Precious Sorrow, Beautiful Catastrophe – 3) Persona Theophany
Oh, that someone would arise,
man or god, to show us God. (Socrates)
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one" (John 10:27-30).
This passage of scripture is one of several that describes how the Jewish leaders attempted to pick up stones to stone Jesus, "because you a mere man, claim to be God" (John 10:33). Their response was not without reason since such a claim of deity was tantamount to blasphemy for the Jewish people. The nation of Israel had been conquered many times by arrogant kings and emperors who claimed to be gods. Yet their demise was similar to every other mortal man - death.
Foundational to the Jewish faith is a creed known as the Schema: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4), and the first of the Ten Commandments reads: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:2,3). Israel was surrounded by nations that believed in many gods. But from birth, each Jewish child was taught to believe in one God, who created all things, ruled all things, and elected them to be His chosen people. The Jewish theologians would have insisted, accepting anyone claiming to be God was impossible, for it would debase their belief in the nature of God.
Despite Israel's historical background and the number of scriptures that clearly speak of the monotheistic nature of God, Jesus held the Jewish people responsible for not recognizing his true identity. In fact He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem that would come some forty years later and gave the reason for the great city's demise as: "you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you" (Luke 19:22). The people of Israel were held accountable to accept Jesus' deity for three reasons: 1) the scriptures that spoke of him, 2) the miracles he had performed, and 3) his teaching.
How the Scriptures Reveal Christ's Deity
A messenger of the Lord appears many times in the Old Testament scriptures to guide his people and encourage the faithful. Christian scholars call these encounters christophanies because they are believed to be pre-incarnate appearances of Christ. Examples of this are: the angel with Sarah (Gen. 16:7-14) where she identifies the angel as God in verse 13; the three visitors with Abraham (Gen. 18:1-33) where the one character is identified as the Lord in verses 10,13,17,20,26, and 33, and the story of Jacob wrestling with a man at night in a place he called "the face of God", as "It is where I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared" (Gen. 32:30). There are other examples of God appearing as a man throughout the Old Testament scriptures but the Jewish leaders did not consider this to be a possibility with Jesus.
Also, the Messiah is qualified as God in the Old Testament. Some of the prophecies concerning the Messiah may seem a little vague but there are a few that are obviously associated with his coming. Isaiah 9:6 is one of those obvious verses: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace".
How Christ's Miracles Revealed His Deity
Many people have a false impression that the Bible is filled from cover to cover with miraculous events. God did intervene at various times throughout history and on behalf of his people, but there were only four periods when supernatural signs and wonders were displayed over an extended period of time. These periods included the creation of the universe, the giving of the law, the prophetic ministry of Elijah and Elisha, and the coming of the Messiah.
The wonders that Jesus performed demonstrated his power over every aspect of the physical and spiritual realms. Jesus turned water into wine, healed the sick, fed thousands with just a few fish and loaves of bread, enabled the lame to walk, walked on water, calmed storms, gave the blind sight, exercised demons and raised the dead. It was with the authority of these signs that Jesus told the people, "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." (John 10:37,38)
How Christ's Teaching Revealed His Deity
Jesus spoke with a power that cut people to their very core, changing their hearts. On one occasion He broke through the tradition and prejudice of the time to teach a Samaritan woman about her need to enter into a genuine relationship with God. After touching her life with his words, the whole community came to listen to Jesus. They told her, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world." (John 4:41) On many other occasions’ crowds continually flocked around him and followed him for miles. "The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law." (Mark 1:22)
The teachings of Jesus, however, were more than just authoritative and life changing, for every word he spoke reverberated the fingerprint of Deity. When the apostle Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus responded in astonishment, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)
God & Man?
The thought of God taking human form at the same time He is reigning in heaven might seem to compromise the notion that God is one. However, the unity of distinct components is not a completely foreign concept to us. Water exists as a solid, liquid and a gas at -4 degrees Celsius and .7 atmospheres, demonstrating that the one substance H2O, can exist in three physical forms at the same time.
This is fundamentally how the scriptures depict the nature of God, as one God that takes the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some religions like Islam and cults like the Jehovah Witnesses have a real problem with this concept of God because it seems too complicated or incomprehensible to them. Yet even the simplest building blocks of matter, the proton and the neutron, are made up of combinations of three different subatomic particles called quarks. Would it not be reasonable, therefore, to imagine that the nature or essence of the eternal God might be a little more complicated than the naive concepts people hypothesize.
The most helpful physical example I have found to illustrate the triune nature of God, is light. The clarity of this analogy is no coincidence, for the scriptures state that, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). If you hold a prism in front of a white beam of light, you create a spectrum and can observe how this white light is really made up of many different colors of light. These colors are determined by their wavelength, and the size of these wavelengths can be divided into three families of the spectrum. Visible light is what most organisms use to see with, has a medium wavelength and medium energy. Infrared light, which is used in some restaurants to warm food, has low energy and a large wavelength. Ultra violet light, which is used by some water purification systems, has high energy and a small wavelength.
These differences in wavelength and energy give each family of light different properties, and it's how these various properties coincide with the triune nature of God that's so interesting. Visible light, like the Son of God, can be seen and felt. Infrared light, like the Holy Spirit, can be felt but not seen. Ultra violet light, like God the Father, cannot be seen or felt, but exposure to its presence, like exposure to the presence of the Holy Father, would have deadly consequences. 12
As the scriptures associate light with the nature of God, they also specifically identify Christ with this same physical illustration. The apostle John draws this comparison when he wrote his Gospel account, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world" (John 1:9). The light was with us but its presence only illuminated the darkness of our hearts. Jesus came healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching the people and raising the dead, but all we had to offer him in return was a wooden cross. "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4,5)
God is not Like Us
So what's the point of proving the scriptural basis of the deity of Christ? It requires us to reflect on the wonder of God becoming a human servant. Not only did God take human form in Jesus Christ and attempt to relate to us as a man, but Jesus suffered and died on our behalf. In this, the cross conveys the simple truth that God is not like us. While our sin nature compels us to exalt ourselves and ascend to heaven, the cross reveals a God who humbled himself and descended to earth.
God did not choose some poor pathetic angelic being or spirit creature to go down to earth and carry out His work for Him. God did it Himself! The God who created all things and holds all things together at every moment of time humbled himself, became a servant and subjected himself to the most hideous torture thought of by the minds of men. Holy and innocent and yet branded and beaten, the God-man who could have snuffed out all created things with just a simple thought, chose to endure such pain. Why?
We can find the answer to this question in a passage of scripture that was written 750 years before Jesus was born, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). It seems that even God had to follow a certain gruesome script if He wanted to affect man's salvation, but this script was one only God could play. Only the God of light could rescue mankind from the dark prison of sin and death. A prisoner has no ability to rescue another prisoner; mankind could never rescue himself. Only God could liberate!
So, the cross clearly contrasts the God of light with the darkness of the human heart. If anyone has sorrow about things they have done wrong in this life and long to know God's forgiveness, this same cross becomes the key to freedom. The scriptures describe three specific ways in which God has used the cross of Christ to enable people to enter back into a relationship with Him. It is the means by which God has bought us, punished our sins, and draws us near to Him.
Bruce Paul is a Christian business man, father of three, lay apologist, and freelance writer. He is a principle of Faith-Friends, a new portal concept to promote local Christian ministries and Christian business people in the marketplace, one community at a time. http://www.faith-friends.com/
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