In my country, this is an election year, and while I wish that voters were persuaded by candidates’ character and principles, it seems that many votes go to those who have the most money for advertising (at least, that’s what many candidates seem to believe, based on the number of commercials and Internet spots that they purchase). To make matters worse, I live in a state whose elections could go either way (in a bellwether county, no less), and so media everywhere around me seems to be saturated with political ads.
Personally, to decide how I want to cast my vote, I usually wait until the evening before the election (whether a general election, primary, or just an opportunity to vote on local and state issues), download a sample ballot, and research the positions of the various candidates. That’s certainly not the only valid way to select one’s vote, but even for those who make decisions (and get involved) earlier in the process than me, many ads still aren’t useful to help one make an informed decision. Attack ads, in particular, tell us how bad the other candidate is (or, at least, what I’m supposed to think about them), but don’t necessarily justify why we should vote for the candidate who is running the ad.
In contrast to that, Jesus would sometimes speak the truth so plainly that it seems a little humorous, even after being translated. For instance, I like this particular passage:
Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”
They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”
John 10:31-33 NLT
As Jesus was ministering in the first century, there were certain offenses that – based on the Law of Moses – merited death by stoning. This may seem severe to certain modern viewpoints, but the law was clear. This significant penalty emphasized how offensive certain sins were to God, and reminds us how terrible sin is to us who practice it. (We would also do well to remember that, in addition to the necessary consequences of the law, God has also extended mercy and grace to human beings since the first of us sinned in the Garden of Eden, despite how blatantly insulting our sins are to Him.)
In this situation, Jesus puts His actions in perspective, by asking which of His good works merited execution. I’m confident that He knew why his countrymen were preparing to stone Him, but this was a key leading question towards illustrating why He was not guilty of their accusations, either.
The people agreed that Jesus’ good works were appropriate. Jesus’ behavior was perfectly in line with God’s will, and He lived out the Law of Moses exactly. People in both the first century and the twenty-first century generally agree that Jesus’ behavior was exemplary.
And, to be fair, if Jesus had claimed to be God untruthfully, that would indeed have been blasphemous, and worthy of stoning. This was not the case, though. Jesus was (and is) the Son of God, fully human and fully divine. That is simply a fact, and Jesus was probably within His rights to just say that. (In fact, read the entire passage of John 10:22-42 to read more of His specific claims on this matter.)
So, why did Jesus lead with a questions about His good works? It wasn’t a “bait and switch” trick like a marketing ploy, nor was it a smokescreen like certain political ads described above. Today, let’s spend some time meditating on this passage from John 10, and take a look at this question tomorrow.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.