I started this blog by saying that anyone who has ever spoken about or offered an opinion about God and who He is, is by definition a theologian. The word theology literally means “God talk”. We looked at various attributes of God – His omnipotence, His omniscience and ended by discussing the doctrine of the Trinity. In a mysterious way that we can’t understand, God is both one yet is simultaneously three persons. The next step in this journey is to answer a question that Jesus asked His disciples.
In Matthew 16 we encounter this question. Jesus had met with His disciples in the city of Caesarea Philippi and there He asked them a question that must have been on His mind for some time, “Who do the people say that I, the Son of Man am?” Oh, the people had a very high opinion of Him. Some said He was John the Baptist returned from the grave. Others that He was none other than Elijah, whom they believed would come to announce the coming of the Messiah, while still others that He was one of the prophets. A thought has intruded itself on my thinking as I have read this passage – if Jesus were to ask us that same question today, how would we answer? Despite the lack of respect people have for the church generally and some Christians specifically, many people today still have very high respect for Jesus. They see Him as an excellent moral teacher and can find little if anything wrong with the life He led. But would Jesus be satisfied with this description, despite its words of high respect? In his book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis addresses this very issue. He wrote, “Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or He was who He said He was.” Under no circumstances could He be considered merely a good moral teacher.
So, we need to ask whom did Jesus claim to be? In an argument with the Jews, recorded for us John 8 He used the divine name to describe Himself. He told them they couldn’t use their ancestral connection with Abraham to verify their credentials as children of God. He made this startling statement “Before Abraham was, I am.” That was the name that God used to identify Himself to Moses from the burning bush. The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying. The last verse of the chapter tells us they picked up stones to execute Him for His blasphemy. They understood Him to be claiming to be God.
In John 10, Jesus made another claim to divinity when He identified Himself as the Good Shepherd. We have a tendency transform these words to a very pastoral image of a shepherd tenderly and lovingly holding a baby lamb to his breast. But is this the image Jesus wanted to portray? There is an allusion in this claim to Ezekiel 34. In it the prophet speaks words of condemnation to the shepherds of Israel, saying rather parenthetically that the reference is to the leaders. God finally says that one day He would send His Messiah to be His shepherd to lead and guide His people. The people understood that allusion and heard Jesus claiming to be God. On hearing this the Jews were of a divided mind, with some thinking He must be demon possessed to make such a claim. Others pointed to Jesus’ miracles wondering aloud if a demon possessed man could open the eyes of the blind. One more claim from Jesus to divinity.
When Philip brought Jesus to meet Nathanael, he was at first very sceptical asking if anything good had ever come from Nazareth. Read this little exchange between Jesus and Nathanael. John 1:47-49 (NIV) “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’ ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’” Here’s the point – Nathanael recognized Jesus’ divinity, calling Him the Son of God and King of Israel. Notice Jesus’ response – He didn’t try to correct him saying “No, no, my friend. You misunderstand me. I’m not God.” Instead, He accepted Nathanael’s assessment of who He is.
One last point before I close my thoughts. John begins his gospel with these words. John 1:1-3 (NIV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus is the eternal word, logos of God. He is God in human flesh. With such wild claims we have to reiterate CS Lewis’s words – that Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar or who He said He is. To paraphrase Joshua’s words, “As for me and my house, we will believe that Jesus is exactly who He said He is.”
This has been a powerful truth that has helped me in my days of darkness. May it be the same to you, but in the meantime, Keep the Son in Your Eyes.