WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?
POSTED BY: WEB TEAM | 07.11.2016
The most outrageous claim made by the Catholic Church is that God, who laid down the foundations of the world, threw the stars into the heavens and knit you and me together in our mothers’ wombs, miraculously took on our nature, became a man, and walked among us 2000 years ago in Palestine. This is why a Catholic can joyously acclaim the Blessed Virgin Mary to be “the Mother of God”, not because she pre-existed God in the manner a mother would normally pre-exist her son, but because she bore God in her womb, gave birth to God and raised Him as her own son.
The purpose of this essay is not to prove that the Catholic claim is right. The purpose is much less ambitious, merely to answer the question: what does history tell us that Christ personally claimed about Himself?
Christ claims to be God
The Jews had two special names for God: the most common, “Adonai”, is difficult to render into modem English, but most scholars agree that “the Lord of lords” and “Lord God” come close. In most modern Bibles it is translated simply as “the Lord”.
The other name was “Jehovah”. “Jehovah” is Hebrew for “I am who am”. In the Old Testament we read: “God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM” and “Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you.” The Jews believed this name was so sacred that it should not be spoken aloud: if a rabbi was reading the scriptures and came across the name “Jehovah”, he would read aloud the word “Adonai” instead.
Christ constantly applied the title “the Lord” to Himself. It is hardly surprising that this infuriated His hearers, for as far as most of them were concerned Christ was a local building worker! Just imagine your own reaction if your neighbourhood plumber insisted that you address him as “the Lord”, let alone “the Lord of lords”.
But Christ went much further than this in the course of one heated exchange when He exclaimed, “Believe me, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” Christ here not only claims to pre-exist Abraham, a man who lived over 1000 years earlier, but He provocatively echoes the most sacred Jewish name for God and applies it to Himself. The full impact of Christ’s words is undoubtedly lost on modern readers, but it was clearly not lost on Christ’s contemporaries; they were so outraged that they immediately gathered up rocks in an attempt to execute Him for blasphemy.
“Teasing” with the Old Testament
Another habit of Christ that understandably enraged His fellow Jews was His habit of taking passages from the Jewish Scriptures that clearly referred to God alone, and then applying those same words to Himself. The God of the Old Testament proclaims that He alone has the right to kill and give life, yet Christ said, “For as the Father raises up the dead, and gives life: so the Son also gives life to whom He will.” The God of the Old Testament declared that none can deliver out of His hand, yet Jesus stated, “No one can tear them away from my hand.”
The Old Testament teaches that the Lord God renders to each according to his work, and Our Lord tells us that He“will render to every man according to his works.” The Old Testament announces that the Word of God shall stand forever, yet Christ proclaimed, “Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass.” The Old Testament states that God gives His glory to no other, however Jesus declared, “And now glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee.” Jesus here is claiming to have shared the glory of God before the world was created!
The Old Testament states that God, the Father, is the shepherd of the flock, yet Our Lord teaches that he is “the Good Shepherd.” The Old Testament tells us that God seeks to save those who are lost, but Christ announces that He “is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Christ repeatedly claimed divine attributes for Himself.
Christ claimed the power to forgive sins. He did so when He said to the paralytic, “Son, take courage, your sins are forgiven.” The learned Jews present quite properly objected, “Who can this be, that he talks so blasphemously? Who can forgive sins but God, and God alone?” Christ responded by asking them what was easier: to forgive sins or to tell a paralytic to rise up and walk? Then, to prove that He had the power to forgive sins, He miraculously cured the man of his paralysis.
Christ claimed a spiritual omnipresence that one can only associate with God. He declares that He is “Lord of the Sabbath”; that where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them; that He is with us always, even unto the end of the world; He said that He had come down from heaven and that He was the light of the world. Elsewhere, He states that He is not of this world and further that He has the power to lay down His life and take it up again. He announces that His desire is for us to behold the glory which He had before the foundation of the world.
Another constant theme of Jesus is that He is on a par with God, equating himself with God the Father on numerous occasions. He put His authority on a par with God every time he declared, “You have heard it said [by God in the Old Testament] but I say to you...” He said that whoever does not honour Him does not honour the Father who sent Him and that if we knew Him; we would know His Father also. He declared that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father; that he who sees Him sees Him who sent Him and that He and the Father are one.
Jesus Christ’s friends clearly understood what He was claiming.
St John, the only Apostle not to abandon Christ at the Crucifixion, writing of Christ at the beginning of his gospel, states, “In the beginning was the Word... and the Word was God... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...”
St Thomas, one of the original twelve Apostles, when he was told that Christ had been seen alive after the Crucifixion, responded that unless he could personally examine Christ’s wounds he would not believe. Eight days later Christ again appeared to His disciples and invited Thomas to inspect His wounds; whereupon Thomas famously exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”
St Peter, the Head of the Apostles, opens his second epistle thus: “Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained equal faith with us in the justice of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” On another occasion Luke recounts that St Peter accused the crowd of having killed “the author of life”.
St Luke records St Paul instructing the elders of the Church to care for the flock over whom the Holy Ghost has placed them as bishops, “...to rule the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.”
St Paul writing to Titus speaks of “... the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour...”
And Christ’s enemies clearly understood!
His enemies certainly understood what Christ was claiming. Indeed this was the reason that that they crucified Him. For example, John writes, “... therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He did not only break the Sabbath, but also said God was His Father, making Himself equal to God.”
Christ accepts personal worship.
Because the Jews were surrounded by tribes that worshiped idols and false gods, they had very strict laws regarding the worship of the one true God. The punishment for worshiping false gods and idols was death. The word translated as “worship” in our Bibles is the Greek “proskuneo” that always means the worship of God. Yet Christ accepted this “proskuneo” of Himself on numerous occasions without rebuking those who offered it.
St Matthew describes the Three Kings who came to see the newborn Jesus, as coming to worship Him. Matthew also recounts that the Apostles who were in the boat when Christ calmed the storm worshiped Jesus. St Luke describes how, as Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles worshiped Him, and St John relates that a blind man who was cured by Jesus worshiped Him.
The early Church Fathers
The early Church fathers, men who had been tutored by the Apostles, clearly believed that Christ was God. For example, around AD 110, St Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote to the Ephesians, “We have also as a Physician the Lord our God,Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but Who afterwards became also man, of Mary the Virgin.”
“BAD OR MAD”
Many people make statements to the effect that they can accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but reject His claims to divinity. This however is complete gobbledygook, for if Christ was not God, then His constant confrontational claims to divinity, and to the powers and attributes of divinity, mean that he has about as much claim to being a great moral teacher as a lunatic claiming to be a poached egg!
If Christ was not God, then He was either bad or mad.
The following scriptural texts have been used in compiling this essay:
Exodus 3:14; John 8:58; Matt. 5:21-22; 27-28; 31-32; 33-34; 38-39; 43-44; Matt. 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20; 7:48; John 1:14; John 20:28; John 1:1; John 1:2-3; Matt. 7:21-22; Luke 6:46 21; Matt. 21:3; Luke 19:31-34; John 13:13; John 5:18; Is. 44:6; cf. 41:4, 48:12; Rev. 1:17; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 22:12–13; Rev. 1:8; Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; John 5:21; John 10:28; Psalm 62:12; Matt. 16:27; Isaiah 40:8; Matt. 24:35; Isaiah 42:8; John 17:5; Heb. 1:3; Ezek. 34:11-31; John 10:11; Ezek. 34:16; Luke 19:10; Ezek. 34:17; Matt. 25:32; Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5; Matt. 18:20; Matt. 28:20; John 6:38; John 8:23; John 5:23; John 8:19; John 10:38; 14:10; John 12:45; John 10:30; John 16:15; John 16:28; John 8:12; John 10:18; John 5:21-22; John 17:5,24; Rev. 4:9-11; 5:8,12-14; 7:11-12; Matt. 2:2,11; Matt. 8:2; Matt. 14:33; Matt. 28:9; Matt. 28:17; Mark 5:6; Luke 1:11; Luke 24:52.