Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Is Jesus God? (part 1)

What did HE think?

A. Titles he called himself
1. Son of Man
While it sounds like a reference to his humanity, it is a bold claim of divinity (see Daniel 7:13-14). By using this title for himself, he was claiming to be the one who brings the kingdom of God and the one to judge mankind.

2. The Messiah (The Christ)
The Hebrew word "Messiah", and the Greek word "Christ" both mean the same thing: Anointed One. It is a singular title such as "The President" or "The King". Using it regarding himself was a direct claim to divinity. He claimed to fulfill the prophesied duties of the Messiah (Luke 4:16-21). He told John the Baptist that he was the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-6). He confirmed Peter's confession that he was the Messiah Matthew 16:13-17). And he claimed the title when he was on trial before the high priest (Matthew 26:63-64).

3. Other Divine Claims
He stated that "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). He claimed God's name (Yahweh) for himself (John 8:58). And he claimed to be the physical manifestation of the Father (John 14:6-11).

B. He thought of himself as being the Son of God in a unique sense.

Many people believe that Jesus was a "son of God", just like we all are children of God. But his claims and self-understanding show that he regarded that title differently.

1. Calling God "Abba" ("papa" or "daddy")
Out of respect, rabbis never said the name of God (Yahweh). So they were scandalized that the rabbi, Jesus, would not only use that name, but he used the far more familiar name "Abba" to refer to God the Father. It claimed an intimacy with God that none before had dared to imagine. And even though he taught his disciples to pray "our father", he never joined in that prayer, always saying "my father" (see John 20:17).

2. Claimed to possess intimate knowledge of the Father
Jesus referred to himself as being higher than the angels (Mark 13:32). He claimed exclusive sonship, that was different than any other (Matthew 11:27). And he claimed to be the only one who could reveal the Father to men John 14:6).

C. He claimed to act and speak with divine authority

1. He reinterpreted the Law.
All good first century Jews believed that God alone was the author of the Law. And while there were professionals devoted to interpreting and applying it, no one dared change it. In the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7), he reinterpreted the Law to apply to internal thoughts and not merely external actions (adultery/lust, murder/anger, etc).

2. Usage of the word "Amen"
One of Jesus' favorite phrases was "Amen, amen, I say unto you" sometimes translated, "truly, truly I say unto you." In saying this, he was using himself as an authoritative witness to what he's about to say. As opposed to the prophet's phrase, "Thus says the Lord" or the common, "With God as my witness". Jesus was saying, "with ME as my witness".

3. Exorcism
Jesus believed he had the power over demons. He claimed this power was because of his divinity (Luke 11:20). He believed that he brought the kingdom of God not just to earth, but to the spiritual kingdom as well.

4. Forgiving sins
Only the one sinned against has the power to forgive that sin. Claiming to forgive the sins against someone else is a claim to divinity. This caused controversy because people understood what he was claiming when he told people that their sins were forgiven (Mark 2:1-12).

5. Performing miracles
Jesus was famous for his miraculous works. When asked by whose authority he had the power to do them, he referenced himself (Luke 11:14-20). He also referenced his miracles when people doubted his divinity (John 10:22-39).

6. Power over the eternal destiny of others
He claimed to be the determining factor of one's place before God at the final judgment (Luke 12:8-9).

Again, all of the above is not what committees or tradition or followers said about Jesus. It's what he claimed about himself. Clearly, he thought he was divine. This leads us to a tough decision, best expressed by C.S. Lewis:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic...or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall on your face and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (Mere Christianity pp. 55-56).


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