"I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
-- John 10:30-31, ESV
One of Bob Dylan's first and most enduring hits contains the repeated chorus, "Everybody must get stoned." Those who don't know Dylan well or listen carefully to his Nobel Prize-winning lyrics think this is a song advocating the use of illicit drugs. But Dylan wrote it in the mid-'60s during his transition from acoustic to electric. His fans booed him and the critics trashed him. Hearkening back to his Jewish upbringing, Dylan felt like people were throwing stones at him for being different.
Jesus knew what that felt like. For being distinctive and doing things differently, "The Jews picked up stones to stone Him." If someone as perfect as Jesus is to be stoned, then everybody must get stoned.
The distinctive person of Christ
The Jews, especially the religious leaders, should have known that when Messiah appeared, He would be an "only begotten" (ref. John 3:16), which literally means "one-of-a-kind." The virgin-born man who is "God with us," and the God-man who is both "Mighty God" and "Prince of Peace" is Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord Jesus Christ. So it should be no wonder, and certainly nothing worth being stoned over, that Jesus said, "I and the Father are one."
If Jesus and the Father are one, they thought, they would have to bow down and worship Him. They would have to follow and obey Him. They would have to love and honor Him. They would have to put the sovereign Lord above their autonomous selves. Perhaps this is why the vast majority of Americans today, and up to 30% of confessing evangelicals, deny the deity of Jesus Christ.
So, it was decided, Jesus had to go. "The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him," as they had at least once before (John 8:59). And if they are going to stone Jesus for being Lord and Christ, then everybody must get stoned.
The different work
"Believe the works," Jesus said to them. But they would not. They weren't that kind of works, done in the kind of way, that the Pharisees wanted. Jesus worked differently. He catered to the poor and reached out to Gentiles. His followers were fishermen, prostitutes, and tax collectors. He used His power never to harm, only to help, never to confine, only to liberate.
Jesus kept a woman they would have stoned from being stoned, lepers they shunned from being shunned, and the blind they kicked out of the synagogue from remaining in darkness. Jesus did so many of these works on the Sabbath day, which was no violation of God's word, but a strict rebuke against the Pharisees' ridiculous rules.
"For which of them are you going to stone Me," Jesus asked. All of them, I suppose. But if you are going to stone Jesus Christ for doing God's work God's way, then everybody must get stoned.
and different life of Christ
Jesus knew He would not get stoned that day, it was not yet His time. But Jesus did know, omniscient God that He is, that they would not fail to kill Him in four months' time. We would do well to reflect upon this, to consider the great price God's Son paid for God's people.
John's Gospel of belief sometimes plays fast and loose with the term, sometimes superficial, sometimes sincere. How can you tell if it is distinctive, different, saving faith? Do you pick up stones against Jesus and Christianity, or are you willing to trust Him, Follow Him, and risk stones thrown at you?
Well, they'll stone you when you're trying to be good,
They'll stone you just like they said they would;
They'll stone you when you're trying to go home,
And they'll stone you when you're there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.
-- Bob Dylan
Jesus ultimately died alone on the cross, but Jesus will not be alone, if you will walk a different path, risk persecution, take up your cross, and follow Him. Everybody must get stoned.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Arkansas and Georgia, and preached the gospel across the United States and other countries. Email him at [email protected]