If one is to profess faith in the Christian message and yet lacks this belief in Jesus’ identity, one openly exposes a complete lack of understanding of the Bible wherein they find the figure of Jesus in the first place. The Gospel narratives leave no possibility to reject the deity of Jesus yet appreciate, rely on, or believe in the message that he spoke. This rigidity in the understanding of Jesus arises from four points concerning Jesus and his teaching. The four points are as follows:
1) The man of “The Name”
2) The man of Authority
3) The man of Unity
4) The man of Forgiveness
1) The man of “The Name”
As we have discussed in an earlier passage, the question concerning the historical existence of Jesus is a question that at the present has more or less been answered by believers and non-believers alike. Such is man’s hard-heartedness to the Word of God that the moment one question is answered the stubborn heart seeks protection behind yet another wall of objection. Thus, with history proving the existence of Jesus with the passing of time, the more common debate over Jesus more or less concerns his identity. Was he just a good teacher? Was he a prophet? Was he simply a rabbi? Did he view himself as anything more than any of these things? The fact that the Christian church survived, grew and continues to flourish is a testimony to the deity of Jesus and his oneness with the Father that we will soon discuss in further detail. However, since the current debate concerning Jesus not only calls into question who Jesus was to his followers, but who Jesus himself professed to be, the best source for His words is in the Gospels themselves. What we find is that there are many times that Jesus clearly refers to himself as God.
No words of his are more conclusive in this matter than the two words he uses frequently throughout the Gospel of John in settling any doubt as to who he knew he was. The two words are, “I am.” The words “I am” when translated reference the Hebrew name that God applied to himself, by himself, for himself in the Book of Exodus.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
The name is “Yahweh,” which translates into English simply as, “I am.” While the translation in English fails to capture the weight behind such a name, upon a closer look at the origins of the name in Jewish history and the Hebrew language, one finds it complete madness that Jesus chose to use the name the way he did and that his followers chose to include this detail in the Gospels. According to the Jewish people, the name of God was so holy that it was illegal to say in public. So holy that scribes writing out the scriptures were required to cleanse themselves and destroy their writing utensils after writing the name due to its divine holiness. This was a Word that if uttered in public was an act punishable by death. In Israel, no one spoke this name aloud. Yet, what the Gospel writers openly include in the Gospels is the historical fact that Jesus chose to use this name not only once but many times in public to those he conversed with.
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger.” John 6:35
“I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
“I am the gate; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” John 11:25
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1
This behavior was unprecedented before Jesus. Jesus took it upon himself to use this illegal, holy name for one reason and one reason alone. He used it because he made it and it belonged to him.
2) The man of Authority
In reading the Gospels one finds that Jesus was not just careful with the amount of words he chose, he was precise and deliberate. His words are not the categorical babble of the megalomaniac. His words wield the same power, precision, and beauty of a sword. Realizing this, we become even more dumbfounded by his claims.
Aside from his words of authority concerning sickness, death and sin, Jesus claims the authority of certain knowledge that only God could possess. He recounts the falling of Satan in Luke 10:17-20. He recounts his personal use of prophets, calling them into service in order to preach his truths to Israel and the world in Matthew 23:34. He professes his longing to shelter all Israel as a hen shelters her baby chicks in Luke 13:34.
Jesus even goes so far as to openly assert that he existed before the Patriarch Abraham. These claims tend to get lost in between the longer sermons and parables, but not because they are unimportant. Rather, they may be overlooked by some because of the trivial manner in which Jesus says them. Jesus speaks these words in the same way we would recount our day at work or our meal at lunchtime. To him, his identity was so obvious that to say such things needed no ceremonious delivery. He spoke these words to anyone, anywhere because it was his very nature and identity. Not who he claimed to be or who his followers believed him to be. To disbelieve these claims, or to insist that Christ made such claims falsely or mistakenly, is to celebrate a complete maniac that has no grasp on reality whatsoever. This man would never be worthy of a person’s faith or worship. This man would only be deserving of the absence of his name in the records of history.
3) The man of Unity
While many cling to the belief that Jesus was not one with God in personal identity, some will profess that Jesus was one with God in a way that emphasizes the “with” while excluding the “one.” To do this is to completely reject the words of Jesus since he himself spoke of his nature as being, “one with the Father.”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Despite this testimony, many persist in the viewpoint that Jesus was simply a gifted teacher endowed with Godly abilities to teach and to heal, but only to the extent that his teaching ultimately lead those to God and not to himself. This opinion places Jesus in the realm of Prophet and not Messiah.
However, Jesus did possess qualities resembling those of the Old Testament Prophets. Jesus healed, so did Elisha. Jesus spoke the words of God connecting past, present and future seamlessly, directed by the Father himself, and so did all the prophets. Yet at a certain point, the unique qualities of Jesus separate him from the line of Prophets. His characteristics become the characteristics only seen in the Father himself, which not only aligns Jesus with the Father but makes them one. Most famously in the Gospel of John, Jesus openly declares to his disciples that he is “one with” the Father in Heaven.
I and the Father are one.”
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
This oneness was not only on display throughout the ministry of Jesus in miraculous healings and resurrections, things only God could do. This oneness was not only on display in the form of his claims about himself, directly professing things that only God could profess. This oneness was not only on display by the way that Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about the coming Messiah as truly “Emmanuel” or “God with us” through the prophets. This oneness was most powerfully on display when Jesus conquered death through the victory of the cross.
That display of Godhead set in motion the transformation of the entire world, one person and one country at a time, through the dwelling of his heavenly Spirit in all those professing faith in the oneness of Jesus Christ and the Father as God in the Flesh, sacrificed for sin on the cross, resurrected on the third day and presently alive and awaiting the day of Judgment when all things are made new just as they were when he created his creation in the beginning.
4) The man of Forgiveness
Although the Crucifixion testifies to the divine nature of Jesus, one can find enough support for the divinity of Jesus Christ prior to his sacrificial death upon Golgotha. Throughout his ministry, Jesus became popular for a number of reasons. While the number of people professing faith and belief in him as the Messiah and as God grew, the number of people that were simply hungry for miracles tended to occupy the daily majority. Just as people in today’s world are hungry for entertainment, so were the first-century people in Palestine. Repeatedly in the Gospel narratives, we find people who are much more interested in the healing power of Jesus rather than his identity or greater mission to save the world and redeem all people from their sin. But Jesus always makes forgiveness of sin paramount over the physical healing alone. According to Jesus, there was a deeper sickness, a deeper problem and a deeper need for his power than any physical ailment present in a person’s life. Repeatedly Jesus forgives a person’s sin in response to someone asking for the healing of his or her body.
But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
Jesus saw the deepest problem was sin, so he thrust himself into the center of all sins as the focal point from which forgiveness was to be given. All sins go much deeper and further than the person being sinned against, because ultimately, all sins are against God. Therefore, only God has the right and authority to forgive anyone their sins. When put into the context of human sin and the transformative healing power that Jesus also exhibited, the only reasonable person in human history that could make a case for having the power to forgive sin and thus be God in human form is Jesus Christ.