31. Then the Jews again took up stones to stone him. 32. Jesus answered them, Many good works I have shown you from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me? 33. The Jews answered him, We stone thee not for the sake of a good work, but for blasphemy, and, because thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your Law, I said, You are gods? 35. If it called them gods, to whom the word of God was addressed, and Scripture cannot, be broken, 36. Do you say that I, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God?
31. Then the Jews again took up stones. As true religion, in maintaining the glory of God, burns with its own zeal which the Spirit of God directs, so unbelief is the mother of rage, and the devil hurries on the wicked in such a manner, that they breathe nothing but slaughter. This result shows with what intention they put the question to Christ; for the open confession, of which they pretended to be desirous, instantly drives them to madness. And yet, though they are hurried along, with such violence, to oppress Christ, there can be no doubt that they assigned some plausible reason for their judgment, as if they were acting according to the injunction of the Law, by which God commands that false prophets shall be stoned, (Deuteronomy 13:5.)
32. Many good works I have shown you. Here Christ not only says that they have no reason for their cruelty, but accuses them of ingratitude, in making so unjust a requital for God's favors. Nor does he only state that he has done them a service by one or two works, but that in many ways he has been kind to them. Next, he upbraids them with being ungrateful, not only to himself, but rather to God, when he says that he is the minister of the Father, who openly manifested his power, that it might be known and attested to them. For when he says that the good works were from the Father, he means that God was the Author of them. The meaning may be thus summed up, "God intended to make known to you, by me, distinguished benefits; he has conferred them upon you by my hand. Banish me as much as you please, I have done nothing that does not deserve praise and good-will. In persecuting me, therefore, you must show your rage against the gifts of God." But the question has greater force to pierce their consciences than if he had made a direct assertion.
33. We stone thee not for a good work. Though wicked men carry on open war with God, yet they never wish to sin without some plausible pretense. The consequence is, that when they rage against the Son of God, they are not content with this cruelty, but bring an unprovoked accusation against him, and constitute themselves advocates and defenders of the glory of God. A good conscience must therefore be to us a wall of brass, by which we boldly repel the reproaches and calumnies with which we are assailed. For whatever plausibility may adorn their malice, and whatever reproach they may bring on us for a time, if we fight for the cause of God, he will not refuse to uphold his truth. But as the wicked never want pretences for oppressing the servants of God, and as they have also hardened impudence, so that, even when vanquished, they do not cease to slander, we have need of patience and meekness, to support us to the end.
But for blasphemy. The word blasphemy, which among profane authors denotes generally every kind of reproach, Scripture refers to God, when his majesty is offended and insulted.
Because thou, being a man, makest thyself God. There are two kinds of blasphemy, either when God is deprived of the honor which belongs to him, or when anything unsuitable to his nature, or contrary to his nature, is ascribed to him. They argue therefore that Christ is a blasphemer and a sacrilegious person, because, being a mortal man, he lays claim to Divine honor. And this would be a just definition of blasphemy, if Christ were nothing more than a man. They only err in this, that they do not design to contemplate his Divinity, which was conspicuous in his miracles.
34. Is it not written in your Law? He clears himself of the crime charged against him, not by denying that he is the Son of God, but by maintaining that he had justly said so. Yet he adapts his reply to the persons, instead of giving a full explanation of the fact; for he reckoned it enough for the present to expose their malice. In what sense he called himself the Son of God he does not explain fully, but states indirectly. The argument which he employs is not drawn from equals, but from the less to the greater.
I said, You are gods. Scripture gives the name of gods to those on whom God has conferred an honorable office. He whom God has separated, to be distinguished above all others, is far more worthy of this honorable title. Hence it follows, that they are malicious and false expounders of Scripture, who admit the first, but take offense at the second. The passage which Christ quotes is in Psalm 82:6,
I have said, You are gods,
and all of you are children of the Most High;
where God expostulates with the kings and judges of the earth, who tyrannically abuse their authority and power for their own sinful passions, for oppressing the poor, and for every evil action. He reproaches them that, unmindful of Him from whom they received so great dignity, they profane the name of God. Christ applies this to the case in hand, that they receive the name of gods, because they are God's ministers for governing the world. For the same reason Scripture calls the angels gods, because by them the glory of God beams forth on the world. We must attend to the mode of expression:
35. To whom the word of God was addressed. For Christ means that they were authorized by an undoubted command of God. Hence we infer that empires did not spring up at random, nor by the mistakes of men, but that they were appointed by the will of God, because he wishes that political order should exist among men, and that we should be governed by usages and laws. For this reason Paul says, that all who
resist the power are rebels against God, because there is no power but what is ordained by God, (Romans 13:1, 2.)
It will, perhaps, be objected, that other callings also are from God, and are approved by him, and yet that we do not, on that account, call farmers, or cowherds, or cobblers, gods. I reply, this is not a general declaration, that all who have been called by God to any particular way of living are called gods; but Christ speaks of kings, whom God has raised to a more elevated station, that they may rule and govern. In short, let us know that magistrates are called gods, because God has given them authority. Under the term Law, Christ includes the whole doctrine by which God governed his ancient Church; for since the prophets were only expounders of the Law, the Psalms are justly regarded as an appendage to the Law. That the Scripture cannot be broken means, that the doctrine of Scripture is inviolable.
36. Whom the Father hath sanctified. There is a sanctification that is common to all believers. But here Christ claims for himself something far more excellent, namely, that he alone was separated from all others, that the power of the Spirit and the majesty of God might be displayed in him; as he formerly said, that him hath God the Father sealed, (John 6:27.) But this refers strictly to the person of Christ, so far as he is manifested in the flesh. Accordingly, these two things are joined, that he has been sanctified and sent into the world. But we must also understand for what reason and on what condition he was sent. It was to bring salvation from God, and to prove and exhibit himself, in every possible way, to be the Son of God.
Do you say that I blaspheme? The Arians anciently tortured this passage to prove that Christ is not God by nature, but that he possesses a kind of borrowed Divinity. But this error is easily refuted, for Christ does not now argue what he is in himself, but what we ought to acknowledge him to be, from his miracles in human flesh. For we can never comprehend his eternal Divinity, unless we embrace him as a Redeemer, so far as the Father hath exhibited him to us. Besides, we ought to remember what I have formerly suggested, that Christ does not, in this passage, explain fully and distinctly what he is, as he would have done among his disciples; but that he rather dwells on refuting the slander of his enemies.