Things Christians Believe: Jesus is God

Mar 7, 2014

Jesus walking-on-water One of the central tenets of the Christian faith is the deity and the humanity of Jesus. This belief has been controversial throughout history, from Jesus’ day until now. People throuh the centuries have struggled to come to terms with who Jesus is. Jesus even asked the question, “Who do people say that I am?” The most common thought among non-Christians is that Jesus was a really good man who died a martyr’s death. Very few people have anything negative to say about Jesus. His character was flawless. Yet, the idea of a man being divine, being God in the flesh is just too much for most people to stomach. The idea sounds so preposterous.

Why then do Christians embrace this idea that Jesus was divine? The first reason is that the New Testament teaches that Jesus was both God and Man. John’s Gospel, especially, presents a very clear theology of Jesus’ divinity. The Prologue to John’s Gospel very clearly discusses Jesus in divine terms. “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make.” (John 1:1-3) The context makes it clear that the “Word” is Jesus. John actually uses language here that takes the reader back to the very beginning of Genesis one, where God created the heavens and the earth. John says that the Word, Jesus, was there with God and was part of creating the world.

Jesus also made other clear references to His divinity in John. One example is from when Jesus was having a discussion with the Jewish religious leaders. Abraham, the patriarch, came up during the conversation. Jesus indicated that Abraham had looked forward to Jesus’ coming, implying that, somehow, Jesus and Abraham had known each other. By the time of Jesus birth, Abraham had been dead for over a thousand years. Here is the last part of that conversation and the result of it. Jesus said, “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

Jesus answered, “The truth is, before Abraham was even born, I Am!”

At that point they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself from them and left the Temple.” (John 8: 56-59) The religious leaders clearly heard Jesus referring to Himself as divine in these words. When Jesus said that He was, “I Am,” this was a direct reference to God’s words to Moses in Exodus. “But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they won’t believe me. They will ask, ‘Which god are you talking about? What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)

When Jesus used the “I Am,” to describe Himself to the Jewish religious leaders, it was obvious to them that He was claiming divinity. If Jesus had possibly been misquoted or misunderstood, He could easily have explained what He really meant. Instead, He let those words stand.

In Mark’s Gospel, there is another account of Jesus using the “I Am” reference. The disciples were in a boat, struggling with the wind and the waves. Jesus walked out to them across the water. When they saw Him on the water, they thought that He was a ghost. “They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were astonished at what they saw.” (Mark 6:50-51)

What is interesting about this passage is that the English translation has Jesus say, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” In the Greek, it actually says, “I Am. Fear not.” For some reason, the translators felt the need to tone down the Christological overtones of this passage.

To be continued…

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