What Did Jesus Mean When He Said 'I and the Father Are One'?
- Josie Siler Contributing Writer
- 2021 5 Jan
Jesus is a master of bold statements. His words caused strong emotional reactions that made people want to follow Him or kill Him. He often taught in parables so when Jesus spoke a direct truth it was a shock to His listener’s ears. We find one of these bold statements in John 10:30. His simple words, "I and the Father are one,” were answered not in words, but in action. People in the crowd immediately picked up stones with the intention of stoning Jesus to death.
What Is the Context of 'I and the Father are One' in John 10:30?
How did we get to this point of life and death? It started off with a simple walk in the temple during the Festival of Dedication. Jesus was making His way through Solomon’s Colonnade. Other worshipers gathered around Jesus and began asking Him questions. They wanted Him to tell them outright if He was the Messiah.
I love His response. Jesus says, “I did tell you, but you do not believe” (John 10:25). He follows this up with more talk about sheep. In the first half of John 10, we find Jesus explaining that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. His sheep know His voice and He knows His sheep. He talks about willingly laying down His life for them, something that would happen when He died on the cross. His sheep are the people who will believe in Him and follow Him. The Pharisees did not understand this and they called Him a mad man.
So when Jesus starts talking about sheep again, it’s not out of the blue. He’s picking up where He left off and further making His point. He says that He gives His sheep eternal life and that no one can take them from Him. He ends with a clear and bold statement. “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
This blasphemous statement assaults the ears of those listening and they pick up stones, their thoughts turning to righteous murder. What does Jesus do in response? He asks a question of His own. “‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God’” (John 10:32-33). Jesus does not deny their accusation, but He does escape their grasp and avoid being stoned to death.
What Is the Meaning of I and the Father are One?
In his book Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem explains. In this context, it “seems to mean that Jesus and the Father are one in purpose (though it may also imply oneness of essence).” The conclusion of the Jewish people surrounding Jesus that day was that Jesus claimed to be God, a conclusion Jesus understood and did not deny. Other verses in Scripture help us understand this concept a little better. (All verses are ESV, emphasis mine.)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” —Isaiah 9:6
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” —Hebrews 1:3
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” —Titus 2:11-14
John 1:1-18 makes it clear that Jesus is God, but it also shows God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) as distinct persons. Grudem explains that they “are distinct persons, and the being of each person is equal to the whole being of God.” This is a mystery that we can’t fully comprehend, and it has gotten the Church into trouble sometimes. When we try to bring the glory and greatness of God down to a level we can comprehend, we find ourselves in danger of falling into a belief system that distorts Scripture.
What Are the Dangers of Misinterpreting the Phrase 'I and the Father are One?
At this point, I’m adding into the discussion the Holy Spirit. The Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit are three persons who make up what we call the Trinity. They are all fully God, yet Scripture clearly states there is only one God.
If we interpret our phrase to mean Jesus and the Father are the same person, we fall into what scholars call Modalism, meaning one person appears in different ways or modes. Grudem explains the danger in this.
The fatal shortcoming of modalism is the fact that it must deny the personal relationships within the Trinity that appear in so many places in Scripture. … It must deny three separate persons at the baptism of Jesus, where the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. And it must say that all those instances where Jesus is praying to the Father are an illusion or a charade. The idea of the Son or the Holy Spirit interceding for us before God the Father is lost.
It’s hard to understand the Trinity, but it’s so important. It’s the foundation of our Christian faith. It gives us an example of what relationship is supposed to look like. God created us to be in relationship because He is in relationship!
What Is the Relationship between the Father and the Son?
Let’s look at the relationship between God the Father and God the Son a little more closely, remembering they are both fully God. It’s easy to think of Jesus as being less than the Father, but they are one. They have different roles, but they are both filled to the measure of the fullness of God.
They have been together—always! This is another hard one for us to comprehend. We can’t imagine something always being, yet never created. Sometimes this leads us to believe the Father created the Son. Yet John 1:1-3 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
God the Father spoke at Jesus’ baptism for everyone to hear. Matthew 3:16-17 says, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
We hear this phrase again when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to the top of a high mountain. There Jesus is transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. The disciples don’t know what to do so Peter asks if they should make some tents for them. Matthew 17:5 says, “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’”
We see pleasure and relationship in these two accounts. We see a public acknowledgment of Jesus, not just who He is, but that God the Father is pleased with Him. Context suggests the Father was speaking these things for the benefit of the people around Jesus, but I think they were for His benefit too. We all like to hear we’re doing a good job, that the person we care about most in the world is pleased with us. To hear “beloved Son” and “well pleased” must have strengthened Jesus for His task here on earth, for it wasn’t an easy one.
In Matthew 26:36-46 we see Jesus in a garden at night pleading with the Father. He is about to be arrested, tortured, and hung on a cross. All the sins of humanity would fall on His sinless shoulders and He would die a slow and painful death. He was pleading with the Father to take this cup from Him, to not make Him go through it. When the time came, Jesus submitted to the Father out of obedience, willingly giving His life in exchange for ours even though it cost Him.
This is no small thing. Jesus set an incredible example for us. In the midst of His distress, on the darkest night of His life, He called out to the Father and found the strength to face what was coming. We can do the same, and our prayers hold even more power now because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. What is He doing there? He’s praying for us. Romans 8:34 tells us, “Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
“I and the Father are one.” Six little words with so much meaning. I want to end by encouraging you to read John 17. In this beautiful prayer, we see Jesus talking to His father. It’s deep, it’s intimate, and it’s powerful. In that conversation with the Father, Jesus prays for us. I leave you with these words of Jesus from John 17:20-26:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/LightFieldStudios
Passionate about helping people find joy for their journey, Josie Siler, a small-town Wisconsin girl, has big dreams. As an author and photographer, Josie shares God’s gifts of beauty, hope, and adventure with people who are overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, encouraging them to walk in the freedom and joy found in Jesus. Josie is the author of the award-winning picture book, Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw, published by End Game Press. She's also a chronic illness warrior who believes every day is a gift that should be celebrated. When she’s not writing or taking pictures, you’ll find Josie looking for adventure, curled up with a good book, or cuddling her teddy bear dog Ruby Mae (a.k.a. The Scruffy Princess). Connect with Josie at JosieSiler.com.
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