Look to the Works

By Pamela Lewis

A Reading from the Gospel of John 10:31-42

31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human, are making yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’— and the scripture cannot be annulled — 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41 Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.


In a scene recalling similar ones recounted in the gospels, where perceived transgressors (e.g. the woman taken in adultery, and, much later, Stephen) faced punishment and death by stoning, Jesus is now confronted by outraged Jews who have picked up stones with the intention of killing him. The opening verse’s initial word, “again,” suggests that this is not the first time this has occurred. In the minds of the would-be executioners, they aren’t doing anything wrong; they are simply attempting to carry out the clear directive found in Leviticus 24:16 regarding those who blaspheme. Their reaction is not to something Jesus has done, but to something he has just said: that he and the Father are one, a declaration tantamount to declaring himself God.

Jesus, referring to Psalm 82:6, then reminds the angry group that the Israelite rulers and judges are called “gods.” By extension, if God called the Israelite leaders gods because they were agents of his revelation and will, how could Jesus be accused of blasphemy for calling himself the Son of God? If Jesus does not act in accordance with God’s will, then resentment — and even stoning, for that matter — is appropriate. But Jesus challenges them further by adding that they should look to his works and believe in his miracles, even if they don’t believe him. He and the Father are in a unique and seamless relationship; were this not the case, the “works” would have no truth.

“The Scripture cannot be broken” (v. 35) is a clear statement of truth about the Bible and about God in Christ. If we accept him as Lord, we must also accept his testimony.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, New York, she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New YorkerEpiscopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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