The Jews who opposed Jesus knew He was claiming to be equal with God the Father. This is why they sought to stone Him. (John 10:31) But Jesus pointed them back to His works as He did in John 5:36, "For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me."
When the Jews picked up stones to stone Him, Jesus asked in verse 32, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" In verse 37, He said, "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."
Jesus constantly pointed back to His works because they testify to His claim that He and the Father are One. He wanted His listeners to reflect on these works and what they indicated. But what we see time and time again is not only their rejection of Christ but also their increasing hostility towards Him. Several times they asked for a sign, but the truth is they witnessed many of Jesus's miracles yet still didn't believe. Even after the religious leaders witnessed Lazarus rise from the dead (John 11), instead of falling on their knees and worshiping Christ, they intensified their plans to kill Him.
Why? They heard many of His teachings. They witnessed miracles. They heard eye witness testimonies. Why would they continually reject Jesus? They loved their position of power, their influence, and their wealth. And Jesus threatened all that. But it's also true that many of them were not His sheep. They understood who Jesus claimed to be. "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God" (John 10:33).
Instead of denying their conclusion, He backed it up in verses 34-36, "Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, "I said, you are gods"? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"?'" Jesus was quoting Psalm 82. The judges were referred to as "gods" because they were acting as His authority on Earth. But Jesus was not saying He was merely a man acting as God's authority. In verse 36, Jesus essentially saying, "I existed before I came to earth. Before I appeared as a man I existed. I came from God. I was sent of God. I am one with God."
There is no doubt, Jesus Christ declares to be God! The Jews were very upset by this and verse 39 records, "Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands." We're not sure what happened here. Somehow, someway, Jesus escaped. It was not yet His time to die. We've seen this six other times in the gospel of John, and we'll see it again in chapter 12. No one could lay a hand on Jesus because He didn't will it.
Back in verse 18 we read, "No one takes it [My life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." Jesus was never a helpless victim. Instead, He was—and is—always in control—all the time, in every situation, in heaven and on earth, because He is God.
John concludes this section with Jesus leaving Jerusalem and going back beyond the River Jordan, where it all began, where John was first baptizing. By this point, John the Baptist had been executed. But we see the effects of his ministry carried on. I think John showed us this to give one additional piece of the puzzle he put before us. The works and words of Jesus showed Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God. But do you remember the shepherd parable? Who was the one to identify the true shepherd? The gatekeeper. He was responsible to guard the entrance of the sheepfold and ensure the one coming for the sheep was the true shepherd. I'm not surprised John ends this section reminding us that John the Baptist, the gatekeeper, declared from the beginning who Jesus was. In John 1:6-8 we read, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light but came to bear witness about the light."
John the Baptist testified of Jesus in John 1:15, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'" Even though Jesus was six months younger than John, the prophet recognized who Jesus was, and acknowledged His pre-existence. In verse 34, John said, "I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." John's testimony validated Jesus's claim that He was one with the Father.
Everything Jesus said and did were true. Every word. Every action. Every promise. Jesus is at the center of everything. To ignore him is to cling onto darkness, to live in rebellion, to miss out on joy, peace, and love that can only come from Christ. If you've heard the Good Shepherd calling you, respond to His voice and follow Him.