“You are gods”: What did Jesus mean?

Session 1 in the series "Bringing sons to glory"

In John 10:34 Jesus was speaking to Jews when He said: 'Scripture says: 'You are gods'.' The Jews were very human in their behavior ... not at all god-like. What did Jesus mean?

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“You are gods” What did Jesus mean? (Session 1)

In the original text of the Bible the first word that is used for God is the Hebrew word "Elohim".

The first sentence in the Bible says: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In the original Hebrew: Bereshit bara Elohim et ha'shamayim ve'et ha'aretz.

Seven words. The third word is the word for God ... Elohim. It's an interesting word. The word is plural in form, but singular in meaning. There are many places in the Hebrew text where this word "elohim" means "gods" (with a small g ... plural).

The YUD MEM ending on the word is the plural form of a masculine noun. But in Genesis 1:1 "Elohim" means "God" singular, because the form of the verb (bara - created) dictates that. Singular in meaning, but plural in form ... Scripture is hinting at something.

As New Testament believers in Jesus, we believe in a Godhead ... God who is three-in-one ... Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This thinking is not easy for Jews to handle. A foundational Scripture for Jews is Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 4 … Shma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God the LORD is one.≵

God is one ... But, in Scripture, it's possible to be more than one, but in absolute unity. Genesis chapter 2 verse 24 says, "a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." In Hebrew: Ve hayu l'vasar echad. "Echad" ... one. Two become one. Two separate human beings but, in God's sight, one ... inseparable.

This is an important principle. However, it's not easy for Jews to think of God in this way.

In the Gospel of John we read that certain Jews wanted to stone Jesus for saying that He was one with the Father (see John 10:30-31) He also said He wanted them to "know and understand that the Father is in Me; and I in the Father" (John 10:38)

The Jews said He was blaspheming ... making Himself out to be God (John 10:33) Jesus said: "It is written ... "you are gods" (see John 10:34)

Jesus used that truth to justify a title for Himself: "the Son of God" (John 10:36) We don't have any problem accepting that Jesus is the Son of God … but, what about the statement: "You are gods"?

The verse that Jesus was quoting is in Psalm 82 ... I said: "You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High" (Psalm 82:6). "Gods" (small g ... plural) in the Hebrew text is "elohim". The same word for God (singular) in Genesis 1:1.

Psalm 82 was speaking to Jews ... to the people of Israel. Israel was a chosen nation. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses summed up God's call on Israel: "You are the sons of the LORD your God ..." (Deut 14:1). "... you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." (Deut 14:2)

It is this chosenness of the Jewish people that apprently places them in the category of "gods". But the Jews were very human ... not at all god-like. What does this mean? "You are gods".

It refers to the destiny that God has in mind for those who are called and chosen. The question was: would they believe that? If they did believe that God has a glorious future for His people, then it should affect their thinking and behaviour now. Individuals (within Israel) had to respond ... they had to choose to believe God. The Bible records that most Jews didn't respond well. They didn't trust God. And because they didn't believe God, those people, in the chosen nation of Israel, were set aside.

They had a call to be God's special people, to inherit an eternal blessing, but they excluded themselves when they didn't believe. When a person chooses to believe God, then faith brings the power of God to work in their life. Faith produces fruit. The person of faith becomes sweeter. That's how we know they have faith. There is evidence. Instead of hardness and bitterness, we see gentleness, kindness, and love starting to come forth. When people don't trust God, then self-will and selfishness reign.

People (individuals) without faith are rejected. That's the context of John chapter 10 and Psalm 82.

In John 10, Jesus was dealing with Jews ... people in the chosen nation, Israel ... people to whom God had said "You are gods. You are all sons of the Most High". But most didn't believe God. The religious leaders turned simple trust into a system of rituals, and a way to control people. They were offended by Jesus. They couldn't control Him.

He was demonstrating the love and heart of God, but the leaders wanted to kill Him.

Psalm 82 also deals with Israel at a time of widespread national unbelief.

The opening verse of Psalm 82 reads: "God takes His stand in His own congregation. He judges in the midst of the gods."

The word for God in the Hebrew text is "Elohim". And the word for "gods" is also "elohim". God is assessing His chosen people ... How they are behaving now indicates whether they are living in faith in Him.

Verses 3 and 4 indicate they should have been concerned for the weak. Verse 5 says they weren't.

Verse 6 is the declaration: "I said: You are gods. And all of you are sons of the Most High." But verse 7 gives the verdict: "You will die like mere men."

Most Jews in that generation of Israel were not living in faith. They lost their status as "elohim". They would not live forever. They would die ... like everyone else.

Isaiah proclaimed: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved." (see Isaiah 10:22 and Romans 9:27)

It's possible for a chosen person to have their name in the Book of Life, but to have it blotted out. (see Exodus 32:32-33, Deut 9:14, Deut 29:20, Psalm 69:28, Revelation 3:5)

The imperative is to believe and go on believing God.

Faith produces fruit. Good works don't substitute for faith, but faith without appropriate response is dead (see James 2:14-26). If faith dies, eternal life cannot be expected.

Part 2

God chose Israel, and set them apart, because He was preparing a people through whom He could reveal the Messiah. But God's choice of Israel didn't mean that He was unmindful of non-Jews.

God promised Abraham that through him all the nations would be blessed. (see Genesis 12:3 and Galatians 3:8). It's a promise that was made 430 years before the giving of The Law to Israel.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised that the Messiah would restore a remnant of Israel and He would also bring salvation to the Gentiles (see Isaiah 49:6).

Even though they studied the Scriptures, most religious Jews were so blinded by the thought that they were the chosen people, and possibly by the thought that it was because they were more worthy than others, that they missed God's heart for all people. Jews stumbled over the Gentiles.

Is it possible that some Gentile believers may stumble over the Jews?

Jesus was a Jew. The apostles and writers of the New Testament were Jews. The first church was comprised entirely of Jewish believers in Jesus.

In Acts chapter 10 we read about Cornelius and his family who were the first non-Jews to come to faith. The Jerusalem council of Jewish believers were surprised that God would have a place for the Gentiles (see Acts 11:18).

In the book of Ephesians, we learn that we non-Jewish believers in Jesus are also chosen (see Ephesians 1:11). We are all purified by faith in Jesus (see Acts 15:9). The good news is that everyone who believes in Jesus will be saved. Everyone who trusts in Jesus, and goes on believing in Him, has the promise of eternal life.

There was a spiritual wall between Jews and Gentiles. In Jesus, the wall is broken down. God has made the way for the two separate groups to become one (see Ephesians 2:11-16).

Two become one. Jesus prayed that we would be one ... united ... (see John 17:11) … even as He and the Father are one.

And He went on: "... that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us ... (John 17:21).

Israel was chosen by God (see Deuteronomy 14:2). He said to them: "You are gods. You are all sons of the Most High." (Psalm 82:6)

Now, Gentile believers in Jesus are found to be also chosen. We are all said to be "in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3-14). In Christ, we are adopted as sons (Ephesians 1:5). In Christ, we have "every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies" (Ephesians 1:3). It's stated as if we are already there. It's a status like the "gods".

It's our inheritance ... eternal, spiritual blessings.

Do we believe it? Do we fix our eyes on Jesus? He is our example. "Even though He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped ... He emptied Himself ... He humbled Himself …" (see Philippians 2:6-8)

Most Jews thought it was enough to be chosen. They didn't take God seriously. They thought it was enough to say they would obey Him.

They elevated themselves in their own thinking. They thought being chosen set them above others. They failed to understand that being united with God was a call to humility ... a setting aside of their rights ... in the light of the glory that is to come.

There are Christians who think that it is enough to be chosen. They don't take God seriously. They allow themselves to think that they are chosen because they are special ... more deserving than others. They fail to understand that Jesus modelled a life of humility.

He gave up the glory of heaven to show us that if we will believe, and let go of our rights in this life, then great glory will follow in eternity.

Yielding to God allows the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. We need Him. We need help. We all need help. We need His power to endure ... to run the race of this life … staying in faith in Jesus to the end.

Part 3

Here is something the Holy Spirit has given to build faith: There is an underlying "watermark" of God in the original text of the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament.

Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numeric value, and every letter in the Greek alphabet has a numeric value. Apply the numeric value to each letter and we come up with a value for each word in Scripture.

The word for 'God' in Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 is 'Elohim'. The numeric value of Elohim is 86.

In Psalm 82 verse 6 in Hebrew, the expression "you are gods" is "elohim atem" elohim (gods ... small g, plural) is value 86 ... the same as Elohim (the word for God singular in Genesis 1:1)

The rest of the verse in Psalm 82 verse 6 says "and you are all sons of the Most High". In Hebrew: "Ou'vnei elyon kulchem". Apply the numeric value to each letter and we get a total for the three words of 344, which is 86 x 2 x 2. There's the number 86 (the value of Elohim) again.

Now, of course, Jesus quotes this phrase "You are gods" in the passage in John chapter 10. Here it is in context:

(34) Jesus answered them: Has it not been written in your Law: "I said, you are gods." (35) If He called them gods, to whom the Word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken) (36) do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world "you are blaspheming" because I said: "I am the Son of God"? (37) If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me (38) but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.

This is a translation into English from the original Greek. In the Greek text, there are exactly 86 words.

We have been seeing how Scripture states plainly, and hints in its mathematical symmetry, at the fact that Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Him, and we are in Jesus and He is in us.

Our destiny, in faith in Jesus, is eternal life ... a future as gods … one with the God who created everything. What a promise! God redeemed us in love, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and, after a brief period of testing, we shall enter into an endless life.

There is one more piece to the puzzle ... Israel. God started with Israel ... set apart for Himself ... and although most Jews didn't trust Him (only to be set aside themselves), God has promised to complete what He began. A circle will be completed ... in Christ.

God paused in His dealings with Israel to do what He always intended to do ... to bring in a people for Himself from among the Gentiles. He is going to make Jew and Gentile one.

Nothing is staged by chance.

The declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, was made at Caesarea Philippi (see Matthew 16:13-17) at the foot of Mount Hermon ... the headwaters of the Jordan River. Jordan in Hebrew is "Yarden" ... it means "descender" ... to go down.

Living Water flows down the Hula Valley to the Sea of Galilee. The sea takes in fresh water and gives out.

The river flows down down ... to the lowest place on earth ... to the Dead Sea. Here, at Gilgal, is where Israel crossed into the Promised Land. Here, if you have been following the River of Life, is where you make a sharp right-hand turn to go up to Jerusalem.

God is bringing each of us to an end of ourselves. This life is a walk in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, to where our legal right-standing of being crucified with Christ is matched in our life experience.

The path down flows through the Galilee. Jesus started His ministry in the Galilee.

Matthew 4: (12) "... Jesus withdrew into Galilee ..." (14) to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: (15) The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. By way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. (16) The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.

"Galilee of the nations" in the original Greek text is "Galilaia ton ethnon" Galilaia has a numeric value of 86.

The whole phrase has a numeric value of 2150, which is 86 x 5 x 5. That is not an accident.

Verses 15 and 16 are quoting Isaiah chapter 9 verses 1 and 2.

In Hebrew Bibles, the words are found in the last verse of chapter 8 and the first verse of chapter 9. The total value of the two verses, in Hebrew, is 7396, which is 86 x 86. That is not an accident.

The Holy Spirit is tying the Greek of the New Testament to the Hebrew of the Old Testament. He is shining a light on this number 86 ... the numeric value of "Elohim", the first word in the Bible for God, and the word that is used to describe the future destiny of all who are in faith in Jesus ... "gods"

He is linking this to a place ... the Galilee ... to a place of flowing, living water ... an area where Jews largely inhabited one side ... in the Promised Land ... and Gentiles the other side. Jesus crossed the sea, and crossed the Jordan many times. He fed people, did miracles and delivered people out of demonic oppression on both sides. He brought the light of His presence to Jews and Gentiles.

Jesus didn't start His ministry in Jerusalem ... the headquarters of religious leadership. He started His ministry among the people the leadership despised ... the poor, and the uneducated, and the Gentiles.

Jesus was demonstrating ... He is going to have a people for Himself, from among the Jews and from among the Gentiles ... a people who are not highly regarded by the world, but who will unite themselves and find their identity only in Him.

Galilee in Hebrew is "Galil". Galil means a circle.

God has unfinished business. He is going to complete the circle.

Jesus came down from heaven, and ascended to heaven. He is going to come down again to fetch His people, so that we can ascend to be with Him forever.

He started with the Jews ... with Israel. He paused His dealings with them to bring in a people from among the Gentiles. Now He is going to complete what He began with Israel.

All Israel ... the remnant ... is going to come to salvation in the land of Israel. Scripture states this plainly, and Scripture hints, in many places, at what is still to come.

Part 4

Has God finished with unbelieving Israel? The Bible says emphatically "No" (see Romans 11:11)

God set them aside because of transgressions and that allowed the Gospel to come to us non-Jews. But when God restores them, it will release greater riches for the world ... material and spiritual blessings. It will be life from the dead for Israel and for the church (see Romans 11:12,15)

God has promised to regather all the Jews from all over the world. He says He will not leave any behind (see Ezekiel 39:28 and Micah 2:12). The Bible says that it is there in the Promised Land that He will save the remnant of Israel. (see Hosea 1:10, Ezekiel 20:40 and Ezekiel 36:33). Romans chapter 11 verse 26 says that all Israel will be saved. All Jews who are alive in that day will turn to God. They will recognise their Messiah (see Zechariah 12:10)

It is not only in these plain statements that we understand what God intends to do. It is in the spiritual insights that we glean from many stories in the Bible.

We read about Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His brothers were jealous of him, just as the religious leaders of Israel were jealous of Jesus. Joseph was sent as a slave to Egypt. The Jews thought that Jesus was dead, but He rose from the grave and the message of salvation through faith in Him was carried into the Gentile world.

Joseph became the second in charge over all Egypt. Jesus took His place at the right hand of the Father.

Joseph revealed himself to his brothers when all of them were gathered together. Jesus will reveal Himself to His brothers, the Jews, when all of them are regathered.

Israel had been enduring a famine and Joseph rescued his family. Jesus will rescue His brothers.

In the gospels, we read about Jesus being asked to come and heal a 12-year-old child who was dying. People said the child was dead. Jesus said she was asleep. (Matthew 9:18-25, Mark 5:21-42, Luke 8:40-55) The world today thinks the church is dead ... but Jesus is on the way, to stir the church into life.

While Jesus was on the way to raise the child, a woman who had had an issue of blood for twelve years approached Jesus and bent low to touch the hem of His garment. When she did, her bleeding stopped. The child is also a picture of the church. And the woman is also a picture of unbelieving Israel. When the child was born, the woman started bleeding. Her life started to ebb away. When the church was birthed, most Jews refused to accept Jesus. Spiritually, Israel has been drained of life. But, when Israel humbles herself and turns to her Messiah, the bleeding will be stopped. Life will return.

The woman was healed. And, right away, the child came alive. The destiny of the church is linked to the redemption of Israel.

In the fourth verse of the New Testament, in Matthew chapter 1, there is a mention of Zerah. It's an unusual mention. The line to Jesus came through his brother, Perez. In the New Testament genealogy of Jesus, this is the only brother who is mentioned. Why?

Perez and Zerah were born to Judah and Tamar. They were twins. Zerah's hand came out first (see Genesis 38:28). Zerah was the firstborn. Zerah should have had the rights of the firstborn. The midwife tied a scarlet thread to his wrist, but he drew his hand back. And then Perez was born.

Israel drew back. The Gentiles took prominence for two thousand years.

When the Israelites conquered Jericho, Rahab had to hang a scarlet cord from her window. That symbol was the sign to preserve her life ... together with her family. Zerah, (who had a scarlet thread tied to his wrist, who was born first but drew back, who is mentioned in the New Testament), is a symbol of the fact that Jesus is going to return for Israel.

We started this study with an examination of the passage in John chapter 10 where Jesus says to the Jews "You are gods". The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, but He escaped. He went away "beyond the Jordan ... and He stayed there" (see John 10:40).

Many came to Him (see John 10:41), and many believed in Him there (John 10:42). It's a picture of Jesus going to the Gentiles. And Gentiles coming to faith in Him.

Immediately after this passage, we get the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead (see John 11:1-44). When it was reported to Jesus that Lazarus was dead, Jesus said he wasn't beyond recovery. He had "fallen asleep" (see John 11:11).

Jesus waited two days (see John 11:6). A day is like a thousand years in God's sight (see Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8). It was two days before Jesus went to raise Lazarus. And Jesus has been away from His people for two thousand years.

Jesus called out with a loud voice and Lazarus came up from the grave (see John 11:43-44). Jesus is coming again. Israel is going to be raised from the dead. The circle will be complete.

God is faithful. Trust Him. Keep trusting in Jesus and you will take your place, united among those who will live forever, in the world to come.