1. Is Jesus God?
There are only four options for the identity
of Jesus Christ. He is either a legend, a liar, a lunatic
He is Lord and God. There is little likelihod that
Jesus's claims are legend. There just wasn't enough
time for any legendary development of the story to
replace what really happened. Also, if the claims Jesus
made for Himself are legendary, the early Jewish opponents
of Christianity would surely have charged that these
claims never happened. Unlike modern skeptics, the
rabbis apparently never denied that Jesus made such
claims for Himself. Instead, they called Him a liar.
Jesus thought of Himself as divine. According to the
various gospel accounts, Jesus believed He had the
power to perform miracles and the power to forgive
sins. He even claimed, "I and the Father are one" (John
Since Jesus claimed to be God, His claims are
either true or false. If false, He must have been a
misleading the multitudes. Or, He was a lunatic, sincerely
believing Himself to be God, when in reality He was just
Jesus' moral character and His willingness to die
for His claim to be God have convinced most people
that Jesus was
not lying. Jesus' humility and unselfish love, His intelligent
communication with the crowds, and His amazing self control
and composure amidst the tremendous physical and emotional
stress of His betrayal and crucifixion, all point to His
contact with reality. Jesus was no lunatic.
Since the evidence
shows that He is neither a liar nor a lunatic, then the only
other alternative left is that His
claim is true. Jesus is Lord and God. And that conclusion
is further supported by the remarkable evidence that Jesus
rose physically from the grave.
THE PERSON OF CHRIST.
Prof: L.T. JEYACHANDRAN.
We cannot truly appreciate the difficulty in accepting
the claim of full Deity for the Person of Christ unless we
take the standpoint of the first century Jew. As those brought
up in a Christian environment, we think it very strange that
Jews (and Muslims) should find it difficult to accept that
Jesus Christ is God. We also need to face up to the fact
that Jesus is never reported in the gospels as saying, "Hello!
I am God!" It is necessary for us to realise that it
would be ridiculous to expect to find such an explicit claim
to Christ's Deity in the New Testament. There are several
reasons for this which would concern us in this essay in
which I go beyond what I sought to present in TFT-4.
The statement of Scripture the average Jewish young man
or woman was brought up on was Deut.6:4: "Hear O Israel!
The LORD our God, the LORD is One". It is in the light
of this overwhelming assertion of Jewish monotheism that
a claim to divinity by any Jew is to be viewed. What an astonishment
it must have caused in the minds of His audience when this
Jew Who came 1500 years after Moses claimed (even if indirectly)
that He was of the same essence as Jehovah! Jesus, however,
delighted more in calling Himself as 'the Son of Man' although
it is John who, more than the other evangelists dared to
call Him 'the Son of God'. To be sure, the title 'Son of
Man' carried with it the overtones of divinity although distinct
from God as seen Dan. 7:13,14. As we would have occasion
to eventually study, Jesus emphasised His humanity (by the
use of this title) as that was more descriptive of the work
He had come to complete. But we need to recognise that His
work also necessitated His being God. If He had been only
human, even His human functions could not have had such eternal
There are many Old Testament prophecies which would indicate
that the Messiah in some mysterious way would be both human
and divine. We need to be eternally grateful to the ancient
Jewish scribes who faithfully copied for us all passages
of their scriptures even though they appeared to speak somewhat
ambivalently about the strange personage who would be the
Messiah. Isaiah would call the future King of the Jews, 'God
with us' (7:14) as well
as the 'Everlasting Father' (9:6).
But it was this same Person Who would be 'despised and rejected
by men, a Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering' (53:3).
When Jesus challenged the Jews with the paradox of the Messiah
being human (son of David) and divine (being addressed as
LORD by the same David) (Matt.22:41-45), they were left speechless.
Their (and the Muslim's) theology of monotheism did not make
room for the possibility that there could be a Person in
whom both divinity and humanity could combine without any
contradiction. If you had been one of the disciples of Jesus
in the first century, you would have struggled with this
issue as well. At the same time, you would have had 4 major
reasons why you could not have come to any other conclusion
than that He was indeed what He claimed to be: God. I list
these reasons below for your consideration:
1. His exercise
of certain kinds of authority,
2. His self-exclusion from
others in a certain kind of way,
3. His rare but unmistakable
4. His resurrection.
We shall look at each one of these aspects
1. (i) Jesus forgave sins (Mk.2:5-7),
a prerogative clearly understood by the Jews to belong only
to God. Any
of this authority was tantamount to blasphemy. One needs
to appreciate the fact that a Jew was theologically sensitive
enough to know blasphemy from rhetorical exaggeration. We
see the same expression of surprise at His authoritative
Even the temple guards feared to apprehend Him citing the
unique timbre of His didache (Jn.7:46) - "The most astonishing excuse ever given by a police
force for failing to carry out an arrest!" as Archbishop
Marcus Loane put it!
(ii) Jesus exercised power over nature
(Mk.4: 39-41). To the Jew, God was the Creator of nature
(Gen.1) and He alone
was able to subdue it. From the Indian context, it would
be good for us to appreciate the fact that the Jew never
deified nature to worship it! Nor would he have agreed with
the philosophy of the pantheistic green earth movement that
we were so one with nature in its divinity that in order
to prevent the cutting of a tree, we had to embrace it and
express our solidarity with it! The Jew knew that the Creator
was distinct from His creation and was well able to exercise
His authority over it. The KJV (v.41) rightly expresses the
consternation of the disciples - "What manner of man
(iii) Jesus accepted worship from others Matt.14:33; Lk.24:52), again unthinkable in the Jewish context.
The typical Jewish
reaction to worship by fellow-humans can be seen in the attitudes
of Peter, Barnabas and Paul in Acts 10:25,26 and 14:14,15.
Even angels refused worship from men (Rev.19:10) as that
was due to God alone. Jesus, however, had no qualms of conscience
when Thomas acknowledged His deity: "My Lord and my
(iv) In Mk.5:6,7, we read that a demon,
when commanded by Jesus to come out of a man, acknowledged
Jesus to be the
'Son of the Most High God'. Jews clearly recognised evil
spirits to be powerful supranatural beings and their confession
as to Jesus' deity needed to be taken seriously.
is often neglected in a casual reading of the Gospels is
the fact Jesus distanced Himself from other humans in
significant ways. The commonly called 'Lord's Prayer' was
not, in a very important sense, His prayer at all. Note the
introduction to this prayer in Matt.6:9a and Lk.11:2. He
told the disciples to pray in this way - "When you pray,
say:" He did not say, "Let us pray"! Obviously
one sentence in that prayer could not have applied to Him
under any condition: "Forgive us our sins..." Did
He not challenge His detractors to prove Him guilty of any
Did you notice that in Jn.13:14, Jesus did
not ask the disciples to wash His feet although, in a physical
sense, His feet
must have been as dirty as theirs? Did not this self-exclusion
indicate that the foot-washing was a spiritual ministry
(Jn.13:8b) of which He stood in no need?
While talking to
Mary Magdalene after the resurrection (Jn.20:17) He makes
a distinction between His relationship with God
and hers - "...to My Father and your Father, to My God
and your God"! This is also borne out by a great deal
of references in the synoptic gospels to 'My Father' (sometimes
in contradistinction to 'your Father' as between Matt.10:29 and 10:32).
When He was addressed as 'Good Teacher!' by the
rich young man, Jesus did not directly decline the ascription.
He asked a leading question which would have made any sensitive
hearer think, "Is He implying that the adjective in
fact rightly applies to Him although the questioner is unaware
of it?!" (Mk.10:17,18).
3. Some of the more important
of His direct claims have been recorded by John. (In TFT-9,
I had suggested that the
mystery of the Trinity seemed to have been recognised more
by John than the other evangelists. We will return to this
point later in this essay.) In 10:30, Jesus claims oneness
with the Father. Significantly, John uses the neuter (in
the Gk.) rather than the masculine gender for the word one.
What is sought to be brought out by this device was that
Jesus was not the same Person as the Father but was one in
essence with Him. John, in fact had prefaced his Gospel with
the full divinity of the Word Who, however, was in some mysterious
way also distinct from God (Jn.1:1).
4. The most powerful
claim to deity that Christ makes is by the fact that He rose
from the dead. The facts regarding
the last days and moments of Jesus' life have been recorded
by all the evangelists. The reality that the gospels were
recorded by them from differing perspectives only confirms
the genuineness of the records.(Identical accounts would
suggest collusion of witnesses.) The apparent contradictions
can be satisfactorily resolved from legal and evidential
perspectives as with cases in courts.
The facts which emerge
from these documents and which are material to our discussion
in this context are
[a] that Jesus really died,
[b] that He was really buried
according to Jewish customs,
[c] that the tomb was found
empty on the following Sunday with the stone at the mouth
rolled away and the grave clothes
lying undisturbed, and
[d] that He appeared to people at
various times thereafter.
[a] The record of John about the
soldier piercing the side of Jesus and the coagulated blood
and plasma flowing out
should be taken seriously (19:34). Apart from the fact that
John was an eyewitness to the death, we need to reckon with
the ability of a Roman soldier to distinguish the living
from the dead! In v.33, John makes the further observation
that Jesus' legs were not broken only because the soldier
was sure that death had supervened.
[b] All the four evangelists
record the burial with Matthew making the further observation
about the posting of the Roman
guard. It has sometimes been suggested that the women were
mistaken about the tomb when they returned on the Sunday
morning. The suggestion itself is preposterous taking into
consideration their devotion to Jesus and the care with which
they noted where Jesus was buried (Matt.27:61; Mk.15:47;
[c] All the evangelists agree that the stone was
found rolled away and the tomb was empty. It may interest
us to keep in
mind that in Jewish male-dominated society, women-witnesses
were considered a legal embarrassment. The honesty of the
evangelists comes through clearly in their unanimous record
in this respect and their disavowal to make any emendation
to their account so that it would be socially more acceptable.
Peter and John make their way to the tomb to verify Mary's
story but are stunned by the evidence into belief (Jn.20:5-8)!
It is of much theological interest to contrast the details
accompanying the resurrection of Jesus with those at the
resuscitation of Lazarus (Jn.11:39,44). In the latter case,
the grave-stone had to be rolled away and the man literally
loosed from the linen strips which so tightly bound him.
In the case of Jesus, however, His glorified body could materialise
through the clothes and the stone, leaving them mute witnesses
to the most momentous event in the history of the universe!
Jesus thus is seen to come into a new quality of life which
can only be described as physico-spiritual.
[d] Paul would
also rule out the possibility of hallucination on the part
of the witnesses by citing several unconnected
post-resurrection appearances (I
Cor.15:4-8). It would have
meant no great effort to the Romans to have located the body
if the disciples had indeed stolen it. It is also important
that in all the insinuation and persecution that follow the
preaching of the gospel, there is never a hint of a suggestion
that the apostles were preaching a lie regarding the resurrection!
No wonder Paul could conclude that the resurrection confirmed
the belief that Jesus was indeed the Son of God (Rom.1:4).
What shall we say about the Person of Christ in the light
of these startling facts? Pressed with the reality of the
claims and works of Jesus, we are forced to reevaluate the
last discourse of Jesus recorded by John as it pertains to
the Trinity (chs.14-17). There is the unmistakable distinction
in the Personalities of the Son and the Father while maintaining
the equality of the Son with the Father. The Person of the
Holy Spirit is introduced as proceeding from the Father in
the Name of the Son (14:26) and is obviously co-equal with
Them. But, as I have pointed out in TFT-9 (p.3), the Three
Members of the Trinity are known by Their unique Self-effacement.
This relationality is part of the ontological interdependence
and reciprocity of the Three Persons of the Trinity: how
They were only what They were by virtue of Their interrelation
and interanimation, so that for God to be did not involve
an absolute simplicity but a Unity deriving from a dynamic
Plurality of Persons (Colin E.Gunton, The One, the Three
and the Many, Cambridge University Press, 1998 reprint, p.152).
It is difficult to separate the Oneness of the Being of God
from the Three-ness of the Personalities of the Godhead.
It would appear to follow that in eternity, the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit share a dynamic mutual reciprocity,
interpenetration and interanimation, a patristic concept
termed perichoresis (Ibid., p.163). As Gregory of Nazianzus
put it, "No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am
illumined by the splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish
Them than I am carried back to the One." (Quoted in
ibid.,p.149). Jesus' claim to full deity (cf. Col.2:9) stands
validated only because of Plurality within the Godhead. In
other words, the Incarnation would not have been theologically
and actually possible if God were not a Trinity!
Judaeo-Christian doctrine underlying the Incarnation concerns
the constitution of the human race. We were made
in the image of God - significantly, Gen.1:26 (Let Us..........and
let them...) speaks of plurality and relationality as part
of the imago Dei) - and therefore are a subset of God. God
the Son could therefore lay aside voluntarily His additional
dimensions in order to become human (Phil.2:6,7). The contrast
between the Incarnation of Jesus and the stories in many
of the world's cultures and traditions of gods becoming human
or animal (e.g. avatars) is striking. (See allusions to this
in TFT-4, p.1, col.1 and TFT-5, p.4, col.1). Jesus' full
deity and full humanity can be combined without philosophical
contradiction because the two entities are not mutually exclusive
- God could become Man without, in essence, ceasing to be
God. It would not be like a mixture of calcium and magnesium
which, though similar in some ways are mutually exclusive
in their chemistry!
Seriously, these two doctrines are contained
in nascent form in the first chapter of the Jewish (and the
Bible. The real communication involved in the creative act
presupposes a plurality in the Persons of the Godhead. Similarly,
the crowning aspect of creation is that of Godlike beings
- humankind. Shorn of these cardinal inputs, Islam comes
to tragically mistake the Person of Christ. The case of the
Jew is more poignant - although he had these doctrines in
his Bible, he was unable to recognise the One in Whom alone
they became empirically understandable. What of us Christians?
What should be our response? Worship, of course - in the
words of Graham Kendrick:
Meekness and majesty, manhood and
In perfect harmony, the Man Who is God;
Lord of eternity,
dwells in humanity,
Kneels in humility and washes our
O what a mystery!
Meekness and majesty - Bow down and worship
For this is your
- L.T. JEYACHANDRAN
RZIM-Life Focus Society.
1 Is Jesus God?
2 Can Christianity be proved?
3 Is The Bible really word of God?
4 What so special about Christianity?
5 What about all the war and suffering caused by Christians?
6 If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds can I still reach Heaven?
7 What happens to those who’ve
never heard of Jesus?
8 If God is so good why does he allow evil to exist?
9 Truth and tolerance, what does Christ require?