The exchange between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in John 10:22-37 has always been an interesting one to me, although on the surface, it seems rather cryptic. The leaders accused Jesus of claiming to be God and He answers them by quoting from Psalm 82.
First, here’s the exchange:
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? (John 10:31-36 NIV)
The first interesting thing is that these leaders clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. Jesus doesn’t deny this accusation, He simply quotes Psalm 82. Although His quote is not actually from the Law, Psalm 82 clearly describes the intent of the Law. From the beginning, God’s intent was for us to walk in other-centered, self-giving love—with God and toward one another (Matt.22:37-40)—as we see here in the psalm:
3 “Defend the defenseless, the fatherless and the forgotten,
the disenfranchised and the destitute.
4 Your duty is to deliver the poor and the powerless;
liberate them from the grasp of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3-4 TPT)
God’s justice is restorative (see my posts on “restorative justice“). From Genesis to Jesus, God’s redemptive purpose is to reconcile humankind back to Himself. Jesus didn’t come to condemn but to save us from ourselves (John 3:17). The mission has always been to restore us so that we would love like Him, treating everyone the way we would want to treated (Matt.7:12).
Here’s the second interesting thing: Those who deny Christ’s deity will say He’s not claiming to be God by quoting Psalm 82. But, actually, He is. If you look carefully at the context of the psalm, you’ll see that it’s about Israel’s failure to bring His restorative justice on the earth, so now God Himself will come to bring this justice.
1 All rise! For God now comes to judge
as he convenes heaven’s courtroom.
He judges every judge and rules over every ruler, saying,
2 “How long will you judges refuse to listen
to the voice of true justice and continue to corrupt what is right by judging in favor of the wrong?” (Psalm 82:1-2 TPT*)
God said He’s coming to do what Israel refused to do. Further down, we see Jesus’ quote. I think the TPT gives a clearer rendering of what is meant:
6 Didn’t I commission you as judges, saying,
‘You are all like gods, since you judge on my behalf.
You are all like sons of the Most High, my representatives.’ (Psalm 82:6 TPT*)
This was the problem. God called His people—Israel—to be His representatives and judge righteously with mercy and equity. They refused to do so, and now the psalmist says that God Himself will come, not only to judge the judges, but also to bring reconciliation and restorative justice to the earth that He intended from the beginning.
So, by quoting Psalm 82, I believe Jesus is brilliantly implying that since Israel had failed in their mission to be His gracious ambassadors, God Himself was coming to bring justice in the person of His eternal Son—Jesus Christ. In fact, many Messianic passages talk about Him doing this very thing.
Ironically, what these leaders didn’t realize when they accused Jesus was that they had condemned themselves; they became the reason for the fulfillment of Psalm 82.
Again, Jesus’ type of justice is restorative, not retributive. It’s this retributive mindset that He came to change. We see this when John the Baptist’s own Messianic paradigm was shaken and he asked, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another,” Jesus answered him this way:
“Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Matt.11:4-5 NKJV)
This description is exactly what it looks like when God Himself comes to bring restorative justice to the earth. In fact, the apostle John states Jesus’ mission as follows:
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8b NKJV*)
And this brings us to our mission, which is the same mission. As I said in a previous post, “Our mission is reconciliation.” Jesus came to show us what God thinks about injustice, but also what He thinks about human beings (John 3:16).
God has never given up on His dream for sons and daughters who will rightly represent His heart, and He made sure by bringing us to Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Eternal Son. He has seated us with Himself in heavenly places, has given us a new heart, placing His Spirit in us so we could rightly represent Him to our world.
Beloved, God’s mission has always been the same. Let us not become like those in Psalm 82 who “refused to listen to the voice of true justice” and spent all their energies distracted with their own agendas. This is God’s agenda:
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor.5:19-20 NIV*)
As Jesus said earlier in the same discourse with the Jewish leaders:
27 My own sheep will hear my voice and I know each one, and they will follow me. (John 10:27 TPT)