is found in John 10:27, 28!
Jesus makes a statement that again startles his enemies. “I and my Father are one.” This is one of the clearest statements of deity in Scripture. The word ‘one’ does not suggest that the Father and the Son are identical in persons. Rather, it means that they are one in essence: the Father is God and the Son is God, but the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. John is speaking of unity, not identity.
Finally, we see the consequences of hardened unbelief (32-42). The Jews sought to stone Christ once more but He escaped out of their midst. How many times has this happened? Jesus would die, but by the prescribed way–the cross–and according to God’s timetable–at Passover. Jesus retreated miles away to the other side of the Jordan where John had originally baptized people. The Jewish leaders were unlikely to follow Him. Jesus would not return to Jerusalem until Palm Sunday which allowed Him to prepare for His final week of public ministry when He would lay down His life for His sheep. Being at the place of His baptism probably allowed Him to reflect on all that had taken place since launching His ministry three years earlier.
Since Jesus came to Jerusalem for these two feasts He said, I am the Water of Life; if any man thirsts let him come unto me. I am the Light of the World; no man needs to walk in darkness. I am the Good Shepherd; My sheep hear and follow Me. Where do you stand in relation to these statements?