This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Easter . In yesterday’s post we considered membership in the flock, but from Jesus’ perspective, as we focused on knowing, being given, and following. Today we consider the oneness of Jesus and the Father which is at the heart of our Christian confession – there is a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit). That oneness is expressed in Scripture as a oneness of nature, of will, of knowledge, and many things, all the while being a distinct persona. Some Christians point to v.30 (The Father and I are one.) are a simple proof text of the uniquely Christian confession. While this verse is part of the confession, this verse is actually quite limited in what it claims.
In Greek the word “one” has masculine, feminine, and neuter forms. In v.30 the neuter form (hen) is used so that Jesus is not saying that he and God are one person, nor even of one nature or essence. Rather, he is saying that he and God are united in the work that they do. It is impossible to distinguish Jesus’ work from God’s work, because Jesus shares fully in God’s work. John 10:30 presents in summary form what Jesus said at length about his relationship with God in 5:17, 19-30. God gives life; Jesus gives life (5:21; 10:28). God judges; Jesus judges (5:22; 9:39).
The question for us is whether are we one (hen) with Jesus? Are we united with Jesus in the work we do in the world so that we are witness to the wholeness of God’s salvific plan already in action?
O’Day (John, New Interpreter’s Bible, p.679) offers these reflections on this verse.
The most important difference between the discussion of the early church fathers and the Fourth Evangelist about the relationship of God and Jesus is that the church fathers were developing doctrine and the Fourth Evangelist was telling a story. This does not mean that the Fourth Evangelist’s reflections are inherently any less theological, but because they are cast in a story, they have a very different theological intent…. When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” it does not come as any surprise to the Gospel reader, because that reality has been acted out throughout the Gospel narrative. Jesus has done the works of God, spoken the words of God, identified himself with the I AM of God. The relationship of God and Jesus is not a metaphysical puzzle for the Fourth Evangelist, but evidence of God’s love for the world (3:16-17). The wonder of the incarnation is that God is palpably available to the world in the person of Jesus, that those who believe in Jesus, who see the works of God in Jesus, have access to God in ways never before possible (14:7-11)….
One non-negotiable point that John and the early framers of doctrine have in common, however, is that Jesus’ relationship to God is the crux and stumbling block of Christian faith. For the Fourth Evangelist, that relationship is the dividing line between Jews and Christians, and hence is the focal point of most of the controversy between Jesus and the religious authorities. For the second-, third-, and fourth-century theologians, it was the dividing line between orthodoxy and heresy. For contemporary Christians, it is the source of Christians’ distinctive religious identity in their conversations with one another and with people of different religious faiths.
- Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996) 675-77
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible