19Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” 21Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”
31The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”34Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” 35If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ — and the scripture cannot be annulled — 36can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God's Son’? 37If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
40He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42And many believed in him there.
Here's a basic question: How did people who saw Jesus evaluate whether he was sent by God or not? One possibility was that Jesus was not sent by God, but by the devil. The power Jesus exercised was demonic in nature, in this view. The view that Jesus was not empowered at all by any supernatural power was not a serious hypothesis. No one who saw what Jesus did -- healings and miracles -- would conclude that the "power" behind all these amazing activities was merely "psychological," the result of some type of power of persuasion. The changes they saw were real enough and radical enough that no human or natural explanation would have done justice to the mind boggling event.
So in discussions among themselves some opted for the demonic-source view, i.e., Jesus accomplished these powerful things through demons. Others, in response, said that that doesn't make sense because if you consider what Jesus says/teaches and what he does (like, opening blind eyes) it surely doesn't look like the words and actions of demons.
A bit later in the passage Jesus himself mentions that had the people seen his works properly (that these works were the works of his Father), these people would have believed Jesus was sent by the Father.
These two strands of thought -- demon/not-demon and works-of-the-Father/not-works-of-the-Father -- turn crucially on people's ability to discern: can they tell the difference between what a demon would do and what God would do? Can they tell the difference between what God the Father would do and what He would not do? The absence of such an ability to discern was, in fact, part of the people's problem when they encountered Jesus.
This principle of discernment is still such an important principle post-Jesus. This principle, or this ability, helps us determine what's of God and what's not of God. The only sure-fire way of growing in discernment is growing in God and God's word. Growing in God entails prayer, purity of heart, godliness in one's life, encounters with God, a deep familiarity with God's heart, and sensitivity to God's ways. Growing in God's word entails prayerful reading and meditation on Scripture.
The better we discern, the less confused we'll be. Less confused, more helpful we'll be.
Let's pray: Father God, help us to get to know you better. Help us to get into your Word. Jesus, help us to get to know you better. Help us to walk with you. Holy Spirit, help us to get to know you better. Help us to move with you. For you, Holy Spirit, bring glory to the Father and the Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.